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.