Thursday, December 29, 2011
spent christmas break house sitting for a former professor, which is to say, i spent the holidays in book heaven. alone. was strange having so much space to myself, a whole house, backyard in which to romp, take my clothes off, scrape my shins against fat cacti, read janet frame's owls do cry, and eat peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. my sole companion: a blind, deaf dog who i repeatedly startled by touching too quickly, forgetting to first let him sniff, lick my hand. for the first three days, i seldom ventured beyond my spot on the back porch. stretched out on a knit hammock, in a fat pill of light, i read trashy biographies of elvis, scanning each page for references to the clitoris. she’s a beautiful girl. i wouldn’t lay a hand on her. but to have her sit on your face! the king supposedly said about the then fourteen year old priscilla. still, many of his “friends and handlers” asserted that she was "a virgin, at least technically" on her wedding day. president wilson, on the other hand, remained a virgin, of every sort, until twenty-eight. curled beneath a faux fur blanket, i started and finished alex forman’s delightful tall, slim, & erect, a gossip’s guide to the presidents. jefferson, apparently, could not ride a horse for months due to boils on his ass. hayes felt a crazed and tender devotion to his sister. at night, i put myself to sleep by imagining buchannan whispering to his lover in moment of total privacy, unmatched bliss, your cock is a cocoon and its going to live inside me and be recycled.
on xmas eve, as afternoon browned into evening, my daily headache (usually mild in nature) morphed into an otherworldly migraine. to experience persistent physical pain in the way of migraines, stomach cramps, insomnia, etc is to be aware, at all times, of yr body—its immense powers, limitations, ability to humiliate yr intelligence entirely. no sooner do i feel as if i have “figured it out,” could predict the onset down to most infinitesimal detail, do i find myself leveled out, face spangled with sweat, hair slicked with vomit. i must submit, let myself go with it, knowing i will emerge, as with many of life’s most lonely and degrading things, having learned nothing whatsoever.
i laid down on the faded purple couch and prepared myself for the worst. no music, light. i dreamed what i always dream of when dazed with pain: heaps of sticky, swollen nugs waiting to be ground up, smoked. i fantasize about getting so stoned that my body forgets to be a body at all. fantasize, too, about a single, exquisite fuck, a pleasure so totalizing, wholly satisfying as to permanently snuff all the other needs of my body: eating, sleeping, not sleeping, shitting, or for one, the urgent need to be touched all over, all at once, when there is no one but me around in a strange house.
woke christmas morning ache-free, that is, radiant. fried an omelet then snuggled with the dog in the hammock while watching the neighbors open gifts, take out the trash, slice up a ham. called my mother and sister who, for the past week, had sent me an endless stream of pictures of themselves in cut off shorts, drinking mai tais on a beach somewhere in north florida. it is always too expensive for me to fly home for christmas. besides, i don’t like to travel, never learned how. until i moved to california, i had never cruised beyond the deep south, had only seen the ocean twice. i am very grateful that my nephew gets to take so many trips, see all there is to see, including real life palm trees. many hours later, after several neighbors have tossed their farmed pines to the curb, a man knocked on the door, a delivery from the local liquor store. cabernet. from yr mother. i curtsied and kissed his hand bless you. decided to ditch the books, celebrate the best way i know how: wine spilt down the front of my slip, dancing across the hardwood to chris kenner c’mon let me show you where its at, c’mon the name of the place is i like it like that.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
two weeks ago i visited my family in georgia. the day after thanksgiving, sprawled out on my sister’s brown suede couch, i transcribed the most relevant portions of her college journals spanning from spring 2003 to summer 2004 when she stopped writing all together. that was also the summer she moved back home. a week before my high school graduation, i discovered in her diaries that she was fucking a man named mason, always without a condom, and often, without her explicit consent. i also learned that she was cutting herself again, contemplating suicide with some sincerity, and in a ten page hybrid essay, i read that our stepfather had abused her. the prose was pretty bad, v. derivative of dorothy allison’s bastard out of carolina, a book we both still admire. it took me several pages to “get past” the style. the narrative lacked allison’s fierce honesty, was mired in obscure poetic language. when i confronted my sister about the abuse, she said “it didn’t happen.” i told my mother. nothing of consequence occurred. i graduated, left to live and work and never sleep in a cramped canvas tent at an overnight girl scout camp. years later when my sister got pregnant and moved home yet again, i could not stomach the idea of my stepfather raising the baby, having access and control over his emotional development. it became apparent to me then that my sister was never going to force the issue, that she harbored this great hate for our stepfather, and in turn, our mother for being with him. my role within the family has always been part therapist and part tattle-tale. in spring 2009 i went behind C’s back and told my mother that C would never love her, never really forgive her, until she divorced him. my sister still does not know this, all my dazzling scheming, which went on for months. i prefer her to think that our mother came to the realization herself, that she had the courage, all on her own, to rebel against her husband of twenty years, that her love for my sister was so stupendous she was willing to sacrifice her own stability so that C could finally prosper.
