Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Redeeming a small form of loss.

I interviewed Liz Laribee, Events Director at the Midtown Scholar and incredible artist, for ye olde HMag. The article features some of the pieces from Liz's Verisimilitude series that was up at the Midtown Cinema in winter, which I saw and flipped out over, which prompted me to ask her for an interview. We were all ready familiar with each other. I am grossly unvaried in my habits, and I go to the Scholar a lot. And even though I look virtually the same every day, Liz says very nice things about my appearance and my purchases.

Maya Deren by Liz Laribee
 Absolute highlight: I love Harrisburg. I talk about this city more than I talk about men, and that makes my mom really sad. The interview also serves as a preview for the kind of things - it amongst them - that are featured in THE FUN PERCENT, which is waiting on one more solicitation before it is edited and formatted and loved. I can't believe the way that came together - I'm really proud of it and really honored by the people who contributed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What if I want to feel like I have udders?

The ongoing Girls review ensues.

Before watching the second episode, I discovered Lena Dunham's New Yorker profile from November 15th, 2010. Her father says something amazing to her:
"There might be the germ of a cautionary tale there for you," her father said, looking at Dunham with quizzical fondness. "We’ve encountered this in the past, where your idea of the funny merges a little too convincingly with the real. It’s funny to say, ‘I sleep with my parents,’ but it’s also too close to being massively weird. And you will have to navigate this for the rest of your life."
This played into the episode. I am still traveling through the layers of stunned and impressed.

Girls, Episode Two, "Vagina Panic"

The fapping sound - I have to know how they made the fapping sound. The two sex scenes - between Hannah and her guy and between Marnie and Charlie - were a genuinely perverse pleasure to see. I have never seen sex scenes that reflect any moment of real sex I've ever experienced/talk to others about. I love that this juxtaposed Hannah's tryst - clearly so much about the experience and morbid curiosity - with Marnie, who is so frustratingly bored that she's liberated sexual satisfaction from the emotional discourse of her relationship. It was really affirming to see the bad - the banal and the unnerving - since sex scenes are like families: the happy ones are all the same, the unhappy ones are all unhappy in their own way.

I felt the following scene, given more time, would have played beautifully as just Jessa’s music versus Shoshanna's. I would take the two of them over most things because they are both so earnest and sincere. I am genuinely riveted to watch their relationship develop, and I want to see Jessa’s vision-board. I love how the vision-board is displaced from its Shoshanna-sector stupidity - where it would be firmly on other shows, I think, like on It's Always Sunny. It's very easy to use it in a cinematic-ish phrase - "idiots make vision boards" - but when Jessa says that she wants to make one, that she wants to determine what it is that she wants, that made me feel so warm and wonderful, that exposure of the vision-board. I have thought about this scene twice as long as the episode's running time.

Hannah's attempt at a joke about her guy’s dirty talk I love, I recognize this - seizing the ugly. I love how deftly she delivers the joke and how poorly it plays. The way Hannah always seems to be talking to herself, I love it - I love Hannah’s word-vomit. The way she remains a step behind, shielded by wit - "I guess I don't really know because this is the first abortion I've ever been to." What I want is for this to anticipate the new contours her world will assume. Her lack of sympathy for those who don't use protection has been cited as an outrageously privileged statement, and it is, and she should experience the limits of that. There will be more episodes when this will happen. Every time I read another criticism of the show I think about Mad Men, which I also watch and analyze ecstatically, which I do not blog about because I love how watching it is like reading one chapter at a time of a sweeping, mammoth novel. It has taken seasons to resolve some things set up at the beginning of the show - I'd rather wait and enjoy the payoff to what's being set up now. And how rapturous that payoff will be when Marnie stops manipulating her boyfriend. I am still saddened by how exposition-y their situation is, because the few moves they've made demonstrate so well how they see each other. She is at the point of open disdain with him and he is merely apologetic, but Marnie isn't severing it. Like the couple in Contempt, like the stories of Salinger - it's not about war, but it's all about war.

Hannah says, "I've only had sex with two and a half men."

Shoshanna's every gesture: her authoritative wielding of the “ladies” book and the way she bestows upon Jessa and Hannah and herself the title of “lady,” feeling so thrilled to have such insight! She has figured out so much, she feels, and I love it. I love that she isn't villainous or the object of ridicule, nor is she posited as being at an advantage versus the rest of the girls because she is so indoctrinated to the pervading idea of High School Musical as it segues into Sex and the City. They might not be linked in anyone else's mind, and I'm glad not everyone has lived the nightmare. My desire is to see Shoshanna be a little more smug about the insight she thinks she has - this is my acquired taste about precocity, I love the underminingly self-righteous. The way she insisted "we're the ladies" - this book is about us and you're short-changing yourself by disavowing it - I love how that shows her ignorance. And I love that Hannah apologized to Jessa for having read the book, and that she read it in the Detroit airport. The Detroit airport kicks ass.

