The other night I was trying to explain to my boyfriend what it felt like when the urgent need to take off my bra flooded over me.
This is a thing that men don’t understand. Though it is pretty related to the urgent need to take off your pants. Do men have that?
9:10 pm • 11 February 2013 • 85 notes
(this actually is my grandmother) (for real)
10:54 pm • 29 January 2013 • 38 notes
I don’t read much writing by men these days. I guess I am pretty unapologetic about that fact, considering I dunno, the CANON and what have you, but I don’t even do it on purpose. I am a woman writer and I write like a woman and look up to women writers and are fascinated by how they do it. And this is very gender essentialist and so pretty problematic, not to mention limits my point of view fairly significantly. So no. Try again: what I try to do in my reading is follow a thread. Trying too hard to follow it is a mistake, too, so I won’t attempt to articulate it here. But given the kinds of books I tend to gravitate towards, deliberately or no, I don’t often read books that are so primarily concerned with, or concerned at all with, um…
If I had to call this book anything, that’s what I would call it. A dad book. Not in its intended audience but in who it breathes life into, sheds light onto, spends time with, thinks inside of, moves in, etc etc. I mean, it’s all about feelings and language and interiority so in sensibility, not a dad book — hi! sorry! problematic again! — so much as reckoning of dads book. Revisiting your childhood through the eyes of a man who has his own children. Revisiting your young father self through the eyes of your older father self. You having-not through your having. All that trying and how much it meant, and what you couldn’t admit then, gone back and admitted. Pathos all painted over people who we thought just had no time for pathos, but it turns out were fucking swimming in it, were busy treading water and had no time to stop and write about it in their daily dad journals or whatever.
Duty, dignity, status anxiety, striving, looming failure, then super looming failure, then failure in real time, then the after-effects thereof. Inability to please wife, make wife proud, make wife safe — understand wife seemed to be there, which was nice — make kids feel loved, inability to fucking cope, to be okay, to feel good about how things are and were and will be.
From the story, “Puppy” (which: fuuuuuuck):
“And then, because she hadn’t made his life harder by being a smart-ass, they had lain there making plans, like why not sell this place and move to Arizona and buy a car wash, why not buy the kids Hooked On Phonics, why not plant tomatoes, and then they’d get to wrestling around and *she had no idea why she remembered this) he’d done this thing of, while holding her close, bursting this sudden laugh/despair-snort into her hair, like a sneeze, or like he was about to start crying.
Which had made her feel special, him trusting her with that.”
(Which made ME feel special, George Saunders, you trusting me with that.)
That story is a devastating one and they all are in their way, so baldly open and urgent yet banal — often written in the most familiar, trite voices (oh my god), filled with likes and funny turns of phrase and sounding often like reality television, or high school. But it’s not a distraction somehow. Or ever too cruel (to me at least, though my tolerance for cruelty in pretty, uh, high (catholic school, ya’ll)).
I read this book very slowly, as my psyche seemed to demand, only able to take in so much fucking pathos and bitter reality at once. I read a little bit each train ride, then every night before bed (laughing quietly, remarking out loud, driving my essentially male partner crazy — I haven’t read a book that’s this funny in a really long time), and then, I read it once at lunch, alone. I sat by myself at a restaurant for an hour during the work day for the first time in my life, thinking, Oh, so this how people get by.
Long lunches and then reading books by people also concerned with getting by and how we do it — people who write sentences like this,
“Coatless bald-headed man. Super skinny. In what looked like pajamas. Climbing plodfully, with tortoise patience, bare white arms sticking out of his p.j. shirt like two bare white branches sticking out of a p.j. shirt. Or grave.”
Or conjure images like this, that are so on point they’re still with me weeks later,
“When Eva tiny, had big head of black curls. Would stand on couch, eating cereal from coffee mug, dancing to sound in head, flicking around cord from window blinds.”
[Mostly because YES: aren’t kids always flicking around the cord from window blinds? How much time did you spend with that cord and the plastic thing at the bottom of it when you were a kid? The straight up MAJORITY of your time? Exactly.]