whenever i go home, i reread my sister’s journals. not only because they shaped my own feminist leanings but also because i had never—and still have never—felt closer, more in love with her, than while reading those pages. when she found me transcribing them on her couch after thanksgiving, she threatened i will sue you if you use them, if you write about me at all. i explained yes, i will use them but that the likelihood that a book will ever be published, much less read, is slim to none. that’s not the point. i know—have always known—that C will hate me for “saying,” shedding light on “our family’s shame” but i don’t care. her journals only further convinced me of the saliency of my thesis: it might well be worth saying simply because it happened.
on march 25, 2003, C confided in her composition notebook: “this is so hard for me to write about. i can’t think creatively. i’m so afraid to remove the veil. that veil helped me exchange hurt and weakness for hate. hate that is better than a destroyed family and shame. i trust myself a lot in this case to know that suppression is the best thing. no matter what people say.” i was struck by the similarity of our coping strategies, even if i never felt the need to protect some nonexistent “family legacy.” however, in the weeks after my high school graduation, i too, wrote in my journal silence is holy. we were both operating under the delusion of “self-control.” later in the same 03’ entry C added: “every time i cry about what he did to me, i drift further from the freedom i so desperately want to attain.” she quotes various authors about “silence” and “power”—as i did, repeating to myself a passage duras wrote in her own (undated) diaries: “I say nothing to no one. Nothing about what goes through my life, the anger, the wild movements of my body...I am modesty, I am silence itself. I say nothing. I express nothing. About what is important, nothing. It is there, unnamed, untouched.”
once i moved to california i realized the exact extent of my delusion. the delusion, of course, was not that silence can give you power, but rather, that anyone has power to begin with—that is, power to control what other’s do to you. whatever personal power (perhaps control?) i possess stems from the realization and acceptance of fallibility: you never know what the other person in the room is thinking, will do. you just don’t. “saying” does not, in any way, effect the so-called “shame” of abuse, or say, the shame of being rejected by a once-cherished lover, or perhaps, never having had a respectful, nurturing partner in the first place. you cannot be held responsible—made a fool—if someone swindles, deceives you however terrifically. bogart, playing sam spade, taught me this. you are never the fool for trusting, loving. you only become the fool the moment you believe that it is even possible to “know” others true motives, “what they will do.” we should never fetishize truth as such. foolish is the person who replaces trust and tenderness with suspicion and fear.
on the plane to atlanta, the woman sitting next to me read cover to cover six gossip mags all promising the “inside scoop” on kim kardashian’s short-lived marriage to that douche chris humpheries. by the time the beverage cart made its first round, i too had read all six rags and found myself deeply involved in a conversation with this woman about kim as well as her own love life. she informed me that her name was “sarah” and that she had moved to hollywood in 02’ to sing or at least make american idol but now worked as a waitress. she was overweight, wore too much eyeliner, high heels on a six hour flight. of kim’s quick divorce sarah mused: did they even try counseling? i mean, vows are for forever. she snapped her fingers, opened a mag. i’ve watched the show for years. i see the divorce as a betrayal, an affront. as i soon found out, she had also been married and that her ex had cheated on her for about eight months of their two year marriage with a variety of women. i was willing to forgive, she said, ordering us both a second cabernet. we went to counseling. to no benefit apparently. he just didn’t want to be with her. did he ever? she blinked, fully expecting an answer. after the affair, she struggled to find a single thing that she dug about him. i can’t think of him in terms of love, only WHAT HE DID. which, of course, is how i feel, at times, about my stepfather. even though i believe that no one person is all bad. not even sade’s monsters. its true: the point of sade’s justine is not that all people and institutions of power are inherently evil, but rather, that there is no virtue in the suffering said institutions cause, even if you think there is, as justine does, it doesn’t change the blunt fact: suffering is just that, suffering. since sarah’s husband cheated on her throughout their marriage—and alton abused my sister throughout our childhood—one might be tempted to discount whatever small pleasures sarah or my mother received from the relationship. did their betrayal, by its very nature, negate the incredibly real love sarah and my mother felt?
in origins of totalitarianism, arendt argues that since the mid-19th century there has been a tendency to define and interpret civilizations solely by their decline, ignoring the rather obvious fact that, before societies dissolve, they usually prosper for thousands of years. in history courses today, the “all societies decline sometime, by largely the same means” is still a guiding principal. but this focus on “decline,” she asserts, is but a flaw in the historiography, interpretation. perhaps it is the same with relationships. when i fell deeply in love with M in asheville, i knew already that there was nothing that M could do—even in my wildest horrors—that would alter the way i felt about that specific time period. if, say, it turned out that he had, in fact, “betrayed” me during those blissful years, i would still cherish the way his love made me swoon, feel as if anything were suddenly possible. even if his affection proved to be a lie, a farce, i still felt it. that is enough.
rereading C’s journals, i was doubly struck by all that i had missed before, especially in regard to mason. where at once i saw their affair along the strict lines of abuse, i now saw the pleasure too—the real physical delight she experienced whenever he “let himself into the house uninvited” or fucked her “always in the missionary position.” her version of the affair contains no “satisfaction” emotion or physical—but enjoyment, yes. also, a real sense of graciousness. she was thankful, not so much for him specifically, as for the touch, collective sweat, unmatched thrill of the flirt, high tease. it is one of the things i admire most, about the body: it takes what pleasure it can. whatever else is happening in your life. the body will, without your consent, root out pleasure. again and again.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
My story "Green Mountain" is in the new (& incredibly beautiful) issue of Black Warrior Review, which also features work from Sarah Rose Etter, Brandon Davis Jennings, Kathleen Rooney, Derek Gromadzki, Leon Baham, Esvie Coemish, Shelly Taylor, Zachary Schomburg, Brandon Shimoda, Karen Volkman, dawn lonsinger, Christina Manweller, Afton Wilky, Joelle Biele, JP Gritton, Joy Wood, Lee Milena Goodman, JA Tyler, Dan George, Farid Matuk, and Allison Titus, with comics from Edgar R. McHerly and Nick St. John, and featured art by Helen Pynor.
