I fall to pieces

25 10 2008

All that there is to write, and all that I don’t write. Bits and pieces, effluvia from the day, surfacing only after the computer is turned off, or things worthy only of quick hits.

So, some of the jottings:

NaNoWriMo: It’s a week from National November Writing Month, and I’m starting to get a bit freaked. Fifty-thousand words! In a month! Jesus Christ!

There is no possible way that I can do this. I have one day off a week. And while I write fast. . . I have one day off a week.

Ah, fuck it. Try and fail. That’s life, ain’t it?

—-

Blogging extras: I see RSS and CSS and Twitter and Deli.cio.us (or whatever) and all this other crap and I go, Huh? Should I be doing something with these?

Nah. Or at least, not now. I don’t have to know everything before I start—do I?

—-

Crushes, cont.: I neglected to mention the anti-crushes, the horrifying obsessions with ideas and worldviews so on the other side of you. Pat Robertson. Jerry Falwell. The 700 Club. Trinity Broadcasting Network. Rod Parsley. John Hagee. All crack for the lefty brain: you know it’s bad for you, but you can’t. stop. watching.

And then, of course, there’s Ayn Rand, the Objectivist wonder drug, turning readers into zombies. Best not to engage them at all.

Like my crushes, I carry the obverse inside me, too, but not willingly. Nope, viruses lodged in my brain,  waiting, waiting, to be reactivated with just one           more            hit.

Brrrr. Scary.

—-

Settling in: Two and a-half years in New York and I’m still not settled. I would like to settle.

When I moved to Bummertown, I thought it would be my last city. Before that, I lived in Feline City, which I loved, but which was also located in another country. In fact, I moved to Bummertown because a number of people had said, Oh, you like Feline City? Well, then, you’ll love Bummertown!

No.

So when I heaved out of there to NYC, I did so with the idea that I would stay—but knowing it could all go bad.

It is not bad. I would like to stay. But for this to be real, for this to be my last(ish?) city, I gotta sink my feet into the concrete.

Hasn’t happened yet. Soon, please, soon.

—-

Procrastination: Sixty papers. Not long, not difficult to grade.

And yet I don’t grade.

Baaaaaad professor. Can I blame my status as an adjunct?

—-

God and alienation: Still working my way through the Bedlam Farm archives, and reading about Jon’s conversations with the Hound of Heaven (Pastor Steve from a local church).

Jon often quotes from Thomas Merton, and he writes often about his struggles with his own spirituality and doubts. This past winter he started blogging about his regular conversations with Pastor Steve, and his uncertain steps toward God.

I, too, for awhile engaged with a local priest (variant: Episcopal) about God and doubt, but after awhile felt like I was simply wasting her and my time. I am not uninterested in God—duh—but I don’t feel any great need to move out of my doubt. I wonder why other people believe, and what God and their relationship to God means to them, but I’m fine with my role as observer rather than participant.

And I admit to some bewilderment at the notion that one can get closer to others by getting closer to God. How does that work? Isn’t that simply a kind of alienation? Running away from the world rather than opening oneself to it?

Not that simple, I know, and it’s entirely possible that opening oneself to God helps one to open herself to the world (cf. Caputo and Vattimo and the concept of weak theology).

Still, as someone who struggles with openness, I see God more as an escape than an entry.

—–

S&P.A, who I knew in Bummertown, have just had a baby. S. was in labor for 25 hours (!), but in the photo of her and her son O., she looks terrific. Really beautiful.

And my roommate’s sister also just had a son. Cute, she said. Round head, round face, and loooong fingers. (Roommate and I are getting along better, these days. All for the good.)

Welcome to the world, boys. We’ll try to keep to keep the lights on for you.





The fire thief

25 10 2008

I have a crush on a dead woman. It’s not the first time I’ve crushed out on the dead.

I just finished reading Marjorie Williams’s The Woman at the Washington Zoo (and just started reading her new book, Reputation). Worth a gander.

