Saturday, December 19, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
However, from her first sentence, she reminded me of the classic male/female split in the garnering of literary acclaim - namely, that a novel of "action" is always seen as more relevant and expressive of reality than a novel of "inaction." Of course, these "action vs. inaction" dualities are often defined (oftentimes erroneously) as gendered spheres. War is male; the home is female. Thence, a novel of the battlefield is more relevant than a novel of the home. Luckily, we have come to a point in time where many men write beautifully and eloquently on the topics of relationships, family, and civic life. Conversely, I can think of many female writers who explore lonely landscapes, brutal violence, and other topics traditionally considered "masculine." In my mind, if a writer is good enough, he/she can write about anything, and I will be enthralled. Period. That's where the "art" comes in. It's not all about subject matter, after all, but so many other elements that conspire to create awe; to reveal truth.
On the other hand, I have reached a point in my literary self-education where the moral vision of a writer matters to me. And I also cannot deny differences of gender in what I respond to, what speaks to me, and what I repudiate. In fact, all of this puts me in mind of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, which I read (and hated) earlier this year. One could almost see McCarthy's desolate, blood-soaked "American" landscape as masculine culture taken to its hyperbolic extreme. Possession becomes the possession of life, and the only assertion possible is through the destruction of other lives. Without given land or property, the only thing that can be owned is another's body; without land, subjugation through serfdom is succeeded by subjugation through annihilation. I could easily argue from the other side - that patriarchal structure does not operate in McCarthy's novel, because it operates from the dissolution point of all organized forms of interpersonal interaction: namely, chaos. Still, when viewed as the videogame-like playing field of the male Id, Blood Meridian makes me want to imagine what a "hyper-feminine" novel might look like. When I try to imagine it, however, I cannot. Set loose and howling upon the plains, what romps would an unfettered woman have?
Perhaps here I have encountered the "silence" of which Cusk speaks.
(photo credits: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/image/0016/64231/The_drawing_roomLge.jpg, https://www.prairieghosts.com/old%20west.jpg)
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Oh, well. At least it's sunny.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Towards the end of our amble, the four of us stood on one end of the reflecting pool. My friend Nicole, reading from the garden guide, informed us that the Bloedels were buried at the opposite end of the pool, and that Mrs. Bloedel's grave bore an inscription from an Emily Bronte poem, "Sympathy." She read it aloud to us:
While nightly stars are burning;
While evening pours its silent dew,
And sunshine gilds the morning.
There should be no despair--though tears
May flow down like a river:
Are not the best beloved of years
Around your heart for ever?
They weep, you weep, it must be so;
Winds sigh as you are sighing,
And winter sheds its grief in snow
Where Autumn's leaves are lying:
Yet, these revive, and from their fate
Your fate cannot be parted:
Then, journey on, if not elate,
Still, never broken-hearted!
Now, picture this poem being read in a grave and melodious voice, with the interlocking branches of pines reflected stilly in the pool ahead, the somber water stretching forward. The fabric of all of this: the words of the poem, the voice, the pool, the wind through the branches. In a moment like this, art feels alive to me - not an unchanging object or record, but rather a thing vigorous and knotted through with life. The moment itself feels alive, and greater than the sum of its parts. It's the poem that ignites this: the laurel on nature; all the while conjuring a bittersweet mortality, the ethereal memories never lost even as the earth, and people, pass through their transitory seasons.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Phillips is a provocative, lyrical writer, as evidenced by her early collection, Black Tickets, which I found alternately frustrating and thrilling. Buzz on the current novel is quite laudatory. As for Campbell, I know little, but I am happy the jury chose to make a nod towards a short story collection, and one from a small press, no less. That doesn't seem to happen often. Finally, Mueenuddin lives on a farm in Pakistan and apparently also writes lovely short stories. Yay discovering new voices! More books to add to my towering "to-read" list!