“Dates are for lesbians,” says Jessa, angry about Shoshanna's foisting of the rule book, “I don’t like women telling other women how to feel.” What is implicit in that - all that complexity of feeling between women - I'm excited to see. I wanted to slap Hannah in the best way, the way Charlotte slaps Aura in Tiny Furniture, when she asks Jessa if she's angry with her. That was the most begrudgingly relatable scene for me. Within the past year I fell out with a friend who went through Jessa's exact experience - which, I have not mentioned, this episode revolves around Jessa's decision to have an abortion. I was disappointed, since I think the ground between understanding the situation and making a decision is an important and interesting one, although it is assumed that she's had that time, just alone. One day this friend of mine and I were out and she had just found out - it was the second time. The first time there was no question, her family was involved in making sure it was terminated. The second time she was in college. We went out to eat and she considered what she couldn't have, we went shopping and she looked at cradles. She wasn't extremely verbal about it, as I remember, and didn't talk at all about the abortion. She did say, “I really want to have children. I’m going to be amazing at it,” just like Jessa did. Jessa's remark as she keeps going with this declaration has been cited for Girl's belittling attitude towards the issue of race, but I like that how out-there Jessa's statements become, which co-opts what she is saying from Hannah, who is trying to respond to Jessa like she responds to herself when she rambles. I found it a really authentic conversational tactic, if an unfortunate one because of how closely this show is being scrutinized.

I have to watch and rewatch these episodes to comment on them. I dreaded rewatching Hannah's job interview. Interview onslaughts are fresh in my mind. The ones for the jobs I wanted but did not get loiter in my mill of conscious thoughts like the location of my keys and my pin number - it's a really grim condition. Hannah has an interview with a trade journal and totally wins with a brilliant remark: “I like a bar where the average patron would be described as crotchety.” This is the moment I feel the most connected to Hannah. She's winning at something I want. She's handling the interview the way I'd aspire to handle it if I didn't know full well I stutter and can't reign in my inner monologue in stressful situations (resulting in my being weirdly tight-lipped in interviews and at work in general). So she has my heart, as she makes such a rape joke it made me gasp. I freaked out. I screamed NO NO NO. I can only believe she didn't spend the rest of the episode resembling a used tissue, tearfully rehashing the incident, because of Woody Allen's decision to not cut immediately after the cocaine sneeze in Annie Hall - she had to accommodate the audience who, in my case, internalized the face off that scene. This is what I was referring to in the beginning of this post - this is her having taken her father's criticism and made something so perfect from it. Jon Caramanica summed it up like an ace in the New York Times:
 "Jokes about rape, or race, or incest or any of that kind of stuff, it’s not office O.K." her interviewer tells her before showing her the door. In other words, feel free to write what you know, but understand it’s not for everyone.
Despite the deftness with which this episode is sliced together - tightly between small conversations - I emphasized a line from each one in my notes. Although "So you know Venice is sinking. And I was like, we gotta get outta here!" loses something without Jemimah Kirke's gesticulation. I really enjoy her. She resembles people I have, on a more profound and tender level, known and had affection for, and I like that so far, her lines have been scant and carefully posited around the action.

Marnie's remark that Jessa has "ruined" her abortion reminded me that I am sitting on a close reading of Melancholia that I need to finish. I love enmeshment, and Marnie is so predisposed towards enmeshed behavior with her friends. I am all for her stories heavily emphasizing this facet of hers. The wild inappropriateness of the conversation/s that she, Hannah and Shoshanna have in the waiting room of the clinic - where Jessa would have an abortion, if she wasn't trysting with a guy she met in a bar - the talk is so horrifically not appropriate for the space. Shoshanna reveals her dark secret with the beautiful “Everyone and their mother has had sex except for me!” The exchange she has with Marnie about blowjobs made me sob with laughter. I love Marnie's stab at humor to try and put Shoshanna off—I hope that Marnie pulls a Liz Lemon and goes, in seasons to come, completely batshit. While they talk, Hannah gets an STD test, and her mouth gets her deeper and deeper into a living hell. She gives a speech about AIDS that is complete lunacy. She’s like a geyser of shameful Google searches.

I will admit to letting Google roll on a search for "Lena Dunham" - these are bits of recent articles I appreciated:
The criticisms being directed at Girls are misguided

[It] focuses on the characters' narrow worldview, the lack of diversity of their friend circle, their sense of entitlement and the pettiness of their problems. Meanwhile, the criticism that the show Girls makes about middle class New Yorkers is that they take their privilege for granted, are entitled, narrow minded, unaware and have pretensions of being special, talented and liberal. The show's creators are attempting to make many of the same points as their critics. (I'd like to address the pettiness of their problems but it's beyond the scope of this article.) Girls is documenting a reality, and people are reacting with outrage about that reality, but they are directing their anger at the documentarian and confessor. People are essentially trying to kill the deliverer of bad news.

Lena wrote, directed and stars in an indictment of her own spoiled self, and was her own target long before she was the target of this current blast of criticism. If Lena hates any race of people it would seem to be white people....People are free to hate the show but some of the backlash has been unfair.

