Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Perhaps you think this does not apply to you.

Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage.

Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.

Ask a headhunter why he cuts off human heads. He'll say that rage impels him and rage is born of grief. The act of severing and tossing away the victim's head enables him to throwaway the anger of all his bereavements.

Perhaps you think this does not apply to you. Yet you recall the day your wife, driving you to your mother's funeral, turned left instead of right at the intersection and you had to scream at her so loud other drivers turned to look.

When you tore off her head and threw it out the window they nodded, changed gears, drove away.

Grief and rage-you need to contain that, to put a frame around it, where it can play itself out without you or your kin having to die. There is a theory that watching unbearable stories about other people lost in grief and rage is good for you-may cleanse you of your darkness.

Do you want to go down to the pits of yourself all alone? Not much.

- Anne Carson, "Tragedy: a Curious Art Form"
Gearing up for the Black Telephone to come out, Say you're a fiction's cover to be done, reading for Jubilant Thicket, things with the FUN PERCENT and Enigma Machine. Thinking of this while I do that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I was just taking a walk along the spillway at sunset.

The ongoing Girls review is gone! Season one is over - that was a really good experience, psychically, to have made myself consistently work and hold myself accountable when I was in a grim zone and not doing much else. I'm doing better today, and my short story "Mine Fire" is so strapping on Blip! "Mine Fire" concerns the continuing adventures of the heroine of "Bone Flute," published last year in Sein und Werden. She is still having a difficult time but I hold out hope for her.

Anobium's Kickstarter for Volume 3 is almost up! Five more days! Volume 3 will crest the wave of a whole new Anobium. Exciting announcements are on the horizon there. And here. I have more good news, but right now it's a beautiful mystery.

MASSIVE NEWS: riding the lace barometer by j/j hastain is now available from ISMs Press! It's $3! And Rachel Kendall, ISMs editor, is shipping from the UK, so shipping nightmares are roundly circumvented.

Prepare for an in-deep partaking of strange yet powerful "folds as they enshrine a gorgeous hysteria," because that is part of what hastain's poetic encounters will be placing upon you. - Juliet Cook

To the continued circumvention of nightmares.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Your dreams are not what you thought they'd be!

I have been having a personal apocalypse (which is a good if time/energy taxing thing) and editing things at home and things at work in a brick of dense, unbreathable heat. Sincerely: watching Girls has been comforting in a black mood borne of a heretofore unacknowledged dearth of friends IRL (I have to hedge my own melodrama and assert to myself that I have them, we all just work full time). So I went to visit my best friend in the universe the other weekend - we used to spend EVERY WAKING FREE SECOND together and I miss it so hard. We stayed up and talked until four a.m. I got a kind of echo of the feeling of leaving her house in the morning when this episode ended, for which I commend it intensely. More feelings to follow, but first -

Girls, Episode Ten, "She Did"

Adam, Hannah and Marnie move the latter's belongings from the apartment. She makes "the move of trust" and lets Adam shoulder the weight of her garbage as she says her goodbyes to Hannah, dejectedly sitting on the  stoop, palpably near tears.

Marnie: "I will see you."

Hannah: "On purpose?"

Marnie: "Don't push."

Marnie's departure is still the foremost swelling in Hannah's chest when Adam muses, "Maybe I'll move in." Hannah reacts, but she doesn't have a lot of room to react to her ideal extent. Her feelings are minutely emoted before Shoshanna takes the narrative reigns - in her apartment, she announces with nary a shred of physical evidence that things are weird and wrong. If Hannah was present, she would agree with Shoshanna with quiet relief that someone is speaking for her - her toxic cohabitation with Marnie is over, which should be a good thing, and her boyfriend wants to live with her - "toxic relationships keep us from becoming who we are," he says - but Shoshanna is really feeling what Hannah is feeling, but Shoshanna's audience is Marnie, for whom things have never been more free to be better. Later on, Shoshanna will say to somebody else, "Just stay out of my emotional way," which is exactly the words that Hannah needs to use.

When Marnie thanks Shoshanna for letting her stay, she mentions her intention of moving on swiftly, and Shoshanna attempts to be sly about tucking Marnie's luggage away, but I am sure she ultimately hides it and plans to trap her there forever. This had better be a line of reasoning explored in the coming season because Shoshanna vs Marnie would be teeming with weird. Marnie could really take advantage of Shoshanna's predisposition towards adulation, but Shoshanna would also hand Marnie her ass when Marnie failed to be a real friend.

Hannah tries to beg off work - with Ray at Cafe Grumpy - but he calls her out on the intrigue inspired by Jessa's mysterious txt, which he has also received: "Please come to the most important party of my life. 7pm sharp, dress real nice and come." I love that Jessa's enthusiasm for parties from episode seven makes this seem perfectly justifiable (I am also partial to the phrase dress real nice and come). Ray comes down on Hannah for her weak attempt at playing sick, insults her, and ultimately lets her go. The move is couched so deep within Ray-ness, but I do believe he means they are friends, we're all going to do something together, how dare you assume I wouldn't be sensitive to that. I hope he remains ensconced in his terminally uncomfortable awfulness forever, no matter his true intentions, because I would hate to look at Ray as a human being. It would not be fun and I would resent being made to like him for any reason. Even what he does before the episode's end.