Death-renderingly hilarious and accurate turns of phrase aside, the final story (and by far the best, anyone who disagrees is wrong and needs to learn how to READ, obviously) transforms from a confusing experiment in fucking Virginia Woolf-type of switching POV, stream of consciousnesses, into fucking “This is why we have art” levels of brilliance (IMHO!!). I haven’t been wrecked so, uh, significantly (??) by a story, nay, book since WILD (page 29ish of Wild is now the barometer for crying-while-reading).
And yes I would like this guy to write me a novel, as if that were how art works, as if we were owed anything. It’s not and we aren’t, but yes a novel would be cool. THAT SAID, George Saunders could print out a packet of beautiful, exacting sentences he’s written and I would pay $28.00 for it*.
Take this little passage, for example, which I read out loud to my boyfriend as he got ready for bed, prefaced with the fact that it’s a scene with a guy cleaning out the dregs of a pond with a shovel and accidentally killing a bunch of almost-frog tadpoles, flinging them about the yard. Soon he becomes complicit in it, and so:
“It was like either: (A) I was a terrible guy who was knowingly doing this rotten thing over and over, or (B) it wasn’t so rotten, really, just normal, and the way to confirm it was normal was to keep doing it, over and over.”
I read that out loud to Dustin and he was like BOOM and I was like, “And there it is. The secret of the universe. What underlies everything, revealed.” And he’s like, yep, and wow and I’m like, “The reason why you ate the entire bag of cookies while I was at work today!” And he was like, “Actually I was thinking more of the Holocaust!”
So think about THAT.
* Actually, come to think of it, maybe ideally George Saunders would have a talk show, and there would be a live audience, and we could go to it (too much energy / fear involved in actually talking to him one-on-one). It would just be him sitting there and thinking really hard with a white board and maybe his wife (I mean, this is my fantasy ok let me go there) and they cry and talk about their lives and show pictures of their kids and talk about all the hard decisions they’ve made and we could just sit there and watch him and maybe submit a question every once in awhile.
Guilt! Shame! Duty! Failure! Dad stuff!
8:27 pm • 27 January 2013 • 92 notes
“I’ve always wanted to write energetic, atypical sentences, i.e., sentences that were not normal or bland. I used to feel that there were situations and actions and mind-states that were too “banal” for me to describe them well. Now I feel that there is nothing that can happen to a person that is banal. Feeling that way was a failure of vision on my part. Everything that happens to us is interesting. That’s our job: to feel that way. And an interesting thing has started happening: feeling that way (or at least trying to feel that way), I am finding that non-banal prose will always present itself. Or the prose is banal at first, but if you start poking at it, with the confidence that the underlying reality is not (is never) banal, then the prose starts to rise to the occasion.”
— george saunders
7:55 pm • 7 January 2013 • 80 notes
2012 through books.
I’ve never taken a step back from my life and said, “I need to spend more of my life sitting indoors reading books.” Instead I want to wake up earlier, to run more, to write more, to cook more, to go on dates, to see my friends more, to call my mom. All of these things make me feel like I am taking initiative and control of my life and my happiness and all other sorts of deluded things. The thing is though I do want to read more, but when I say that and am really meaning it, I mean that I want more to be transported and feel known and have my conception of how people move in the world expanded, or at least I want to put cracks in it, more. Reading is basically just the easiest way of doing that, and it’s very important to me. It buoys. And this year it kinda sucked.
Dustin stopped working at a bookstore halfway through the summer and I only like books that I pick out MYSELF and you see, there all these baby blogs out there of women talking about their lives in this hopeful, alien way, and sometimes great tragedies befall them and it’s all very compelling. Anyway I fear I’ve lost my mojo. I think my book-Saturn is returning. Something.
Luckily the good thing with the book thing still happened a few times, for which I’m very grateful. Here is what stopped me this year, what made things feel right and preordained or just were a great comfort/distraction:
- I inhaled Sarah Manguso’s Two Kinds of Decay and felt swept up in it and needed more. Luckily she had a new book out this year, The Guardians. The first one I liked better, because it is more deeply terrifying and personal, and affecting (at least according to my brain). The death is closer! Though rest assured they are both about death. Everything is about death, people. Everything I care about. But I read both of these immediately, and felt lucky to have them. Decay on Saturday and The Guardians on Saturday night. Life had meaning!
- Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home I also read quickly, and I was ecstatic the whole time but also somehow at peace, on my work retreat (just to take a minute to clarify: “work retreat” is actually an oxymoron and some sort of childhood nightmare come to being). Everyone tie-dyed shirts and did yoga and paddled in paddle boats and I sat in a corner reading this, relishing it. It was the kind of book where you are off doing other things and remember you have it off in your room, just waiting for you to get back to, and you feel great comfort. “I may hate myself and not know how to play ping pong or talk to people but I have this book!” You have your life then you have this other life, one which makes the first one easier (the book is the other one, the consolation). Her new book is not as good (what a cruel sentence, as if I’m some sort of agent or hollywood producer). An echo of the first one. Which is really, I think, what it sets out to be. And so it’s still really interesting, and I wasn’t ready to leave Alison Bechdel and there you go. I am happy to hang out in her brain.
- I read the Grace Paley book I hadn’t read yet, Later the Same Day, and I think there may be one more, but all of her titles sound the same. Anyway I am utterly convinced this woman is brilliant, a cut above, and her voice and her writing feels so utterly familiar, as if it were in itself part of what writing is — central to it. I just adore her. I do. If you haven’t read much of her, do it, and know you will be schooled. I am afraid to really pin down what I have read of hers and what I haven’t for fear there is nothing more.
- I read a Jo Ann Beard book and a Bobbie Ann Mason book — both short stories, too — and they sort of blend together for me. Not because they both have these three-word southern names, which, okay yes, probably that is why. But they are both deeply feminine voices in a way that is familiar to me and in a way that I love. Bobbie Ann Mason is the very southern poor, a little quirky, domestic one. Really fucking on point. And Jo Ann Beard is also trenchant, but more urgent, crying out. Maybe I want them to fuse into one. They both carried me, though, and I want more of both of them. And more like them.
- Also Laurie Colwin, Laurie Colwin, Laurie Colwin. Growing up I didn’t let my mother teach me anything, at least not explicitly. In fact I would lose my shit when she tried to tell me how to do anything or offer me help in any way. I’m sure this does not reflect accurately on my character in any way whatsoever. Ha! Anyway now that I understand my own inherent weakness and mortality, I actively seek help and crave wisdom and know-how and I want women to teach me things, I inhale books like this. I read Home Cooking and went back to Word the next weekend for More Home Cooking, feeling so happy and filled with purpose. Maybe soon I will swallow my pride enough to ask my own mother for advice, cooking and otherwise.
- And in the interest of admitting when I am wrong, I started out really mad about and annoyed by D.T. Max’s David Foster Wallace biography (do I just hate biography? The jury is still out), I got totally sucked in and really loved it. This happens to me all the time with reading, actually. I start out hating it and then by about 50 pages I have “met the writing on its own terms” (I put quotes on it not because someone else said it but because I know I sound shitty when I say it) and accepted it for what it is and really enjoyed it. Not every book needs to be the book I would write. Right? Agh.
- I need to chill the fuck out this year.
- You’re all wrong about How Should a Person Be.
10:11 pm • 3 January 2013 • 103 notes
The other day I was thinking I really wanted to buy some Docs. Then I remembered that I still had mine from high school, the last time they were cool. Complete with neon green laces.
10:29 am • 13 December 2012 • 30 notes
My friend forwards me some of her Daily Kabbalah Tune-up emails and I love it.
2:15 pm • 9 December 2012 • 27 notes
The best/worst thing about Building Stories is that it added up to absolutely nothing. Sure, there are minor arcs, imposed narratives — you find out things, other things are resolved, but nothing beyond the petty dramas and frustrations and longings and nostalgia and regret, etc., of everyday life. Which is you know, the ultimate devastation (refusal of grandiosity, meaning). Well, at least to me.
