Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Challenge 16.

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 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character

Day 16.

Too time-worn to be a whim, I think - I was telling my boyfriend tonight about how I've been handling stress because I assimilate it well. I keep busying myself. This feels fulfilling and refreshing like I cannot communicate after doing nothing, not being able to do anything, for a long time. The drawbacks of busy-ness aren't the ones I know, and I prefer them. Forcing myself to calm down is uncomfortable, though. I've been rereading Valley of the Dolls in the bath. I've been losing sleep, but as long as I have heat insomnia (since I was eleven, so I don't see it giving up soon), that's how I'd like to spend my extra time. I read it for the first time in one sitting because I knew it was one of Courtney Love's favorite books, another of which is Geek Love which was all ready my favorite book, and so being of the same mind I was freaking out about Valley of the Dolls like I was freaking out about finding babydoll dresses and filling up notebooks. I was never a voracious note-taker before reading somewhere that Courtney Love spent her time as a twenty-something in the UK filling up notebooks full of ideas and poems and pitches and that was my main labor by the end of high school. I think I started Valley of the Dolls late in the afternoon and read it until I had a therapy appointment the next day, and in the thick of it at 3 or 4 a.m. I put Simon & Garfunkel on my record player. I would have drank if I knew there was so much wine in my basement.

I fetishized Anne Welles. I could detect by then that people like Neely O'Hara and Jennifer North were my friends, which is the kind of thing I detect easily. But my thing about Anne bothered me - I really wanted to have something in common with someone, which, had I any insight, I would have known it was ambition, but "want" seemed too mutable and I was too uncomfortable with myself - all I wanted was to start looking like someone I admired, to get adjusted, and to see: she did this, I can do this, I see my desire resembles that desire. Hence the babydoll dresses that I did find and still wear. If Courtney Love was a character in a book, she would be my favorite, which was certainly where the "Bone Flute" impulse came from. Facts themselves aside, I like the making of one's own history vs. the intrusion of the media, the tension created when a personal fiction is quilted into the public imagination. Her big scandal came just before the internet, and so the depth of the intrusion was of a different sort than it would be now (not deeper or more shallow - that's not something anyone but her should judge) - it would be now more viral. Karen Lillis, a writer and librarian in Pittsburgh, wrote recently about grad students now studying librarianship, how the volume of them face an utterly barren job market. I think something to consider, with tools like Storify, et al, is the need there will be to archive and organize per organization meaningful clips of social media: tweets, statuses. How many times a link was shared. This is nebulous but I do consider all the time how nice it would be to have that resource.

Anne has a BA in English from Radcliffe and even though she gets the job in the entertainment law office without a proper interview, her qualifications are still called into question. In the movie - not in the book - a secretary skims her resume and declares that being a Radcliffe alum, she should lend the office tone. After this bump, she gets break upon break because of her beauty and a city block of deus ex machinas. Spoiler: it ends well for no one.

My kinship with her in that moment of doubt is still tempered by fetishism. The game is different now than the 1940s when the first part of the book takes place - it is different from when I read the book for the first time a decade ago - but the wish to have an item that bespoke my ability to innovate (which I perceive as being what my degree would say about me in a perfect world, but I am just fine justifying that) is still pretty crushing. That is a book I am all over for the characters. Anne is my favorite, but that has not stopped most days when the chasm between my ego and status glares most harshly from my going home, throwing my bag on the floor and screaming, fists shaking, NEELY O'HARA! Neely is Courtney Love's favorite.

Also covered in the same conversation with my boyfriend was Sally Bowles, who might actually win, for her green fingernails and her unsettling singing and endless assertiveness. Sally Bowles in Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Notebooks is lurid and vulnerable and not elevated by a great gift or romance. Her story, along with Breakfast at Tiffany's, are so achingly perfect as narratives of friendship with complex women that their reduction to simpering romances where the emphasis is blindingly on the girls' beauty is really sick and embarrassing, more than it is when a character is created for that, but when great characters are manipulated into that - ! I have strong feelings like this about Sookie Stackhouse, too. I have no frame of reference with regards to the books, but at the beginning of the TV show, Sookie's telepathy is used allegorically like vampirism/homosexuality - Sookie can hear, unfiltered, the opinions and fantasies of men who want to rape her and women who think she's retarded and she is appropriately socially isolated by that knowledge - as a child, she knew her uncle wanted to molest her, and she did not escape it for the overwhelming knowing: a very typical experience exaggerated to become something one can understand without having been through a similar event. When she finds a relationship in which she feels safe, it is healthy and mature and sexual, and when she feels her trust is misused, she shuts it down. I think to begin with True Blood handled its allegories admirably but that isn't its sole objective, obviously. I am still disappointed in it.

Favorite female character: in deliberation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Melts me into the world.