Marnie and Shoshanna are spied outside the special party by Charlie and Ray, who make it weird. Inside, the squad assembles. Adam is alarmed by finding his full name on the guest list, which seemed an exaggerated reaction until I remembered: although Ray is comfortable with the fact that he knows Hannah and the people Hannah knows, it is still a relatively new development that people who know Hannah know Adam. As of episode seven, that was the first any of her core group saw him in person. Unlike the Bushwick party, which was exciting because of its scale and exoticism, clearly Jessa has had a hand in orchestrating this and that is part of the reason it is so important, which itself is exotic because Jessa has not instigated anything since her arrival in New York in the pilot.

Ray surmises that they're at an Eyes Wide Shut party, and when the MC flops out, he seems to reinforce that notion. I was fully prepared for it, but all the sudden Chris O'Dowd's character from episode eight appears! I thought some American Psycho shit was going to go down. But before the audience can recover from the revelation that his name is "Thomas-John," Jessa is spied from above, netted in white, carrying flowers. She walks up to Thomas-John and they confirm what is clearly transpiring re the dress and the flowers.

Re my wedding-angst from the previous post: (!) this is Jessa co-opting everyone's concern for her, everyone's interest and investment in her well-being and behavior. I think it is an excellent and appropriate move and the surprise nature of it does exactly what Jessa wants it to do: swiftly and totally elevates her to heights of crazy that alienate her from shows of concern like Hannah's in episode two and Katherine's in episode nine. Moves such as these are what keeps Jessa from resisting other peoples desires for her but also keeps her from acknowledging her own desires. I love that this is touched upon but does not overwhelm her character, such is the force of her little observations ("I admire your commitment to hygiene") and the way she delights in things like string-cheese.

This whole movement inspires the hope that someday Dunham will tackle the way people (not all people, but some people) use wedding-planning as a militarized attack on their relationships. Weddings are a classic finale-trope to be inverted, but I believe they go beyond a ceremony that simply doesn't mean what it's historically meant. I can see this getting beautiful with Marnie in some far flung season, since she has been the mouthpiece for Hannah's financial stress, and wedding-planning can be a tool to reinforce economic disparity, levels of energy and commitment, and inhuman reserves of intuition and emotional transference. Weddings are not - not to the people having them - things that used to mean something and don't anymore, they mean a whole new set of things. Allison Benedickt at Slate stated Jessa was going to wind up the "traditional" one, but I am weary of anyone who calls one who gets married as a means of demonstrating their maturity "traditional."

The vows include: "The night we met, I thought we were gonna have a threesome with your friend Marnie. What's up, Marnie?" and "When you showed up at my house, I was prepared to call the Special Victim's Unit." Jessa's speech to Thomas-John smacks precisely of her first encounter with Jeff and calls to mind her testament to Katherine about exactly how long her attractions to other humans lasts. "I appreciate...everything you don't know about," she tells him, and instead of saying "I do," squawks like a chicken. She tosses her garter immediately and shouts, "Your dreams are not what you thought they'd be!" She throws the garter squarely at Shoshanna, who is raw with fury. "Let's fucking cork it out!" Yells Chris O'Dowd, who dances up on Jessa.

The source of some of Shoshanna's rage is revealed during the vow exchange: "I wore white to her wedding. Because how could I have known? Because nobody told me." Ray's attempt to console her is met with her beautifully curt "step-off" gesture - I love the varying degrees of emotional articulation demonstrated by Hannah and Shoshanna in this episode, and the fact that Shoshanna is better at verbally articulating where her anger is and where the guy needs to be in relation to that.
Hannah, meanwhile, is mired in her loneliness for Marnie, and now her alternate best friend is newly married, and she cannot or will not draw the contour of that pain for Adam so he knows what is and isn't about him. Her lack of willingness to do so may come from his sporting "not one but two plaids" and his fidgety proclamation, "I'm very moved. People finding each other, taking shelter - I'm very moved." He is a ball of intense affection and completely in her thrall. Her vulnerability floodgate is wide open. So she crawls into the best friend womb: the bathroom.

"I love you, you're so fucking gross lying there on the bathroom floor," Jessa fawns over Hannah's little devastations. She tells Jessa about how confusing it is that Adam wants to move in with her and balances it out with queries and considerate listenings to the Glory of Jessa's New Love. I love them talking. I believe they talk and listen in the same key, which is equal measures enabling and real connection. This is the kind of friendship I had, and my friend who is so much like Jessa - the resemblance is increasingly uncanny - also got married at this exact time last year. I was the maid of honor. I was supposed to have been the maid of honor but we had a fight a week before the wedding and I was excised from the party, and we have not spoken since. At one point, she was one of my closest friends and I prized conversation with her so much. It was a closeness I valued and needed, even if it was really flawed. By the time we had the blow-up, our friendship didn't look anything like that, but when the MC announced Jessa and Thomas-John's first dance, and Hannah laid on Jessa the warmest buddy kiss and called after her "I love you" I cried angrily.

Thomas-John has another opportunity to call her Mary Poppins and he doesn't take it. Everything is doomed.

As Adam passionately inhales the fragrance of a cakepop, Charlie attempts to put a move on Marnie by verbally erecting an erotic encounter they should just go have since they're both free people. And I do believe in my deepest heart that the scene he illustrates was Marnie's fantasy when she reveled in Booth Jonathan's play for her in the second episode. I think it was not nearly so important for Booth to reappear than Marnie's understanding of her own desires - it is such a subtle moment, but it is absolutely there.

Ray gets Woody Allen to an uncanny extent - "it's a big pet peeve of mine - people touching, swaying" - in an attempt to access the very distraught Shoshanna. She is not quick to declare "everybody's a dumb whore," but once she's identified where she is emotionally, he is ready to identify where he is: captivated to distraction. "You vibrate on a very strange frequency," he says, praising her rawness and stating firmly that he wants to go home with her. "Fine," she says, "just stay out of my emotional way."