I am new to comics and know pretty much nothing and no one besides the Fun Home, Persepolis, Maus stuff and really liking whenever they do comics on the Hairpin (ha! For real though). But something about comics (just, overall?) is really, specifically appealing. I won’t even pretend to be able to articulate it in the way it deserves, or to sum up an entire genre. But (OKAY FINE I WILL), it reminds me of poetry a bit, in a way, in the way it, er, spends more time with each thought. By its nature we spend more time with each sentence. There’s a picture there! Everything feels very deliberate, and therefore a little meditative. Important. And yet what we linger on and what we explore and what we see, are often sort of goofy looking little pictures. Not to diminish them! I can’t even begin to parse the artistic choices being made here or comment on a style and the way it subconsciously sets a tone or makes us feel this or that or how long it takes to be able to do something like this (a long fucking time, I imagine?). But — and especially with Chris Ware — the drawing itself feels very (for lack of a better word) vulnerable. Exposed in its… bare-boned-edness. There is not a lot to hide in here:
I goddamn hate this baby. It is so weird and pink and bold and takes up so much space (clearly) right here in the middle of this page. Why aren’t there more lines in it? Why does it look like a fucking image vector? It hurts to look at too long, and especially at night. I tried not to.
He said in this A+ Rookie interview that, “comics seemed (and still seem to me, actually) an unpretentious potential vessel for solitary authenticity.”
A refusal of pretentiousness. I think that’s what that baby is. Ugh it hurts to look at.
But anyway what I was getting at earlier was that I know nothing about comics and nothing really about Chris Ware (besides what I learned in that Rookie interview) except that his stuff is allegedly really, very SAD. “Devastating.” Sad Boys love it, blah blah. And you know, what I find sad and what sad boys find sad is usually very different. They’re easy targets — too easy. And their sadness usually seems very safe. [I dunno, that seems flip and irresponsible to say but fuck it, that’s not what this is about — this is about narrative!]
BUT THIS IS NOT SAFE.
Not because any of the plot points (if you can call them that. I mean one of the threads i a cartoon bee, so.) are remarkably sad: loneliness, creative frustration, body hatred. All fairly straightforward and clumsily, quickly told (Chris Ware in his writing also seems to refuse the slick reveal or the showing vs telling etc. More of a bumbler. Which might be the worst in prose but in comics works I guess.).
What feels so dangerous is that when I say it really adds up to nothing, I mean it. There are, if you haven’t read or seen things about this (Pierce’s post about it was what got me to finally throw down the $50), a bunch of different pamphlets and broadsides and little books and littler books and one big thing that folds out like a game board. When I read them I read them as they came out of the box. One after the other, without noticing what time it was. Dustin read half of it standing up over the coffee table, forgetting to sit down. You expect a certain degree of wonder & awe when you unwrap this thing (surely that’s half the point of it), but that wonder & awe is no less meaningful and genuine when it does come. It springs forth anyway. Like two kids at Christmas (give it to someone for Christmas, someone like me who usually cries in the shower that they can never recover the good Christmas feelings of their youth). And you shout out things about it to each other and pass bits along and the order gets mixed up and then you realize there actually is no order.
The characters repeat their stories at different moments, just like life. They bring up old boyfriends or revisit events (redrawn, too), and depending what order you read the pieces in, the backstory might have more or less meaning. You can reread things and suddenly think, “Oh so that guy was the guy who,” and it makes a little more sense (not that it didn’t make sense the first time), not unlike the way we learn things about people and everything clicks into place in retrospect. The stories balloon out and out and go back and sideways and you see them from different perspectives. All of this but not in a movie way. There is no narrator hovering above all this. Chris Ware is not there winking at us. You don’t finish the book and say, “Ah, this means ___.”
I genuinely kept waiting (and really, just, hoping) something would be revealed that would “make it all make sense”. The book is incredibly straightforward and pretty much makes sense the whole way through, but I wanted some sort of meta-commentary or some sort of reveal — something like, And surprise, this whole book was written by the baby the whole time! Or, like, we are on some other planet where the banal trivialities of our lives are stamped onto paper goods, or god fucking knows. But it never came! There was literally no end. And no start. Just some overlapping stories about really pretty boring and typical people’s lives — that was pretty interesting and fun to read! That’s it. And that is…horrifying. See: that’s what I want. I want Chris Ware to be like, “The point of this book is that there is no point. No linear narrative. And this was necessitated by the form of blah blah blah.” But no. I think it was just fun. A delight. Maybe the ultimate sign you’ve made it, too: your publisher lets you print a big fucking box of crap in a dozen different ways, and charges $50 for it. And people buy it. And that’s it! Our lives are small and mean a lot to us but don’t really have any bigger meaning, and that’s it. Noooooooo.
Oh, also, the 2nd most devastating part was (see above) the way this husband and wife duo is always looking at their computers and phones :(
7:57 pm • 1 December 2012 • 80 notes
I asked Dustin if he had any ideas about where to put these plants for Thanksgiving, since we are gonna have 8 people here, etc. he suggested we put them on the ground when it comes time to pull out the table and sit around it. I didnt say anything out loud, but in my head i laughed the laughs of a thousand men. Guess he doesn’t read the same blogs as I do, or realize the flowers/candles/tablecloth visions i have in my head, or know that, for the love of Christ, YOU SET THE TABLE THE DAY BEFORE.
11:36 am • 21 November 2012 • 24 notes
I went to the dermatologist for the first time today, and am now one mole less…moly. A part of me that existed this morning no longer exists (or it does, but it’s in a lab somewhere, floating in water, extant), and I didn’t even have a warning (aside from, you know, hey, get that mole checked out.) I assumed I’d have time to think about it, to say my goodbyes. Maybe take a photo.
My mom has been “freaked out” about this mole for give or take two years, and dealing with this was one of my new year’s resolutions (2012: A BIG YEAR FOR ME!), so I texted her after to say, “are you happy, the mole is gone, consider it an early birthday present.” I figured it would make her feel powerful, like she could steal things from me all the way down in Florida. All she really wanted to know, though, was was she right. Literally her first reaction was, “So was I right?” I think she wants me to have skin cancer at this point, as vindication.
Anyway my arm hurts now. As in: actively. A part of me is missing! And I will also say that while you all should get a skin cancer screening at some point in your lives and I don’t want to discourage you, having a cute woman in a little red dress, a headband, and kitten heels inspect your SKIN (ie, everywhere, guys!) under the *least* flattering lights, is frankly very demoralizing. She just held up my pale, flabby arms and stared at them, quietly. I felt moved to apologize, on behalf of my complexion. She said, “And now let’s look at the chest,” and I just sort of sat there with my tits hanging out like…Hmm ok, yep, get a good look.” You know, when you go to the gyno it’s like, Okay, we will definitely be seeing your vagina. But this is some weird middle ground where it doesn’t seem like your tits are going to be out — she doesn’t have a stethoscope, there are granola bars in the waiting room (My first brush with fancy New York doctor world! So thrilling!) and ads for plastic surgery, and kitten heels, and then boom: she’s just passively scanning your tits. Not even squeezing. Just looking. Ugh. It’s sort of an insult! And then of course the best part was yet to come: “the buttocks.” God help us all. And I hesitate to bring this up, but I kept my underwear on for this (!!!). I still am wondering if that was a mistake, if I violated some skin cancer screening code (no one told me!) by keeping my underwear on. The technician guy (YES GUY UGH) handed me a robe and told me to put it on and didn’t say anything else, so I figured I wouldn’t go for the gold without some deliberate instructions. Which led me to the point where I was standing in this cold office with a cute woman in a headband saying, “And now I’m going to check the buttocks” and then, I swear to god, pulling down my fucking underwear and looking, silently, at my butt.
Far more painful than getting a mole removed, which I might add, was not fun.
Almost as painful as when the male tech said, “If you don’t mind me asking, when was your last menstrual period?”
"Um…it’s now. Ha!?"
"Okay, so, then your last one was about a month ago, right?"
Are you allowed to go to the dermatologist on your period? I still don’t know. But I did very quickly yell, “NO!” when she asked me if I had any moles in “the groin area.” I’ve never been so happy to have someone take me at my word.
I’m not saying skin cancer seems like a barrel of monkeys or anything, but i’m not not saying it, ok? Jk Jk, wear sunscreen! Slice off your moles with a box cutter! (that’s basically what happened to me today.) You’ll get out of doing the dishes!
11:06 pm • 5 November 2012 • 53 notes