divorced but not devout

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

LA Review of Books Editor's Note

Well, this is perhaps not the best way to jump back into posting – by linking to a long editor’s note that is a review of a review of reviews. But it’s an interesting nesting doll, so I wanted to bring attention to it. I LOVED the idea of limiting the scope of reviewing to those books that you would bother trying to describe to someone you want to sleep with. Impractical? Sure. And yet as a litmus test of what is interesting and worth the time and energy involved in book reviews, it’s provocative and not so inaccurate, and gets to the heart of what interests people – so much better than bland coverage of the latest releases.

I also liked* (asterisk here because it’s a flawed argument, but if I were on facebook or something I would “like” it) Gumport’s gall in suggesting that we should write for our friends, our imagined lovers, our intimate circle. Again, impractical, but we all have imagined readers for our work, and those imagined readers aren’t strangers. They’re our friends, or people we wish were our friends, or some version of ourselves, or some version of an authority figure. And when we write for those readers there is something at stake, we write in a more personal voice* (again, asterisk because so much can be said here about voice and whether that voice is truly ever ours and when is it most ours and does that depend on what we’re writing and who we’re writing for and blah blah), we write with a light and a heat that isn’t there when we write for strangers. And, folks, that kind of lit-up writing is what I like to write and what I like to read. It’s the kind of writing that feeds my soul and teaches me and irritates me and bruises me. It engages and enlivens, and so much of literary criticism and literary everything nowadays is missing the spark. Maybe tightening our circles and focusing on the orgy is the way to bring it back.

Or, hey, just watch this Tonight Show clip. Good song about sexual frustration. Great album.


Stupid Thing I Love: #439340322309932090923

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

There isn’t much to say about this one. Back in the day, there was a period of time when I wore too much eyeliner and had a skateboard. Both phases, thankfully, were short lived. Like our pogostilts friend, I also suffer from extreme klutziness and thus was like “Yeah, no, this isn’t going to work.” (If only I had a Spooner then, amiright?) I was actually better at playing Tony Hawk than I was at real-life skateboarding, though my methods were pretty similar; “mash every button until something happens and then run into that garbage can and really hurt yourself.” Eventually I realized that less is more and that I never wanted to hear the words “compound fracture” in association with any part of my body, so I quit. However, I never quite shook my stupid love of skate videos. “Yeah Right!” is my favorite; an hour-long skate epic really, filmed by Spike Jonze with a cameo from Owen Wilson. What’s not to love?

Anecdotally, a group of people from my high school once had a skate team (I use the term lightly) and referred to themselves as the “Niskayuna Dick Heads,” or “NDH” for short. They shot their own footage and there’s a whole youtube channel for it. Admittedly, it’s not bad both skating (from what I know, which isn’t much) and videography-wise. It’s just funny. People I went to high school with! And check out my town! And surrounding tri-county areas!

Niskayuna’s skate park was eventually torn down and whatever dreams of ollie-ing over something tall that I may have been holding on to were officially dashed. C’est la vie. And probably for the best, anyways.


June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s an established fact that I generally avoid girl bands. I will admit right now I sometimes think about throwing away the Florence & the Machine CD at work just so I never have to listen to it again. I do make exceptions: Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Patsy Cline. I even saw Cat Power play a really terrible show at the MFA (a lot of the fault fell on sound guy for that one). But, I mean, I’m trying to make a distinction between this jazz/folk/solo artist thing, which I can be totally down for, and bands. (Also probably important to make the distinction between “people still making music” and “dead people.”)  There’s also a few lady-fronted bands which I will now say can hardly qualify as “girl bands,” Sonic Youth being one, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs being another. It is perhaps just harder for womenfolk to both totally fuckin’ kick ass and yet retain their feminine mystique without turning into the Donnas, that is to say, totally fucking cheesy. (I don’t know, I mean this rules:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVhCo7PoVpA. But then again it’s a Big Black cover and I haven’t ever listened to any of her music. I’m confused.)

Shit, I don’t know what I am trying to get at really other than, “please God someone scratch that Florence & the Machine CD until it is entirely unplayable–use a screwdriver, anything, please” and “I love Fleetwood Mac.” Seriously, I love Fleetwood Mac. Both Stevie Nicks and her often overshadowed cohort Christine McVie were like the embodiment of girl power (at least, uh, musically speaking–life choices wise perhaps not so much) long before anyone was zig-a-zig-ah-ing. Rumours is a fucking great album. Also, when my hair was longer, people sometimes told me I looked like young Stevie Nicks.

I don’t know.


June 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Really? Like, really really?

Things Jonathan Franzen Likely Finds Cowardly

Here’s a confession – I would be a mess if I held the tiniest smidgen of fame. I get emotional and lose perspective occasionally often all the fucking time. Can you imagine what would become of me, or of you, if our every move and mood were followed by quote-hungry journalists and bloggers, our every stray written word published and criticized at length?