You can read an interview with the editor Farren "dirty love" Stanley here about her tenure at BWR. She is also the author of one of my favorite blogs: anatomy of a dress.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
for those of you who have wondered over the years why you received the slim, brightly colored babyfucker as a birthday or christmas gift from me, i have a few things to tell you. and so do amy catanzano, lily hoang, mike kitchell, jon rutzmoser, j.a. tyler, and jessalyn wakefield--five writes i asked to respond, in whatever way they wanted, to babyfucker. you can read the first two paragraphs of my intro below, or read the whole thing HERE.
Babyfucker Blog Project: an Introduction
When I interviewed Urs Allemann about his book Babyfucker in the spring of 2010, my family was outraged, and understandably so. Less than a month had passed since my mother divorced her husband, my stepfather of twenty years, after discovering that he had lived a secret life for almost the entire extent of the marriage, including sexually abusing my older sister throughout her childhood. It was not that my family opposed the idea of a book like Babyfucker so much as they could not understand why I would ever willingly associate myself with the words “baby” and “fucker,” especially only eleven months after learning about my sister’s abuse. Their approach was to get over “it” as quickly as possible. However, I was not so sure that this was something I wanted to move beyond; I didn’t want “it” to lose its shock value.
Excessive books like Babyfucker elicit excessive reactions. Excess, here, can be defined as that which is more than necessary, or desirable. Not only is the act of “babyfucking” an extremely rare occurrence in the realm of sexual abuse, the setting of the book is also excessive. In fact, it is all but impossible to imagine, except, perhaps, as a bad acid trip. The book opens: “I fuck babies. Around my bed there are creels. They’re swarming with babies. They’re all here. Always have been. Always will be.” As Allemann noted in our interview, “These sentences have no place in a realistic story [and] definitively exceed every notion of reality that claims to be adequate to reality.” More specifically, the last two “create a context that corresponds perfectly to the timeless present of the sentence ‘I fuck babies.’” As I was all too aware, nothing can be as it has “always been, always will be.”
Friday, July 29, 2011
CVLT CVNT :: featuring work by Jessalyn Wakefield, Marie Fury, Farren Stanley, and yrs truly.
Hand brayered monoprint covers with a sexy blind print bonus. Hand bound.
Send $10 + $3 shipping (this equals $13 ) to firstname.lastname@example.org, email for check/cash orders.
Many thanks to editor and publisher Jessalyn Wakefield for her invaluable insight and support over the years. You can view more of her letter press work here.
Friday, July 15, 2011
m's been working at the huntington all summer, but i haven't had a chance to visit until now. aside from the amazing gardens, with badass prop root plants, there's hours worth of exhibitions to cruise through. my mother and i literally spent two full days here. its better than disneyland!
Monday, July 11, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
i've never been to a zoo before, assuming it would be depressing, but this place was anything but. the whole zoo, which feels more like an amusement park, is geared towards preservation and educating patrons about the need for preservation. the extremely personable meerkats were my favorite. and the many mating flamingos.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
the jacarandas are in full bloom, a frenzy of purple pushing up against the living room window. sun-splattered petals line the sidewalk, some still fleshy, slick to the touch while others, just husks, lack any identifiable color. there is spring in southern california, if you squint: a shock of pink in an otherwise green bush; great big blossoms, with their faces turned towards the sky, as if waiting for a princess with stained red lips and braided hair to trot down the boulevard on her silver shetland. today i will not write about tornadoes, dpi technology, or the knot of exhaustion at the top of my neck, but the unmatched pleasure of canvas sandals smacking the bleached concrete as i walk, at noon, to the korner kart for a spicy fajita burrito and beer with lime and salt. i sprawl out on the patch of grass between two parking lots and the freeway on-ramp to chat with a vagabond iraq vet about habeneros, spider solitaire, and sex. we eat our burritos slow as possible, sauce running down our wrists, grease splotches on my skirt. we split a spliff in the shade. his whole face falls slack as he leans back against the chain-link fence, kicks his legs out shit man. the sun a small triangle of heat on my back. that nothing is anything but itself is sometimes enough.