As for the nonfiction winners, I have only one question: why do the choices always have to be so "safe"? Never any lyric essays, experimental memoirs, collage pieces, daring reportage, etc. Just pieces about famous people and cultures and time periods we've already heard about a lot. Okay, so maybe I'm being unfair (probably). I just rarely skim over a list of the finalists for the nonfiction prize and think, "Wow! I can't wait to read that!" Admittedly, I don't read a great deal of nonfiction, full stop. Cards on the table.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I Yam What I Yam
Let not this tuft
of scruffy stuff
obscure the gold within --
that starchy, mellow
For though I be a humble
a happy tongue.
(photo credit: http://zoebakes.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/yams-vs-sweetp01.jpg)
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
To conclude a fairly art-soaked week, last night I attended Pacific Northwest Ballet's Director's Choice with my roommate. I've been so impressed and moved by the two productions I've seen at the PNB thus far and may very well invest in season tickets next year.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Last night some friends and I attended the Stranger's Genius Awards party. The whole Moore Theatre was open, and party attendees could wander into any nook and cranny they chose. We found the backstage dressing rooms and stood in the top row of the balcony and I got scolded for dangling a leg over the ledge of a private side box (complete with creepy dark and cobwebby corner). This greatly pleased the side of me that likes old churches and abandoned houses and high-up caves in the wilderness. A bit of urban spelunking. And the coatcheck attendant helped me put on my coat at the end! "Wow, you really leaned into that," he said. Yes, sir. It's not every day a gentleman (paid or unpaid) helps me on with my coat. Two thumbs up.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Genius design doesn't fall out of fashion. Fabulous is always in style. So love these treasures now and pass them on later. They're meant to be part of your life FOREVER."
This is part of Nordstrom's current advertising campaign for handbags and jewelry and other boring stuff. I flipped through a catalog that arrived at my work, and then reached this tagline. FOREVER, eh?
Pick out your open-casket accoutrements now! Be part of the brand that will litigate your will. Put on the necklace that whispers, ever-so-softly: "You can pry this out of my cold, dead hand."
Creepy, but it only gets more so with the next brand invocation:
"Is it a luxury to choose only what you love?
You know it when you see it: that perfect be-all, end-all piece that instantly feels like an extension of yourself - and gives you a secret thrill every time you wear it. It becomes your signature, your CONSTANT COMPANION."
Yep. Your CONSTANT COMPANION (by the way, these majuscules are all Nordstrom's, not mine).
Carry the bag that declares: I bought this stalker for $500. Cuddle your bracelet. Wear this coat around until it knows all your peccadilloes and sweat trickles and body crevices. Maybe wash it sometimes...
...but only if you can bear to take it off.
So, obviously it's old news that brands try to identify with women and convince them that they must own certain things in order to define themselves through the act of self-presentation. Things we buy are so us as to be an "extension"of us. How many "must-own" and "must-buys" flood the marketplace every day? I remember being much younger and believing that owning a little black dress was quintessential to sophisticated womanhood. Naturally, I was being urged to purchase said dress.
This specific ad, however, just seems so ridiculously over-the-top, what with all its creepy soulmate/graveyard lingo. The design of the catalog features fifties-style mannequins lounging-- red-lipped--in opulent jewelry, and I'm sure this throw-back to a previous fashion era is intentional: it calls to mind heirlooms we have ourselves inherited from the women of our family. Women pass on china and jewelry and doll collections, or at least they do in my family. That's part of our generational train of connection.
Doesn't it seem weird, however, to be urged to buy things that will make pretty gifts to our daughters when we are dead? Or to choose a product that's so "us," it has to be worn constantly (at least until the secret thrill is gone...um...yeah)?
If you look at the picture above, a bag provides the only covering for the model.
My brand, my identity.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
brother of chard,
sister of mangelwurzel.
May you dye our fingers ruby,
may you jewel the water boiled.
You smell of sweetness,
And you’ll be eaten,
So, that was Part Two of this great adventure.