1. One of my proudest achievements is being in Gina Abelkop's blogroll. She is the editor of Birds of Lace, a literary bouquet of the distinct and subversive and fun, and she was also featured in delirious hem's continuously incredible SEAM RIPPER series of which I am deliriously proud to have been a part! Her entry, amidst all the outrageously wonderful, exciting entries, is probably my favorite.

2. Gaga Stigmata has a creative editor and the promise of more content - of any kind really, creative or otherwise - knocks me the hell out (like old Pheobe's pajamas knock Holden Caulfield out, just that way - kind of lurid? Innocent, really?). I spend my down time at work (I will not state how much that is) reading Gaga Stigmata intently. As someone who is extremely busy, who implements projects, I love and am indebted to anything that makes me nothing but a rabid, voracious viewer and fan. I do not easily become a fan of things, and it is even more difficult if the thing has anything to do with writing because that's what I do - I can't stop being critical. But Gaga Stigmata is the intersection of everything I love that is beyond what I do, but it is writing and it is brilliant and exciting and my critical impulse can nap and I can do nothing but enjoy myself all over it. With the aid of it. Just like Holden and old Phoebe, I think (I totally read it that way).

3. Tumblr is my favorite social media tool. For its being compared to a stream of consciousness, a perpetual "yes" machine, and its focus on links, pictures, video and audio rather than text - for heightening the awareness of how text is positioned and used in its relation to the rest of the content (not in every tumblr, but you know) - it is what I care about sharing, what I want to share on a widespread scale, as opposed to what other social media is engineered to share. As far as my own goes - Typewriter Girl, so named for the Zoe Boekbinder classic (the Shoestrings EP version) - I operate it like a home-delivery system for research and ideas, not something as strict as aggregation but amassment, real-time brainstorming, relieved from text, purely ideas that shift and change depending on when I look at an image, whether I see it in context or on my page, on someone else's page - I love that. My favorite tumblr belongs to Batarde who posts quotes from Kristeva's Black Sun, like: If one were to identify that woman and her love one would have to look for her in the secret cellar where there is no one, except for the sparking eyes of Nevers’ cats and the catastrophic anguish of the young woman who merges with them.

4. Attending a reading tomorrow night of Maria James-Thiaw, who I profiled in ye olde HMag. I love hearing her read, but I've never seen her in performance mode - I've just eked it out of her in cafes. There is an open mic afterward. I might read. I might, I might. "Diablerie," or else a prose shred.

5. THIS THIS I AM GOING. The &NOW Festival of New Writing TOMORROWLAND FOREVER. I AM GOING. I was jilted of my vacation time and promised time off in October, so this is perfect. All three days. Carole Maso speaking. Kate Durbin, Kate Zambreno, Roxanne Carter. That is half the amazing factor, for me the other vital half is relaxing the way I relax when I'm someplace alien. I might bring my brother, who just wants to go somewhere, who will not want to go watch anyone read but will be happy just to sleep and walk around (if he can by then, he had a wild surgery on his leg and I invited him because he is just now mobile and needs to enjoy it). One of my best friends is a west coast resident and when she came back here to visit I went with her to Spoutwood for the Faery Festival (not bad at all, and I am so uppity about those things), so it is my turn. Yes. Perpetual yes-machine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ghost in the machine.

My best friend, Kara, and I are starting a small press called Enigma Machine.

We're nothing yet. We will be a journal first, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. We got approved, the process of which gave me a twenty-four-hour petit mal when I realized one does not just create a profile, indeed there is an approval process. And we were approved! We've got it all: finite objective, material compensation for donors, and soon, a flash video. And soon, a press.

We're zygotic, but I bring it up because the Machine is moving (badum-TISH) and I would not do this without Kara. If not for her partnership, I would do a tiny something, but not something that, though tiny, could be great and something more than pleasantly time-consuming because she is a brilliant designer.

I've had a weird few weeks trying to prioritize my energy effectively. I saw a wild turkey yesterday. I believe I did, that is - it was so hot.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Challenge 15.

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 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character

Day 15.

Vain Van Veen. I love haughty people. Ada has no end to reasons you should read it.

I have a stress-twitch in my eye. I'm afraid it's here to stay. I also have Google+ and I don't attribute any causality therein.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meet solid bodies and glissade right through.

I.

My profile of the poet Maria James-Thiaw is alive at HMag. A poem of hers, composed in Auvillar, "le Fleur," is enclosed and demonstrates her rollicking skills. She imitated for me the subject of the poem as he romanced the titular botanical AND a local schizophrenic. We first met when I made coffee for a living, and I made a joke about Winnie the Pooh and she ran with it - this is all I remember, except we became feeble but fervid correspondents and I read her manuscript that makes me shrink and faint with its greatness. Her greatness is amplified for how she withstood my journalism, the school of which is ajournalistic or even antijournalistic in its approach to the subject, the way I wrote down only names and no other details and bolted into the night. But I am genuinely trying to get good at this.

