snaps

One of the main ways I use the phone in my camera is as a memory aid. I take pictures of products at a store so I can look online at home and compare prices. In New York, I take a picture of where the car is parked, since we have to move it every other day and the days and parking spots blur together. I take a picture of a passage in a book if it mentions something I want to remember, like the name of another book. (I also use the notepad in my phone for things like that, but quelle chaos. I have 25 separate notes, each one listing dozens of fragments of things I must’ve thought I’d remember, but looking through them now it’s a disastrous approach.)

Yesterday I had to clear up some space on my phone and realized that I’d been collecting things with a similar tone. (I also had a couple of screen shots of Amelia’s pavlova recipe, and I’m dying to make it so I kept those.) A kind of theme emerged and showed me where my attention has been collecting:

kierkegaard

Isn’t that true — how horrible to lose yourself, and how invisibly it happens? How quietly? You just wake up one day and don’t recognize yourself, maybe you’ve been giving yourself away and there’s nothing left, or maybe someone has been chipping away at you and you flinch and diminish yourself until there’s no you left. Both have happened to me, and when you finally have that moment of clarity and see it, it’s shocking. And he’s right: it’s the greatest hazard of all.

mad

I think this one goes with the one above in an inverse way — and maybe especially for those who have needed to reclaim/rediscover/rebirth themselves. And if you’ve disappeared yourself, it was because in some way you were willing to choose what other people thought over your own thoughts or experiences or even who you were (or maybe you had to, to save yourself in some way). So coming back around to yourself, and being willing to be knowledgeable, willing to express your power, and especially willing to be angry . . . well, folks never like that. I’ve learned that, too.

pretty

YOU DO NOT OWE PRETTINESS TO ANYONE. Be pretty to yourself, the way you feel pretty. You don’t have to wear make-up and dye your hair for anyone (do it for yourself if you like it). You don’t have to wear shoes that hurt your feet. You don’t have to squeeze into clothes that make it hard to breathe. You don’t have to smile because a man on the street tells you to. Of course this is still a fraught thing for women, because you can be killed for resisting those demands, and in the United States, the political tenor is flying so fast towards Handmaid’s Tale it’s FRIGHTENING. Especially in states controlled by Republicans, like Texas, where you get the double whammy of federal and state constrictions on being female. (Or rather, not-male.) But I think this bigger view, “you don’t owe it to civilisation in general” makes it clear what a ridiculous idea it is that we have to spend so much time, energy, money, and discomfort on “being pretty.” Fuck pretty, man. Fuck it. If you are pretty and enjoy that, if you are pretty and like making yourself pretty because it pleases you, then go you. Do that thing. Otherwise, fuck it. I’m so done. I get to participate in a Handmaid protest at the Texas Capitol next Tuesday and national press will be there; we have to agree to be interviewed in order to participate, and I’m going to need to rehearse answers to possible questions, because I AM SO ANGRY my responses would likely be incoherent otherwise.

rape

The specific article that we were discussing in the thread is no longer available on the site, unfortunately, but I strongly recommend The What’s Underneath project. (FOUND IT! It’s by artist Diane Goldie.) Obviously I was moved by the comments of a woman who had been raped (who hasn’t?? Fewer than those who have, I fear), and still feel a chill at her perfect description of what it can do. If you have time for one video, you might enjoy this one: God is a Black Woman With a Good Sense of Humor. The article opens with this great quote: “My favorite thing about aging? That I’m still alive.” Me too, Roselyn Lionhart. Me too.

tas

The least we can do is try to be there. I love this quote that beautiful Maggie shared, because it resonates with something I always say, which is that the sky is just there, day in and day out, putting on a big dramatic show, new in each moment, and we don’t even usually notice it. (I mean, I tend to be one of the oddballs who does notice it, and when I point it out to someone they often seem a little bewildered, like yeah, clouds. 🙂 )

(Also, follow Maggie on IG. She’s a glorious writer of books and articles, and lives on a farm in Tasmania, and her photographs knock my socks off so often I just wear flip-flops.)

Happy Wednesday. After a cold, rainy, windy time in NYC it turned gorgeous yesterday, on my leaving day….and I arrive in Austin after a period of gorgeous days to a period of upcoming rainy days. Life, you jokester.

three things: 1/10/17

1)  Are you a completionist? I’d never heard the word until Karen Russell (author of Swamplandia) said it when she was introducing her reading of a Mavis Gallant story in a podcast I listened to yesterday. She described herself as not-quite-a-completionist of Gallant’s writings, and I got to wondering:

Is there a writer whose entire set of works you’ve read? All of them? Not just the big-name ones, but all of them?

I started thinking about some of my favorite writers, and I don’t think so:

my very favorite memoir

Nick Flynn — sure, his big three memoirs (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (x4), The Reenactment  (x2), Ticking is the Bomb), and one or two collections of his poetry, but not all his poetry. Dang.

Cormac McCarthy — Child of God, Suttree, Blood Meridian (x6), All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, No Country for Old Men (x3), and The Road, but not The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, or Cities of the Plain. (Nor any of his screenplays, short fiction, or plays.)

Salman Rushdie — Grimus, Midnight’s Children (x4), Shame, Satanic Verses (x3), The Moor’s Last Sigh, Fury, East West, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Imaginary Homelands but not The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Luka and the Fire of Life, Joseph Anton, or The Jaguar Smile.