I love that this episode and all its subtle problems of navigation has, for the most part, all the characters in a single space.

This is the episode where Hannah breaks out the cutest dance move ever around. Adam's embrace and declaration of "we're in it for the long haul" puts a fatigued look on her face faster than the exertion he warns her against.

Elijah finds her mid-food and owns up to giving her the HPV. He introduces Hannah to George - things are over with Beau - and via a good-natured inquiry discovers that Elijah is in need of a place to live (since George's son, Templeton, needs to graduate before Elijah could move in - Templeton is extremely homophobic, and I am grateful to have been handed that bit of plot).

Hannah promptly tells Adam he doesn't "have to worry" because Elijah will move in. She blithely proceeds to illustrate how gay he is - getting certified in Alexander technique and all that - and Adam railroads her with the fact that he loves her and that's why he wants to move in with her. Because Hannah doesn't perceive them as being in a place where they view their relationship objectively and doesn't want to do that, in her heart knows she wants to have that attitude about her work - even if she doesn't have that kind of focus, she does know how deeply she could fall in to her relationship being her thing, and she wants real achievement, as taken as she is with Adam.

When Marnie laughs at the MC's horrifically pitiful jokes, Hannah responds with the evolutionarily sound decision to judge. Jessa wields a knife and wobbles around her wedding cake. Marnie ends this scene in a perfect way, and I can't describe it. She cannot resist following this up by, toasted and silly, seducing the pitiful MC, who is blithely eating the remains of the wedding cake with a fork. The tools of her seduction are her "ideal" wiles and some renegade confection that tumbles into her cleavage. "I think I just fell in love," he tells her as she gives him the best cake-smeared come-hither. She does demonstrate sincere enjoyment of the ridiculous things that come out of his mouth, but the real delight comes for Marnie in his outright adoration of her for diving right into the cake with her hands. They are peers in that moment, but her enthusiasm for his kiss is contingent upon how they will not remain peers, the bargaining power she has. Charlie sees them makeout and disappears, ashamed, although he probably doesn't realize he attempted earlier to seduce her for the same reason: there is emotionally currency to be exploited there, although it is contingent upon even more precarious factors, and even those are contingent upon some concrete evidence that she desires him.

On the street, Adam rips Hannah a new one. "You think you're not pretty and you're not a good writer and you're not a good friend," he tells her, and he tells her that she is all those things and she's a "fucking bitch" for explaining away her behavior with "I'm scared." "Join the club," he says. "NO. I'm more scared," she maintains with real conviction. From the street he waxes scientific about her self-hatred in a scene that hinges on the borderline of showing off the talent for screaming rants both Dunham and Driver harbor and some tightly coiled revealing that neither character has done yet. Then the self-proclaimed beautiful mystery that is Adam Sackler is nailed by an oncoming car.

Ray steps apprehensively onto the shores of Shoshanna's vast love-ocean before deciding to dive in double-rainbow, full on.

Adam refuses to let Hannah in the ambulance with him, and after a futile chase down the street, Hannah abandons her attempt to pursue him and curls up on the subway. She dozes off and wakes up with her head on the window, the tinfoil-wrapped cake in her lap, and no purse in sight. The subway stop is unfamiliar, and she looks out toward a group of girls on a rooftop - distinctively more street than she - and they inform her "you in heaven." She walks up Coney Island, gets rid of her shoes, and sits on the sand and watches the waves while she eats her cake.

Jane Hu: "Growing up no longer culminates in a wedding. More often, it happens quietly. Sometimes you're by yourself. You might not be aware of growth as it happens."

This episode closed off a project that has been almost healing to me as I'm in such a rut - I usually have no problem summoning the motivation to do things and by various things I've felt crushed. I wanted to engage this and account for myself on a regular basis. That is particular episode spoke to so many things pertinent to my life as it has transpired from last summer to now really sparked a new and different tenderness that makes me look to it now, not at it.

The next season is allegedly airing in January. Fortunately, time is a rubber band.

Monday, June 18, 2012

You do not do.


The Black Telephone
An essay by me

News of this opportunity to work with Kristen as an editor - she is brilliant to work with - and the cultivation of this essay has been an impossible secret to keep. And if you read it you will have some notion of my relationship to impossible secrets.

From the Unthinkable Creatures blog:
Kari Larsen's essay, which takes its title from Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," is a gorgeous, disarming confessional investigation into the nature of telling a trauma and the potential [of/for] touch.

Using JT LeRoy's Sarah and the cultural narrative surrounding Laura Albert, Kari talks about learning to/refusing to tell her own stories, and how. How to listen to the traumas of others? What does writing make one afraid of? What can happen when you hand over the stack of papers to the beloved o/Other? Discourse begins to fall, to falter as Kari refuses the language of the "literary hoax" as she investigates the relationship between Laura Albert, JT LeRoy, and the text.
Those are some incredibly kind things to say. I'm honored that enough could be gleaned from the text to form a synopsis. Throughout the process of drafting, I lapsed mostly into wordsalad. For the entire thing. I could only get myself out of it by responding directly to statements made in Laura Albert's Paris Review interview. I have ANOTHER ridiculously incredible announcement to make within the month and as I've been working on what that pertains to, it's amazing going back and forth between something that comes so easily and this which was really like carving to render - really elusive and frightening and challenging. I hope you read it, wayfaring googler, and I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You are the wound!

