Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Volcanoes on my lands.

I think less about the nature of my desires than I do desire, period, need and fulfillment, which, you can imagine the end of that. Not very fulfilling.

I know very well the things I have to do and that's not a problem, but I don't query myself all that much about what I want really past the very base: I want to do whatever it takes so I don't have to sacrifice writing. So: I don't want to be a vagrant. I would have to have a drug problem, too, if writing was to totally drop off all priorities. That's not really desire. That's utility. Why am I weird about that?

Envy isn't something I feel. It isn't part of my essential makeup. I do not have an envious disposition. This comes from having an intense disposition, I think, one not easily distracted by the shininess of another. I've felt envy twice. The first was stupid - over a girl my first real boyfriend seemed to prefer over me. There were other girls he preferred over me but I knew them, knew what they were like and what he was like, and that didn't bother me because I was a teenager and I knew what our relationship was. But this girl made me wild because I recognized that she was beautiful. And I didn't know her. So she still populates my writing sporadically, because that time was so charged.

So when it comes to desire about what I want to do - if you were to ask me, I would say, I want to work so I can write. But that is not my double rainbow. Writing is, innately, and that's not a problem. That will never be a problem. But in terms of contribution, emotional/financial transaction with the world, I want to build, and the idea of not building something significant makes me want to shrivel and disintegrate.

Where I am, where I sit and write and apply to jobs, is at a wide computer and right behind that is a wall of books. Spine after spine. I am flanked from both sides, too. Two stacks on each side. More on the pull-out surfaces, more on a shelf on the floor that I think was intended for nicknacks (nothing fits in that weird thing but books lying down). I won't pretend to know what goes on inside Target's head. Annie Dillard in the Writing Life advises one to eliminate from the office space a window out of which to dream. That's what the books obstruct. I look up and I see all the small insignias of the individual publishers. I have piles of forms and papers about foundations and centers and festivals. When the impulse moves me to look up and find a window, I hit this, and it turns over and over in my mind: I want to do what you do. I want to provide opportunities for people. I want to make things. I want to provide an important service. I don't want to dwell at the bottom, providing the least and getting the least. I want my returns to come from the impact I make and I want that to be distinct and positive.

I'm trying to teach myself to articulate this. I go to write cover letters for lofty jobs that, even if I do qualify, I won't get, and I find I don't have the language to express why I want these opportunities. It isn't insignificance, a sense like I can't do it or they wouldn't take me seriously. It is definitely a complete ignorance about how to write cover letters. It's not worry. I'm surprised sometimes to find I'm not complacent. I really incubated in complacency until I had a rudimentary understanding of what I wanted. Sometimes I rake myself over the volcano glass for not catching on earlier in a heated, professional manner, which is stupid to do. It is easier to wish I'd done things than to get up and do things. Theoretically. If it were not such a stress to imagine young-me doing anything but what I did, which I believe, really, when I get to thinking about it, was all to my benefit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Challenge 12.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

Day 12.

I used to only read psychology reference and nonfiction books. I also read books about the Beatles, but "read" sounds misleading. I absorbed everything that had anything to do with the Beatles when I was sixteen. I was going pretty nuts. The coincidental emphasis on the study of psychology is neither here nor there. I loved Lying: a Metaphorical Memoir by Lauren Slater. The form of it still thrills me: it is about the author growing up with epilepsy that she lies about and exacerbates until she is operated on unnecessarily. Slater hints in the preface that epilepsy itself is a metaphor for something else. The evocation of her auras is powerful and I can still remember vividly the beginning of the book. It devolves at the end into her trysting with someone at Bread Loaf. When I went to reread it last year I was pretty appalled at how trite the prose was. I'm still grateful for having the book when I did, though. I used to have seizures. They happened at night. I still wake up with my mouth chewed out sometimes. Slater provided some much-needed compassion and, crucially, imparted the first vital I-can-do-better.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Challenge 11.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated

Day 11.

