Monday, April 26, 2010

So tired and bored of reading and everything.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Okay look

I don't claim to be the ideal male feminist saint or whatever, and I hate to lecture people, but jeez, how hard is it to have some basic manners? Okay, I'm no saint on the manners front either, at least in certain areas. But when it comes to areas that involve me, a guy, talking to non-guys, especially in the midst of controversial gender-related discussions, I like to be a little aware of what it sounds like when a guy says things like the following to a woman:

Gene Kwak at The French Exit:

yeah. here's the thing. that magazine is solely my baby. i really don't give a
fuck if you and your forehead and your paisley wall get pissed.

Blake Butler at htmlgiant:

Sorry I started this thread.

Shut up and write.

Reynard Seifert at Amy King's Alias:

i’m sorry that it’s not the seventies and you ladies missed the revolution.
really, that would’ve been sweet. but i wish you would stop making tigers out of
tissue paper.

Jereme at htmlgiant:

why is there any reaction looking at a list of “male” names in a journal? why do
you not have the same aggressive reaction towards other patterns, red and white

you people have such bullshit expectations. everything is not
the way you want it to be.

Yeah, now technically these are out of context. If you want the context you can click the links. Sure, some of these guys went on to "clarify" themselves in other comments, but it doesn't matter. Even if you have a legitimate argument somewhere, the only thing rudeness accomplishes is to make you look like an asshole. (I would know! I've made myself look like an asshole on plenty of blogs.) I mean, telling a woman to "shut up"? What is this, the "internet literature magazine blog of the 1850's"? It's mean, sexist, unhelpful, and it makes the rest of us guys look bad.

Also, why is it that guys are eager to shit-talk women on their blogs, but not, apparently, when the same pro-feminist opinion is expressed on a man's blog? (Hint! Hint!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.

They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

—FDR, 1936

(From an article about Obama's Cooper Union speech.)

Someone is wrong in real life as well as the internet

Just when you thought the internet was safe for feminists (ha, I know you didn't think that, unless it was wishful thinking), something like this comes up. (It was in response to this.) Emblematic of the whiny, pea-brained defensiveness found in many of the comments is this gem from "jereme":

gene did not try to push his bullshit ideology on you. he simply
constructed a statue of what he feels.

you on the other hand, have 14 assholes and a belly bulging with

why are you being uptight about this.


A lot of the commenters argue that "gender doesn't matter", just "good writing", that an editor is supposed to be "gender-blind". This line of (ahem) reasoning reminds me very much of conservative politicians who complain about "liberal activist judges", who say that a judge's job is to "call balls and strikes". (If you want to know why that's bullshit, ch-check out this great op-ed from a University of Chicago law professor.)

P.S. Thank you, Amy King.

P.P.S. from Daniela over at Pomo Expo: head/desk or htmlgiantfail (a cento)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


So I realized that I don't read as many women fiction writers as I should. I'm looking over my "read" (pronounced "red") list on Goodreads. Here are the female writers I've read:

—Jean Rhys (for class; thought it was boring)
—Charlotte Brontë (for class; boring)
—Willa Cather (for class; extremely boring)
—Mary Shelley (for class; eh)
—Nell Freudenberger (on my own; I liked it)
—Nicole Krauss (on my own; liked it)
—A.M. Homes (on my own; thought it was okay)
—Joyce Carol Oates (on my own, multiple books; I'm a fan)
—Virginia Woolf (one for school; boring. one on my own; awesome. I'll have to re-read that first one. In addition I just bought Orlando.)
—Zadie Smith (for school, but I actually thought it was okay)
—Vendela Vida (on my own; liked it)

Here are some authors I'm currently reading:

—Lisa Dierbeck (almost done, started a couple years ago; eh)
—Micheline Aharonian Marcom (not too crazy about it but I might finish it)
—Miranda July (like it)
—Kathleen Rooney (okay, so it's not fiction, but hey, it's a book; I like it)
—Jane Austen (read half on my iPod, until the novelty of reading on an iPod wore off; eh)
—Mary Gaitskill (read a story or two; not incredibly enthusiastic)
—Ivy Compton-Burnett (I'll have to start this one over; liked it)
—Lore Segal (need to resume before I forget character names; I like it)

Here are some authors in my to-read stack:

—Dodie Smith
—Dawn Powell
—Marisha Pessl
—Tsipi Keller
—Louise Erdrich
—Lynne Tillman
—Francine Prose
—Joyce Carol Oates
—Meghan Daum
—Meg Wolitzer
—Yannick Murphy
—Magdalena Zurawski
—Virginia Woolf
—Emily Barton
—Joan Taylor
—Elaine Dundy
—Jessica Anya Blau

None of these lists are complete, but almost, maybe. There might be some I'm forgetting.