Poisoning desperate girls (and poems about them), a second coming (definite murmurings of rebirth), literary-reading crackers: this episode was up my alley. I wrote this in one sitting, after one viewing, because tonight I've got an essay to finish and a Mad Men finale to watch. This coming Sunday ends my reviewing odyssey. I am withholding comments and have serious designs on serious posts. For now:

Girls, Episode Nine, "Leave Me Alone"

Or, "Creative Nonfiction."

Breaking point between Marnie and Hannah aside, meta-revelation by Ray about the show's subject matter aside, finding myself completely agreeing with Adam about something aside, Jessa aside - leaving Shoshanna where this episode left her gave me chills. Because I watch it on HBOGO, I don't see any "next week on"s, so I don't know if there were any rosy flash-forwards, but AGH. Both parties at Slate felt majorly let down by Shoshanna's disappearance from the episode after she tells Jessa that she's contacted a boy via an online dating site and has arranged to meet him at the Old Navy flagship store. "It's good to meet in public, right? In case he tries to rape me." Yes, the suspense was torturous, but I don't believe for a moment that leaving her with this remark strategically placed early enough in the episode that her absence is palpable was an oversight or a shame. Jessa's invocation of an encounter with a psychic and her very open exchange later about her ex-employer's mystical-tinged feelings all harken to a sixth-sense Jessa more than likely fancies that she has, but she doesn't wonder aloud where Shoshanna is or get any grim, hokey feelings. I believe this is significant.

Hannah's writing becomes more of a tangible practice incorporated in a fabulously valuable way. In this episode she and everybody go to the launch party of a book written by a talentless former classmate, Tally, who suffered the great fortune of experiencing a tragedy - her boyfriend, high on pills, committed suicide by wrecking his vintage car - and her book about it has BOOMED. Shoshanna is totally aglow with the opportunity to be "at the center of everything" - at a party for a book with a window display - and later Marnie, who is of course moved by the subject matter of the book, speaks of how nice it is to be surrounded by people who get things done, who know what they want. Shoshanna, a child, isn't surprising with her behavior, and neither is Marnie's to anyone who has been maintaining an objective point of view about her bullshit, but that is not how Hannah looks at her, and their tangle is illuminated beautifully here. The simple fact alone of how Hannah and Marnie respond to Tally and her book, Leave Me Alone, is one of my favorite things that have happened on the show, and even though it's small, it is the kind of resoundingly chilly thing that ends real friendships. Hannah is moved to visceral hatred by the success of this girl who she knows to be a bad writer and an insincere person. Their professor, in attendance at the party, confirms that Hannah's feelings are just and she needs to step up and demonstrate what a superior writer and human she is. This encouragement forces the terminally inert Hannah to tidy up an essay and get ready for a reading, which is a big leap for somebody whose "book" is circa ten pages (although not unremarkable, as there is always plenty of room with Hannah for monumental backsliding).

It is on this subject that I want to pivot Adam and Marnie and explore Marnie's reaction to Tally and her success. When Hannah decides to do a reading and take a crucial measure in declaring herself a writer worth considering, Adam refuses to attend and support her. Though it justly does not discourage her from doing it, his attitude mirror's Marnie's - instead of considering what Hannah might need, he is using whatever her situation might be as an occasion to be righteous about his own feelings on a topic that is honestly not at hand. He barrages her with a concise and obviously deeply-felt rant about the kind crackers served at functions like that and fails to recognize that his girlfriend is going to go perform her art, which is a very personal thing, which is exactly what he did and to which she was privy in the previous episode, which was a big thing for her to see. I do wonder if he is nervous to discover he does not think she's good. He doesn't seem like he would ever discourage himself from making criticism and I definitely believe he could live with it if he just thought she was a mediocre writer, but regardless, his reaction demonstrates a base disregard for Hannah.

I feel how weirdly inescapable such blind-spots can seem because I do this when it comes to weddings. Weddings are significant events on a person-to-person basis, and the wedding of a friend is that friend's individual experience, not part of WEDDINGS as a collective experience, but if a dear friend is kind enough to invite me, even as a guest, I face an impossible battle with my hatred of weddings in order to be polite enough to accept without really, really ruining everything.

Marnie is at Hannah's side at the book launch and witnesses her extreme reaction. Hannah feels really jilted and not only for Tally's success, but clearly for her own lack of momentum. With nothing human to offer her, Marnie gets wistful about moving in such circles as Tally moves, about the cheap sentiments imparted by her book, as if this girl is really someone that cares about her and is a part of her life and a means to take a side in opposition to Hannah's. This made me recall explicitly a social dynamic I was once caught up in with a girl who was a very sick, very unhappy narcotics addict. She was not a friend, but we went to a small school and we had mutual friends, and as I accumulated friends, some of them would find their way to her via the very precarious connection I had to offer. This girl had pulled on me some of the ridiculous petty nonsense girls pull in high school, so I wanted as little to do with her as possible, but if anyone else close to me wanted to attempt to maintain a real relationship with her, that didn't bother me. Then she did something very damaging to me that made me actively wall myself off from her, which necessitated my informing my friends not to make matters worse, and one such friend - yeah, "friend," in quotes and all - countered my simple explanation of what she had done that impacted me in a direct and negative way and my henceforth perfectly reasonable desire not to hear of her anymore with her own ardent defense of and interest in this girl who was at this point just shy a semester of breaking and entering a house while she was high. Because this "friend" of mine was more interested in being a considerate, benevolent soul who could find the good in anyone than making even a superficial attempt to pretend to listen to me, she really escalated a bad situation I was trying to stick a pin in, and that is exactly what Marnie's doing here.