on the walk home, i stop by the overgrown lot where charlotte perkins gilman lived after divorcing her husband in 1888. in her autobiography, she refers to this period of her life as "my first years of freedom." in a rented wood-n-paper cottage, during a week of sweltering heat, she finished the first draft of the yellow wallpaper. the restorative effects of the city seem to have been the same for her as for me. “I have lived much here. I love the place—Pasadena, and mean earnestly to return, build, and live,” she wrote on her last night in town. when she was diagnosed with breast cancer many years later, she returned from the east coast to pasadena where she took a lethal dose of chloroform in 1935. her suicide note read: “human life consists of mutual service." i snap pictures of the swath of air where her house once stood, then walk on, up the street.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Renee Petropoulos / a reading
Jen Hofer / a reading + surprise
Kate Durbin / "Procession of Figues"— a mini fashion show of hats inspired by Les Figues books and modeled by the authors
w/ special emcees: Stephanie Taylor & Vanessa Place
Monday, May 23, 2011
last friday was the calarts graduation. i missed the ceremony due to a brutal, otherworldly migraine. as i laid in bed, face spangled with sweat, wondering when i would throw up next, i began to feel rather sentimental about my tenure in the calarts mfa program. as a general rule, i loathe school. my whole life teachers and professors have tended to dislike me, and, in high school/undergrad, i often feuded with other students. (the most infamous was at GSU when i blew up at this vegan girl with braids feminism is about more than body hair and words!) but calarts, so i was told, was an institute unlike the rest. this was the home of womanhouse, the naked marching band, and pee wee herman. by the end of my first semester, however, i had finished the necessary paperwork to drop out. considering how warm and fuzzy i now feel, i thought it necessary to remind myself of my mental state in fall 2009. below is an unedited entry i wrote in my paper journal after my first seven days in the mfa program:
the first week of class was harrowing. met a few students who seem to "like" me or whatever while others avoid me altogether. i blame the latter on the bizarre conservativism of a few students and a late-night conversation about pornography. apparently word got round that i don’t think its unnatural to watch someone fucking or to want to be watched. when millet was asked about her infamous orgies, she responded in other words, i am not afraid of being glimpsed unaware.
thursday night was our first "visiting artist" series. wine and beer were served by a bartender wearing a faded calarts t-shirt. most of the students drank from flasks or 18-pks tucked in the trunks of their cars. by the end of the artist’s performance—he did a piece about the trans bar the silver platter—several mfa’s were visibly sloshed. i cruised through the room, consuming no more than two vodkas, stopping to chat whenever i could bear it. endurance in the truest sense: i have little to no tolerance for the wholesome. i didn’t drive 2,835 miles to stand beneath a half-lit moon discussing body politics as if women didn’t enjoying fucking or marijuana-use from the perspective “yeah but you have to wonder why someone wants that to begin with.”
friday morning B. sent an email to the entire program: hi! i’m house sitting tonight! want to come for some fun? its OK to bring a guest but DO NOT bring anyone you do not know PERSONALLY. when T. asked if i planned to attend “the party” i asked what party? rolled into koreatown two hours late, circled B’s house six times before locating a parking spot four blocks from the front door. walked inside helloooo? the living room and kitchen were completely empty, silent save a parrot which stared out from his perch hello, hello, hello. through the window, voices. we’re on the back porch. i poured myself a whisky neat then grabbed a bud light for m. who said i thought this was a--? on the porch: chinese lanterns strewn red and blue, a rickety picnic table where sixteen people sat blank-faced and silent. whenever someone did, by chance, speak up, the only response: uh huh or totally. not even a “dude” or “man” added for duration. after carrying the conversation for twenty minutes, i began to chain smoke. was the only smoker. B. said try not to blow it inside. hid my pack in m’s pocket, counted down the minutes till midnight, a “respectable” time to leave. on my way out the door, a girl named K. rushed over, tapped me on the shoulder oh hey wait i just wanted to ask are you on probation? i heard—. m. laughed, slapped his knee are you fucking kidding me?
the next morning, i met with my adviser for over an hour. she said i was an “autodidact.” wikipedia says: self-teaching and self-directed learning are not necessarily lonely processes. some autodidacts spend a great deal of time in libraries or on social networking websites. after the meeting, i hung out with m’s friends from claremont who, despite being history majors, were chill as fuck. we smoked, walked to a belgian bar, and bashed south carolina's lindsey graham for at least thirty minutes. on the walk home, the cutest boy i know called and left a message: you, me, probation. oh honey. fuck ‘em.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
heaps of rotten seaweed sopping up the wet sand, black flies so thick as to form a second skin. multi-colored pebbles, bleached oyster shells, driftwood smashed into fragments i pick up and put into my pocket. each beach m. and i visit is unlike any beach i have seen because i have seen so few. we stop at every vista. i snap pictures of sea maggots wiggling in and out tiny rips in the body of a brown leaf; a dead fish; discarded men’s sandal with rusted buckles. up up up the one, speed peaking at forty. with each curve, we tower higher and higher above the pacific as it pushes up against colossal rocks, with or without trees, a carpet of lime green moss.
we left los angeles glazed with sun. a trickle of traffic, five lanes moving in unison until we drive down the grade: lane after lane of empty tarmac. santa barbara, the “tree city.” we park beside an oak—lay in the grass, suck on sunflower seeds, and eat tacos wrapped in purple wax paper. already the sky blackening, the “breeze” shifting to wind lifting my skirt above my knees. the sun holds out till san luis obispo. at the welcome center, a middle-aged man wearing a dodgers cap sells me a stale cup of coffee and proselytizes about obama’s unwillingness to show his birth certificate.