- Jesse Levine at the Puffington Host
More from the aformentioned NYT article by Jon Caramanica:
Television is nowhere near diverse enough — not in its actors, its writers or its show runners. The problems identified by critics of Girls are systemic, traceable to network executives who greenlight shows and shoot down plenty of others. It’s at that level that diversity stands or falls.
And Girls is hardly alone in its whiteness. Far more popular shows like Two and a Half Men or How I Met Your Mother blithely exist in a world that rarely considers race. They’re less scrutinized, because unlike the Brooklyn-bohemian demimonde of Girls, the worlds of those shows are ones that writers and critics — the sort who both adore and have taken offense at Girls — have little desire to be a part of.

Thus far the tone of the reception to Girls has been distinctly personal, as if its arrival has remedied a longstanding grievance of certain vocal members of the news media: that there weren’t any shows aimed squarely at them, with characters who live lives they recognize. But Girls ended up* being a letdown to some of those viewers for precisely the same reason it is an innovation: It has no real competition. It is the antidote to more conventional programs, but it has no antidote of its own. It has to carry the hopes of a whole class of viewers who ache to see themselves represented but who can’t all possibly fit in.
Ms. Dunham’s relatability also plays a part in the intimacy of the critiques. Many of the naysayers are themselves young creatives who identify as squarely in, or near, Ms. Dunham’s demographic. Ms. Dunham — as a young female show runner, a rarity — is readily identifiable to her target viewers. They likely feel more access to her than to, say, Tina Fey, and therefore find it easier to share true feelings with her, even the negative ones. That Ms. Dunham is an anomaly has also made her more vulnerable.
What’s a worse fate: clumsy token diversity or honest whiteness?
* - this after the second episode!

And then Laurie Penny brought it up in a context I am so excited to see. In her post "Chains of oppression: Katie Roiphe, Lena Dunham and the sexual counter-revolution," Penny discussed a cover story for Newsweek by "noted rape apologist Katie Roiphe" who...
argues that modern "working women" - I'm sorry, was there ever a time when women actually did no work? - find "the pressure of economic participation... all that strength and independence and desire and going out into the world...exhausting." Roiphe goes on to theorise, based on precisely one film, one tv show and one novel, that "for some, the more theatrical fantasies of sexual surrender offer a release, a vacation, an escape from the dreariness and hard work of equality."
Penny writes off Roiphe's bizarro generalization by digging into the problem of which such batshit behavior is a symptom:
In a culture where women who express sexual agency are punished, humiliated and threatened with real rather than ritualised violence, that sort of fantasy is entirely comprehensible. What is more significant is that submission - alongside, from time to time, sex work - is the only kind of female sexual ‘unorthodoxy’ that is currently deemed worthy of discussion - unorthodoxy trussed up tight by the bondage tape of patriarchal expectations. Unorthodoxy that happens to involve fantasies of being dominated by men. Unorthodoxy practiced exclusively, if we go by the ‘examples’ Roiphe’s investigation turns up, by women who are young, and white, and straight, and middle-class, and, most importantly, fucking fictional.

INCIDENTALLY - why is it that young, white, straight, middle-class, fictional women are the only type of women that routinely interest the trendmaking mainstream press? And why is it that women are not permitted to be creative without having to speak for the entire condition of womankind? The most exhaustively discussed new cultural artifacts in recent weeks - Fifty Shades of Grey and Lena Dunham's new HBO show Girls - are being treated as if they were straight memoirs, rather than, in one case, a piece of redrafted fan-fiction based around a story that was originally about vampires? Is it because we don't believe that a woman can truly create fiction or write meaningfully without drawing entirely on her own experience? Is it because mainstream culture still lacks a language to talk about women's issues and women's lives that is not at once confessional and riddled with lazy stereotypes? Is it because most 'fictional' women are still created, cast and directed by men? Is it because we don't believe women can actually be artists?
"Having to speak for the entire condition of womankind" - I have said it before.
After she finished "Medusa," Plath realized how little its strategy resembled that of her other October poems. Unlike "Bees," in which apparent autobiography is really calculated melodrama, or "Daddy" and "The Applicant," in which apparent autobiography is really black farce, "Medusa" relies for success on its artful construction: an imagined narrator, placed in the throes of an invented situation, responds in direct and emotional language….At no stage in her career did Plath engage in writing strict autobiography. Yet the strained voice of "Medusa"'s narrator echoed the pain Plath felt as she wrote the poem. – Paul Alexander, Rough Magic: a Biography of Sylvia Plath
In a 1968 interview with the Paris Review, in response to being asked why it took her thirty years to begin writing, Anne Sexton said, "I didn't know I had any creative depths." Sexton's attending physician informed her that the value of her poems lay in what was springing forth without her knowledge—the secrets she was too damaged to appreciate, that she had any depths at all—and not the skill with which they were crafted.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I had to drop something off for work on Friday, giving me occasion to go to the Rotunda in the capitol building. I crawled up the Odessa steps. As soon as the door comes into view, some shocking beauty happens. Mammoth, elaborately carved doors. A chandelier in the entryway outside. It is so forbidding and brilliant. The guards laughed at me. I got really dizzy. Over a stairway that should be dripping with descending, be-diamonded Joan Crawfords is MAKE IT THE SEED.