(Sidebar: I love the fact that Hannah writes personal essays, which I find to be the most confounding form to work in. Even though I am casually an extraordinarily open person, when it comes to articulating things like what I just did, it is a challenge I, to quote Lena Dunham, "distinctly dis-enjoy." Since I am just finishing a personal essay, I am feeling - true to form - less confident than ever, but as I touch upon in the essay, a problem with the confessional component of nonfiction is the necessity - real or imagined - of justification, the way nonfiction moves so much in the realm of the reactionary to real events in the news or the obvious shared, observable condition, but confession comes from a place outside of that and there is the fear of "is this right to say with no external catalyst, only the interior pressing?" Laura Albert said: "I don't know, how do you tell - how do you make people curious enough to care?" and I am grateful to Dunham for giving me occasion to talk about that, because it sucked.)

By my decree, the ability of this development between Hannah and Marnie to cave in my critical distance is a SERIOUS artistic achievement. The ending was also made that much more cathartic. I love the confusion of real insight and mean-spirited nonsense in their final blow-out: Hannah points out to Marnie Adam's observation that she's a psychopath, with which I adamantly agree (badum-tish) but she also pulls the low-blow of "you're just jealous that I have a boyfriend" as the logical conclusion of Marnie's praise - Marnie who has spent the last episode and a half stuck in bed eating and catatonically scrolling through Facebook bemoaning the grim reality that she "might not end up" with Charlie (whose touch she likened in the first episode to a weird uncle's) - this girl's praise of people-who-do-things. Hats off to Hannah who recognizes this is the blathering of a crazy person on Marnie's part, but she loses her footing by revealing her own vulnerability in the "you're just jealous that I have a boyfriend" move. I can't concieve of a situation in which that doesn't speak strictly for the fuck-up-ed-ness of the one who says it, and Seth Stevenson at Slate's Guys on Girls lends context to Hannah's beclouded mental state by spotlighting Hannah's response to Tally's "do you have an agent?" with "no, but I have a boyfriend." If there is any presence of mind on the part of the speaker and they are genuinely dealing with someone who is jealous of their significant other, that "you're just jealous" observation is likely to be forgone in order to get down to the emotional bargaining that could get them beyond that point. So Hannah deploys this comment in order to be a straight-up bitch, and Marnie says they can't live together anymore. Doors slam. I celebrate.

This week's Girls on Girls - which misled me with the headline "Do You Have to Hate Your Best Friend's Nemesis?" since they did not spend nearly enough time on the subject - kicks off with the consensus cemented by Allison Benedikt that Marnie and Hannah's blow-out played too sitcomy. If it is to be inferred via the divulged "shameful secret" in Tiny Furniture (and to read it as autobiography, which isn't right, but I'm also not assuming this is true), Dunham isn't one for foreign films, but I do long for her to put the skills she demonstrates in the meticulous slow-burn way she builds characters into a naturally-occuring fight scene like the one in le Mépris. I think people, especially young people, do scream ungraceful accusations that parrot what they think anger sounds like (YOU ARE THE WOUND). I think unless you have a lot of practice at hate to articulate it in a way that truly evokes the level on which you feel it, it comes out blocky and poorly scripted, and, I eagerly await the day he proves me right, Adam clearly is practiced at anger, and when he's really mad, he's going to put us all to shame with what he delivers in the way of verbal expression. Hannah and Marnie are both middle-class girls with supportive parents and for all it affords, there is no freedom to be angry in that kind of environment. That stiffness felt real to me. Something I would love to see is Hannah have to encounter situations where she has to get really angry and let loose some feelings that scare her (although her scream about Adam's golden shower last week has raised the bar on favorite-things-that-Hannah's-done), which I don't think Marnie could achieve without flipping out in some truly horrifying way that could get her arrested. That sounds melodramatic, but these are people I know and this is an issue within a demographic I can talk about with authority.

The notion "Do You Have to Hate Your Best Friend's Nemesis?" is bandied about by the Slate girls without really being mined critically, and I think that's a reductive way to put it - I stated exactly what I think earlier, which is that Marnie used this purely incidental thing to demarcate her distance from Hannah and get self-righteous explicitly to spite her. I just have to say it again because it is so real. Also, Hannah's having-a-boyfriend reminds me a lot of the repulsively covetous Pete Campbell on Mad Men, the way he gets when he gets what he wants, which is never accompanied by the applause he expects. Those two would fall all over each other in the grossest way. And while they seem built for each other, separated though they may be by time, the Slate girls and guys debate the veracity of Hannah and Marnie's relationship, with the girls concluding it does not seem plausible and the guys concluding that it is, both for reasonably valid reasons. If I knew Hannah, I would discourage her from developing such a close bond with Marnie, but their affinity for each other is not in the least suprising if one is to consider how they treat each other, the very specific ditch Marnie's dug in Hannah and the aspects of Marnie that Hannah exploits that reinforce each other in a very black cycle that can only be cultivated by true and significant friendship. One would be all the other would talk about in therapy. Adam and Charlie would merit one crying-jag a piece. And they'd probably both have something scathing to get off their chests about Elijah.

