"Ah, oui, écrivain" *walks over to the board, turns around, looks at me, entire class looks at me* "What do you write?"
*all present hold their breath*
"UM, UH, I DUNNO."
This answer is not acceptable. People keep looking at me, waiting.
My brain flips through things like a rolodex. Should I say “copy”? Should I just say “copywriter”? What am I writing now? Some kind of nonfiction thing? An essay? Is that what he means? But it’s not an essay! I should just say copy!
"LOTS OF THINGS I GUESS?"
(in patient, heavy french accent) “Okay, écrivain is suitable.”
"FICTION!" (like a tourette’s patient)
“Okay, uh, écrivain. Je suis écrivain!”
I nod, look at next person longingly. Like, GO, WE’RE DONE HERE.
Mary Robison palate cleanser. Walked to two different used bookstores today looking for Oh! and didn’t find it (in the heat, like a hero). Came home with a bar of chocolate and two old plates and a sandwich instead. All that seemed okay until two minutes ago.
[ “I show work to my New Orleans boyfriend when he isn’t too blitzed. (laughter) He won’t know to read this. I didn’t give him my real name.” ]
Ew, I did not really like this book. I might be too old for it. It might be too 2013 for it. It isn’t my type. I don’t want to read some old man writing a female narrator who has the most obnoxious word choice — things like bete noire and pro forma and id est over and over and OVER — not in a charming way either? Like I think Norman Rush honestly just says those words all the time and he didn’t realize he was doing it. I know that’s not giving him the benefit of the doubt / the NBA, but I’d bet this dude is slipping French aphorisms in at the breakfast table, I really do.
And yes, granted she/they are grappling with their idealism and their role in things and how condescending or problematic their very presence can be, and their ego and pride and inability to ask for what they want and blah blah, it’s all over-analyzed and second guessed and exhausting. But it’s still there and we’re still subjected to it. It’s like the dude who says, “Look I have all these problems and I’m the worst, just wanna be up front,” and then months later when you’re crying over gchat with him he’s like, “Well, this is just how I am,” as if he gave you fair warning so he’s still The Good Guy.
Okay maybe that is unrelated to this book, actually, but I just wanted to bring it up as a reminder: you guys who do that are still the worst, and you will be alone for a long time. Straight women are going to overall catch onto you soon. The younger ones read a lot of internet about this, and I am hoping that when it comes time they’ll know what to do.
Anyway, THAT SAID, I read the whole goddamned 500ish pages of it and stayed up til 2am reading the tidy-ass final chapter (Norman Rush as in the only thing he rushed was the ending), so what can I say. I even spent a half hour at dinner talking about it, which is a rarity. I guess a lot of the material was fascinating - the setting of course, the politics yes (the love story NO). My heart leapt a few times when the guy almost died, tbh.
Blah blah, all in all I’m ready to ban books written by white men again.
[Oh, but to the small number of people who are familiar with this book and the blog Orangette? Well, she is the person who I imagined as the narrator the whole time. Not sure why or how, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.]
Today is a good day. I’ve been alone all day and right now I’m eating blueberry cake I made myself a few nights ago, and I’m listening to Patty Griffin and emailing my accountant. He asked me to “remit” payment but I never got the bill. “That would help,” he said so I won that round. I don’t often win with these men, these mathematically-inclined husbands and fathers of people I know, though in certain moods I can’t help but try.
Earlier today, before the cake, I climbed out the kitchen window into the backyard and stared at our plants growing. I touched the peas and cupped the tomatoes (heh) and picked a few flowers and put them in a vase, knowing I’d get reprimanded for it later tonight but not really caring. Flowers die and I want to bring them inside where I can look at them up close before they do that.
I wrote for at least a few hours and there were moments where I felt like I was onto something so good I had to get up and walk away. This happens once in awhile, though of course I wish it did more. I switch tabs or get water, I get too excited to concentrate. I should learn to ride it out. Today I felt so good about a transition I got dizzy and walked into the kitchen and started crying a little bit. Then I realized it was around 2:30 and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, which sort of explained the crying over sentences. So I warmed up leftover soup, soup that made me feel like the most prepared person in the fucking world though I didn’t even make it. I plugged in my computer at the table and probably ruined whatever I was doing but will go back and fix it later. (Then mess something else up, then fix it, then mess it up, and never finish anything, forever and ever amen.)
So that’s how things are.
Oh, and this thing I helped with is up and running today. It’s a sort of universal style guide for the internet. Anyone can add their own writerly or grammatical pet peeves — words and phrases that are commonly misused or jargon or just annoying. Then you can scan in your own writing (or, ahem, someone else’s) to check it against the style guide(s). It’s potentially useful, and fun. Or at least I had a lot of fun writing for it, spending hours and hours coming up with pithy little reasons you shouldn’t use “synergy” and whatever else.
It was nice to help someone with something in this small but significant and measurable way. Nice to use my brain and be met with gratitude and then be done. So this is what work is for some people! I can barely fathom it.
Anyway you should mess around with it. It will certainly be more of a thing down the road but it still works as-is.
This video makes me cry. I suspect for most women it touches a nerve. There’s something visceral to the refrain, something innate and familiar and true. “Let her speak.” Maybe because those words are words that have been repeated in our heads in countless boardrooms and classrooms and town halls and dinner parties. A quiet, inner chant to soothe us. An angry thought turned over and over as our blood boils. “Let her speak.” The thing we wish we would have said, or tried to keep ourselves from yelling, or maybe finally just blurted out and then were met with blank stares — all screaming now, together. Finally.
And to see that good ol’ boy motherfucker raise his gavel and then put it down, knowing better than to try, makes me grateful and emotional and proud. I feel relieved.
HA. I love the ridiculousness of this tweet. I mean in a way it’s completely unremarkable and standard trolling fare, we barely notice it. And the review is interesting (and, it’s worth noting, never once uses the word “against”). I like Alice Munro but certainly have never sat down and read all of her work at once, or interrogated it too much. I can imagine its potential to be tiresome, and understand the (relative) value of examining work that is deemed “unquestionably good” or whatever it is. (Speaking of: I’m reading Leaving the Atocha Station right now and I want to punch it in the face. Shut up already! Grow a spine! Stop whining! I hate this book, and yes, I hate this “unlikeable character.”)
But anyway, I love the underlying notion of this tweet, the bald-faced sincerity of it, that purporting to put work out into the world is entering into an argument w the reader over the worthiness of your work. As if when you publish work people are either for you or against you, and this critic has decided he is “against Alice Munro.” I don’t think he ever says that in this tweet, who knows who constructed this tweet, I’m sure people say this all of the time. But it is beautifully absurd, or lazy, or honest. Meet Alice Munro and her entire body of work, a big question mark standing before you, a shrugging of the shoulders, asking you what you think. “Are you for us or against us? Please tweet your answer!”
Ha, actually that sounds pretty right on. Maybe this is less reductive than a distillation.