Monday, November 23, 2009


With varying degrees of success, I've been making myself go out lately. At best, I see a sweet, moving play, like the one my friend Lucas is in, I cry a little, and I am actually inspired to start writing (!) when I get home. Or I go with a crowd I don't know to a mind-blowing show by and starring Anna Deavere Smith, which turns out to be about DEATH and CANCER and PEOPLE DYING FROM CANCER, and sob. And then, exiting the theater while still shaken and teary, deal with the following:

GIRL 1: I didn't cry once! Did you?
GIRL 2: No! I almost did, during the orphanage one.
GIRL 3: Yeah, that was really sad. ... But I didn't cry either.
GIRL 2: Huh. [turning to me] Well, it was nice to meet you! Bye!

It's not their faults, of course. They didn't know what was going on with me. But I still felt like an idiot.

Friday night, I went to a birthday party with a bunch of people I know and love, and it was still hard. Trying to be boisterous and upbeat, I ended up overcompensating and saying at least one truly ridiculous, hurtful thing. Luckily everyone else was drinking and I counted, by the end of night, enough ridiculous things to knock my most offensive comment out of the evening's Top Three.

At the party, one of my friends mentioned my blog, my dear, old neglected blog, where, she said, I "write about my feelings." The pained look on my face must have given me away, and she hurried to assure me that she didn't mean it in a bad way. But Jebus Crispy! My feelings? Is that what I have come to? Is that what I've been wasting my time with for eight years?

It took me a moment to regain my equilibrium. Once I did, I realized I was battling my own -- wait for it -- internalized misogyny. That's right! Why do we look down on feelings, and, especially, harping on, writing about, discussing them? Because they are as feminine as cats and babies. As girly as pretty, pretty princesses and snowflakes and romance and pom poms, and just as pointless, because feelings don't make money or amass power, and that's what the patriarchy values.

I rebel against my own internalized misogyny! Or, I am trying to!

Sing it with me: Who cares if a well-done theater production made me cry, or if I keep a personal blog? There is nothing wrong with feelings. There is nothing wrong with memoir, with rom coms, with Titanic or Twi--

I'm sorry, did you cough? What did I say? Oh yes. Twilight. I suppose you heard that it obliterated records this past weekend, propelled to success by a starkly young, female audience. To be clear, I'm no fan of the series. I haven't read the books, and you may recall that I could not have rolled my eyes harder at the first film. (As a viewer I felt like echoing Jeneane Garofolo in Reality Bites after she has suffered through the thousandth Winona Ryder-Ethan Hawke bantering session: "Just do it and get it over with already!")

But who cares? Anything that makes Hollywood pay attention to women and value female viewership is a net positive. New Moon is probably as melodramatic and sappy as its predecessor was, but most movies these days are loud and dumb. There's no reason to be especially disdainful of a phenomenon just because it's oriented towards girls instead of boys. Let us have a share of the stupidity!

Personally, I'd take Jack Dawson over Edward Cullen any day. Good, old-fashioned costume melodrama is more my style than sparkling vampires, and at least Jack and Rose got to get it on before he died helping to save her. But, as the true snobs say, chacun a son gout.

ETA: Pajiba agrees with me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Status Update (or, What the WHAT?)

Around here, it's all "Death, death, death, death, death, death, death -- lunch -- death, death, death -- afternoon tea -- death, death, death -- quick shower ...."

The latest, and I am not making this up, is that my uncle has cancer. And it's bad. When is cancer not bad? Sometimes! When it strikes other families, or Lance Armstrong, apparently. When it strikes my family, it is like, Pow! Kablammo! And other noises as well.

It is esophageal cancer, and it has spread.

As one sympathetic co-worker put it when I told them the latest news, "When it rains, it pours." That was better than the *other* co-worker who said, "Bad stuff always comes in threes, doesn't it?" Because JEBUS CRISP, you mean I need to expect more?

I am totally going to write a story about a character named Jebus Crisp, just as soon as I get my groove back.

With that goal in mind, on Thursday, I got a dramatic haircut, and on Friday, I dragged my friends out to a burlesque show emceed by Murray Hill. He even Twittered the show! Sort of. Not the part where he called my friends and me polyamorous lesbians -- in his neologism, "Pollies" -- and assumed that we passed Mr. Ben around for sport. Or, for that matter, the part where one of the dancers cavorted in Mr. Ben's lap while I spontaneously combusted under the table.

So, as you can tell, considering everything, I am functioning. Occasionally, I waste time hating myself, or I cry on the treadmill because I find Terms of Endearment on TV and I can't change the channel; and I haven't yet managed to write anything since my dad died (see, "getting my groove back," above). Still: burlesque; haircut; socializing ... I'd give myself a B+.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

More Than My Father

The Washington Post put up a delayed but touching tribute to my dad today, including an obit and a "post mortem," which is a kind of blog entry. Both appear in full at the official website/scrapbook,, but this snippet really got to me, so I wanted to re-post it here:
No one seems to remember this incident now, but it was a big deal at the time -- especially Mr. Bloom's grand farewell gesture. It's one of the pleasures of obituary writing to discover someone like Paul Bloom and to unearth such fascinating, if forgotten, episodes of history.
Thank you, Mr. Schudel.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On Writing

Jezebel takes on the prickly subject of women & memoirs in their post about Mary Karr, who says of her latest book: "I didn't [write] it to help anybody. I did it for the money. I did it because I'm greedy and I like living in New York."

Jezebel wavers before deciding to applaud Karr's "narcissism" and "burst of arrogance," but like some of the commenters, I wouldn't leap to either of those judgements. First of all, it seems to me like Karr is laughing at herself, as she is -- I hope? -- when she attributes her success to the fact that God loves her. But secondly, if the market values her stories, as it has her previous two books, why *not* sell them? Why is it considered low-class to be straightforward about the fact that writing can be not merely a craft but a trade?

I wish I could make money writing. I am doing my damnedest. Or, well, I haven't been for the last few months: what with absorbing the blow of my book not getting picked up, and then the much more destabilizing blow of my father's illness & death, I haven't had any creative energy at all.

My body is getting up every day and going to work. It is managing to eat and see people and even go to the gym. But my mind, to some degree, has stalled. It can't comprehend a world in which I can't call my father, or walk into his room to see him rereading Pickwick Papers yet again, or hear him groan, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth ...."

At least I can still hear his voice. Last week, while cooking, I put on a movie in the background which I immediately heard him condemn as "Dreck!" It is very small solace but occasionally that will do.

Overall, though, my emotional immune system is out of whack, so stupid shit affects me much more than it should. Like the most recent Swarthmore Alumni Bulletin, which last time I managed to greet with the eye-rolling it deserved, and which this time led to a melodramatic crisis of confidence. My mother had to remind me that failure can build character, that there is something to be learned from the fact that you can fall and get up again.

A friend of mine recently voiced her fear that if she lost her current amazing job, she wouldn't be able to look people in the face. Well, I've done it, and then I've done it again. As Mary Karr says, quoting Beckett, aspire to "Fail better."

She also has excellent advice for young writers in general:
[O]ften what we’re most talented at we resist, because we think it’s silly, or small, or not good enough. I teach with George Saunders, a brilliant fiction writer, and he’s so funny. He went to Syracuse when Ray Carver and Toby Wolff were there, and he kept trying to write these gritty, minimalist, realistic stories, and then he’d have some bizarre thing in the middle of it, and Ray and Toby would kill themselves, and tell him, “Just do more of this! Just do this all the time!” And he’d be like, “I want to be a man!”
I will try to keep this in mind. I will also try to blog more, if only because it is a start.