It's part of a bigger scroll, but that's all that's visible from the ground, and I think it's on purpose. I can't stop saying it to myself.

I also got to stand alone in an elected official's office - in his quarters, taking in the grandeur of the nicest office space ever around. Portraits of officials past lined the room. It should have but did not dim the thrill of coming back to my own office today. Even when I'm mistaken for a lofty intern, I have the satisfaction of knowing none of them have a door to close.

On Sunday, I put up the first installment of Very Literary at WITF. WITF reblogged it on Facebook and Twitter, making me feel very welcome. I'm grateful to have a forum to organize and spotlight people and books and things that I hope will be an inspiration to someone around here maybe, with more time than me. I'm sliding into home with several projects this week and am eager to allocate all that time to sleeping. I don't even feel like eating dinner when I get home anymore.

I do need a vacation. My birthday is coming. And I'm going to see this:

Woodman reveals the injuries that occur in the time it takes to produce a single picture: hair turns wispy, flesh fades and stretches into smoke. The longer her shutter stays open, the blurrier and more transparent bodies will appear, until at last they disappear.
Also coming: riding the lace barometer by j/j hastain - IRL! - and THE FUN PERCENT. The three people who took the absolute longest were all friends of mine, of course, and the one that's taking the longest is the closest. I am so thrilled to implement the next stage of that project.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We're not going to be supporting you any longer: on Girls criticism.

Also an introduction to the characters, since my incoherent summary afforded none, before I clarify my critical thesis and make poor, word-shaped internet faces at criticism that I feel fails to strike the right blow.

Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, graduated two years ago with a BA in English. While living on funds supplied by her parents, she interned with a tiny, eminently hip publisher, waiting to be recognized and promoted to a paid position. When her parents sever their financial ties with her, Hannah tries to suggest (the feeble language is appropriate) she get paid for her work, and she is as passively dismissed. She has a metabolism for shabby males that makes me physically sick. Her growth is something I can't wait to observe. My mammoth disappointment with Tiny Furniture is that Dunham's character in that, Aura, took no refuge in her art - her art seemed to have no meaning for her. I want to see Hannah really kicked to the curb, taking solace in art, producing something that has meaning for her that - again, to her - justifies her struggles. I would be disappointed if the show climaxed with her in her dream job. That would be like her getting married. Like getting married, there's nothing wrong with attaining one's dream job. But to have Hannah get a job at major house or get a book deal would be a red herring, a finger-wag to the audience: if you were an ambitious lovely clever white girl in New York City, you too could be successful! But art making you a happy person in spite of everything: everyone can have that.

Jessa Johansson - played by Jemima Kirke - traveling. She blusters in and out of her friends' lives, is not privy to contemporary cultural developments, and is pregnant. I did not mention in my summary of the pilot how much I enjoyed how they integrated this fact into the conversation that she had with Marnie, as she was chastising Marnie for mothering Hannah. They are clearly not much for each other, and Jessa's disclosure of her pregnancy felt - to me - like an assertion of power, that she is capable of stating it and dealing with it plainly. From only what of her was glimpsed, in slim and crowded scenes, she's the least like her type, Francophile-"you have to go to Paris" flippy rant notwithstanding. The fact of Kirke and Dunham being close in real life comes through in ways I find very touching, in the way Kirke is photographed. In the scene where she arrives quietly, sleeping in the taxi, I remembered the parts of Tiny Furniture that mix poignancy and humor, and I thought that was a lot more sophisticatedly integrated here.

Marnie Michaels, played by Allison Williams, all ready someone I don't like. I had occasion to unleash some wake-the-neighbors screaming yesterday, as I had one of the most frustrating weeks I've had since January (when I found out my job at the time had designs on moving my position to a different office in a different town and I had to resume looking for employment the week that I'd settled into my apartment - January was a frustration record breaker, so this is significant). As I told my roommate: there is one creature of both cisgenders that I indiscriminately do not like. One is observable elsewhere in the pilot, in two different models. The other is Marnie, although her evil is played very neutrally so far. I am grateful that Dunham isn't as repelled by people like her as I am - I envy people who can write intelligently characters for whom I have, in real life, such blinding disdain. It felt good to write that. Clearly I am projecting and thinking of someone real. I don't want to skip ahead, but according to Wikipedia, Marnie works for a PR firm. When I read that I said, "Of course you do, you bitch," aloud. My roommate probably heard me.

Shoshanna Shapiro, played by Zosia Mamet, has parents who feel - despite how much more expensive it is than the dorms - that she deserves her own perfect bachelorette pad, I quote. Her scene was very slight, but exact enough that based on that - and so far, that's what's being judged: one half-hour episode - I'm surprised that the backlash has to do with the privilege demonstrated by the characters*. This character is privileged and airheaded and everything about the scene she was in made her look like a boob. This is a real-life character, and this is a horrible and hilarious character who should be dealt with in a way that isn't Say Yes to the Dress, consumer-glutton exploited for the sake of reality TV. On reality TV, where people like Shoshanna live, someone can be like this scene again and again, mounting, multiplying, like pop art. The impact is in the repetition, the mounting of completely insane behavior (so far, Shoshanna's done nothing batshit, but I can see it coming with such clarity). But this is a narrative where Shoshanna has a chance to grow and reject whatever impulse drives one to characterize oneself entirely in Sex and the City references.