rain. water smeared across the windshield like vaseline. sixty miles outside big sur, a small digital sign: road closed ahead, businesses open. we drive on. as we soon learn, there are two roads leading in or out big sur: the pacific coast highway, which is closed, and a single lane mountain path, marked by an orange, handwritten sign do not drive after dark if unfamiliar. we rent the only room we can afford, a modified coat closet. no clock, radio, phone, or even nightstand. but a full size mattress, quilted comforter with aztec print. the placard above the light switch: NO LOUD TALKING. directly opposite the bed is a massive mirror. we unload our single black suitcase, all tattered with cat scratches, and fuck just once before heading to the lodge bar where we are the sole non-locals. on st. patricks day. the girl sitting next to us orders an irish car bomb, tells her friend in the imitation ugg boots: i fucked him last night, gestures towards the bartender sporting head to toe camo. don’t look! ten minutes earlier, i heard the same bartender say to a “regular” with premature balding: i slept with natalie. another round of irish car bombs for all. a four piece band with a blown out bass amp plays come back paddy reilly while a woman with a baby on her hip dances a jig, or what appears to be a jig, spinning round and round until she collapses into a deep-seated couch phew!
far too buzzed from the drive and the gin to ever sleep again, i kiss m. goodnight and stay in the bar, dancing and cheating at chinese checkers with natalie and her friend in the imitation uggs. 3 am: hotbox a jeep wrangler. eyes all threaded with blood. the girls refer to the men they’ve slept with, not by name, but profession. trail guides, boaters, bartenders, line cooks, wood cutters, or the day-shift assistant manager at the monterey pet smart. in the morning, m & i wake to a sky still snuffed of light. rain. inpentratable fog. car claws on. arrive to L’s apartment in oakland a day and seven hours late. we hug, say hi and what’s up, pack two bowls, squatting to blow the smoke out L’s bedroom window. say bye. am off to sacramento, alone.
an unexpected toll road. i hand fistfuls of pennies and dimes to the man behind the glass partition who blinks really? when i knock on J’s door, she's wearing pajama pants, hugging her boyfriend in the foyer. we eat burritos and drink modelo in orange wooden booths. walk in the rain to a brightly lit bar with tile floors and a bearded doorman who nods us inside. gin tonics, gossip about internet friends. i watch J watching herself in the mirrors that line the entire room. we talk about catherine millett. and the clitoris. flaubert’s letter to maupassant “i touch myself when i think of you,” signed “sister clitoris.” regarding a recent liaison of mine, J says well he was probably that obsessed because he couldn’t have you. biting into a lime: no matter who-you have to play it cool, pretend you don’t dig.
we pay cash for a taxi, strip off our coats, and listen to the everly brothers while cuddling mugs of vodka mixed with frozen pineapple concentrate in the living room. two tabby cats slink past, snuggle down on the edge of the couch. no toilet paper in the house so i wipe with a whole foods receipt. J fills the room with her milky yawns, shuttles off to bed. i am hardly ever wild awake in unfamiliar apartments these days, but tonight, yes.
lay on the couch, write in my journal or listen to J's roommates through the bedroom door. their laughter interrupted only by bits of conversation about a girl whose name i miss, but who, last weekend, acted ridiculous, i mean really ridiculous. at some point, one of the boys staggers out, asks you smoking pot? can i rip that? i hand him the bubbler no worries, man. he does not ask my name or my reason for being there. sun’s first flush. i wake six hours later with my head going bomp bomp bomp. J brews a pot of coffee, toasts an english muffin. cigarettes? she buys toilet paper and cigarettes from the corner store. in the kitchen i read all the cute notes she’s tacked to the fridge if any of you need more time for electricity or rent, you can pay me in installments.
after a colorless sunset, in a part of san francisco i am told is “industrial,” m. and the others plug in keyboards, amps, a whole grocery bags’ worth of black cords while, in the basement of the venue, i talk to my sister on the phone about potty training and exposed brick. bookless and bored--walk four blocks past one hour room rentals to good times liquor store with requisite black bars on the windows, boiled eggs for thirty-five cents, a five-tier plate of sticky buns, and everything i need for diy white russians. no, i can’t concentrate on the band or L’s film tonight all these unfamiliar bodies swimming in and out shafts of light from the floor to ceiling windows. i study the girl in the too tight jeggings, her carrie bradshaw hair piled high atop her head. whenever she sits, she unbuttons her pants, turning her head side to side to see if anyone noticed. a group of out-of-place punks pick at their nail beds, finger a belt loop, occasionally kiss, or bob their heads to the beat. the twenty-something boy in turquoise corduroys, passionately texting, his face rimmed in blue. slip outside to smoke, wind slapping my face bright red, mascara clotted. it is impossible to light the cigarette so i just stand there five, seven minutes, staring into the sleet.
Monday, March 21, 2011
“In 1981 Yale French Studies finally published a feminist issue, number 62, Feminist Readings: French Text/American Contexts. The volume is an interesting collection of work which successfully combines engaged feminist analysis with sophisticated literary and psychoanalytic theory. But the beginning, the first sentence, disturbs me. YFS 62 (as I will henceforth refer to it) opens thus: “This is a very unusual issue of Yale French Studies, in that its guest editor is a seven-headed monster from Dartmouth."
