Thursday, February 17, 2011

Title Change, and the Post-Valentine-Apocalypse Recap

In honor of my newest re-realization, I've changed the title of my blog.
I was going to tattoo this phrase on my wrist but I decided I would try it out here first.

As a sufferer of demand resistance, the idea "I don't have to" is the most freeing concept I've found.  Statements like "just be yourself" and "enjoy the moment" or any of those happiness concepts that are phrased positively just feel like commands to me, and that makes me feel trapped, and feeling trapped makes me howl in misery and have mini freak-outs.  "I don't have to," however, makes me remember that I'm doing what I'm doing because I want to, and makes me feel like I still have a choice.

How this came about: last week was the week before Valentine's Day. My relationship right now is just one of those complicated whatsits that make people hate Valentine's Day.  So I was confused.
 Normally I love Valentine's Day.  Normally I get all my friends presents and make it all about how much I love everybody in my life.  But I was not in a giving mood.  And I was all, wtf do I do about Valentine's Day?  Do I explain to this person that it's important to me? Or just let it go?  Can I let it go and then not be mad about it? Maybe I should just get him a present.  But no! Why would I get him a present, when secretly I want him to just say Happy Valentine's Day and, like, send me a heart emoticon? And yada yada idiocy.

So I walked into work on Friday and poured myself a cup of tea with all this on my mind and my co-worker, the Godsend MB who is like my own personal life coach and God I hope I'm like her when I'm forty, walks in and goes, "How are y--? Whoa.  What's wrong?"
"Monday is Valentine's Day," I snarled, and viciously stirred my tea.
MB sighed.  "That's why I hate Valentine's Day.  Because of people in your situation."
So I went on to tell her all about the stuff I already told you in the last blog stanza, and then she goes, "Well, you know, you don't have to celebrate it.  February 14th doesn't have to be a convenient day for you to express these things."
And it was like f*cking angels were singing at me.  Right!  I didn't have to.  It was not convenient for me.

And I tra-la-laed through the rest of the weekend and right on through Valentine's Day, and the word Valentine never even came out of my mouth, and I legit did not have any expectations, and it was just February the 14th which happened to be a day when it wasn't convenient for me to have an overpriced dinner or exchange delightful pre-packaged sentiments with my loved one, because he is in another state and lately we are both making each other snarl due to the fact that the telephone is a poor excuse for human interaction.

Because there are other, more convenient days, such as December 17 of last year, which was quite a nice one for us, and also February 26th will probably be more fun, and I don't have to have my romances when other people, and especially stupid corporations, suggest that I do.  Because guess what?  We did not celebrate Valentine's Day, and we are fine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the Gender Disparity in Literature

The latest publishing indignation is that someone has discovered that it's 2011 and there are still more men getting published than women.

1) Duh.
2) The particular article I linked to is claiming that while women read books written by both men and women, most men only read books written by men.  And the initial response is that this is due to sexism on the part of the men.
     However, it's equally likely that it's due to sexism on the part of women--outside of the world of literature.  Our culture has not made this a place where men can be interested in women's issues without forfeiting their own sexual identity and gender roles.  We also live in a culture where fiction is split into "literary fiction" and "women's fiction."  Nobody likes men who read p*ssy literature.  Not even women.
      This is absolutely no justification for the disparity here.  It bothers the sh*t out of me, and as a writer I've seriously considered going by an androgynous pseudonym just so I won't lose my male audience.  I like men and want their approval.  I want them to read my work.  And apparently, the fact that the spermatozoa that fertilized my mother's ovule happened to have an X chromosome in it means my work is less likely to get published.  The whole thing blows.
      However.  Maybe we all should try not dismissing a man as less than a man if he happens to be holding a book whose cover is pink.  Or maybe we shouldn't give only women's books pink covers. When was the last time somebody put out a new edition of a Hemingway book with a neon pink cover?  Can we please do that?  Instead of insisting that women's issues get acknowledged, maybe we should think about the fact that women's issues are human issues, and so are men's.  Let's talk about the way we have managed to begin to redefine women's roles in our culture, and then talk about the way that as a culture we haven't addressed the male role and whether it's healthy or allows men to be complete and actualized human beings.  If we want men to be interested in women's issues, maybe we should be interested in their issues, and the gender stereotypes we inflict on them.
3) Everyone, including women, should really read bell hooks' book, The Will To Change, in which she  (a postmodern feminist who for reasons I don't understand won't capitalize her name) talks about the harm our culture does to men.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Get Your Glands Out of My Face

    I want to take a moment to complain about the state of adult literature.
    Specifically, this book, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, which I am reading, and which I am not yet done with, and probably won't ever be, because I don't want to finish it. (UPDATE: I did finish it, and I'm still right.)
   Now, this book is very, very well written.  It's a really good book.  The plot is good. I really want to know what happens.  In fact, it's so well-written that it's making me depressed and anxious, because the main character is depressed and anxious.

   Which is great.  I love talent.

    But f*ck, Mr. Grossman.

    I don't want to read your books about apathy.  Apathy and sex and drugs don't make a person an adult.  Perhaps apathy and meaninglessness are adult issues, but for f*ck's sake, your character should grapple with these things.  There should be striving to overcome.  I don't mind if there is failure.  But a portrait of a character who is never happy, and jumps from one thing to the next hoping that it will fulfill him, and is never fulfilled by any of it, does not a story make.  Maybe it did, the first hundred times I read this story in undergraduate workshops.  But I am so tired of adult literature characters who do nothing and say nothing and want nothing and strive for nothing, and I am tired of stories about the failure of a man who failed because he never tried for anything at all.

