Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Women's Lasers: Kate Zambreno, Heroines.

Since it came in the mail I've been carrying Kate Zambreno's Heroines in my bag and taking it out periodically to hug it. Periodically meaning maybe constantly.


All the faces on it I find soothing. Looking into faces is healing. I went to a concert the other night when I was sick and upset, so sick I could barely stand up, and I am so bad with sound. But I sat on a chair in the crowded room and all the bodies against me felt like hugs. I felt like I was doing the right thing being in that space. Everything was healing.

Even though there is so much Zelda and Vivien(ne), so densely everywhere on every page and invoked by name, which is a very insistent way to inhabit a text, which they deserve, still there is way more Kate Z everywhere.

She says Sheila Heti thinks of Heroines as a novel and I love that. Life and feelings make anything.

I also love that it is not the blog. I like that I can see the blog inside of it, but this is a different form of feelings. The scope and density - it is less fluid, it doesn't behave like a streaming, circling thing using time the way a blog does. Books are one moment. Books are insistent. No matter how many times I read the Bell Jar reading the Bell Jar is still the moment (precious story ahoy) I got only the second A (and the first "real A" because the first one, he said, was given his first year teaching and therefore a rookie mistake) in the history of this major paper in Form & Theory class, the big one I needed to graduate in the writing major. The professor left the room so my classmates and I could take the final and make dry punchy witticism to obscure the oncoming tidal wave of nostalgia. I finished first and waited outside and talked with the professor about MFA programs. Then everybody else came out and the professor took us to the bar. We were their first customers of the day. I had six gin & tonics. My best friend Gretchen was sick and upset. Sick and upset. As drunk as I got the memory of how difficult it was to walk Gretchen back to her apartment endures. It endures with delirious permanence. Then I climbed in my bed and could not be alone with my thoughts and could not read or watch TV so I turned on Maggie Gyllenhaal reading the Bell Jar. I don't need to extrapolate about the sadness of my current state of affairs provoking reflection on high school days, but I have been taking inventory of emotional wounds of that era, like how I reasoned away Scholastic Writing Awards because I did not want to be seen as writing for any reason besides my love of writing, which did not wound me hard because I was reading exclusively interviews with Babes in Toyland and early Hole and Bikini Kill and the message was pervasively do what you love for nobody but you, but I didn't admit to myself I wanted anything until I was more than halfway through college. Patricia Highsmith was the editor of her college literary journal and so was Flannery O'Conner and Plath was supposed to have been and when I was elected mine, I wanted it so bad and it did something so important for me to admit I wanted something and then I got it and ahhhh! And it was the greatest time of my life. So I was on the other side of this, about to graduate, gin-drunk at 11 a.m. in the spring. I could only see down a black hole. Listening felt like a soft landing. I wonder how I will reread Heroines. This is a charged time. But instead of hiding in a cafe or on a bus now I read in my room in my apartment in the lamplight. My bed is wide enough to accommodate the books I fall asleep reading and there is a stack of them next to the bed caddying my water glasses and tissues. Everything I've read since being here, and this whole time has been SO CHARGED, everything is healing.

But the blog! Zambreno discusses the blog, both the Blog and her blog, Frances Farmer is my Sister. I have been longing to but have yet to form an essay about blogs that have powerfully, actively influenced my life. Epitome Girl, Batwinged, Agitated, and Little Arsonist. I know three of their real names. I still follow one of them. I've lost the rest. Epitome Girl and Batwinged led me to every bit of film and writing that launched my interest in anything I enjoy now. I found Dorothy Parker through Agitated. Little Arsonist I loved as a writer herself. I read her diary every day. She was a communications major at a college in Ohio wresting herself from a horrible relationship. When she moved to a social networking site I tried to be a little more outgoing and form a more tangible bond with her beyond reader. I friended a friend of hers based on mutual interests. He sent me a message and became a part of my life for half a decade. She doesn't even know this. Digression: I never tried very hard to contact or insinuate myself with these four people because, mostly, I was twelve at the time. So I know how it sounds when I say some posts of theirs I printed out and carried with me and read over and over. I reread their blogs. I have read entire blogs many times. My best friend Kara used to keep an amazing blog in the middle of this time my core best friends and I refer to as "the wonderful winter," which was the period exactly between the releases of Kill Bill vol. I and Kill Bill vol. II during which time there was so much "coming of age" it's gross, which is why the time has a codename. I don't think I would have ever wanted to write if it wasn't for blogs. Those people thought in a way that I needed to see. Heroines.