A striking, somewhat troubling image. Of course the notion of a monster from Dartmouth is quite funny. As swiftly as it appears, the monster is domesticated...The seven-headed monster literally refers to the seven Dartmouth faculty women who edit YFS 62. The monster is a figure for the seven individuals working together as one body. The next two pages give a glowingly positive description of this collaboration, of collectivity as method. Since the image appears in the introduction, signed by the editors, it constitutes a self-portrait—an ironic one. The editors are saying: Look, we are horrifying, we are monstrous, we are inhumanly ugly. This turns out to be an ironic way of saying: Look, we are “very unusual,” we are beautiful, we are extraordinary.
...there are many possible ways of being monstrous, but the same type of abnormality that figures in the editor’s introduction also figures [throughout]—the monstrosity of a being whose boundaries are inadequately differentiated, thus calling into question the fundamental opposition of self and other. Such a being is terrifying because of the stake any self as self has in its own autonomy in its individuation, in its integrity.”
--Jane Gallop, The Monster in the Mirror: The Feminist Critic’s Psychoanalysis
Friday, March 11, 2011
m. & i went to disneyland for ten hours two weeks ago. roller coaster hair, twilight zone tower of terror, greasy popcorn, and throngs of little girls dressed in megawatt princess gear. i read somewhere that disneyland was specifically constructed so that the visitor feels like a participant rather than a dominated viewer. for instance, the buildings on main street are three-quarter scale. i also read that when leni riefenstahl visited america, walt was one of the only people within the film community who would receive her.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
“We tend to think of American democracy as being somehow eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults...The Founders thought, in contrast, that it was tyranny that was eternal, ever-renewable, and capable of withstanding all assaults, whereas democracy was difficult, personally exacting, and vanishingly fragile. The Founders did not see Americans as being special in any way.”
--Naomi Wolf, The End of America: A Citizen's Call to Action
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
what is this strange privilege? four days free from work, school, car pooling. i get drunk off gin gimlets, smoke too many cigarettes shivering on the sidewalk watching the same two teenage girls wait for the bus, eat flamin hot cheetos, clean out their hairbrushes, clots of blonde hair floating in the gutter water. read all morning about anais nin and gershon legman’s three week fuck during which he also edited and sold her erotica to “the collector” in oklahoma. in private legman describes anais as very oral, but “one of those women...who sometimes have a marvelous experience when you’re making love to them...but the experience is not with you.” read also about the 1975 deep throat obscenity trials, the prosecutor insouciant, turning to face the jury: "a woman seeing this film may think it is perfectly healthy, perfectly normal, if you have a clitoral orgasm. that that is all a woman needs. she is wrong. she is wrong. and this film will strengthen her in her ignorance.” apparently bill mahr discovered the clitoris while watching deep throat. for doris lessing, it was balzac: "i learned of the clitoris from Balzac - not of its existence or its uses, but that it was part of the lexicon of love, with a status." in the evenings, i am mostly addicted to watching old political documentaries, or stoned on a rooftop lit by a single wind-chapped tiki torch with C who is in town (from atlanta) for two nights only. C. who is at all times concerned with not being concerned about anything. we talk little, sometimes kiss, eat delivery pizza. although i have not seen her in five years, if ever the conversation should venture beyond so nice to see you or that’s intense, she ends it abruptly. her willful, almost forced chill. no matter that i have so many things to ask her! back to back blunts. when, in a way, just sitting next to her is enough.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Feminaissance Blog Project
I asked five writers to respond to Les Figues title Feminaissance without placing any limitations on the content, length, or form. Throughout the week, read responses from Allison Carter, Evelyn Hampton, Claire Donato, Amy King, and Tisa Bryant. My introduction has some fun clit facts.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
excerpts from Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth
August 28, 1996
Moving my bowels at home I feel a great recognition arising: good old me. Today I had to shit at Wendy’s. As I let it go, I felt zero recognition—the good old me was nowhere to be found. To my surprise, I felt somewhat relieved, even joyful, to sense anew the careful absence of where I’ve come from. To be alive is to shit into a strange place.
September 12, 1996
I seek respite from tolerance, in every sense. Stop giving me what I want! Say to me, “This has gone far enough!” Put me under arrest, take me to the other side of the register! Take me back into the manager’s tiny office and explain to me the gross error of my design! Mange me! To manage—what is that? To not let be.
September 18, 1996
I don’t think Wendy’s coffee has such a good taste. This is not to say I don’t like it. I like it very much. Its poor taste keeps my intentions clear; I drink coffee for the enthusiasm-prod, not for the taste. The taste, then, when it is too pleasant, can distract one from what matters most — the deep writhing jolt. Of course, some taste is necessary so that the jolt seems, at bottom, inadvertent.
September 20, 1996
Today I had a Biggie. Usually I just have a small, and refill. Why pay more? But today I needed a Biggie inside me. Some days, I guess, are like that. Only a Biggie will do. You wake up and you know: today I will get a Biggie and I will put it inside me and I will feel better. One time I saw a guy with three Biggies at once. One wonders not about him but about what it is that holds us back.
