Monday, October 29, 2007
Just occurred to me: Is it wrong that I have nostalgia for watching TV?
In her outing of Dumbledore, Ms. Rowling seemed to be confirming the smarmy kiss-and-tell insinuations of her gossip-mongering character Rita Skeeter, whose lurid biography of the apparently saintly headmaster — titled “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore” — is described in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
“Coming next week,” a newspaper article on Skeeter promises, “the shocking story of the flawed genius considered by many to be the greatest wizard of his generation.” Skeeter drops teasing hints about Dumbledore’s “murky past,” about his not being “exactly broad-minded” and suggests that in his mentoring of Harry there is an “unnatural interest,” something “unhealthy, even sinister.” As for the idea that Ms. Rowling suggested — that as a teenage prodigy, Dumbledore had a homoerotic infatuation with another prodigious young wizard, Grindelwald (who later went over to what in “Star Wars” is called the Dark Side) — Skeeter hints at this in coded allusions.
She proposes that when the two friends had a falling out in a dramatic duel, Grindelwald did not fight but “conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and” — the passage then gives way to an obvious (in retrospect) sexual double entendre.
Such homoerotic imagery, at any rate, suggests a strong mischievous streak, not just among these dueling wizards but in Ms. Rowling herself, their contemporary chronicler in the world of Muggles (which is, of course, how the wizards refer to those of us lacking wands or the magic to use them).What a read, huh? It makes me vaguely proud of JK Rowling for hinting without saying (usually not her strongest suit), and it reminds me of when I failed to realize that Billy Budd was an allegory for Christ. My analytical skills as an English major, are, I fear, lacking. Or were.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Incidentally, have you ever thought about the two main formats for McSweeney's lists? They usually go like this:
LIST OF NAMES YOU COULD CALL SOMETHING IF IT WAS OTHER THAN IT ACTUALLY IS (e.g. alternate titles for things, what someone would have written if they hadn't written something else)
-Overly complicated run-on sentence that says something pretty realistic and/or witty
-Punchline (single word, sudden seriousness in place of irony or lightheartedness, or replacement of realistic complication with something pithy and short, or something mundane in conjunction with something lofty)
That's the basic template. The important part is the punchline - it's all about timing.
Actually, it's more complicated than that. Catbirdseat does this "Music-Blogger Best of 2007 list Cheat Sheet" and it's pretty awesome. I feel like I could do a cheat sheet for McSweeney's lists. That may be forthcoming.
Doesn't mean they aren't genius. I love lists and their proliferation in society, and frequently think of (um, for example, wow, I am a nerd, I can't believe I'm about to say this) the tags/labels on my blog posts as a sort of microlist - the same goes for tagging Facebook photos. They border on found poetry.
Anyway. Here is my McSweeney's-style list for today, with only one item on it.
Things that cause me to be consumed with a combination of bewilderment, indignation, and a feeling that possibly God, if he ever existed in the first place, has forsaken me
-TiVo inexplicably failing to record the Office.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (guess I should get to this sometime, I keep thinking about buying it)
- Anna Karenina (someday)
- Crime and punishment
- One hundred years of solitude
- Wuthering Heights
- Life of Pi : a novel (started it once, but didn't finish, even though I liked where it was going and it was highly recommended. I think I have a copy at my parents' house)
- The name of the rose
- Don Quixote (assuming that excerpts in Spanish 3 don't count as "reading" this)
- Moby Dick
- Madame Bovary (LOVE IT)
- The Odyssey (again, excerpts. I really want to read the Robert Fagles translation)
- Pride and prejudice
- Jane Eyre
- A tale of two cities
- The brothers Karamazov
- Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (own it, haven't read it. Think Lucie borrowed it)
- War and peace
- Vanity fair
- The time traveler's wife
- The Iliad (same as the Odyssey)
- The Blind Assassin
- The kite runner (have been told I should read a Thousand Splendid Suns. It's apparently better. But I feel like I should read this before that one, but I don't really care to read this.)
- Mrs. Dalloway
- Great expectations (I'm counting this even though I read an abridged version. I just don't want to ever think about reading it again)
- American gods : a novel
- A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
- Atlas shrugged (NO interest)
- Reading Lolita in Tehran
- Memoirs of a Geisha (Mike gave this to me for a birthday. Have not read it.)
- Quicksilver (what is this?)
- The Canterbury tales
- The historian : a novel
- A portrait of the artist as a young man (I didn't finish it. I was like 15 pages from the end. I am a bad person.)
- Love in the time of cholera
- Brave new world
- The Fountainhead
- Foucault's pendulum
- Middlemarch (I actually want to read this because I listened to Rachel talk about it all the time when she was writing a massive paper on it)
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- A clockwork orange (borrowed this from Pablo. Did not read it. Returned it.)