I have referenced this, my feelings about John Updike (the book in question is Rabbit, Run). I have nightmares about his impish face at the foot of my bed. This was while I was at college. It still feels silly to place that so firmly in the past tense because it has only been a year, but that was definitely one thing and this is definitely another. It occurred to me the other day that I used to fantasize about being famous. I have always been - and persist in being - one who does a little more than just think that I am, if nothing else, important, which is healthy self-esteem some days (some days not, but always fun - my ego's got the aerodynamics of Zim's giant covert space pig). And I used to get unreasonably, blood-evaporatingly angry when a professor of mine would say I should watch out for my ego. Reason being: the person I'm always out to impress is me, I am more critical of my own performance than I give anyone the benefit of the doubt they might be. Praise was always nice, but incidental - I learned early just how Janus-faced praise is, that it is not the be-all-end-all. I was fortunate/brutally unfortunate enough to have a teacher in high school who editorialized every kind remark someone might make about my artwork by reminding them I just was not a good person, not a person to whom it was worth being kind (this teacher also approached my mother in a supermarket to tell her this; she is mired in lawsuits [unrelated, alas]). That was totally weird, but when people started to clap for me in college, that was really awesome. So I developed a recurring fantasy of fame, of being famous at doing my ideal job. Last night I found myself applying to such a job knowing despite how I meet the minimum qualifications they will be assailed with applications by people who outrank me into oblivion. But that I met even their minimum and I'm not hopelessly off-track was a really great feeling. I have been feeling generally great about things. Just puncturing the airtight lock-down on my lofty, lofty ambitions has really shotgunned my whole self-perception for the better. I am fragile enough that I couldn't spend a blog post ruing about my hatred of Updike, though. I feel compelled to assert that "Your Lover Just Called" is a dear friend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Challenge 10.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book

Day 10.

Because I'd rather it read this way, my favorite classical book is...still difficult to decide. It is either the Iliad or the fragments of Sappho. I have two translations of Sappho, but that is because one is by Anne Carson. If Anne Carson translated the Iliad, though, I'd by a copy for myself and everyone I know. She had a poem in the New Yorker last week and my happiness at reading it hasn't worn off.

I have plenty of happiness, in fact, that I don't think will wear off anytime soon. I've implemented a project with one of my best friends and I have to start strategizing a fundraiser. I refuse to believe "strategizing" is not a word, no matter what that irate red line beneath it says. And, oh my god.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Challenge 9.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Day 9.

Yes! I did not think I would enjoy anything I read at school - Moby Dick seems too easy. I wish this would happen to me more often, that I surprise-love books. I didn't think I'd like the Melancholy of Anatomy by Shelley Jackson or Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories to the worshipful extent that I do, but I definitely bought them because I thought I'd like them. Hmm. The answer must then be Raymond Carver. I thought his short stories, which I have purchased and reread, would make me angry. Then I read John Updike.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Challenge 8.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book

Day 8.

Even the books that strike me as overrated - especially them, to a certain extent, are valuable teaching tools, reinforcing my perception of what is good writing vs. what others seem to feel is. This is hard. I can barely justify this because it is from a place of such subjective personally horror, but I think Flannery O'Connor's a Good Man is Hard to Find is not, to use the parlance of a simpler time, all that. Her theory is among my favorite, but her fiction is not for me. It is for virtually everybody else I know, so I can comfortably declare that it has been overrated by others to me.

Oh, but that's nothing to dwell on. There is so much good.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am kissing you all over.

The great people of the Blind Willow Bookshop in Emmaus, PA, have an art journal, New Fraktur, and so great are they, they have accepted something of mine for its forthcoming third issue. That something is part of a small book of prose poems inspired by the character/s played by Anna Karina in the films of Jean Luc Godard - Bande a Part, une Femme est une Femme, Alphaville, Vivre sa Vie, Pierrot le Fou, and Made in USA. The piece that will be in New Fraktur is a synopsis of Diablerie, the film the characters are making in the book, and it appears to be a film, although the line breaks are only there to manipulate - isolate some parts and insinuate relationships between words - as edits do in film. I have had a hell of a week and that was awesome news.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Challenge 7.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book

Day 7.

The most underrated book would involve the standards of others, and I don't know anything about that. A book I love that should be considered with more ravenous prestige than it has (as far as I know, which I don't - the reading habits of others are dubious things) is John Hawkes' the Beetle Leg. I'm shocked and ecstatic I read it in my college curriculum, it was the only remotely innovative text not belonging to a movement of my grandparents' generation or earlier. I'm more impressed with it now having read his other books, all of which have some lurid fascination going for them, but what he accomplishes in the Beetle Leg in terms of form stuns me. And no one else in the class got into it - many bitched - so I can justifiable declare it ecolectically underrated.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Challenge 6.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

Day 6.

Most of the books that made me sad do so by association. AM Homes' the End of Alice makes me sad because she disowned it, and it was one of the books that changed my life. The Unbearable Lightness of Being makes me horrifically lonely, which I was when I read it in the middle of college after a weird time of losing friends and feeling too defective to recognize the making of better ones. Joyce Carol Oates' Zombie is the book that makes me sad, though, as it does nothing else. I'm still really dazzled by Alice and Lightness but in as far as Zombie is, to me, amazing, it is really nothing but devastating, and the language clears the way for it to be. It doesn't get very caught up in itself, although it is distinctly her work and reads a lot like Blonde, which I read just before I read Zombie for the first time (I was also avidly, avidly into Marilyn Manson, so that oscillation was de riguer). I read a lot about Jeffrey Dahmer in high school; sociopaths were a sincere passion, and he is an unusual one (in as far as Ted Bundy is such a classic one). Zombie makes me sad for my young self and sad for people in the book in a really enduring way that is not like a burst of cathartic sobbing, but sustained dread. Nothing happened for things to suddenly be bad, and nothing will trip them to make them better.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Challenge 5.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

Day 5.