Meanwhile, Hannah also starts working at Cafe Grumpy (!!! I love its very existence), which is occasion for more Ray, whose aggressive insults transcend the plain of garden-variety meanness and catapult into the sphere of mind-bogglingly intrusive remarks about her body. All for the sake of the white dress she's worn to her first day as a barista. Ray follows this up by totally railroading Hannah's enthusiasm for her upcoming reading by dismissing the essay she's chosen to read as trite since its subject - a boy with whom she was briefly involved who turned out to be a hoarder - was a catalyst for an exploration of intimacy issues. Ray decrees there to be no more trite a subject than intimacy and argues his way down to "death" as the ultimate topic worth exploring, which inspired an involuntary eye-roll from me, since I could hear Hannah attempt to plumb those depths (although not in the awesome way Dunham has her do so later in the episode) to Ray's equilateral dismissal. Not only does this parallel the book her classmate has written to such acclaim, which is about death, but it is also one in a serious of allusions to "girl-death-cult" including the grim-to-the-nines Carrie Benefit from "the Return." If one were to mash-up (maybe Chris O'Dowd could do it!) all the instances of people referring to death and terminal illness on this show (including Hannah's classmate's remark "I want to be so skinny people think I have a disease") like the death-references were racked up by the Daily Beast on Mad Men, it would be pretty staggering. The way it's been subliminally sown into the show, which is so authentically how it enters the lives of someone, ie a twenty-something post-college student paddling futilely against inertia, whose focus is elsewhere, who still cannot ignore what's going on with the larger world.

Meghan O'Rourke hits it squarely on the head in her reading of Ray's advice:

We're meant to think...Ray is just mouthing off the way people (read: mostly men) do about what is "suitable" for art....The joke is on Ray: This is a show written by a woman (and often directed by one too). He's the one who thinks he knows everything but doesn't, and Hannah, like many a talented young woman before her, takes what he says too seriously and starts to doubt herself.

Benedikt's assessment of Ray and the potential for him to be as fully-realized as Adam is beautifully abutted by "I'll be happy if I'm wrong." The idea at this point that Ray could become a sympathetic character borders on brutally disappointing to me, but I am not of the opinion that, by turns, Adam will be dwelling in that camp for long. Neither of them are pure evil, but the last word is far from being written. The Slate girls take to task David Thompson at the New Republic and his remarks on Girls and narrative unsustainability. As I have stated before (and I think Thompson's criticisms are paltry), unsustainability is a part of the show, part of its message and part of its form, and it demonstrates no illusions about that. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. The unsustainability of the characters' respective situation is the tension that drives the show: without the fact that they MUST grow, they would become reduced to the cast of Friends, all of whom conviniently have stable jobs and secure living spaces whose only semblance of growth is in the reassertion of comically adolescent insecurity and who is sleeping with who. How much longer can you live like this, Hannah? How much longer can you live like this, New York? That is what is driving this show beneath the uncannily rendered characters and it is riveting and timely and important.

Hannah lets Ray get to her and swaps out her hoarder story for one she writes on the train on her way to the reading about engaging in an online romance that ended with the death of the guy on the other end. I love her reference to online-relationships echoing Shoshanna's dating site escapade, foreshadowing something very grim - such a vivid mirror, I cannot believe I haven't seen that connection made, although I guess it is understandable that many viewers couldn't appreciate it for their asphyxia-inducing laughter at the girl who reads ahead of Hannah ("Maybe everyone in this town is just looking for a bathroom. In fact, he thought, maybe everyone in this whole damn world is" - unprecedented LULZ).

Although Hannah dominated this episode, that climaxed with her and Marnie's blow-up, Jessa's got a good scene which bated me for more with her. Katherine, the mother of her now ex-charges, comes to Jessa and Shoshanna's apartment to say "fuck Jeff" and to be very, very raw about the feelings Jessa has inspired in her, that are balls-out Freudian-homicidal, to which Jessa listens with hilarious compassion - I don't doubt that she's had the same genre of dreams, but her empathy is a wonderfully funny and sad defense mechanism. Katherine asks for Jessa to come back and be her nanny again in a conversation where Jessa admits to a brief and speedily fleeting attraction to Jeff and ultimately turns down Katherine's offer. "I don't need your help," says Jessa. For all his on-the-mark-ed-ness about Hannah's boyfriend-centric nonsense, Seth Stevenson of Slate's Guys on Girls cited a lack of precedent about Jessa's apparent depressive episode here, to which I say, holy shit: she had a miscarriage something like a month ago, man. She can feel whatever she wants, however unwarranted the mood may seem. Although a few straggling plot-holes do bother me - we haven't seen how and if Hannah is dealing with living with HPV, there's been no official word from Jessa on the subject of her miscarriage, which has the dual function of getting her out of an abortion but still negates the possibility of a child for now, which is something very serious - I have faith that these things will be picked up again in the life of the show and while I'd love to see some reference made to them since one does live with those things after what Maggie Smith calls "the first flush of recognition," it doesn't surprise me that they aren't dutifully integrated into Hannah and Jessa's casual conversation. Both of those things are horrible, and even if they don't want to deal with them doesn't mean they haven't colored their attitudes and decisions since the crises broke. To conclude with my uncannily divined feelings via a poem cited by Kate Zambreno just today in a post called "the new new sincerity," here's Ariana Reines, spelling out Jessa and Katherine's scene exactly:

I don't know what women want
But I know that the ones I like
Are not the hags
Who put one arm around you
(In this scenario you
Are the younger woman)
And say You get to a point in your life.
Fuck those bitches
Who try to poison desperate girls
With their resigned and shitty worldviews.

(Too exactly, too exactly.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Murder the most mellons.

One day two weeks ago I fell asleep as soon as I got home and woke up at 3 am to a message from La Petite Zine regarding the acceptance of two small pieces, of the same ilk as "Death of a Child Model" and "Van's Friend in the City." La Petite Zine is one of the publications on my white board of aspirations, and I got to erase a line for the second time since I've started to attempt to publish work. I wrote continuously all day for the past several days in between everything else I've done - including posting a new installment of Very Literary, "On Chapbooks" (part one) - and that writing is intended for nobody but me. I haven't done that since high school. In college I started abandoning projects I didn't want to share, but it's still very comforting, still very much something I need. Now I'm working on "On Chapbooks" (part two), which is a week overdue at this point. I can live with that. I have not been falling flat on my face when I walk in the door for nothing (and am in fact omitting much of the source of this exhaustion).

The overdue-ness is about to break on riding the lace barometer, which officially goes on sale (via me) MONDAY, June 11th. I will post the paypal link on that day when I am back to civilization - I have an emergency to attend to, and will be detained all weekend. Funds, equipment and time pretty much dove out of site every time they saw me coming. j/j hastain and Rachel Kendall have been patient and brilliant the entire time, and copies can be obtained through each of them as well.

I was supposed to speak at Central Penn College yesterday, but as my state is easily gleaned from across the internet, my very psychically sensitive friend Maria knew the right thing to do was reschedule my talk for late July. The "Appearances" column on the right-hand side of this page reflects the change, as well as the addition of a speaking engagement at the Midtown Scholar in August! For all engagements, including the Jubilant Thicket reading in five weeks (!), I'll stay on message and read from Say you're a fiction and other forthcoming things, and I will not talk a blue-streak about the topic I've been organizing a pseudolecture on, to be broadcast soon in the form of a lively discussion with Scott Mitchell of ReadySoup. Here is a hint:

It's going to be revealing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Endorphins don't work on me.

So much prowess was on display in this episode. With all the care and intricate detail that was laid in order for these characters to come alive as they have, I'm so glad the characters are shrugging off their newness with the audience and, even as they reinforce all ready classic behaviors (the kind of thing only achievable in under ten episodes by some fierce writing), flourish beyond them.

Girls, Episode Eight, "Weirdos Need Girlfriends, Too"

I love Hannah getting loved.

Though woefully sans-Shoshanna, this episode was a feat of writing that demonstrated such a comprehensive understanding of the characters as people that in its spareness, it was fucking arresting. Technically, all that happened was that Hannah and Adam were a couple, doing intimate couply things, albeit with a Hannah and Adam bent, and Adam blew up about a play he was involved in. This is while Marnie wallows and Jessa serendipitously appears to pull her out of her post-Charlie trance with a night out, the kind with drinking and a bewilderingly sobering affect. Both little dances take the relationships - one established and one nascent - into lands delightfully unknown.

Not only has Hannah and Adam's relationship been developing since episode one, the shock and real skill of its development as such has gotten tidal: he didn't seem like an every-episode kind of character, and his kind did not seem one in which someone - anyone - would consider very deeply or use for a positive end, because he is a momentous person in such polarizing ways that the critical distance Dunham's maintained in his rendering is an achievement like I've never seen and, I believe very strongly, a singular one. Meanwhile, her other relationships - though they're brought to life in ways so subtle and psychic that their characterizations become as intricate as a Wes Anderson set - are put through pretty typical trials, and so far have existed only to expositionally establish who Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are to her. Even the role Hannah plays in the demise of Marnie's relationship isn't exactly a facet of the development of their friendship: it reinforces things that, even four episodes in, were all ready obvious about the way they treat each other. In the first episode, when Jessa arrives, she submits her take on Marnie's controlling behavior and it is acknowledged that Marnie and Jessa know each other and one is on to the other's bollocks. This is the first time since they've been candid with each other about it.

After Hannah and Adam take off - in a hail of filthy sex-talk and a shining moment of Adam endearing himself to Marnie (which beautifully reinforces her casual annoyance with Hannah, so easily transferred from the spite she needled Adam with at the end of the last episode from high atop her cab) - Marnie is left alone in the apartment to cry and look at Facebook updates about Charlie's trip to Rome with his new girlfriend. As per my hopes and dreams regarding the end of last week's episode, Hannah and Adam are official, and Jessa is unemployed. She comes around - outstanding monologue about chafing in tow - looking for Hannah, hoping for consolation and solidarity in the face of her newfound joblessness, but finds only miserable Marnie. Jessa takes in her despair with patience before declaring that Marnie is absolutely ravishing, "a striking and classic beauty in the vein of Brooke Shields." To which Marnie says, "I've never been so miserable in my life." To which Jessa says, "It's totally working." She goes on to acknowledge that Marnie's terminal uptightness is disconcerting and Marnie admits that being inside her own head is exhausted. I do hope she's headed for some torrential fall from the oxygen-weary peak upon which she's fastened her self-perception. In keeping with the haunting notion of unsustainability, Marnie hints at how impossible it is getting to be to maintain herself. Also, she reveals - after they've unwound each other enough to go out for drinks - that she lost her virginity in a very meticulously planned ceremony when she was fourteen. This fact shocks Jessa, who seems barely comfortable - and maybe only in the aftershock - to divulge that she was seventeen. Because it took a long time for her to grow breasts, "and sex without breasts is creepy." This reigning in the anxiety loosed by the reveal of sensitive info is very Hannah-esque and I can see why they're friends (not only for this example, for many like it). Jessa's dynamic with regard to Marnie is fascinating: the viewer has seen Jessa be vulnerable, but in small ways that are easily played off. Her manipulations, however, are theatrical and easy to catch. But when she praises Marnie for her beauty, by a very outright admission, it is not a manipulative gesture - it is what Jessa has to give, and she gives it unabashedly. By the time they're drinking, she's plainly, really talking, which, within the context of this show, often becomes brilliantly terrifying. Another round is served to them, but neither has ordered more. Compliments, the bartender reveals, of the man from Ireland at the end of the bar.