- Anansi boys : a novel
- The once and future king (REALLY need to do this sometime. I've read the Sword and the Stone. Can't believe with Mom as my mom, I haven't read this)
- The grapes of wrath
- The poisonwood Bible : a novel
- Angels & demons (I would literally have to be tortured into submission to read this book)
- The inferno (really want to read the entire Comedy someday, especially after I read a New Yorker review of the latest translation)
- The satanic verses (Own it. Started it twice. Really need to get back to it)
- Sense and sensibility
- The picture of Dorian Gray
- Mansfield Park
- One flew over the cuckoo's nest (bought it, haven't read it)
- To the lighthouse
- Tess of the D'Urbervilles (actually want to read this. I liked the movie, and I liked Jude the Obscure a lot)
- Oliver Twist (don't much care)
- Gulliver's travels (for school! twice! or, like, once and a half!)
- Les misérables (started it, put it down. it's fat)
- The corrections
- The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay : a novel
- The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (should I care?)
- The prince (Read this on Diane's urging in high school. I find that funny.)
- The sound and the fury (still haven't read any Faulker. Bad English major.)
- Angela's ashes : a memoir
- The god of small things (sadly, still haven't finished this, but started it and read a LOT of it, TWICE)
- A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (have wanted to read this for ages, just haven't built up the nerve)
- Cryptonomicon (what the hell is this)
- Neverwhere (ditto #74)
- A confederacy of dunces (my mom hated it, but other people I know loved it. What do I do?)
- A short history of nearly everything
- The unbearable lightness of being
- Beloved : a novel (honestly? no interest. )
- The scarlet letter
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves
- The mists of Avalon (boy does this take me back)
- Oryx and Crake : a novel
- Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (kinda wanted to pick this up from my boss's bookshelf. resisted. stayed employed)
- Cloud atlas : a novel (started it. didn't finish! this is a bad pattern.)
- The confusion (?)
- Northanger abbey
- The catcher in the rye
- On the road
- The hunchback of Notre Dame (don't know if I care)
- Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of…
- Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into … (borrowed from Jordi, freshman year)
- The Aeneid (same as Odyssey & Iliad. I'm weak on the Greeks, what can I say?)
- Watership Down (bought it. have yet to read it)
- Gravity's rainbow (bought it used, started, read about a page. will read it someday. sigh)
- In cold blood (someday)
- White teeth
- Treasure Island (I think I was supposed to read this, and did not)
- David Copperfield (considered borrowing my sister's copy once)
- The three musketeers
- Cold mountain
- Robinson Crusoe (no, THIS, not Treasure Island, was what I was supposed to read and did not)
- The bell jar
- The secret life of bees (ugh, unfortunately)
- Beowulf : a new verse translation (have had this for years. have still not read it. Really want to. someday.)
- The plague
- The Master and Margarita
- Atonement : a novel
- The handmaid's tale
- Lady Chatterley's lover
Last book you bought? Just bought "Not Fade Away," "Ulysses," "Infinite Jest," "No Country for Old Men," and "Saturday" on Amazon a couple of weeks ago. Oh no! wait! it was "High Fidelity" and "Slam," the new Nick Hornby book, at Borrone's when I went to a reading. Oops... I may have a problem. I black out my book buying.
Last book someone bought you? I can't remember. I think it was "The Book Thief" which my mom got me for Valentine's Day. My friend Christian gave me "The Road," but he didn't buy it for me.. just gave me his copy.
Last book read? David Foster Wallace's "Supposedly Fun Thing I'll never do again" - and now I'm on Chabon's "Mysteries of Pittsburgh," as you loyal goodreads.com-ers know.
Five books that mean a lot to me:
The Dwindling Party. I really want to get my own copy of this, but it's so much money now, since it's out of print. It's really sad and awful, but my aunt and uncle's house was in danger during the fires in Running Springs, CA, and the first thing I thought about was this book, somewhere in their bookshelves. (I should probably clarify that they themselves, and their pets, and their essentials, were and are safe at my parents' house. Also that, thank god, their house is out of danger now.)
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes. I have this memory of my sister giving this to me the Christmas I was six years old. IF that memory is accurate, then she had nothing to do with actually picking it out, since she would have been 3 at the time. But I remember that, and so this is the most precious of my many Calvin and Hobbes books (even excluding the deluxe edition that weighs about 80 pounds).
Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut. This was the first Vonnegut I read, and it's a backward way to go about reading him. It basically repeats everything from all the other books, all his little wisdoms. But it was first, and I loved it first, so I still love it, even though I have read everything else he's written which is arguably better or more original.