I need this today. Most books I like because they put me in a state - I like to be bothered, agitated and bewildered by books. I love to be disturbed and awestruck. This comes from being generally very happy. But when I am very sad and I need to be made happy, I turn to John Waters. I picked up Shock Value in New York and it is so brazen! His voice is unflaggingly vivid - he always sounds like himself, and that is someone who makes me feel empowered and inspired and excited about all the things that really excite me. Shock Value isn't the book, though - it's Role Models. Role Models is a masterpiece. Fran Lebowitz characterizes her writing as art history and I believe they are in the same genre. In Role Models, John Waters addresses fascinating figures from his childhood and books and art buoyantly as he ever does but with more authority than when he was young - a relaxed, confident authority that puts me totally at ease no matter what's troubling me. I once made an intricate wish-fulfillment-family-tree in which he was my uncle. David Lynch was my grandfather, Werner Herzog was my father, Isabella Rossellini was my mother, Dita Von Teese was my aunt, and Amanda Palmer was my aunt's cool ex-girlfriend who I idolize and who "liked" my Facebook statuses sometimes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Challenge 4.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series

Day 4.

My favorite book in my favorite series, and the reason I did not delve into Dennis Cooper yesterday, is mutable - I think it's Try because the main character's zine about sexual abuse is called I Apologize and that is so fucked up, but then I think of what a revelation Period was and how it excited me so much to see a story told like that, about a person vanishing within a narrative because he kept being invoked, dissolved into obsession. Closer really romanced me, and I kept loaning Frisk to people in high school, hoping they would get too scared of me to talk to me again. I think Guide was the one of the five I grasped less and I would rank it still above so many other books.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Challenge 3.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series

Day 3.

My favorite series is the George Miles Cycle, consisting of Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide and Period by Dennis Cooper. The Claudines of Colette make rank, too, but they did not have so extremely much to do with the formation of my perception of literature. Dennis Cooper made me love books like no other author. I liked a few stray books but I did not like books before I found out books could be like his.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Challenge 2.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

Day 2.

I have read the Bell Jar more than three times. I've read a lot of books more than three times, especially before I had a lot of exposure to good books, but three of the times I read the Bell Jar marked important steps for me. The first time, it was among the only books I owned, Girl, Interrupted being my favorite. I was recommended it by a bookseller and didn't get into it because it wasn't twisted enough, but the language stayed with me enough to spark my interest in Sylvia Plath's poetry. I read it again in college - I didn't have my copy and had to take it out of the library - and cried over it because I was having a time of small things sucking the vigor from me and my endeavors (I was failing a literature class when I became a writing major and had that professor sign me into the course of study). The last time was my senior year, tanked, lying on my bed and listening to Maggie Gyllenhaal's reading of it so I could justify its inclusion in my big senior research project and check a few quotes without giving myself textual vertigo. I couldn't even stand up that day. I had six gin & tonics, which contributed to the stomach cancer of John Gardner, and that was the last thing I learned in college.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Challenge 1.

Day 01 – The best book you read this year

Day 1.

The best book I read this year was Fleur Jaeggy's Sweet Days of Discipline. I think it's a perfect book. The voice, the length, the feelings, the setting are all perfect - it made up for not being kinky and impressed me a vast times past that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Suspicion of Bears.

Available to own now: Pedro Ponce's Homeland: a Panorama in 50 States, brought to you by Seven Kitchens Press.

Photograph by Roxanne Carter. Design by moi.

Seven Kitchens is operated by Ron Mohring, who adjuncted at the school where I was a student, and along with my fellow interns we converted a spare room in the offices into a party every Tuesday and Thursday. Being referred to as amazing with regards to any work I contribute is as wholly, eminently satisfying as being paid, and I am reassured again I'm in the right line of work. Homeland is my favorite title on Seven Kitchens - its form is more mutable, and it's a mystery! I have not stopped trying to figure out which poem is about which state. There are many delicious references to bears (my favorite, a part of the "Persons of Interest" sequence, is available to be read at the Hotel St. George - it's #2). It is a vital little book.

I've also designed other titles:

Photograph by Kris Sanford.

Each are $7, hand-sewn, and fetching as hell. The cute factor at Seven Kitchens is a notch below cat videos.