Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sendak's Nutcracker

LOVED the setpieces for this production, designed by Mauric Sendak. So magical, yet stylized. Just like a storybook come to life. I liked the Dance of the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers best. These dances in particular reminded me of idolizing the older students during my ill-fated attempts at learning ballet as a kid. It all seemed so glamorous back then. I felt envious of all the children in the audience last night, discovering the ballet for the first time. Pacific Northwest Ballet: 3 for 3. I'm contemplating spring season tickets.

(image credit: Angela Sterling,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Speaking of The Second Sex...

Here is an interesting article in the Guardian by Rachel Cusk about "women's writing," A Room of One's Own, and de Beauvoir's own behemoth. Although this is a thought-provoking consideration of the room as a kind of property and collusion with the patriarchy's own property-centered structure (thereby, gaining the room creates conflict and, possibly, a complex "silence"), I would have liked to see Cusk's assertions contextualized in the work of contemporary female writers a bit more. These conclusions seem a bit abstract, as is, and most of her textual analysis leaves out the past seventy or so years of the literary landscape.

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:,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Don't Forget About the Footnotes

"...and also for fops, who call for separate study."
--Simone de Beauvoir, on the rare man who presents himself as a sexual object

Indeed, let's mount a comprehensive study on that elusive fop! On a more serious note, I wish that I had read this book sooner in my life. I wish I had had all of my revelations sooner. But, I suppose you can't have a revelation unless it actually draws the curtain back on something you've long believed to be true. Without those years of dusty drapes, the current light wouldn't look so good. Then what would you learn?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Miscalculation of the Day

This morning as I waited for the bus on the I-5 on-ramp, I saw a man drive by with what looked to be the whitest, most dazzling grin. "I'm so glad to see happy people this morning!" I thought to myself. Then, when the car got closer, I realized that the white "grin" was actually a mustache, and the man was scowling.

Oh, well. At least it's sunny.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Up Close & Personal

It's one of my hobbies to take pictures of small things so close up that they become almost abstract, and yet still retain their identities. Could this be a metaphor for writing? Could it be a metaphor for a metaphor? Let's puzzle it all out, Russian nesting doll style!

I took the following pictures after one of the first dustings of snow for the year in Wyoming.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, three friends and I visited the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Rather than describe the grounds and the meticulous planning behind them, I refer you the Reserve's own website above and this detailed account from The Intercontinental Gardener. (photo credit to the Intercontinental Gardener as well) If you live in the Washington area, I highly suggest you go, although 'tis much better to go as the guest of a member, as I did.

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:

There should be no despair for you
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.

In my own small way, I will always dedicate a part of my consciousness to this awareness; I will always read poetry as a consecration of what we see and feel; fiction will always feel to me more true than fact. I'm glad it's that way. And I'm glad that such moments are completely democratic - they cast a spell; they take everything of the moment and briefly, ever so briefly, the moment is eternal; we share of its flare, and just by listening, we become a part of the fabric, too. We listeners and watchers are lifted in grace by a mere act of receptivity.

Our brains, our delight provide the final element of the alchemy. We ourselves catalyze the transformation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Am I as think as a nerd I am?

Doth my grammar misstep? I recommend that everyone subscribe to Narrative's Literary Puzzler, and nerd their days away. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Story Up at Quick Fiction!

My story "Spelling," is currently being featured on the homepage of Quick Fiction, and will appear in print in their 16th issue. It has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Check it out, and the quality shorts published by this snazzy journal! Click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book News, with Occasional Ranting

First News Tidbit: Colum McCann has been declared the National Book Award winner for fiction this year. I'd never heard of him, although scrolling through his publication credits, I admit that I should have. I'm more excited about a few of the runner-ups: Jayne Anne Phillips' Lark & Termite; American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell; and In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin.

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.

Second News Tidbit (and rant): I really hate Martin Amis. His writing is masturbatory, self-congratulatory, dullingly long-winded, and totally misogynist. Further reminding me of why I dislike him and his litany of "-ory" faults, here he is, discussing his newest novel in The Guardian's Review of Books and why it might "upset the feminists." Apparently, Amis is of the camp that women, much like Icarus and his waxen wings, have been burned by the freedoms of the sexual revolution. His sister, he claims, was "used up" by her liberation, succumbing to an early death...I guess, because having a lot of sex is akin to being an overdriven car or something. "Not even the Taliban could have protected her," he opines. Yeah, not even the Taliban could have stopped her from leaving her home, doused her face with acid should she have tried to attend school, or reigned with terror in a campaign to limit her personal freedoms. Wait...