* On the subject of privilege: I'm not interested in defending or justifying anything - I am interested in hearing other arguments about this show. This is the least interesting thing to discuss, for me, because my interest is in the craft of the narrative and the way the characters are formed through dialogue and action. IF the story was new to me, however, then the story would be freshly engaging, which this one is not. And on top of it all: New York. I am far far far from disliking New York - I enjoy extreme proximity to it, I go there every year, I spend approximately six months every year getting over having to leave the museums. But from this and work like it, you'd think that's all there is: New York City, and everywhere else nobody does anything. And I personally, in my young and ruthless way, have no sympathy for anyone who pays four figures in rent. This is the kind of thing that would prompt me to compare my lifestyle choices with a fictional character's.

The issue with the lack of diversity - the tremendous reaction to a half-hour pilot! - let me get my thoughts in order. In one such reaction - "Not One of Lena Dunham's Girls" - the reviewer stated that she felt the marketing of Girls had her under the impression that this show spoke to the contemporary twentysomething post-undergrad professional experience, and -with that expectation in mind - the lack of characters of color made her furious. My first feeling manifested as a long groan. This is a novel exercise for me, watching this show, because if I'm going to seek out something that speaks to my experience, I don't trust the marketing of a major TV network, and this reviewer shouldn't either. Don't get exasperated with a system that has shut you out: reject it. Move against it. Exclude it. Justification or defense would be ridiculous in terms of a half hour of a project that will be much longer, helmed by a person very capable of justifying or defending her own decisions. But being angry that a big company bankrolled something that doesn't challenge established notions of who stars on TV shows is a fruitless endeavor. HBO isn't going to be the trailblazer.

I am not interested in Girls because it speaks to my experience (which is ineffectual) - I'm interested in what Lena Dunham does. I find the "nepotism" accusation to be in poor taste and a waste of an accusation. Families where members move within a particular industry are legion. You have to want to be doing what you're doing, even if you are at an advantage. As long as they're serving their purpose, I don't care who they are, especially if they're actors. I am thoroughly Hitchcock in my feelings about actors. But Lena Dunham got right up after school and made a sophisticated film and now she has a TV show. Maybe all of that was orchestrated by a shadowy other. I want to believe that it's all her and her drive, and that is someone to whom (unappraised) attention should be paid. She can get things done. I want to see what she does with that power. I want to see other girls with that power.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuberculosis in a garret.

I had a visceral, generally negative reaction to Tiny Furniture when I saw it. I watched it as soon as Lena Dunham announced it was streaming on Netflix, which had to be sometime in the fall. If it was in October it was the epitome of appropriate: I was almost unemployed - since I quit my job for a new one and the new one fell through - and my parents made my loan payment, which was a huge blow to me because my student loans and the responsibility of paying them back is extremely mine and I'm proud of it. I am still working through my feelings about Tiny Furniture. I was really frustrated with the lack of coverage about it. Now, since her show Girls is on, I do not want for Lena Dunham coverage. And as critical as her work inspires me to be, I'm so grateful for that. I like to be provoked. And because I really want to hear as many voices on the subject as possible, I will lead by demonstration and inaugurate my catalog of feelings about her new work.

Girls, Episode One, "Pilot"

There is something so perfect, beyond comic timing, about the way Dunham as Hannah says "two abortions, right in a row." The decision to follow that up with "and no one came with her" I loved - this is a very smart line, that logic, that unmasked Hannah's indictment of her parent's withdrawal of their help as the fear that as she keeps screwing up - and she knows she will! - she will have no one there for her. That's some stunning economy. Almost stunning enough to buffer the reveal: her parents have supported her for two years.

I like Hannah's haplessness. I'm trying to get my mother to watch this show because she's one of the only people I know who isn't a twenty-something female who doesn't have complex and manied feelings about college/jobs or New York, because I feel like some distance from the time depicted would ease the glare of what it means to be supported for two income-less years in New York. My boyfriend was firmly repelled by my mention of watching the show. He was civil about discussing two reviews he read - one rave, one scathing. The scathing one identified the show as focusing on - I paraphrase, but I'm catching the key parts - the world of girls who hang out on the internet and the kind of lives they profess to have but cannot really sustain. The choice of the word sustain is mine. Nobody was doing much to speak of on the internet in the pilot. Those nuances are probably imperceptible to me, the way the internet - apropos of how it can predispose one to oversharing - fosters the filtering of identity-formation. I have no frame of reference for this. When I made the decision to move around the internet publicly I felt empty and embarrassed about my lack of a day job, like any achievement was an attempt to hide that. I felt the same way when I got a job. I've done enough and have such a good job, I feel more secure now. I wouldn't have that without the kind of contextualization I've gotten through - how do I phrase it - activities afforded by the internet (this is so jagged, and for girl-identity as contextualized by the internet, see Serial Experiments Lain, which is a Wikipedia disambiguation of the search term "girls"). In my very rigid review of Tiny Furniture I focus on Dunham's character Aura identifying herself as a video artist, and this is because she posts videos on YouTube. I do love a world where it's easier to say "I'm an artist." Although I wish - ah, that's in the essay.