II.

I have ten outstanding submissions. I have a manuscript of prose poems, a draft of which is done. I have a finished small novel. I have my sights on a collection of short stories, half of which are written. I am a quarter of the way through a novel draft. I am launching what I want to be a series, if not one weird, giant book. I am doing this while I write for HMag, while I am applying again to graduate programs, while I am applying for and interviewing for jobs, while I have a serious relationship with a non-cohabitant, while I contribute design to Seven Kitchens, while I engineer my own professional projects. While I have a book review due this coming month!

I was thinking of this in an interview yesterday when asked how I prioritize. Instinct. My lack of a day-planner is offensive to me. I never needed one in school, not even in college. My days were so regimented by external factors. It made me feel like a child to not need a day-planner, but I feel even more adult now. Now that I don't have one and I'm malting from the stress. Nothing makes one an adult like losing feathers.

III.

I bought giant card prints of Henry Darger's work in New York. Tonight I finally framed several of them. The frame is hulking and the pictures are sweetly lopsided. The whole thing is propped on a rack-like thing that, like most of what populates this house, was not really meant for any kind of functionality. This has the appropriate effect on me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Challenge 14.

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 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer

Day 14.

You know this now: Ada, or Ardor. I can't see it ever changing. I am this way about my favorite movie, too - Mulholland Drive. I might get loopy about another movie, and it has a deputy favorite (Eyes Wide Shut), but I feel not compelled in the least to challenge it as my #1, and no other film has tested me. I understand and appreciate reading books that have more to say to me, that are crafted in a superior manner, and it doesn't matter. I love its form and the long, lustrous first summer. I wish I had made and spent that kind of intimate creation-time with every character. I was hung up on writing family chronicles before reading Ada, which accounted for a kind of orgasm that left me, not writing anything awesome, satisfied with where it left the genre for years.

This anecdote would have been more appropriate yesterday, but I guess I'll still be talking about Nabokov for at least another day. I went to Cornell one weekend with a boy I used to date. We were dating at the time - it was the last weekend of our being together. I was awestruck with Ithaca and overwhelmingly happy to be there, and he was not a happy person. I started to get vicious and divisive and launched us on an all-day search for the Original of Laura, which wasn't coming out for another week or so and I knew it. I just wanted to steer the ship to ruin and see if he'd take the wheel. The first place we looked was the Bookery, where I fondled first editions of the Art Lover and the Collected Jane Bowles and Under the Volcano and could not bring myself to buy any of them because I did not want to think about how I felt that weekend again. Had I known all I'd feel about it was my adoration for the town, I would have bought everything I saw. After that we went to Cornell and it was NABOKOV MONTH at the campus store. I freaked. Everything was lavish and stacked and that was the first I'd seen of the new cover designs and there were posters and I was in heaven. And then he wouldn't leave me alone, so I again denied myself the opportunity to roll around in his textual splendor. The entire trip, he was walking far ahead of me, dissociating from me, ignoring me, and he chose that time to stick to me fixedly. I tried to lose him, and when he found me, he said, "I thought I lost you!" and I was so mad! After that we went to Barnes & Noble and I broke up with him. On the long drive back I had no book, and so I learned my lesson.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Challenge 13.

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 13 – Your favorite writer

Day 13.

YES.

There are several factors that contribute to Vladimir Nabokov's unshakable position as my favorite writer.

Despite what Anne Carson and Sylvia Plath do to me, Nabokov had the privilege of being a first-responder to that peculiar alienation that is having a massive vocabulary and being young and unable to use it. The fact that he communicated verbally like he was mentally challenged (by his own admission) and had to write down everything he spoke publicly makes me all the more devoted. I feel this. Ada, or Ardor dominated my reading life until two years ago. I read only it and the Brothers Karamazov again and again, back and forth, right after graduating high school (Dostoevsky ranks high with me, too). All other extant works aside, if I could claim responsibility for a single work of literature - if I could slap my copyright on the Tempest, the Making of Americans or Against Interpretation, I'd want to have written Ada, or Ardor. Even if it is inferior to Lolita - everything is - it is still what I measure every book by. I sound like an unparalleled idiot drawing any kind of comparisons between me and him - a lot of it's super esoteric - but it all makes me feel amazing. Above all else his writing makes me feel amazing. So he gets the top spot.

It's so slippery and subjective. There is nothing I want to defend less than why my favorite writer is my favorite writer. I want other people to read and know the greatness of Sweet Days of Discipline. But the importance of Nabokov's writing to me - divorced totally from my development as a writer - is a non-transferable phenomenon. So addressing it makes me feel like an awful writer, because I can't evoke it. It's the kind of thing that just makes me jump up and down, like I love the song but can't dance for shit, just hearing it makes me respond on the most elemental level.