J-Franz is an artist. Dude can write, and he does it well. That doesn’t make him some kind of paragon of emotional maturity. Would we ever have held Hemingway or Mailer to that standard? Those guys were assholes, to women, to their friends and enemies, probably to kittens and small children too. As a voyeuristic and prurient culture we now take our heroes, literary or otherwise, and delve into their personhood and require them to strut and prance like show ponies or exotic dancers, and then at the first sign of imperfection (uneven forelock, cellulite, whatever) we rip them to shreds.

How ’bout everyone knock it off and read and engage and create a meaningful discussion? Can we do that, or is the future really going to be one of bitch and snark and tiny soundbites of vitriol?


PS – I think Pert Plus is cowardly, too. Buy two fucking bottles, okay? Shampoo and conditioner. Your hair will thank you.

I do not want people to be very agreeable…

June 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Just for the record, I’m not going to stop being creeped out by this foursquare thingamabob. Someone I know likes to call it “Hey everyone, I’m not home so feel free to come rob me!” But if you’re female and have any experience in the actual world, it’s also called “Hey, creepy dude who won’t take no for an answer, here’s a list of my favoritest places and a constant update about when and where I am!”

Ugh. But anyway. HTMLGiant posted a response to Franzen’s essay/commencement speech. Much more interesting, though, are the responses to the response (and the responses to the responses to the response? Those are so gravy they’re practically meta…) I always hate it when someone decides to shoot down an entire line of thought because s/he can find a single exception or an instance where the argument is worded too strongly. We’re human! We’re made to discuss and refine our thoughts in conversation, in connection with others, and so I value all criticism and responses in the world – but a great and artistic mind is one that can be blustery and overblown sometimes, using a slightly too-large brushstroke or a more garish color than necessary, in the process of exposing a larger truth (David Foster Wallace, anyone? He’d be as great with half the footnotes and we all know it, but we indulge and even revel in his excess because of the huge-ass beauty and truth he gets at). Point out the brushstroke and the color, sure, but don’t throw out the painting. Franzen might be a dick and he might be crazy overexposed, but he’s not wrong.

Here’s the thing: Franzen vs. Internet vs. Love vs. Iskandrian


I like it because it’s good. It’s good because I like it.

May 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

After a day of discovering foursquare (who knew how creepy that could be?) and discussing whether or not everyone being in a state of constant euphoria is a good thing (n0), there is this, from everyone’s favorite Pulitzer Prize losing author and the New York Times:

“We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived. Even just to say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll get to that love and pain stuff later, maybe in my 30s” is to consign yourself to 10 years of merely taking up space on the planet and burning up its resources. Of being (and I mean this in the most damning sense of the word) a consumer.”

Here’s the rest of it: Technology Provides an Alternative to Love

Love is hard work, Jonathan Franzen. My question is, what is the purpose of this “like-world,” shallow, internet self? Why do we want our ideal selves to be liked when it’s our shitty, crying-at-the-grocery-store-sometimes selves that are loved? I suppose just that it’s easier to “like” someone’s link to Steve Albini’s food blog (http://mariobatalivoice.blogspot.com/) than it is to take your bag full of existential shit and say “hey, hang on to this for a while.” Because they can potentially give back and possibly add to all that shit and that is scary and yeah, fucking hurts. But we can both just agree it’s cool that Steve Albini has a food blog. It’s not a more satisfying relationship in the end, but it’s easier–and so do we, our internet selves, just try to accumulate a bunch of easy internet relationships and likes in order to offset the work that is love?

Anywho, I’d say more, but it’s my birthday. Almost.


self-invention like Rube Goldberg

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


I’m kind of with this guy and kind of not. On the one hand, I am intimately familiar with the isolation he describes and how it allows you to create and destroy and re-create yourself in the absence of people who, well-meaning though they may be, remind you of who you were (or worse, who they thought you were) and end up weighing you down into that identity. I knew from an early age that I’d have to run away if I was going to end up anything like I wanted to be – and shit, guys, did I run. From Florida, from family, from Boston and boys, back to Boston and boys, from academia, from marriage. In most cases I was running not from anyone/anything else but myself and a potential future that I couldn’t stand living. Mental and physical isolation was necessary, and I wouldn’t undo any of it. Not enough people give themselves the space and aloneness and time to try on a new self or even assess the current one.

And yet. Does it have to be done that way? There is an incredible sense of comfort and safety in being connected to people, having a language and common knowledge of each other’s histories and embarrassing moments. There are things going on in my life that are painful, and I could keep those inside and turn them endlessly like stones in a tumbler – but if I share them with a few amazing friends while dancing to ’90s jams, I feel understood and the wounds don’t sting quite so much. And that constant sharing doesn’t tie me down because my friends don’t want me to STAY me, they want me to BECOME me. How cool is that?