Sustain: one of my very close friends moved to DC in February. She is one of those gloriously righteous people and was very mad to be moving to a place so clotted and bloated and price-bubbled, full of rabid white kids with sharp skills willing to do nothing harder than she can. She's kind of resigned to it now, which I like, but she tries to talk herself out of it still. She will talk about something else and then go back to it, like when we were talking about France and how concentrated Paris is, like London, versus the rest of the country, and she was hammering on my coffee table going that is unsustainable! I like that tension: how long can you live like this, Hannah?/How long can you live like this, New York? I wish that tension would be addressed.

I would have preferred the scene with Marnie to be all awkward demonstration of dynamics between she, Hannah, and Marnie's boyfriend, Charlie. One big weird leap around the kitchen, cupcakes in mouths, retainers in the air, Marie Tyler Moore audible in the bedroom, kisses blowing up instead of what actually happened. Marnie ineloquently disclosed her revulsion with her boyfriend to Hannah privately. I didn't like the way this played, but it's TV. And, more justifiably, it's what girls do - talk, filter, without skill or a firm grip on what we're attempting to express. I would like to have seen that worked on more, analyzed more, that compulsion, but oh my god this is ten minutes into one episode of a half-hour show.

I sincerely enjoyed Jessa waking up in the cab, on her way from jetsetting to see Marnie and Hannah. I love the tenderness of it, and her exhaustion. I had just taught my boyfriend about Louis Vuitton, why the girls in his office all screamed when somebody brought in a specific purse, and the true face of evil. The appearance of those dreaded initials almost took me out of the whole experience. I had the same problem watching a Dangerous Method the other night. One "that's what she said" and I was no longer anywhere near prewar Zurich.

SHOSHANNA IS SO FUNNY. But I could feel as I watched her, in a very disembodied way, so repelled - I was that vacant once (staunchly a Charlotte with Carrie-esque aspirations), I know girls that vacant now. And even though the way she flagrantly gushed over Jessa's accent, clever hat, and lack of a Facebook/contemporary pop cultural knowledge was hilarious - I love anything that gets all up in the face of pretentiousness, and would have loved to see Jessa come back a little more instead of regarding Shoshanna as an alien - even though this was great, I think, I was so overwhelmingly aware of what kind of hate Shoshanna could inspire in the people I know.

I enjoyed the sly visual disclosure of her internship site, where Hannah goes to try to get paid and winds up being dismissed. The site of Chris Eigeman inspired his immortal line - so apt! - to go booming through my head again: Eight hours ago, I was Max Belmont, English major, college senior. Now I am Max Belmont who does nothing. His dismissal of Hannah was chilling to me. His absence from their exchange was chilling and familiar. Going where it did - when she asks him if he'd still look at her mss. like he said he would, he stated that he wouldn't have her around to read it - I'm disappointed it didn't go down harder, this scene. This scene could have been a humiliation factory. Dunham can come up with these.

Case in point:

I hate the way she writes guys - I am beyond criticizing it. It means she is uncanny at capturing a certain guy. I've known that guy. I have no desire to see that guy. I did, however, enjoy the fact that the sex scene between her and her guy - who cuts her off, invalidates her subtly and pointedly - didn't stop when I assumed it would. That is all.

From what I've gleaned, Dunham's intent with Marnie's revulsion with her boyfriend is a means to explore how important and central friendship is versus a romantic relationship, which is very exciting to me, to see that not be trivialized in the pursuit of sex and weddings.

I was angry when the episode cut back to Hannah and her guy. I grimaced and told the computer "NO." The scene was brief, I was relieved, but the next scene brought with it the nightmare that is the guy from Tiny Furniture - Aura's freeloader - and again, total subjectivity, but I do not like that guy. And his incarnation in this show seems - all ready - designed with my chagrin in mind. The way he took over the room with his McDonald's rant, the invocation of the $50,000 student debt! I wanted to scream! This is a person I hate rendered with such precision! I used to call people - for a very grim living - and "talk" to them about their student debt. My job had the word "counselor" in it. One time I spoke to a mentally ill young man. I spoke to a good amount of mentally ill people, but this guy was a novelty. He was colorfully accusatory and wouldn't let me speak. He kept speculating about the destruction I would deliver upon him/his house/his family. I feel like that's this guy, after a few drinks, and it's funny because it sounds like he's amusing himself but he's actually gravely bipolar. That got dark, and there's no way I can see someone like that and not go there. I am being mostly very sincere when I say hats off to Lena Dunham, I've never developed PTSD from watching TV. I feel I am now probably safely in the majority.