    I guess I need to make it clear what I mean by trying.  I don't mean "doing stuff."  Quentin, the main character in The Magicians, went to magic school.  He learned things.  He met a girl and had sex with her.  He moved out and did drugs.  He cheated on his girlfriend.  He found a magical pathway into the fictional world of his favorite books.  But he didn't ever reach beyond himself.  He didn't ever try to grow, or become more than the things that he did.  He never declared himself on one side or another of the deep abyss.  He never strove for greatness.  I am on page 387 and I still have no idea what this character wants, beyond a magic f*cking fairy to come render him magically happy. He certainly hasn't desired any of the Faulkner six: love, honor, pity, pride, compassion, sacrifice.  Faulkner said that these were the only verities worth writing about, and that if one does not write about them then one writes only of the glands, and not of the heart.

    I am tired of reading books about the glands.

    And while I'm ranting, can we talk Hemingway and Fitzgerald for a bit?  Also, Salinger?  It took me years to understand these books.  For a long time I did not; for a long time I did not allow myself to understand how important the Faulkner six were, either in my writing or in my life.  But The Great Gatsby is about Fitzgerald's recognition of the loss of these values--he saw that money and wealth brought only a desire to be entertained, to be sated.  To be drunk.  The narrator of Gatsby loathed Gatsby, but Gatsby had been the only one of that whole wealthy set who believed in something greater, and Fitzgerald was lamenting Gatbsy's failure to achieve it.  Gatsby's fatal flaw was the desire to earn approval of people who didn't enjoy living.
    Hemingway--he wrote about these truths, only he preferred to write about them without ever naming them.  He used language as a frame for a picture of the heart of his characters, and let the truths fill themselves in.  Which, yes, gets confusing.  He wrote an entire story about abortion without saying the words "abortion" or "baby" or "pregnant," and he wrote about courage the same way.
    And Salinger--I have one phrase for you.  Unreliable narrator.  Holden Caulfield is guilty of everything he accuses others of.  He is a phony, and a coward, and the story is about the way a man will put out his own eyes to avoid going to war.

    These stories are about the failure of the heart to rally over the demands of the universe, but they are also about the attempt. And somehow, in this world where it has become funny to laugh at compassion and pity and honor, the narrators of our stories--and also a lot of the real people I know--are more afraid of being laughed at than of failing at living.  And I am f*cking tired of it.

    So, writers (and painters and musicians and everybody, really) I would like to request this:  do your best to write about the heart, and not the glands.  Take that which could hurt you the most, and put it on the page.  Stop trying to be clever, and philosophical, and deep, and rich, and for f*ck's sake write about something that matters.  I will try to do the same.  But give me stories I want to read, and give yourselves a life worth living.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Note to Self

I spent the whole weekend hiking and hanging out with girlfriends.

I know I harp on about this, but it's really because somehow I always manage to forget it: when my brain does its little maya-based obsessiveness, I must. take care. of my body.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it all hits me like a ton of bricks: all of the parts of my life that make me uncomfortable rear their ugly heads as future possibilities, and my brain entertains itself trying to figure out how it's going to handle it all: whatif my job stays stagnant; whatif I don't get into grad school; whatif this person does/says/decides this; whatif my mother acts this way.  These things are not real, but they feel necessary and important.

So I have to go outside and move my ass.
I walked around a lake today, and it was one of those dyed-green lakes that we have here in Arizona, but it was still pretty.  My friend and I hurled rocks at the side of the canal.  We sat on the sidewalk around the lake and watched the mallards dive for algae and insects, and every single one of those ducks was different and individual and irreplaceable, and each one of them made beautiful patterns in the water as they swum along, and I forgot about all the stupid shit I made up that doesn't matter and hasn't happened yet and probably won't happen ever.

And then we went for a four-mile walk and climbed A Mountain, and watched the planes come in overhead, and looked out at Phoenix, and my endorphins kicked in and I talked to my friend and everything is okay.

When my mind is hurting me, I need to remember to kick it out of the driver's seat and put my body in charge instead.  My body lives in the real universe of stuff that is actually happening, and not in the made-up crap universe of stuff that could possibly happen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where Are My Supersoaker Friends?

It's bad when an XKCD character reminds me of me, right?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Paragraph... Plus Paragraph #2

       Jesus Arturo Alvarez was born on the thirteenth of September in the year of the Lord, after Whom he was named, nineteen hundred and ninety-six.  It was a Friday, and also market day in the village of Guadalupe, Arizona, which lay just east of Ahwahtukee and southeast of Phoenix proper.  During her most severe labor pains his mother screamed at the nurses for a drink and his father pinched her hard on that soft skin just above the elbow and told her to shut up.  She didn't feel the pinch but she told him to go to hell anyway and then bit him on his left hand between the thumb and forefinger.   Forever after Jesus' father had a crescent-shaped, dotted-line scar that he would rub absentmindedly with his right thumb during conversation.

On the same day, in a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, which lay just north of Tempe and northeast of Phoenix proper, Vicente Juan Nunez was delivered by a male nurse named Sonny.  His mother had an epidural and his three aunts and father stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a line down the right side of the hospital bed and took turns telling her to breathe and push.  She spent fourteen hours in labor and when, inevitably, she released her bowels, her husband turned to the window and tried not to vomit.  It wasn't until Juan grew a full head of hair that his father could look at him without experiencing a small wave of nausea.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This Writing Thing Ain't All Bad

Ok, now that the voting is officially over and I can pretty well say I lost the popular vote, I am pleased to announce that the first paragraph of the novel I'm working on made finalist in a contest on Nathan Bransford's blog. I'd love to hear comments/criticism from you guys on here!

And, because it's my blog and I can, I'll post the SECOND paragraph tomorrow.