In fact, so beautifully, Chris O'Dowd plays an American here, in from a long hard day of venture capitalism and ready to engage a hyper-willing Marnie and disappointed, leery Jessa in some smarm the likes of which are nothing short of transcendent. Even the stifling of his accent is funny and lends to the air of shadiness that is played committedly for laughs and not for the bleak place it could have easily been taken. This incident reminds me of an identical night out with a friend - who I've mentioned - who reminds me inextricably of Jessa. I was in a Marnie-esque depression. I was presented with an occasion almost immediately to exercise the new recklessness and embrace of fun that she inspired in me, and only later did I realize that she'd wanted to bond, she wanted empathy, and I got up and left her to do something absurd and frankly dangerous. By virtue of his equal opportunity flirting, both girls go to his apartment, where he enables Marnie to use the bathroom free of self-consciousness by "spinning" while she uses it. He is concocting a mash-up LP and the ridiculous tunes happen across his very expensive rug, across which he gropes both girls - Marnie, totally into it, more than willing, and Jessa, abjectly repulsed and discouraging. Marnie attempts to set Jessa's mind at ease by kissing her, but Jessa rejects O'Dowd's attempt to get involved. Jessa's references to lesbians have been bandied about as foreshadowing, and while I would be more than fine with that, I think Jessa - based on what she's given the viewer, i.e. her very familiar kiss to the mother of her ex-charges - has an easier time with women, and can be more open and expressive and less pressed to show off her unsmoteability. I think there would be more tension if she was, say, secretly dying to kiss Marnie, if only for the sake of her resemblance to Brooke Shields (O'Dowd's likening Jessa to Julie Christie does earn him a "good reference"), whereas within this context, it was a little relief that she wasn't being totally abandoned and shut out by Marnie in a potentially threatening situation (for all his harmlessness, they were in his apartment, after all, and nobody knew where they were). It's also a sign, since Marnie isn't that cunning, that even if only for the moment, Jessa had Marnie under her sway. For all her eagerness to buy what O'Dowd is selling, in the end, it's Marnie's shock at being felt that propels her wine glass out of her hand and the wine across his expensive rug. He has a breakdown and explains in a monologue - that unleashes his accent - about how hard and how much he works and how he's trying to have fun, but he has sacrificed for everything he has and he can detect that they have done nothing like that, and he is insulted by their lack of respect for his hospitality. He demands to be "balls deep in something" as a result, and Jessa has to drag Marnie away. Who was the fourteen-year-old and who was the seventeen-year-old becomes perfectly apparent.

(Also, an aside: the IT Crowd - responsible for raising awareness of Chris O'Dowd's genius - is vital viewing, and it's streaming on Netflix, and may his appearance here tip off Girls fans to it, and may I be able to casually reference it in public to warmth and roomfuls of high-fives.)

Another past referenced heavily in this episode is Adam's. He shows Hannah an old video of himself as a child and takes her to see a rehearsal of a monologue - a real one, on stage, that nevertheless is paralleled by Chris O'Dowd's, with O'Dowd revealing the cockmonster beneath the veneer of the hard-working nice-guy and Adam revealing the sexually insecure and overwhelmed kid beneath the veneer of maybe-a-sex-addict. Adam's monologue is about his adolescence and first hormonally-enhanced crush. Thinking back on what explicitly he says, the words themselves stood the chance at being unremarkable, but Adam Sackler gets the benefit of being as magnetic a performer as Adam Driver.

Like such a romance, the element of sustainability can be a threat (sustainability as it lends itself to unions, you know, not always conducive to romance, particularly of the variety between Hannah and Adam) - and so it is with Adam's mental health. He makes a grand gesture at the end of this episode that I believe belies some energy a healthy person doesn't focus in that way - which is why it's grand and romantic and fun and overwhelming for Hannah, but I am riveted to see if he attempts to get a hold on that, and if he doesn't. Hannah feels a powerful kinship with Adam - as he points out in "Hard Being Easy," neither of them were made for a job in the classic sense, and right now, that's a major source of sensitivity for Hannah, who identified her being "unfit for any and all paying jobs" among her significant baggage in "All Adventurous Women Do." But Hannah's misfit status, although it has very much to do with who she is, deep down, it is also a part of her inability to wield herself and get the most out of her own skills, and she rejects attempts by others to weedle this out of her in contexts she does not feel truly represent her: her ex-office job, her stint at home. But Adam, although he keeps his wits about him with Hannah's help here, ultimately compromising with his investor and following through on his obligation to do the show, almost sabotages everything. He does so under the banner of maintaining integrity, but the sense of a greater compulsion is evident - all cataloged Adam-behavior aside (which, as of this episode, includes him pissing on Hannah - Lena Dunham's scream was among the best things she's done on the show acting-wise, and she is amazing, the scream is SO GOOD), he did make a reference to another rejected show that he shut down because of someone else's attitude in the pilot, and in this episode, he loses his mind. An oncoming car almost hits them, and he puts "I'm walking here" to shame. It is from this incident his grand gesture is born - he doesn't figure he'll happen upon the driver again, so he pastes a load of photocopied "SORRY" signs across the wall by where it happened, not only - obviously - for the driver, but for Hannah, who was witness to his fit and who he used to fuel it ("I'm walking with a fucking woman!").

This is the antepenultimate episode! And I feel I'm in the arms of a master, ready to be cradled into whatever may come. I won't make pronouncements until the end, since my surprise is constant.