The rest of the party was entertaining. Clueless: the movie or the TV show - clever demarcation of generational divide! Jessa's coke remark made me bust up. Cocaine jokes do make me laugh. I would take devil-Jessa and angel-Marnie's occupation of Hannah's shoulders over any squabble with her parents about money. Which is what happens next. At least it comes with some pro-blog advice ("get a job and start a blog" is so sound it doesn't belong on TV). Hannah swoons when her parents won't help her. Her dad knows she's high and says, "don't be angry, Hannah, I'm just really curious." One time my mom asked me if I'd ever gotten high and she was so angry I hadn't because she wanted to know what it was like. Hannah's mom's rant about wanting a vacation home made my eyes roll even more than Hannah's childishness. I hope this is the last of them and Hannah really is penniless and really has to struggle and pulls herself up with art. I hope.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet re: Paris.

Kristen Stone made a very sweet comment to me this morning, that she loves that I get up so early and validate all the interneting she does overnight. I am thoroughly predisposed to night-dwelling, and I'm really not dealing well with barely having nights, but I am growing very attached to pre-dawn since I'm not in shape to do anything but read.

One thing I read this morning - reread for the third time - was Marie Calloway's "Jeremy Lin." Marie Calloway has guts and one of my favorite, favorite voices. I look very forward to more from her. I also read, after the reread, a remark about there being no reaction to her piece, which is such a trite concern. I hope she overcomes the triteness and keeps on. I can say this to her, but I do hope wayfaring googlers read her work.

My morning was made when I read Bhanu Kapil's Call for Work: "In degraded form, your responses will become...a text of babies, immigrants and other losers. I just called a baby a loser. What is wrong with me?"

The future dies today, so makeout goodbye with Kate Durbin's Gaga Stigmata (as it is today, that is) and submit one last time. A bound-in-reality version is happening on Zg Press and everyone in my life can look forward to copies for the first appropriate gift-giving holiday.

Kate Zambreno and Lauren Spohrer are making my dreams reality and inaugurating a reading series called Finger & Thumb. It kicks off Monday with Kate, Gina Abelkop, and Carrie Murphy. You can bet I'm Exorcist-vomiting from envy over whoever happens to be just in Durham right now!

I've begun shuffling submissions into a folder and finally answering emails and the consensus among myself is that Andrea Quinlan's contribution to THE FUN PERCENT has the best line: I am deadly serious about fashion.

Her We Speak Girl should erupt soon from Dancing Girl Press. So will Carrie Murphy's Pretty Tilt. It is a good thing so many beautiful people are so busy with so many things: I'm going to start writing at WITF - an online feature called Very Literary - and I'll be reviewing new books/pointing Central PA to new writing on the internet/talking to area writers. If I can find them. If they exist. Even if they don't exist.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Temps de l'amour.

My short story, "Death of a Child Model," is in such brilliant company at Two Serious Ladies - I am stunned! Every day since the story was accepted I've ravenously, torturous-intensely loved everything Lauren Spohrer has hoisted siteways. I'm too lucky to be involved in such a thing! And I've received the most moving feedback about it. I'm on a cloud!

One of my favorite contemporary writers contacted me the other day, I have a glorious surprise to announce - to myself as much as anyone - soon, the Fun Percent is taking such breathtaking shape, riding the lace barometer is almost ready to take the world by its alternating current! A lot of beautiful things are transpiring.

I got some things done today. I've been mired since the week I took off between my last job and this one. I'm not totally retreaded yet. I have been leveling the sinkholes in my psyche with some disciplined reading. Or, book-buying.

Books I ordered today: Two Whole Cakes by Lesley Kinzel, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag, Write, Dad by Kristen E Nelson.

Books that arrived last week: Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag, On Photography by Susan Sontag, Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez, the New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie, Seduction and Betrayal by Elizabeth Hardwick, Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick, New York Stories by Elizabeth Hardwick, Flannery: a Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch.

I've been waiting for Lesley Kinzel's book since I was born. Susan Sontag's first volume of notebooks was my comfort read in college. Write, Dad is release #2 on Kristen the-bomb-dot-com Stone's Unthinkable Creatures. I've never read any of Susan Sontag's essays except for "On Camp" on my phone on my walk to work in a drizzle. I've never read anything by Ann Beattie - I liked her Paris Review interview (you know who had a bummer of a Paris Review interview? Marguerite Young). I've never read anything by Elizabeth Hardwick, either, and I've been interested in the New York Review of Books since the Paris Review pre-gamed their revel with some features about her co-editor (in the interview with him they ask Robert Silvers, "you lived on a barge?" which is hysterical to me after the Terry Southern interview in issue 200, and laughing at that I felt totally and completely alone and weird, but the reality of the joke is enjoyable and I wish others would join me). I still don't like Flannery O'Connor's fiction, I still really like her nonfiction, and so far - though it's fine - nothing in this biography has beaten the vignette from Joan Schenkar's bio of Patricia Highsmith:

...Pat told a friend who loved Flannery O'Connor's work a story about her time at Yaddo with the deeply religious O'Connor. Nearly every night, she said, she and Chester Himes and other colonists would go out and drink themselves into stupors, and:

"Flannery O'Connor would never go with them. One night they went out on another bender, and once again, Flannery refused to come, and they left her on the porch. And there was a tremendous thunder and lightning storm and [when they came back] there was Flannery kneeling on the porch. And Pat said: 'What are you doing?' And Flannery said: 'Look, can't you see it?!' And she's pointing to some knot in the porch wood. And then she said: 'Jesus' face.'

