I want my home to look like this one day.
So I’m on the market for a new apartment, and I decided to look up this place that I pass on the way to work every morning. Affordable rent? Check. Clean-looking swimming pool? Check. Low pet deposit? Check. Built-in bookshelves? Holy shit, I’m sold.
I seriously spent the rest of the day excitedly sharing with people that I found an apartment in Houston that is less than $700 in a neighborhood where I (probably) won’t get stabbed AND it has built-in bookshelves! And then I discovered the dichotomy between the people in my life who share my enthusiasm and the people in my life who think I’m a little batty.
You know you can get bookshelves for like $20 at Walmart?
Yes, but it’s not the same. This is built-in. Like, it’s part of the wall. Like, my cats can’t knock it over when they’re being passive aggressive.
Don’t you already own a bookshelf?
Yes, I have four. Plus a few stacks of books of the floor between said shelves.
Seriously, have you read all those books?
And then I feel guilty because, actually, I haven’t read them all. To be fair, I would say I’ve read about 90% of the books on my bookshelves/floor (and I’ve opened 100% of them!), plus only 50% of the books I’ve ever read are currently on one of my shelves (disclaimer: I made all of those numbers up). Read more »
see triptych portraits of british soldiers from before/during/after their deployment in afghanistan. then see some more of them & read an interview with the photographer, lalage snow.
from the war, literature & the arts journal, download and read a pdf of dan moreau’s “108 degrees under partly cloudy skies.”
watch a fascinating documentary on pbs about the ghost army of wwii. kept a secret for 40 years after the war, the visual artists who were recruited by the u.s. army to create a completely fake battalion are now free to talk about their service. my local affiliate even did an interview with a member of that 603rd engineer camouflage battalion.
read, from just a single issue of willow springs, some excellent work related to our brothers in arms: issue 67 features poetry from iraq veteran hugh martin and a short story from natalie sypolt about a soldier who comes home with a prosthetic arm.
from national geographic magazine, see photography from lynsey addario of a rebuilding iraq in 2011.
revisit some reports from the front lines, including ernie pyle’s “the god-damned infantry” from 1943 and the 2002 rolling stone piece from evan wright (who went on to write the book that david simon’s generation kill was based on).
check out an entire issue of the iowa review devoted to the work of u.s. veterans & active duty personnel, or the first issue of so it goes, which featured a “war and peace” theme. there are also journals which always publish literature of/about the military, including o-dark-thirty‘s the report (online) and the review (print), as well as epiphany.
on the new york times website, read words straight from veterans via their “home fires” and “warrior voices” series.
Reading Monet’s post from Friday, made me want to post about something I first heard about last week.
The volunteer editors of Wikipedia decided that the American Novelist category was becoming too long and decided to move the female authors to a new page named American Women Novelists.
This little change may not have been discussed or even noticed, if it wasn’t for Amanda Filipacchi who discovered the change and wondered how come there weren’t two pages created, one for American Male Novelists and one for American Women Novelists. She wrote an Op-Ed about it for the New York Times and shortly after, that’s exactly what happened.
So you would think then that this was just an honest mistake. The editors of Wikipedia just weren’t sensitive to how wrong it is to qualify books by the gender of the author. But it doesn’t end here.
As Filipacchi describes in a NYT follow-up article, her Wikipedia page was altered. In twenty-four hours, there were 22 changes. Links to outside sources like interviews and reviews were removed. The link to the Op-Ed disappeared. Before this, her page had been changed 22 times over a period of four years. Much wiki-cyber bullying later and Filipacchi’s back on the list of American Novelists, but says, “Taking women’s names off the list of American novelists makes it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world.”
To me, the Wikipedia incident is just another example that shows we still have work to do before women gain full equality, not just in the literary world, but everywhere.
My office at work is in a cluster of six with a student study area in the middle. The day after I’d heard about Filipacchi’s articles, I passed by the whiteboard in the study part and saw an old joke I first encountered years ago while I was a physics undergraduate student. Here’s the joke: Read more »
A profile of Susan McCarty, and her story, “Fellowship.”
I wanted to tell the story of a girl who is really starting to struggle against the values of the culture around her in a way that was bound up with, but not directly caused by, her parents’ impending divorce. I wasn’t interested in revisiting specific details or scenes from my own life, but I did draw on my own emotional experience of my parents’ divorce when I was eighteen. I was interested in that moment when everything seems to be stretched to the breaking point, that moment right before the release of this person into the world, just before her escape. But I was uninterested in moralizing that tension. Sometimes it feels like every story about a teenage girl who has sex ultimately ends with the girl dropping out of high school, pregnant and alone and, yes, that’s a reality for some girls, but ultimately the dominance of that narrative in our culture speaks more to a fear of female sexuality and the resulting desire to control it. I’m interested in another narrative, where girls have sex and parents and boyfriends disappoint them, and life goes on.