Victor Hugo — only Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris. 🙁

Dante — ding ding ding! Yep! I read The Divine Comedy, which was his only published work. And in several translations — my favorites being the John Ciardi translation, my sentimental favorite because I read it first, when I was a brand new mother, and the edition translated by the Hollanders, which is just extraordinary in every way.

William Faulker — The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom, These 13 (which includes “A Rose for Emily”), but not The Hamlet, The Town, or The Mansion.

Ernest Hemingway — The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Moveable Feast, but none of the rest.

F. Scott Fitzgerald — all his novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and The Damned, The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Last Tycoon, but none of his novellas or short stories.

this is the edition I have; my copy first belonged to my dad

Kurt Vonnegut — Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan (x???10?), Mother Night, Cat’s Cradle (x7 or 8?), God Bless you Mr Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Slapstick, Jailbird, Deadeye Dick, Galapagos, Bluebeard, Hocus Pocus, Timequake, Welcome to the Monkey House, Happy Birthday Wanda June, God Bless You Dr Kevorkian, Wampeters Foma and Granfaloons, Bagombo Snuffbox, and Palm Sunday. I missed a few novels and a bit of his non-fiction.

I guess one approach is to pick writers who don’t write very many books (like Dante). I get on these jags where I fall in love with a writer and just want to read it all, so I dig in. I did that with McCarthy for sure, and Vonnegut, and Rushdie, and Nick Flynn. As I’ve mentioned before, here, I bought these sets of hardback books when I was a teenager, four books by Hemingway, four by Faulkner, and four by Fitzgerald, and read them all at once, which I don’t recommend — especially for writers like those, who have such a specific and distinctive style. It then becomes hard to remember which one was which. (My favorite joke: Now which Hemingway was it where the guy dies in the mud, under the bridge? Oh yeah — all of them! 😉 )

I’m working on Karl Ove Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante, completing all their published works to date. And then sometimes I kind of outgrow a writer, I guess; I’ve read so many of their books and I come to feel like I understand them and their projects, and maybe they get a little tired, too, and a new book of theirs comes out and I just don’t have the interest. That happened to me with Salman Rushdie.

Some people love mystery writers and read all their works; Sue Grafton is a good example, with her alphabetical series. I guess I started early, reading all the Nancy Drews, all the Hardy Boys, all the Cherry Ames Student Nurse books, all the Trixie Beldens, and all the Boxcar Children books. It was not the worst habit I formed in my childhood. 🙂 So, you? I suppose you might do this with film-makers too, or musicians! Or actors. Or other artists. Hmmm. Any completionists in this crowd?

2) Do you know about this project? What’s Underneath:

You can click the image to go to the site, and I also provided it in the link, above. It’s a collection of stories (each accompanied by a video) by women (almost entirely, but not completely, and in some cases a story is about non-binary gender) and race, age, weight and size, illness, hair, work, motherhood, gender, identity, sexuality, all the things of real life and how they don’t immediately fit the Barbie image of “American woman,” but how the storytellers have found their way through, because of, despite, in celebration of their differences from Barbie ideals.

Diane Goldie

The one I most want to share is by London artist Diane Goldie, whose piece is called “Maybe I’m not ‘fuckable’…That’s fine, I’m not for you to fuck.” She is “a larger, menopausal, 51-year-old woman. I am not invisible.” When she was 13, she was raped by a 36-year-old pedophile. “After he raped me, I lost ownership of my body,” Diane says. “It became the vehicle in which I pleased other people.” I get that. Her video is no longer available on the What’s Underneath site, unfortunately, but I can share this, a video of Diane in conversation with Sue Kreitzman about wearable art. As you can guess by her picture, she isn’t trying to be invisible.

Me, I have a huge craving for a pair of cherry red tartan plaid pants and a close-fitting cherry red blazer.

3) I love this quote, which I saw in the caption of a beautiful photograph by author Maggie Mackellar, who lives on a farm on the east coast of Tasmania:

“…beauty & grace are performed whether or not we see or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” Annie Dillard

In addition to her gorgeous photography (I linked to her Instagram account above), she’s just the most beautiful, eloquent writer (two books published so far, she’s working on her next one). She published a three-part series last fall about her father’s death; this link will take you to the first piece, which will then lead you to the other two. Anyway, Maggie knows very well about suffering, and perhaps this is what helped her recognize the power of the Annie Dillard quote about beauty and grace.

It’s there, beauty & grace, even if you have to look very very hard. Even if the day feels heavy and ugly, even if you look out your window and see gray and brown and filth, even if you’re just sitting in the same old place you always sit, beauty & grace are happening somewhere — maybe you don’t see it right now but it is. When I’m having a hard time seeing it in my surroundings, for some reason I always think about the glacier valley we walked through in Norway — Lyngsdalen — and that no matter what’s happening, those mountains are just standing there over that valley. In the months-long dark, they stand there, and maybe the Northern Lights dance through the valley, or maybe not, but they stand there, solid and present no matter what. Whether anyone is looking, whether war is raging somewhere, whether I am lonely or bleak, those beautiful mountains are standing over that valley.

I walked there. I drank handfuls of cold glacier water out of that river running through the valley. It’s doing its thing RIGHT NOW.

The least we can do is try to see the beauty & grace where and when we find it. That seems like the least we can do. See it, notice it, take it in.

Flying day for me, back to Austin — xoxox