September 23, 1996
Gangbang weather for the first time in weeks. Makes me want to behave. Just go out and behave in the stinky sunlight. In my biography, they’ll say that I never behaved at all, and that the sunlight was no stinkier than usual. But that is the business of biography; biography is the dream of misbehavior that is able not only to endure the stinky sunlight, but to forget it. Its incalculable insistence.
September 24, 1996
I love to watch a dick slamming in and out of a cunt or an asshole. The only way t.v. could enhance Wendy’s is if it was confined to showing nonstop hardcore pornography without sound. No ridiculous assertion of plot or personality. Just the real pleasure of lacking language. Just a reassuring view of the signifier itself as it finds its way to its ancient hiding place in broad daylight.
September 25, 1996
A woman with twins today, aged five or six. Almost perfect replicas. They sit eating, starring off now and then into the mid-air realm. The not-eating realm. They stare out knowing that their mother is there. They stare out from the good of eating. I want to ask them: is that good already not good enough? And do you understand already that there is something more original than a mother?
Friday, January 7, 2011
rejecting the very idea of penetration as the sole definition of “real sex,” shere hite’s The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976) sought to understand how individuals regard sexual experience and the meaning it holds for them, using the clitoris as her critical lens. “its not specifically just orgasms we are talking about here,” she wrote, “we are talking about a complete redefinition, or un-definition, of what sex is.”
collected from long essay-style questionnaires, the hite report uses the personal stories of women themselves as the main text. its very success lies in this glut of personal accounts.to know that women are sexually frustrated is one thing, but to read page after page of “long foreplay makes me uncomfortable because i worry that i ’m putting my man through too much work, when i know that he could come so much sooner if he let himself" is quite another. in response to the question, how have most men had sex with you?:
“Most of them start kissing, petting, really getting off on the breasts—then the fingers in the vagina a bit, love talk, when we’re ready, cunnilingus and fellatio simultaneously, then I get on top, then he does. This is fairly standard with a lot of guys.”
“I hate the usual pattern—kiss—feel—eat—fuck, simply because it’s usual. I like people to talk to me and moan a lot. I like when people are expressive and creative with me.”
“Foreplay with constant pressure to have intercourse.”
all but 5% of heterosexual couples, hite discovered, followed the “reproductive” model: foreplay (touching, kissing, oral), followed by penetration, and intercourse (thrusting) followed by orgasm (especially male orgasm), usually defined as the “end” of sex. “this is a sexist definition of sex, oriented around male orgasm, and the needs of reproduction,” hite wrote. “this definition is cultural, not biological.”
hite also found that 70% of women did not orgasm from intercourse alone. although she stressed that orgasm was not the sole, or even necessarily, the main pleasure of sex, she asked her readers “why do women so habitually satisfy men’s needs during sex and ignore their own?”
for the majority of women clitoral stimulation is used for arousal purposes but not orgasm. a point hite returns to again and again: through the reproductive model of sex, male orgasm is given a standardized time and place that is prearranged and preagreed during which both people know what to expect and how to make it possible. this places women in the position of having to ask for “extra” stimulation, something “special."
while the 1960’s may well have been, as sex researcher bill masters quipped, “the decade of orgasmic preoccupation,” hite showed that this did not, and still does not, necessarily carry over into women’s actual sexual experiences. that is—an awareness of the mechanics, ease, and potency of female orgasm did not appear to have much effect on the way 70% of women fucked.
“if women couldn’t ask for clitoral stimulation to orgasm, or do it themselves, they were unlikely to get it from the man they were with," wrote hite. “is the answer to the oppression and neglect of female sexuality and especially orgasm that men should lean to give (better) clitoral stimulation? yes and no. of course men should learn these things, but even more important, we [women] should find the freedom to take control over whether or not we get this stimulation.”
Monday, January 3, 2011
“This is not the tired moralist claim that only a native can know the scene. The point I am trying to make is that in order to learn enough about Third World women and to develop a different readership, the immense heterogeneity of the field must be appreciated and the First World feminist must learn to stop feeling privileged as a woman.”
--Gayatri Spivak, French Feminism in an International Frame
Sunday, January 2, 2011
A PERCEIVED SENSE OF CONTROL IS DANGEROUS:
in the maltese falcon (1941), humphrey bogart plays sam spade, a private detective whose sense of knowingness is forever suspect. what unfolds is a brilliant, complex tale: three men and one woman on a ruthless search for a jeweled falcon, all seemingly unaware of the other’s connections to spade, all equally dangerous.
the film opens when a new client, ms. brigid o’shaughnessy (mary astor), tells her story to spade. Iit does not involve the falcon, but rather, her sister’s dangerous fiancé, thursby, who must be tracked. for spade’s services, she offers a large sum of cash. bogart nods, rolls a cigarette. ms. o’shaughnessy figures him her idiot—he believed! not until their next meeting does it become clear that not only did he not believe her, he understood the exact extent of her fibbing: “you paid us more than if you had been telling the truth and more than enough to make it alright.” when Spade mentions that his partner, archer, was killed while tailing thursby, she says something to the effect “how sad.” without pause bogart replies, “stop it. he knew what he was getting into. those are the chances we take.” spade already knows that a perceived sense of control is perhaps most dangerous of all.