And Pat said to me, 'That happened. And ever since then I've not liked that woman.'"

Those new Clarice Lispector books come out right after my birthday. I think I'll spend the money now.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Challenge 30.

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 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

Day 30.

Last day!

I think this is changing. I am poor at picking absolutes. I am very polyamorous about art. I am very reactionary. I have two favorite films, one exacerbates my adoration and distress about the other, Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" and Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut." These are my boyfriend's least favorite films by each director to the point of disinclination. I don't really do this with books. I have favorite sentences and characters and passages and plots.

Hold on.


1. Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
2. Asylum Piece by Anna Kavan
3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
4. Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood
5. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke


1. Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy
2. Role Models by John Waters
3. Wasted by Marya Hornbacher
4. the Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
5. Edie by Jean Stein


1. Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
2. Glass, Irony & God by Anne Carson
3. Collected Poems by Theodore Roethke
4. Collected Poems by Dorothy Parker
5. Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire

There, all of them. One because of the other.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Challenge 29.

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 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked

Day 29.

Not everybody hates a Clockwork Orange but everybody the class I took in college on the Novel reacted unfavorably to a Clockwork Orange. I read it when I was a freshman in high school and I still love so much about it, about its opacity and vulnerability, but since that is what I love so much about it vs. what many people want out of a book - like a companionable experience - I get the rift. Also the violence, which, I'll have to read the book again - I wonder if I will, not soon - but the book played a significant role in my high school preoccupation with evoking violence in writing. I had this weird manuscript that was, in terms of content, very violent, and to begin with I typed it all in statement sentences, very documentarian, so that I wouldn't lose track of how the individual painful gestures were conceived. The hope was to, later, when I was skilled, rework the mss and evoke the acts rather than state them as they were performed. That got all weirded up when I considered the point of view, which characters were pursuing and obscuring what, which is more of a wellspring than a problem in terms of learning. But I wanted to be done with it. It drove me crazy. I don't even have a title for it, still.

In college, in my first fiction workshop, the text was Nine Stories. In some way it was brought up that JD Salinger had stated he felt like a failure at depicting the war. I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about an escape I was trying to pull - that semester was bleak, and I was physically in a situation I couldn't be in that is kind of alluded to here. My friend was thinking about the text we were reading and responded vehemently that she felt that he captured it perfectly, the ravages of war, by avoiding any outright depiction of the war itself.

The next semester in the Novel, the professor said he had never seen the Kubrick film, and my friend Bill Mauro and I said yes yes!!! We regaled him of its genius and really wanted him to appreciate our appreciation of auteur cinema like our lives depended on it. I was out of peril and comfortably in a nice room with nice concerns like does everyone know how much critical theory I read and how much I love Ingmar Bergman? He said he heard Kubrick's a Clockwork Orange was rough going. I said it's really triggering if you've sustained sexual trauma, and I'm sure I didn't put it so tactfully. My friend said - I hear it angry, but I don't know, "let's not watch it, then." I have never felt worse.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Reposted because of extended deadline and also to prod myself into work on it and all things. Good weather puts me to sleep. I haven't been doing anything but sleeping, but if beautiful things come to my email, that would perk me up tremendously. The submissions I have received are STUNNING

an anthology edited by Kari Larsen and Colette Newby

What have you been doing with this weird time? This liminal space where markets are shifting, jobs are scarce, and the issue of money/debt is omnipresent? How are you having fun?

Have you started a small press or an online magazine? Have you written a book? Have you made an online comic? Have you gotten totally obsessed with somebody's tumblr? Have you found a zoological garden obscured in the wilds of your mountain town? How do you seek joy? How do you have fun?

How are you taking advantage of the contemporary world for maximum enjoyment? Essays in the form of words (500 max.), video and art are welcome for consideration. Questions can be directed here on this post or to, where submissions can go as well. The deadline is the last day of March April 20th. Please submit and please reblog!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bureaucracy tears. Twilight zone tears.

Title courtesy of Amina Cain's total encapsulation of Mercury sucking away in retrograde. Hopefully the intent of my latest feature at Anobium is not lost - I LOVE THE ART OF SUPERVERT. How I found out about his books when I was thirteen is lost to time, but I am so grateful for that formative influence, for PervScan - where I researched all college papers - and Necrophilia Variations, which I clung to in mass transit and student centers, weeding out the people who saw my carrying it as an invitation to jump to their desired conclusions, turning into the book and conspiring with its brilliance, knowing, no, they won't understand us!

Rudoph Schwarzkogler, Vienna Actionist, subject of Supervert

I think he and Angela St. Lawrence were all the evidence I had of contemporary writing when I was growing up. Popular fiction didn't register to me as "contemporary writing" in as far as I thought of it as whoever was the modern equivalent of Genet, who I also was reading - with great difficulty, but doggedly - in middle school. What a beautiful gift that most certainly and ashamedly must have come from Amazon recommendations. However they found me, I'm so grateful. Even Mercury in retrograde can't reduce the impact their work has on me.