So when I found Kate's blog for the first time along with the blogs of other writers, right at the exact same time as the gin-drunk Bell Jar thing, I was overjoyed. The discovery has its own specific time because I remember I was done with a paper early but Gretchen was frantically trying to finish hers. Wayfaring googlers, internet, world, I can't wait for you to meet Gretchen's writing. She is my heroine. She writes about war. I was trying to not rub in how I was finished and trying to help but not help too much that I irritated her, so I mostly scrolled through Frances Farmer is my Sister and was so sucked in I stayed up after Gretchen went to sleep, which if memory serves was after the papers were handed in.

To hereafter purge my me of this review I point out that my name occurs on page 279 of Heroines and not a soul has engaged in conversation with me in the past few days and not learned this fact and the fact that never has a gesture made me feel this good because I love Kate Zambreno's writing, what she has to say and how she says it. THIS IS MY ULTIMATE FANGIRL MOMENT.

Back to Heroines, seriously:

My favorite parts were Zambreno's reported past because they belong with the retelling of stories of Zelda's dancing and Vivien(ne)'s anticipation of Yoko. Mythologizing is a tender activity (please see above re: the wonderful winter). I think, me again, I will never not need and feel ravenous for and love somebody with such mighty talent and vision discussing a blew-it. Every time disasters are acknowledged, the curtain goes up and I sing rose tints my world. Ha, I lied to you! Here I am again! And that sounds awful. I mean, so much is learning the hard way surrounded by people who want to pretend that never happened to them, or maybe they never went out on a limb and went for anything they wanted so never messed up. I have no use for them.

How to live in books, the effect of living incubated in other words and those words' repercussions, books that become moments and how that messes with time and causality. "I am always driven out, to tramp the streets - this way and that until I get such a horror of the streets that the streets only understand." The juxtaposition of the solitary, isolated, inert thing that puts you through it, then you get up and tramp the streets while still inside of it.

It is bracing to me to read this (here I am, I don't think I'm going anywhere) and feel the ripple of what Heroines affects and addresses. I love Zambreno calling them her "seance." I've lately acquired a big fear of anybody not attendant to ghosts. (It means something so specific to me now) I wonder how I will read that when my life is very different.

I read Heroines fast and the first thing, a week on, to come to me just thinking of it is the cumulative affect, its quality of one breath, like every statement was of the same even necessity.
Viv too was drained, and afterwards, she had nothing to show for it. No Name. No Nobel Prize. Aren't vampires the ones who become immortal?
The first thing, as I look again, I realize I let slip is the marriage. Then I reread it and I feel more like I understand the state of marriage than from reading accounts that are not contemporary or take for granted that it's just another kind of relationship, and that for artists it's something even more different, still.

Heroines is necessary because: a professor to me in college: "I don't believe that women have it as you describe, and if I'm going to let you write about this, you will need to come to me with evidence first."
Bhanu Kapil, 6:52 AM 10/29/12, at Frances Farmer is My Sister

QUOI? "Portrait of artist at limited stage of life"????????!!!!! Maybe I am not getting it, because -- right now -- your book has this brightness and freight -- it feels like permission. The permission to write the first draft or the final draft or some version of -- what will be; in a non-Derridian substrate. I am reading Derrida; my mother is reading Derrida (in a turn of events.) I love your book -- I keep reading around in it, like a truffle pig. On every page, I can't believe someone wrote this and that it came in the mail. The closest I can get is that it feels like a crime has been committed -- a really cool one, like a heist. It feels very important that the last word of the whole book, if I am not mistaken, on the biography page, is "Genet." Anyway, just a public note of congratulation and admiration for your beautiful book. Also, do you feel guilty? Do you have the feeling that you have committed a crime? Has anyone suggested that you have? I think the review process and your response to it is part of this book -- it is a flow. Stemming. To clarify, though I have the feeling of someone doing something (visibly) that is not usually -- done -- [you, your book] -- I am, at the same time, hugely comforted by the book; so that, if it is a crime, then it is the very best kind, where the riches are distributed at the end.
Bhanu has it completely right. On every page, I can't believe someone wrote this and that it came in the mail. The closest I can get is that it feels like a crime has been committed -- a really cool one, like a heist....I am, at the same time, hugely comforted by the book; so that, if it is a crime, then it is the very best kind, where the riches are distributed at the end.

All over the book there's a cool even bobbing of relief and anger, which is weird not because the book is weird but weird because that is the way it is: look at this ravaged legacy, look at this tangle of thorns, but we have so much that you don't have. We have so much, the ones who want.

Heroines by Kate Zambreno is available tomorrow morning from Semiotext(e)
ISBN: 9781584351146
Binding: Softcover
Price: $17.95

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