although the film was made twice prior, neither version achieved critical or box office success. the 1941 john huston production excelled for two main reasons: the script’s adherence to dashiell hammett’s original text and humphrey bogart. bogart was not warner’s first pick; studio politics had already selected george raft. when raft refused, huston hired bogart. after viewing early footage, warner head hal wallis urged huston to re-shoot. the problem: bogart was playing spade with a “leisurely, suave form of delivery.” wallis’ advice: let bogart be bogart.
a similar situation had occurred during the casting of Bogart’s breakout role in The Petrified Forest (1936) as unhinged outlaw Duke Manatee. Primarily a character actor, Bogart often played the violent sidekick of stars like Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, and James Cagney. “The audience was trained to dislike him,” writes David Thompson, “...a guy you could not trust to trust.” Leslie Howard, the star of The Petrified Forrest, wanted Bogart specifically for the role of the volatile Manatee: “No Bogart, No deal?”
in 1941 bogart hardly resembled hammet’s description of spade: blonde hair, over six feet tall, widow’s peak, shifty as the devil incarnate. Instead, he was in his early forties, balding, face puffy with drink. unlike the uber-manly james bond of the future with his impeccable, phlegmatic cool, when bogart gets hurt, he really gets hurt. and, more importantly, he is aware that there is not always a way not to get hurt. in the maltese falcon, bogart, or the he pioneered, realizes that to be smart requires a degree of fallibility: you never know what the other person in the room is thinking, will do; to be triumphant often requires degradation.
my favorite moment: when spade says to joel cairo—a gun-toting, immaculately coifed, gunsel for the villainous Fat Man—“i’ll slap you and you’ll like it.” bogart smacks cairo (peter lorre) almost playfully then takes his gun, shuts him up. gun fights aside, the pair agrees that spade will find the falcon, no questions asked, for a steep fee. however, this will not be their last confrontation. in fact, it is through bogart’s dealings with the fat man, and his hired help, that the viewer understands the extent to which bogart outsmarts nearly everyone he encounters.
directly after his visit with cairo, bogart meets the fat man’s second, still green, lackey wilmer (elisha cook jr.) on his way to ms. o’shaughnessy’s apartment. assigned by the fat man to follow spade, it takes spade only a minute or two to lose him. after hoping inside a taxi, bogart instructs the driver to stop at a random apartment. once inside the building, bogart presses every number on the call box then waltzes out the back door only to watch from the street a befuddled wilmer toiling over the call box. spade equally outwits the master himself, the fat man (sydney greenstreet). during the pair’s first meeting, the fat man pours spade a drink, asks, “are you a closed-mouthed man?” “no, I like to talk,” says spade. the fat man raises his glass: “i distrust a closed mouth man...here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.” despite his colloquialisms, the Fat Man rarely speaks clearly or directly, and the pleasantries dissolve when a raging bogart stands to his feet, smashes his glass, and delivers the Fat Man an ultimatum: if you are interested in my services, get me the money and details by 5:00 pm the following evening. here, as elsewhere, bogart’s upperhand relies on a plausible bluff: if the fat man believes spade knows the falcon’s whereabouts, he will not kill him or intimidate him too brutally. his sense of control, his “smartness” is only an appearance, an educated guess, a gamble. as soon as he shuts the door to the fat man’s apartment, he grins as he walks insouciant down the hall. the viewer is led to believe that his rage was merely an act, that spade played the fat man, and played him hard, which was his plan all along. But this is wrong. waiting for the elevator, bogart looks down at his hand, which is shaking violently, and when he smiles at his own hand, it is not a gesture of smug self-approval, but rather, a kind of stupefied disbelief that he actually pulled it off, nerves and all.
the maltese falcon is one of hollywood’s greatest films, not only because of the fantastic dialogue, lifted more or less directly from hammett’s original text, or its pared down, harshly lit, direct cinematography, but for the questions it raises: are knowledge and power the same thing? and if not, what is the nature of their relationship?
towards the end of the film, the fat man invites spade to his office and mixes him a drink. spade is aware that the drink is probably spiked. unwilling to blow his cover, the entire case, to avoid a single moment of degradation, bogart swallows the drink, falls to the floor. wilmer, still roiling from spade’s merciless taunts and evasions, kicks him not once but twice in the face. bogart knew this would happen. but to be sprawled on the floor, kicked in the face, to be drugged does not make him weak or stupid or any less triumphant: it happens to him—is out of his control, a natural occurrence if one is to venture into the wild. while it is logical to assume that the fat man will not kill or otherwise physically maim him while drugged, it is only an assumption, an educated guess, gamble taken under the false assurance of “facts” and “logic.”
if the fat man had murdered him, it would not have made spade any less suave or shrewd. knowledge is invaluable insofar as it can help lessen, if not always prevent, the brunt of the wild instant. spade’s greatest strength is his awareness, and acceptance of, personal fallibility. you can never know what someone will do to you. you never possess full control. bogart takes the kick in the face, but he does not forget it.