Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Monday, April 28, 2014

We're having a conversation!

Jim Cutler is reading Jessica Mitford's American Way of Death and says to/jokes with Harry about how they should get into the funeral business. This either hints at Cutler's propensity for long games (Mitford tore the funeral business a new one with that book — Cutler may suspect that the funeral business' thrust into the spotlight may pay off in publicity in the long run and may one day inspire a successful HBO show) — which Bert Cooper made a remark about, as he was surprised to hear some long term thinking from Cutler on the subject of Harry's computer — OR he likes the dead. This is the guy who, before the audience saw much of him, unabashedly watched Stan have sex with his late colleague's daughter and told Peggy to please not interrupt his peep session.

I say this as a person with a degree in creative writing, who, when I say I have work to do after work, means I have short stories to write, and who cares more about how every single sentence sounds than anything else (unless I am being compensated to care about something else). I say this also as someone who works in a newsroom: I have got an unmurderable bias against journalists (generally aspiring) who laud the fuck out of Joan Didion when Jessica Mitford — who one may only encounter by means of first being intrigued by the Mitford family — after a life of being denied access to the education she wanted, made herself into an investigative journalist and, after experiencing some predatory business in the planning of a funeral, dedicated herself to writing a book about the industry in order to expose her experience as part of a greater, reprehensible phenomenon. Grit! And style! I like Didion's 60s-70s work, too, and Play it as it Lays, just — I am overjoyed at the prospect Mad Men could give American Way of Death the Meditations in an Emergency bump.

Also: By some tremendous writing and canny use of the gap between seasons (as in the real life gap between season six ending in 2013 and season seven resuming three weeks ago), Mad Men has been able to obscure Don's latest, searing offenses to Peggy in order to make it appear to casual viewers like her rage at him comes from thin air*. Just as the audience may not realize they have misplaced something, so the partners fail to realize that "Lane's office," the office they offer Don, is occupied by guess who (edit: Peggy is the invisible boy!).

* - Don enabled Ted to head for Los Angeles, leaving Peggy with Lou — without support and with any dignity she may have scraped up totally crippled.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I'm so many people.

From Mad Men's second season seven episode, "A Day's Work," a recurring motif: "I said the wrong thing" and someone withholding humiliating information from someone else, resulting in something worse. The whole episode could therefore be a matroyshka doll of saying the wrong thing, winding up in a lie, and covering it up to no small consequence — in other words, Don Draper's MO getting into the water supply.

Who does this: Don, obviously, when he does not tell Sally that he no longer goes into the office and essentially does not work at Sterling Cooper & Partners, making it possible for her to walk in and find a strange man occupying his office, making her look like the lost child she is always afraid of coming off as in the presence of his coworkers. Peggy does this, too, when she does not give her secretary, Shirley, the opportunity to tell her that the roses that arrived for Valentine's Day belong to her, not to Peggy, whose assumption that they are from Ted traps her in a vise-like thought-prison that prevents her from doing any work or conducting herself in an unwretched way all day. And Lou does this as well, dispatching Dawn, who is now his secretary, to run an errand (he forgot to get his wife a Valentine's Day present), leaving him alone when Sally arrives in the office. Not wishing to be vulnerable to Don's messes, he fires Dawn from his desk (she comes out on top), and this arc would not have struck me as related to the other two were it not for Lou going, "I said the wrong thing." What did he say? Was it sending Dawn out and informing her her errand was damage control? Was it attempting to engineer consequence and have Joan reassign Dawn (so Dawn could pay for not only being a callback to the Draper regime but being poor at it, too)? Lou is allergic to facing the consequences of his own actions, Peggy is disappointed in herself for her own inability to manage her  consequences effectively, but that is all Don has, and he is newly, resolutely dedicated fully to those consequences.

This new interchangeability of characters, which started in "Time Zones" with Ken taking up Pete's psychotically frustrated schtick, Cutler and Ted Chaough taking up the old Roger and Don banter, is acknowledged in an exchange between Dawn and Shirley as they vent to one another about their ridiculous jobs: "Happy Valentine's, Dawn," Dawn says to Shirley. "Goodbye Shirley," Shirley says to Dawn. Of course the racist windbags they work with confuse them, but the other characters' identities have become just as blurred.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Cyrano de Bergerac to make New York fall in love with him.

Mad Men is back. When Don is on the plane talking to Neve Campbell, she tells him she scattered the ashes of her husband, who died of alcoholism, on Tom Sawyer Island and Disneyland. Tom Sawyer has come up on Mad Men before: in season three's "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency," when Don and Layne follow felled ad man Guy McKendrick to the hospital after he gets mowed down by secretary Phyllis Sadler with a John Deere tractor. Don and Layne hang out in the waiting room and Layne tells Don he's been reading a lot of American literature. He cites Tom Sawyer as an example and says, "I feel like I just went to my own funeral."

Also: I read several recaps of "Time Zones" and none of them wondered about Harry Crane's whereabouts. Sally and the Francis family, yes. But not a peep about Mr. Crane.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Traumatic play.

That might have something to do with why writing "the perfect female epic" might seem so "daunting": if one’s life as an artist is a distraction, easily dispensed with, to evaluate one’s "real achievement" as a woman, how could a female epic, perfect or not, do much to absorb the shock of how little biographers care, fifty years later, about what one has written?
I reviewed Carl Rollyson's American Isis at Entropy. As a text, the review has some siblings: my review of Mad Girl's Love Song at HTMLGIANT as well as my disgust with Terry Castle's review of both these books.

The publication of this review could not have been more well timed, since Ted Hughes' estate is currently sick with the idea that a prospective biographer of Hughes will write a "biography" instead of a "literary life." That is, they're worried a biographer might privilege the sordid facts of Hughes' life over his work as an artist. That is, they're worried that a biographer will write about Ted Hughes the way the majority of biographers write about Sylvia Plath.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My first book.

"I I have a problem & I do, if an artwork has a problem & it must, then the key is to find out a form that will address the problem, even exacerbate it, while producing less anxiety, not more — ideally none — and yet never to become escapist, mendacious, or otherwise lame."
- Ariana Reines, the Origin of the World
My first book: I'm writing a book about GIRLS for Lost Angelene Press (thank you, Andrea Lambert!).

It's my first book! And it's perfect because it's nothing like I ever imagined, because I never, in times of dreaming, let myself get deeply vested in so many perfect things aligning. It's a queer feminist small press, which is exactly the engine I want to power. And criticism! I write fiction, I know I will publish fiction, but this is something I never thought I would have and that's so immense.

I'm editing it now, and will be into the summer, riding some blistering heat insomnia that is all ready needling and all ready making this feel like a wavering dream. I can't tell you how excited I am. I shouldn't, though, anyway, even if I could, I should save it. I have a lot to talk about in the meantime.

I mean, I will be talking a lot about editing this book and the bizarreness of rereading old blog entries, but I also would like to emphasize what a beautiful world my book is coming into. Like, Adult Mag (which I love) is now on the internet and you can read all of "Florida," my favorite piece from the first issue.

Ahhh but fair warning, Wayfaring Googlers, if you find irrepressible joy chafing, get ready to be deluged by nothing but how my first book is the coolest thing ever because that is my topic of conversation online and elsewhere for the foreseeable future — !!!