"In terms of people I admire," Jonathan Franzen says, "I think Alice Munroe and Don DeLillo are more important than Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. Probably to my own personal detriment, I can't help thinking that fiction is really important." Pretty much every critic that read The Corrections seems to think Franzen's pretty important, too. His book, which follows a quirky family, won the 2001 National Book Award in fiction and has been heralded as a modern-day classic. But then there's that "personal detriment" aspect of his high literary standards: He and Oprah got into a sensationalized tiff when he implied that his novel was too highbrow for her book club.
Spat long extinguished and several years later, Franzen is mostly publishing nonfiction -- journalistic pieces and memoir/essays -- in The New Yorker. He says he'll likely read some of his new nonfiction as well as The Corrections when he appears in Houston this week, as his next novel is a few years away from completion. Hear Franzen talk about fact and fiction -- and see if he looks as studly in real life as in his picture -- at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 11. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. For information, call 713-521-2026 or visit www.inprint-inc.org. $5. -– Julia Ramey
This season's look is distressed in John Sparagana's "People Everywhere Are Stoned"
Is there supposed to be a deeper meaning to those ads in mags like Vogue, the ones depicting pouty models wearing dresses that cost four grand while lying on couches that cost 15 (other than "I'm hot, buy this stuff")? Artist-professor John Sparagana thinks so -- once he does a little work on them. For his exhibit "People Everywhere Are Stoned" at Mixture Contemporary Gallery, Sparagana takes the contrived artiness of these double-page ads and creates real art by rubbing, crinkling and distressing the images. As the glossy sheen gives way, lithe body parts are transformed into almost ghostly figures, and prissy visages are suddenly pensive. Sparagana photographs the resulting images and blows them up, creating large haunting works. Would Chanel dig his art? Probably not, but we're guessing you might. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 1709 Westheimer. For information, call 713-520-6809 or visit www.mixturecontemporary.com. Free. –- Steven Devadanam
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
In a Trance
The line outside M Bar is typically long, but on Friday it was, as my Californian date would say, "hella long." Thank God we were on the list to see Paul Oakenfold.
I know Oakenfold from a few movie soundtracks, but my date is a longtime electronica disciple, so he instantly went to hunt for the DJ booth. I parked it by a wall in the back, next to a lone dancer clutching glowsticks, something I'd last seen circa Spring Break 2001. He tucked them in his shoes and began doing what appeared to be convulsions on the floor. Others wielding green lights joined him to form a sort of ritual dance circle. All of this was entertaining, until an airborne glowstick struck me in the temple.
I moved, slightly dazed, through the crowd, which was throbbing along with the music. Though an Oakenfold neophyte, I will say it was refreshing to hear something not by 50 Cent. I squinted up at the distant figure in the upstairs DJ booth and took a moment to bask in the presence of a man who draws massive crowds worldwide.
Close to 1 a.m., I found my date and started dancing, pleased that I was experiencing Oakenfold and could now consider myself an electronica savant. I began to think about leaving, figuring I'd paid sufficient homage (I mean, I'd taken a damn glowstick to the head). Just then, the crowd began screaming wildly: Turns out Oakenfold was just about to go on.
My date says he was awesome; he shouted something about "respect for the melody over the beat" as we continued dancing alongside the crazed masses.
To be honest, I really couldn't tell the difference. But I'll just blame that on the glowstick. -- Julia Ramey
Just when it seems like DJ culture has hit the proverbial wall, the beam of a video projector reveals the passage into another media frontier. Now DJs are combining sampling, video and computer imagery to create real-time symphonies of picture and sound. This month Aurora Picture Show is presenting "Media Archaeology," performances by a handful of the live cinema movement's rising stars, including TV Sheriff & the Trailbuddies, a group fronted by a deranged Lone Ranger and a pink gorilla. Prepare to be mesmerized. Wednesday, April 13, through Sunday, April 17, at various locations. For information, venues and a full schedule, call 713-868-2101 or visit www.aurorapictureshow.org. $5 for individual tickets; $20 for festival pass. –- Troy Schulze
Thanks to late Texas governor and horse-racing proponent John Connally, folks have been lining up to scream for the stallions and blow their cash at Sam Houston Race Park for years. You can celebrate the guvna at the 11th annual Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Race, which marks the season's final weekend of Thoroughbred racing and boasts a whopping $200,000 purse. The race features the best horses on grass, but you'll be begging them to speed up for a different kind of green at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9. 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For tickets and information, call 281-807-7223 or visit www.shrp.com. $1 to $3. –- Steven Devadanam