As my friend (and eminently intelligent reader) Elizabeth pointed out, when would you ever see such a sentiment reversed? There is a well-documented link between the rates of extremism and violence in nations where women are routinely silenced and kept from public life, for example. And yet, no one truly talks of infringing on male freedom in these countries and keeping men in their homes, where, ostensibly, they would be less of a threat to others. Indeed, such a suggestion would be ridiculous and offensive. On the other hand, if a woman encounters problems and misjudgments in her life, it is indeed her freedoms that are to blame -- better to stay in the kitchen than risk the possible pitfalls of sexual liberation. What this kind of hypocrisy underlines is that women and men are judged as individuals to differing degrees. Men who suck at life? Well, that's just one guy. Women who suck at life? Well, that's just because she represents all women, and all women have been led down a dangerous path since the advent of feminism.

In the same breath, Amis insists that he is a feminist, and in fact, would love to see women ruling the world. First order of business when I become High Queen of the World? Condescending to Martin Amis. Let's see how he likes it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food Poem the Second

The holidays make me silly. And hungry.

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
I give:
a joy,
a boon,
a happy tongue.

(photo credit:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Miscalculation of the Day

This morning I touched a discarded throat lozenge that was sitting on the window ledge of my bus because it looked like a polished stone or pearlescent button. Thence: sticky, contaminated fingers. Yuck. Should have thought that one through.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bloops From the Blogosphere

I've been following some of my favorite female political writers' responses to the insidious Stupak/Pitts rider on the healthcare bill that passed last week. There are innumerable reasons why I get really angry and worked up over it, but I think it best to defer to those who have already expressed my sentiments, and expressed them very eloquently - Katha Pollitt, writing for The Nation and the lovely bloggers, Kate Harding especially, writing at Salon's Broadsheet.

If you, too, are looking for a place to channel your outrage, these might be some good places to start. And if reading should spur you to action, consider joining the e-mail action alert networks of NARAL or The National Women's Law Center.

On a happier/more hilarious note, here is Sarah Haskins being...hilarious.

Petite Mort

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.

My two favorites of the evening were a world premiere of "The Seasons," an allegorical ballet in one-act, and Petite Mort. The real standout was Petite Mort, however, choreographed by Jiri Kylian and set to Mozart. The stark, scarcely-clothed dancers looked so vulnerable, pale, and uniform and as they danced in male-female pairs, the choreography demonstrated the ingenious ways that two bodies can be coupled, while at the same time reminding the viewer of the control and violence of these couplings, latent in every geometrical shape and gesture. Erotic and frightening, all at the same time. Explicitly treating the subject of violence and death, the six male dancers began the ballet with an elaborate foil-play, and in a surprise visual gag that I LOVED, six of the female dancers revealed that the great gowns they appeared to be wearing were nothing more than wheeled props. From behind these vast arks of feminine decorum, the real women behind them revealed their smaller, stripped bodies, for which the dresses were merely frames - a cultural trousseau of sorts. What a wonderful and playful visual script.

(p.s. This photo is from the PNB website, copyright Chris Bennion.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Stranger Celebration

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

'Til Death Do Us Part

" Is it a luxury to enjoy tomorrow's heirlooms today?

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

If you look at the picture above, a bag provides the only covering for the model.

My brand, my identity.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Take Two

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check out Not From Around Here: A Series of Unlikelihoods at the Rendezvous Jewelbox Theatre (a venue I am beginning to associate with lively reading parties). It was a project by a local arts collective called The Heroes, many of whom I know personally. I loved this reading, primarily because it was about collaboration: an exploration of memory map-making set to movement; a lyric collage piece haunted by the cello; a series of eerily soulless modern apartment complexes flashing in contrast to the personal story contained therein. Oh, and there was a rap. And it was awesome. Anyway, kudos to these artists, literary and otherwise, for finding ways to create contextual performances that are as entertaining as they are meditative on the chosen subject of place.

Here is my friend Carrie reading her piece, "Vagaries":

Not From Around Here - Vagaries by Carrie A. Purcell from Bond Huberman on Vimeo.


Here is a silly poem I wrote about beets last week. They are gorgeous. Who knew? I have mainly only eaten the pickled variety before, and am all aflutter with how they dye the water and your hands...and everything. Oh, and speaking of food, donate to your local food bank for the holidays!


Beet It

Oh, beet,


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.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here begins my great adventure in blogging. It may also end here; I'm not sure yet.