There is a pang in reading her, however, given that she died a few years ago from liver cancer. In fact, I first became interested in her work after reading an obit in Slate about her, written by her (and her husband, Timothy Noah’s) colleague, Jack Shafer. It was a lovely tribute to her, as both a writer and a friend. I was reminded of that latent interest when I saw the new book at Job1, and decided to pick up a paperback copy of Zoo.

She’s a fine writer, and that she writes about politics and political actors piques my interest. She starts with a dual profile of Selwa and Archie Roosevelt (TR’s grandson). Pffft, I thought, who cares? But she opens with the line ‘The U.S. chief of protocol begins by threatening to cry.’ Okay, you got me: I’ll continue. Later she writes

‘May I call you Barbara?’ the question, an hour into the interview, is delivered in her low, nearly husky tones, with standard Southern ebullience. It seems peculiar only because it is addressed to someone named Marjorie, and asked by someone who is paid $77,500 a year to be the best-mannered person in America.

Nice.

She’s all over her profiles, although not in an intrusive manner: the stray ‘I’ pops up, but really she’s directing the reader to consider her subject as she does. That sounds bad—coercive—but it’s more along the lines of ‘I want you to see what I can see’, that is, as an invitation rather than manipulation.

The piece on Richard Darman (remember him? former boy wonder of Republican politics?) is killer, revealing how much he does not want to be revealed, and her piece on Barbara Bush may have started (or at least greatly helped along) the revised narrative of Bush not as friendly grandma, but suppressed-rage personified.

The longer pieces are better. They give her a chance to circle around the subject, air it out, whereas in the shorter (usually opinion) pieces she makes a beeline right to her point, avoiding the nuance which makes the profiles and extended essays such a pleasure.

And the piece on her cancer diagnosis (Hit by Lightning) as well as that on her last Halloween with her daughter pierced me. They are not only sad—in Lightning, she notes that ‘As seriously fucked cancer patients go, I am an astonishingly healthy person’—but it may be that it is the combination of dry wit, understatement (‘Turns out that when he stamped me A-1 healthy he was, in fact, reading the blood test results of someone else entirely. Oops.’) and blunt emotion (‘I was dying. Soon I would be dead. No one else would be in it with me. . . . I lay under those wonderful sheets and felt cold to the bone. I began to cry, loud, then louder. I shouted my terror. I sobbed with my entire rib cage. Tim held me while I heaved it out. . . .’) which calls up a complex of thought and emotion in me. Here was a real person, no more.

Okay, so she can write. So can a lot of people. Why the crush, the pang? I don’t know, exactly. I do know that I get these odd crushes on occasion, latching on to a writer or singer or thinker and then having to gulp up everything about them. Even at a young age I tended toward ardency: if I had one book by an author, I had to have them all; similarly with albums. I am still afflicted with this totalizing sensibility—I have to know everything!—but, as with all such afflictions, recognition (a.k.a. self-skepticism) helps me to control it.

Still, I tumble. Lou Reed. Nick Cave. Nina Simone. Laurie Anderson. Maxine Kumin. Billie Holiday. Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Ann Patchett. I’m able to hide it a bit with some authors—Foucault, Arendt, Caputo, Vattimo—because, hey, I’m a political theorist, I should know these people, but that is simply a less-than-artful dodge. I want to dive in, immerse myself in their words or songs or thoughts, pull them all around me, know them. And then, in that secret, way-down-below-the-level-of-comfort way, I want them to know me. I let myself go with these faraway crushes in ways I never would with the actual people in my life.

And then I get over it. I don’t repudiate the crushes, and in fact retain a certain affection for all of them after the ardor has faded. So I’ll read, and perhaps re-read Williams, trying to pull something out of her words that I don’t quite understand, but nonetheless desire. I’ll go with it, let the fever run, then carry Williams and her words with me, tucked away with the others in that cubbyhole for strangers who’ve come near.

I don’t like falling, for anyone or anything. But I am lucky, insofar as these crushes don’t crush me. I get both to move beyond them and to keep them with me. Let them keep me warm.