Day 16 – Favorite female character
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.