An interview with Erin Belieu, from Willow Springs 71
I am very aware of anger—of female anger—as transgressive. And female anger is something that’s not spoken to often in poetry. Or anywhere, really. I think of women artists who’ve addressed this feeling directly and the backlash is usually intense. Very much a how-dare-you reaction. Which is absurd when you think of how surrounded we are by expressions of male anger in our culture. How venerated they are. Male rage is cool! But female rage is still disturbing, displacing, abject, unnatural. Except it’s not. It’s normal. And more than any other poem I’ve written, people come up to me and say, “Thank you for writing the Red Dress poems. They’ve meant a lot to me.” Which is about the nicest compliment anyone can ever give you.
The GetLit Pie & Whiskey Reading is this Thursday, 4/11, 9:00, at the Spokane Woman’s Club, 1428 W. 9th, with readings by Kim Barnes, Dan Butterworth, Jonathan Evison, Kate Lebo, Sam Ligon, Jim Lynch, Laura Read, Marianne Salina, Gregory Spatz, Shawn Vestal, Jess Walter, and Robert Wrigley.
There will be pie and there will be whiskey. There will be short readings about pie and whiskey. Then there will be more pie and more whiskey. Until we’ve had enough.
i make no reference whatsoever to this book here.
the other day i was taking the L to work in the morning, reading an issue of another chicago magazine. a guy on the train walks up in front of me, crouches a bit to get a better look at the cover—his head and torso kinda awkwardly tilted sideways—and held that position for a bit.
“it’s a lit mag,” i said.
“oh, i know!” he exclaimed. ”i tried reading that shit! but i had to throw it away! what’s with all the sad young writers?!? can’t any of ‘em write a story that isn’t so damn sad?”
“umm…this is my stop.”
but the guy sorta had a point. and it was hard not to take said point personally. the issue i happened to be reading was one focusing on chicago writers, and though i didn’t have any work in it, i was kinda one of ‘em. which is to say, i don’t really write happy stories.
* * *
in a recent interview with wired, the wildly successful futurist guy tim o’reilly said “I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away. They’re an elitist pursuit.” as you can imagine, that resulted in a bit of backlash from literary circles, such as john warner’s piece in printers row. in the comments section of that wired article, o’reilly tried to backpedal a bit from his statement, saying it was taken out of context, and that he “loves” fiction. i think the important thing to note was that he was trying to compare literary novels to classical music, saying that novels don’t need special protection “And that when we got this mindset that classical music needed special funding and protection, it became increasingly disconnected from what people really wanted to hear.”
Read more »
Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto is a short novel about two cousins spending their last summer together in the easy, coastal town where they grew up. As you might expect, it’s a coming-of-age story focusing on Maria, the narrator, and Tsugumi, her cousin who is an invalid.
Tsugumi was born “ridiculously frail, with a whole slew of physical ailments and defects” and as such, her family catered to her every whim, succumbing to her temper-tantrums and her outbursts of insults. She was, as we learn from Maria in the first sentence “a very unpleasant young woman.”
But just as she can be unpleasant, Tsugumi is mysterious and charming. No one quite knows what is going on in her head, and her youth combined with her illness creates a kind of captivating character for the seaside town. She’s morally ambiguous, if not rather mean with the tricks she plays on her cousin Maria, but she’s destined to either die or become a heroine by the end of the story.
Tsugumi speaks like a character from film noir, using words like babe, kid, broad, old hag: “Listen, kid, I’m a hell of a lot closer to death than the rest of you assholes, so I can feel these things,” she said to Maria when they were in junior high. The language, coercion, and allure add up to make her a young femme fatale. Read more »
An interview with Blake Butler, from Willow Springs 71
I know a lot of people in revision will read their work out loud to see what it sounds like, but I never do. I think I like more the way sentences connect together. I mean, I like interesting sentences, but that’s a given. I’m more interested in how a sentence can reflect an image and then the next sentence comes from that sentence and slightly alters the image. There Is No Year came from one image. The book starts with the mother and father sitting next to each other on the sofa without touching, very close, and that was where the book came from. An image. And I describe the image the way it made sense to describe it, and then started another page, writing scene after scene, and the language was important the whole time and sound was important the whole time and rhythm is what makes me type, because I’m not thinking, you know, just kind of running through what comes to me, analyzing it as I go, you know, as a reader, writing it as a writer and a reader at the same time.
Kenzaburo Oe’s novel, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids, is a haunting and suspenseful story filled with isolation in mountains where anything goes. Against the backdrop of war, which remains unseen except for the cruel hunting of AWOL soldiers, a group of reformatory boys gets shuffled from town to town.
Antes de morir quiero…
The description reminds one of the reformatory work camps for troubled boys in Idaho, but with a deeper sense of isolation because all’s fair in love and war. The towns are “beastly,” but the forest is darker, as it seems more frightening to flee by oneself into a war-torn country than to stay in a group of abused children working for villagers:
“Through our experience of escape and failure as we shifted from village to village, we had learned that we were surrounded by gigantic walls. In the farming villages, we were like splinters stuck in skin. In an instant we would be pressed in on from all sides by coagulating flesh, extruded and suffocated. These farmers, wearing the hard armor of their clannishness, refused to allow others to pass through, let alone settle in. It was we, a small group, who were just drifting on a sea which never took in people from outside, but threw them back.”
Read more »