Category Archives: Uncategorized

Not dead yet

Just mostly dead.

Just mostly dead.

This space is almost dead, it’s so little trafficked by me or others. On many occasions, I’ve been inspired to write something here, but then my little blocks of leisure time are consumed by, you know, leisure, but more often, writing-writing, and my thoughts wisp away, unprocessed and unrecorded.

In any case, I have doubts as to whether this form – the picture-lite, laborious thinky blog – is one that makes sense for me. Here’s a litmus test: I wouldn’t read it if it was someone else’s. So why would I want to write it? There are so many islets of internet life that I could explore should I choose to, each with their own protocol and vibe, and yet in online life, as in real life, I’m more of an observer than a participant. Posting blog content allows me to be passive, doesn’t push me in any way, and is psychologically safe. How is that a good thing? Shouldn’t I just put this content in my journal?

I don’t tend to, though. My journal is overrun with other content, boring stuff, in the main, like how the previous night’s writing went, or how to manage the baffling, post-partum conundrum of being fine with the number on the scale, fine with how I look in clothes, but not-fine with the physical reality of how my body has rearranged itself. (I don’t know how to manage this yet, but I think it’s a combination of strength training, eating fewer refined carbohydrates, and acceptance.) Basic, first-world shit.

So perhaps there is still some utility to this space to me personally, as a place to overthink various pop cultural things that Seth cannot bear to hear me repeat for the fourteenth time as I close in on whatever position has been eluding me. This girl will ride again, if only for the moment.

Always you must play yourself

Click for source.

I am gradually making my way through JCO’s Blonde. In this case, “gradually” means that I read over half the book, then set it aside to read three other books, after which I returned to it. This is not a particularly productive way to read, and not generally how I tend to operate, but it is what it is. I wanted to read the other stuff (all nonfiction, all pertaining to an upcoming life event), damn it! Still, it leaves me with the impression that I’ve been reading this book indefinitely.

Anyhoo. Here is the point: that several sections ago I encountered in Blonde a citation from Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares that I think has particular resonance for fiction as well:

Always you must play yourself. But it will be an infinite variety.

Here to translate this sentiment into the realm of the fiction writer, I present Dorothea Brande:

Of course, it follows that each writer’s stories will always bear a fundamental likeness to each other. This need not be seen as a threat of monotony, but the conscious mind must be enough aware of it to alter, recombine, introduce elements of surprise and freshness into each new story project.

I would add to that, vis the Stanislavski quote, that as I writer I seem to have certain types of narrative personae that I slip into with relative ease, each of which represents some facet of myself. I’m guessing this is not unusual for writers: we are what we write. Trying to find the infinite variety is the trick.

Dances, serpentine + banana

Not to go all goggle-eyed with wonder over technology, but the internet is really amazing. I think it’s cool that dance in particular – a form like theatre that’s best appreciated live and possessed of the poignancy of fleeting experience – can have immortality beyond hearsay. But I’m kind of tired, so maybe I am just being melodramatic? Still, this stuff is pretty damn cool.

(via Swiss Miss)

(The poncy narration really kills this footage…sorry.)

(Why haven’t I seen this yet?)

Nostalgia

The first time I heard this, I thought immediately of the Pixies: the song is what I can only assume is a loving tribute.

How else to explain the pitch-perfect Frank Black delivery? And there are moments where there’s a clear cue for Kim Deal to be yelling in the background. I love it for these reasons.

An aside: way back a bajillion years ago, when we got our very first MP3 player, I recall using WMP or perhaps some lame proprietary interface of the player in question to rip a Pixies CD. I thought it was really funny that the interface had a separate “composer” field and that Pixies songs were, accordingly, attributed to Black Francis. It’s the juxtaposition between his name and the kind of over-blown descriptor of composer that really got me. The iTunes all-encompassing “artist” just seems more straight-forward.

Anyhoo. In honor of Black Francis, a bit of post-apocalyptica from his Catholics days.

Album version here, though I just can’t make it through fan-made videos like this with lyrics transcribed.

More writers on writing

Miss Brenda, yanked from the Kore Press site.

Last year, I read Dorothea Brand’s Becoming a Writer, a book that approaches some of the sticky underlying issues of why it’s tough for people to establish a writing life, and proposes an eminently sensible method for approaching one’s work.

This weekend past, I stumbled on another book on writing published in the 1930s, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit. While Brand’s book is largely about developing the dual minds of a writer (the subconscious flow mode and the analytical/critical mode), Ueland’s is about the right of anyone to tell a story, cultivating the right motivations for doing so, and accessing what she calls one’s personal truth.

I don’t identify with Ueland’s spiritual values (though she is refreshing neutral in how she frames them), but her basic premises – that everyone has a right to write, has an original perspective from which to do so and should write for intrinsic happiness vs. external reasons – are not only reassuring, but kind of inspiring as well. I’m so in the habit of viewing my writing as a grand slog or a masochistic impulse, that I tend to overlook the parts of it that are genuinely satisfying. Sometimes that means that something’s come together neatly, or I realize that I have sincere affection for a character, or sometimes it’s just the pleasure of putting together words or phrases that capture whatever effect I’m going for.

The positivity of Ueland’s approach is rubbing off on me, at a much-needed juncture. I’ve been dreading the novel revision for so long, but it’s not so bad. I’m telling myself that the ordering and moving things around and testing the foundations of a possible new structure are perhaps even more exciting than the early generative phases.  And I’m believing myself.

What is it about these women of the 30s? Brand and Ueland were so practical and accessible, so focused on the root issues of establishing a writing life (versus the painful overthinking of the post-MFA era), and they each have distinct, vivid voices. Reading Brand is like having a conversation with a trusted, no-nonsense aunt. Ueland is charmingly digressive, her pages littered with footnotes and parentheticals.

I often find myself dismissing my work as stuff no one is interested in reading (not untrue), but this sensation must have been worse for women of the 1930s, marginalized as they often were by their dicked counterparts. Perhaps it’s this phenomenon that led them to write for themselves and their own fulfillment and satisfaction. And really, is there any better motive? I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be lovely to make a living from novel writing, but I do believe that as a primary motivation, it’s unlikely to generate much in the way of art (coughNicholasSparkscough).

Mishmash

keep reading...it IS relevant

Jerry Saltz is a gem. He’s recapping the very reality show on which he’s a judge (Work of Art):

The artists are then split into groups. I love this, because I know I could never work with anyone. Neither can 99 percent of artists, who spend most of their time alone in their studios going nuts, doubting themselves, deluding themselves with grandeur, or masturbating.

Oh, Jerry. This is so awesome. I spend most of my time swinging wildly from one of the middle two to the other.

Harry Belafonte is fascinating and articulate and every place now that he’s got both an autobiography and a documentary out:

My first deepest moment in being touched by the power of art was when, in this little black theater in Harlem, we were given a play called Sean O’Casey’s Juno And The Paycock, by an Irish playwright. About something that was very familiar to us—not in the facts of its own existence in Ireland, but in the spiritual sense we felt, as black people, what the Irish were feeling in their resistance against the British. Thank God that it was written in Irish brogue, because my West Indian accent made it kind of easy for me to speak to the text. That was the play that Paul Robeson came to see, and he came to see that play because his friend was Sean O’Casey. He couldn’t wait to get back to Sean O’Casey to tell him, “Wait ’til you see what black people are doing with your Irish play in Harlem!” And in that context, he said, “You’re touching a nerve center. You’re touching a place where you become the instrument through which all people are made familiar one to the other. You’re taking diversity and turning it into a social harvest for the growth of your own imagination.”

Really fascinating stuff. As described here, it’s almost like the opposite of cultural appropriation—it’s about recognizing something universal in the specific and reframing it for a different point of reference. Maybe. I’m kinda punchdrunk at the moment and probably make much less sense than I think.

This is because in the last 48 hours, Seth and I submitted an offer on a house, which was accepted today after an unexpected period of handwringing brought on by a surprising second offer. We’re reeling. Excited and overwhelmed. Mostly because of all the work that needs to go into our current house to get it rental ready…and all the work that needs to go into the new house to get it aesthetically pleasing. We go for the inspection on Thursday, at which point we could walk away if we discover too many distressing details.

Put a ring on it

eff you, de beers. via adoholik.

You know that whole thing about the middle child, the one who gets the shaft because the older one is some kind of high-achieving badass and the younger one is a freewheeling combo of needy and cute? Of course you know! (Unless you’re an only child, in which case it’s all about you, as well it should be.)

Sometimes I feel like my whole generation is a middle child. Demographically speaking, we’re sandwiched between two flashier generations, Gen X and Gen Y. I’m too young for the one, too old for the other. I identify more with Gen X but I observe Gen Y with much interest.

To wit: Hipster Runoff. What is it about Carles? Here he is, predicting the demise of his own relevance yet again, but he really is selling himself short. As an ancient mindie, it’s hard not to come off as condescending here, but he’s sharp as hell.  When I first stumbled onto HRO, I was baffled by the house style. WTF, I thought. Is this prose poetry? I mean, look at this recent entry. Or this. I read these entries as sincere, but they are infected with a po-mo hyperawareness that at once preempts and ironically invites peer mockery by stylistically acknowledging the layers of artifice in “consumer” “culture” via scare quotes, etc. Look at this! It has become so difficult to be sincere. Sincerity is suspect.

Carles does display a curious reticence about his RL identity that many in his peer group are unconcerned about. For instance, a guy who “fake” stalked an acquaintance on his Tumblr and the non-fallout that occurred when she discovered it. The fact that nothing about this situation was weird to these people is weird to me. And fascinating.

Meantime, on the Gen X end of the spectrum: The Atlantic cover story on changing marriage patterns that is all over the internets. Kneejerk reactions have been unfolding on the Jezebel comments, with some very thoughtful commentary on the Hairpin. The observations about the massive shifts occurring in marriage today resonate with my own personal experience, and, curiously enough, made me think of young Carles. From The Atlantic story:

In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, she [Coontz] surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible. She’d long known that the Leave It to Beaver–style family model popular in the 1950s and ’60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.

Perhaps Coontz is underestimating the power of consumer culture, the presiding narrative engine of our times? Because I think the answer is right there: “Leave It to Beaver-style.” Pop culture is pervasive and far-reaching, and, not coincidentally, a key communication mechanism of the cross-national campaign to inculcate generations into believing that “a diamond is forever,” a campaign that began in 1938. Here’s a detailed primer, from The Atlantic archives. I’m not saying that the De Beers cartel is behind all of this – that seems simplistic in the extreme – but I do think that their messaging campaign has had lasting effects on the way we view marriage in a commodity culture.

Which is a pretty good justification for the kind of worldview the Carles generation has adopted.