Anyway, according to my count on Goodreads, I've read an approximate total of 56 novels or story collections (including ones for school). I'm probably forgetting a few, but I'm sure I've read fewer than 100. About 23% of these were by women. In school I think the split was about half-and-half, so even among the books I chose to read on my own, the percentage is about the same. Now if I were a faster reader, and had read ten times as many books, hopefully it would have evened out a little more. It's already trending that way, as I can see that my list of to-reads by women is much longer than my list of reads ("reds") by women, and about the same length as my list of to-reads by men. Probably won't start reading any faster though.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If you thought Sam Lipsyte's Home Land was funny, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.

Just kidding. But really, I wanted to quit after two pages. I decided to be generous and gave it two chapters. Let's consider it abandoned. Life's too short. I'd been looking forward to reading it since it came out, when it won the Believer Book Award. I love the Believer—the articles at least—but their taste in books can be a little off sometimes. (Not to mention their hit-or-miss taste in poetry, which they don't seem to know much about.)

Anyway, people keep saying how funny Lipsyte is, but if this is your idea of funny, I don't know what to tell you. Making an attempt to be funny isn't the same thing as being funny. "Witty" turns of phrase and piles of quirky details ≠ comedy. George Saunders is funny. Trying to sound like George Saunders is not funny. Trying to sound like George Saunders and failing is the same as trying to sound like Zach Braff and succeeding.

The Believer said,
A yearbook’s worth of rue poured into a one-sided correspondence, a laughline-laden entertainment that’s also an oblique political razz: Sam Lipsyte’s very American second novel, Home Land, came out across the pond in 2004, and only now appears on native soil. If it’s true that, in this era of our New Patriotism, stateside publishers balked at Home Land’s less-than-rosy depiction of the way we live now, perhaps it’s appropriate that the book finally emerges post-election, as divisions on the domestic front seem to widen by the week.

Um, maybe stateside publishers balked at it because it sucks.

The Believer also said,
Family life and the inescapable hierarchy of school are Home Land’s fattest targets, but the author’s packing blunderbuss, playfully blasting recovered memories, neo-sincere modern rock, academic plagiarism, and internet fetish porn.

Um, easy targets much? Fish in a barrel much?

In a review of his new novel, The Ask, the Believer says, "There isn’t a funnier author working today."

Um, do you even know what an author is? Because you obviously don't know what funny is.

Okay, like I said, I only read the first two chapters, so I'm going to stop here and just leave you with this advice: Don't bother.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sitcom convergence

Chocolate candy + sanitary headgear + lack of professional supervision = comedy mayhem

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's 2 a.m. Do you know where your children are? 20,714 of them are on OkCupid.

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge. I mean if you're fifty years late to run into Sonny Rollins, what's the point. I had my camera around my neck but I had been having no luck all day. Started at the West 4th C stop, walked east, could find nothing of interest to take a picture of. Other than people, but I just can't do it. I don't like to bother them. Was blowing my nose all day too. Incredible volumes of mucus each time. I got a cold a week and a half ago and it's still with me I guess. Although now it feels more like allergies, even though I don't usually get allergies in the spring, only in late summer. But today I've felt chalky and dry since I woke up. My ear feels hot. I have a headache. I will take an Advil in a little while.

During my walk, before I got out my camera at Tompkins Square Park, I wandered around the West Village and then the East Village reading from that Kathleen Rooney book, the part where she goes around looking for the former apartments of Weldon Kees. At some point I realized I almost know a Weldon, the husband of an old friend I haven't seen in a long time. Anyway, several of these apartments are on 10th St., so since I was in the neighborhood I thought I would check them out. One of them is right next to St. Mark's Church. Rooney comments that a poet's work becomes better after the poet dies. I thought of the other memoir I'm reading at the moment, the one by Ron Padgett about Ted Berrigan. Instead of one long narrative, it's a series of anecdotes, some a page or two, some very short, like this:

Ted claimed he could run fast, at least in short sprints. Looking at him, you'd think, This guy run fast? No way. And then he did.

This idea of a poet's work seeming better after the poet's death, it reminds me of how when you tell a funny anecdote to your friends about someone who isn't in the room (someone you all know, say), it seems funnier than it would be if the person was in the room. Thinking about people when they're not in the room always seems to improve your opinion of them. Same goes for places. This is how homesickness occurs.

This made me laugh—Ron and Ted are at a cafe in Tulsa circa 1960:

When the check came, Ted said he didn't have any money, could I pay? Coffee was a nickel, pie twenty or twenty-five cents.

I reached in my pocket and took out some change. I had just enough.

"Why didn't you say something earlier?" I asked rather hotly. "I don't like it that you assumed I would be able to pay for you too."

"Ron, shape up. Don't you know it's bourgeois to worry about money?"

"But I don't have any more money than you do."

"So what's that?" he said, pointing to the change I had laid on the table.

"That's not what I mean."

"What you mean is one thing, but what you're saying is, in essence, that you're a tightass."