(This is starting to get really hard. I feel like I am excluding things.)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I wrote the author of this book because I LOVED it, so so much. I illustrated it with watercolor pencils (remember those?) I got busted for "reading ahead" in 5th grade when, home sick I finished this book the day after we started it, and went back the next day totally jazzed about talking about it and then really disappointed when it turned out I couldn't share and also sad my teacher yelled at me for reading ahead. Yes, this is a great book.
I guess it's time to go for an adult book, besides Timequake. For that, the Unbearable Lightness of Being, because it is, to quote Nellie Olsen, too-too. (That is what she says, right? In a later book, though.)
Ack!! No! I take it back! I will say instead The Long Winter, because how could I not include a Laura Ingalls Wilder book in this list? And, why the Long Winter? Because it is long and depressing and heartwarming and scary all at once, and because Almanzo came back with the wheat.
It was a great show. He seemed like he was having fun, and I love it when musicians seem like they are having fun. In fact he seemed positively giddy. He played all of the songs I would have wanted him to play except for "Me and Jiggs," which I have fond memories of him playing before. Seriously, I feel like I've been trying to get people to listen to him for ages, including my parents, who I feel like should definitely like him, but no one has. So without further ado I present you with Emily's guide to Josh Ritter songs and awesomeness.
I was very happy when he rolled into Kathleen and a disco ball started going. I really, really love this song. Laurel and Rachel and I used to be obsessed with it, and I still am. It fits into the genre of art I feel like I appreciate either more or less than I would if I had had relationships in high school. I think I appreciate it more, but because I just imagine that maybe this is what it would have been like. Sorry I couldn't find a better video for it. You can actually download it form his website or by right clicking here and selecting save.
One of the great things he did last night was play a couple of songs entirely acoustically. Meaning, he unplugged the guitar and stepped away from the mic and just sang. It was pretty amazing to have the entire club silent, no sound, no falling bottles, just a slightly-mood-ruining air conditioner blowing in the background. Here's the song he played like this for the encore:
I listened to this next song on repeat for about three months straight. I'm pretty sure I've posted it before. He played it last night and the only downside was that he let the audience sing along, which sometimes bums me out. I'd rather he just sing it, or maybe let the audience sing along if it's in a tiny venue:
This song was the big surprise for me last night. I hadn't really listened a whole lot to the new album, and so I'd missed this one. I think it's my new favorite. You can download it here until Thursday Nov 1.
I guess part of the reason I like Josh's music is that it's sort of grounded in all that Western lore I'm so into. It makes me think of Lonesome Dove.
Couple more things:
"Empty Hearts" may just be my New Year's resolution song
"Still Beating" was the other all-acoustic-no-mic song and really lovely.
"Harrisburg" is kind of awesome.
"Mind's Eye" was the rockout song at the end -- I think -- when the whole band wore Roman legionnaire's helmets. I love this new trend in music where people just wear crazy shit that has nothing to do with anything, like Sufjan Stevens and his whole band wearing fairy butterfly costumes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
It's so sensory. I can just feel the almost-splinteriness of the wood deck in the sunshine, the slight warmth that you can tell is there, the fragility of the kitty's ribs and featheriness of her fur.
I want my life to be like that.
So how then have irony, irreverence, and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling int he culture today's avant-garde tries to write about? One clue's to be found in the fact that irony is still around, bigger than ever after 30 long years as the dominant mode of hip expression. It's not a rhetorical mode that wears well. As Hyde (whom I pretty obviously like) puts it, "Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage." This is because irony, entertaining as it is, serves an almost exclusively negative function. It's critical and destructive, a ground-clearing. Surely this is the way our postmodern fathers saw it. But irony's singularly unuseful when it comes to constructing anything to replace the hypocrisies it debunks. This is why Hyde seems right about persistent irony being tiresome. It is unmeaty. Even gifted ironists work best in sound bites. I find gifted ironists sort of wickedly fun to listen to at parties, but I always walk away feeling like I've had several radical surgical procedures. And as for actually driving cross-country with a gifted ironist, or sitting through a 300-page novel full of nothing but trendy sardonic exhaustion, one ends up feeling not only empty but somehow... oppressed.
Think, for a moment, of Third World rebels and coups. Third World rebels are great at exposing and overthrowing corrupt hypocritical regimes, but they seem noticeably less great at the mundane, non-negative task of then establishing a superior governing alternative. Victorious rebels, in fact, seem best at using their tough, cynical rebel-skills to avoid being rebelled against themselves - in other words, they just become better tyrants.
And make no mistake: irony tyrannizes us. The reason why our pervasive cultural irony is at once so powerful and so unsatisfying is that an ironist is impossible to pin down. All U.S. irony is based on an implicit "I don't really mean what I'm saying." So what does irony as a culturual norm mean to say? That it's impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it's too bad it's impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today's irony ends up saying: "How totally banal of you to ask what I really mean." Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like a hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.
This is why our educated teleholic friends' use of weary cynicism to try to seem superior to TV is so pathetic. And this is why the fiction-writing citizen of our televisual culture is in such very deep shit. What do you do when postmodern rebellion becomes a pop-cultural institution? For this of course is the second answer to why avant-garde irony and rebellion have become dilute and malign. They have been absorbed, emptied, and redeployed by the very televisual establishment they had originally set themselves athwart.
It's entirely possible that my plangent noises about the impossibility of rebelling against and aura that promotes and vitiates all rebellion say more about my residency inside that aura, my own lack of vision, than they do about any exhaustion of U.S. fiction's possibilities. The next real literary "rebels" in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that'll be the point. Maybe that's why they'll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today's risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the "Oh how banal." To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Since my dad worked for Corning, my mom had every casserole shape ever made. We had one for stew. We had one for soup. We had one for potatoes. If they'd made one for individual spaghetti strands, we'd have had that one too! I can still see the metal cradles that the dishes sat in at the table...
But wait -- why am I going on about casseroles? I think it's because the approach of death has made me realize that there are no unimportant details in life. That childhood sense of wonder is somehow coming back to me. How can I put it? Things, and the meanings that they have, are being reunited in my heart.
Those old casseroles -- maybe they're just chipped and battered pans, but for me they're connected with incredibly precious things, giant notions like Mother, Kitchen, Family Meals.
So cut me some slack if I get nostalgic now and then over trivialities. The thing is, they don't seem trivial to me. I've come to feel that the big things in life are best understood by way of small things. Ignore the small ones, and the big ones just seem like fancy words, slogans without the truth of something you really know, and really feel."
Just an excerpt from the book I'm reading right now. I already wrote about it on my Goodreads profile, but the story is that this guy at work keeps recommending it (he forgets he recommended it before, so he's done it about 3 times), so I finally bought it remaindered for about $4. I don't normally read memoirs, especially memoirs or stories about cancer, because, well, as the author of this book notes, cancer is like this thing with a life of its own... once it's in the picture, the picture isn't about anything else. And it makes me think of crappy movies like A Walk To Remember. But anyway, this is sort of different, and I'm reading it now, and it's simple and good and I admire the guy who wrote it, partly because he's such a dad, the way my dad is a dad. I don't know if that makes sense. But the other thing I've been thinking about while reading this is what he talks about here: the little insignificant things that matter. I have lately felt as though I've lost memories of little things, and in my reading of this memoir and Jonathan Franzen's The Discomfort Zone, I've felt more and more like I need to start writing the little things down. So I don't lose them forever.
Also, I had, or am in the middle of having, a conversation with Justin about our grandparents, and those stories become the kinds of stories where the little things matter a lot. And then on a meta, writing, authorial level I realized that my feelings about this may be different an interesting if I just write them down... and then I thought, as I have thought a lot recently and failed to put into action, I can write about this. So perhaps I will.
I'll report more about this book when I've finished it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When I left her apartment the Tenderloin was full of fog. It floated near my kneecaps. The air was cool and wet and it wasn’t totally dark. There were drug dealers and college students in front of the red and green flag of the taqueria. Forty thousand people had gone to the desert carrying art to burn and pills. A spontaneous, impermanent city.
She would call and say it was over. She would send me a note detailing all the time we’d been together and she had felt alone. Sitting on a bar stool later that night I felt the floor shift beneath me. I felt profoundly fucked up and sad that I hadn’t spent the night with her. I wanted to tell my friends about it. I would build up to the punch line: “And then she fucked three guys just to make sure she didn’t go back on it. And then, get this, she tried to go back on it anyway.”It also makes it pretty amusing that I know a lot of random information about his love/sex life.
The truth is, I became a vegetarian in college for two reasons. One was that meat was more expensive than lentils, and I was broke, or broke enough to choose to spend my limited budget on other classes of ingestibles. The other was that I was not a lesbian.
This is not to say that all lesbians are carnivores; in fact, there's probably a higher percentage of vegetarians among lesbians than most other groups. But there was a fair amount of political pressure to be something in those days. Since, as a privileged white girl from suburban Denver, I couldn't really identify with any oppressed minority group, I was faced with becoming a lesbian in order to prove my political mettle. I had to decide between meat and men, and for better or worse, I became a vegetarian.