Now of course, in every memoir I read, I always wonder about the dialogue. There's no way a normal person could remember the exact words of a conversation that took place an hour ago, let alone forty years ago. Unless a tape recorder was present, I know it must always be reconstructed or dramatized. Which I'm totally okay with. I'm not complaining. People complain about inaccuracies in memoirs, but that's silly. If you know it's a memoir, something consisting of memories, you shouldn't expect total factual accuracy. Everyone knows that memory is subjective and malleable, don't they? They should. Seems like it should be common knowledge. And in any kind of literary writing, truth comes before facts anyway. But even non-memoir non-fiction is always slightly fictitious too. True stories are still stories, and in some cases contain less actual truth than a novel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Laura (Riding) Jackson wrote this:


Soldierly at last, for the lines
Go marching on.
And happily may they rest beyond
Suspicion now, the incomprehensibles—
It was mere loveliness.
And loveliness?
Death has an understanding of it
Loyal to many flags.


Thanks to Elisa's posts about ideas, I keep thinking about ideas. Can I abbreviate Laura (Riding) Jackson as L(R)J? I think I will. I don't know if this is done. It is now. Her poems are cool because they have ideas, but you don't know what they are. But they sound so solid and deliberate and smooth, you believe it, even if you don't know what you're believing. I don't get her poems, but I get them.

So, that poem above. What about it?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"All of a sudden" or "all of the sudden"?

This came up recently. Apparently it is regional. In every region I've ever known, it's "all of a sudden". It's certainly a lot easier to say than "all of the sudden". Is it a cliche? Is it okay to use? Is it a cliche that's okay to use? I feel good about it. And this feeling was reinforced tonight when I read this sentence from Kathleen Rooney's For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs, which I picked up at the same time I acquired The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

On the other [hand], we pondered, we had gone twenty-some years with relatively hairy crotches, so what made us decide to get waxed all of a sudden?

See how well it works there? To me, it's not a cliche if it can't be broken down or replaced with something simpler. If it's the only way to say exactly what we mean, why not say it, even if it is a cliche?

Ate at Tom's Restaurant (the Seinfeld coffee shop) for the first time tonight. Usually it seems too crowded. Probably because it's the only diner in the neighborhood, as far as I know. At least the only one on Broadway. And who, when on Broadway, wants to bother to leave it? Anytime you're on an avenue uptown, the other avenues to your east and west seem like different time zones. You're hardly aware of their existence. Anyway, I sat at the counter at the diner. Have I done that before at any diner? I don't know why I don't. Chipotle has many stools, and I always use one. Tonight I immediately recognized that I like stools for the same reason I like apartments better than houses: you feel like you can leave at any time. With booths and houses, you're too ensconced, too settled in. A big reason for this is that your feet touch the floor. With a stool, your feet are suspended. It feels cleaner to eat this way. "Clean livin'!" he said to himself as he shoved another in a series of greasy fries into his gob.

I didn't really say that to myself, but it reminds me that I did enjoy the dialogue going on between the guy to my left and the guy behind the counter. The guy behind the counter was/is Greek, I learned. The customer spoke clearly and loudly, in a classic and deliberate New York accent. At one point he said something like, "I've been skating since I was a kid, and Manny, I tell you, I enjoy it to this day." Those might not have been his exact words, but my memory is only so good. What struck me about the conversation was how scripted it sounded. Every half-minute or so it would be interrupted when the guy behind the counter had to attend to something, and when it resumed, it would pick up exactly where it had left off, just like a Hollywood screenwriter would write it. I mean the whole conversation was like that, like a Hollywood screenplay. I'm fairly certain the Greek guy's name was Manny, even though he was Greek. Maybe not. Wouldn't be surprised though—the ratio of guys named Manny to guys not named Manny is very high in New York. High Manny density. The conversation reminded me a little of Don DeLillo dialogue. You know how it sounds kind of unnatural? It sounded kind of like that. But wait—I just said it sounded like a Hollywood screenplay. Well, which is it, Hollywood screenplay or Don DeLillo? Maybe a Don DeLillo screenplay? Sure, let's go with that. I learned Greece is bankrupt, or something. The guy behind the counter mentioned the term, "APR". The customer, nodding, said something like, "So, the adjusted percentage rate...." Well, I looked it up just now, and "APR" really stands for "annual percentage rate". But if the Greek guy caught this mistake, he was too polite to mention it. But look at me, acting all high and mighty. I had no idea what "APR" stood for until tonight. So those guys knew more than I did. But none of us knew it exactly, apparently. I wonder if anyone in the restaurant did.

So yeah, I went out tonight, even though I'm still sick. The sore throat seems to be mostly gone, but it might come back in the morning. I would have been justified calling in sick at any point from Wednesday on, but I don't call in sick for colds. Luckily I haven't had the flu since 2007, when I first started working where I do. Haven't thrown up since 2/27/04. That's a six-year vomit streak, folks. Time flies when you're not vomiting.

How about those Bulldogs?

Yesterday I got out of work early for Good Friday. Sick, yes, but I didn't go straight home. My strategy when sick is to pretend I'm not sick, thereby making myself feel less sick, is how the theory goes. I walked from work uptown into the East Village, reading Ted, Ron Padgett's memoir of Ted Berrigan. The book mentioned that Berrigan and Joe Brainard had an apartment at 210 E 6th St. So I walked up there and took a picture: