Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Blogger has betrayed me one too many times! I'm leaving in a huff. Let's hope the new home is better....



an observation

The one -- the only -- good thing about having short hair is how long I can go without brushing it. I have not, at this moment, brushed or combed my hair since Friday with few discernible side-effects.


Also, my toenail polish matches the pajamas I am wearing right now -- both green. Delightful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the curse of pretty prose

My prose is very pretty. I know this because my teachers tell me all of the time: I have yet to get a paper back from either my 19th C British Novel or my Popular Fiction class that does not have exclamation marks and notes in the margins praising my sentences, my clever turns of phrase, my very literary summarizations. "Your prose is a delight to read," wrote my British Lit professor. "It is lovely, and flows beautifully." My favourite teacher just drew hearts in the margins of my last paper, like I do when I come across something especially beautiful. Even English Renaissance Man, AKA my current crush-object and the recipient of my unending praise and adoration, broke from his usual focus on argument to praise a particularly nice sentence, and left a note at the end of the paper that said, "You write very, very well."

Unfortunately, I am convinced that my pretty prose garners me higher grades than I deserve. I have the magical ability to take a very basic, shallow reading and dress it up in pages of lovely writing that obscures the fact that I haven't really done any critical analysis. My papers are heavy on description and very light on ideas -- they are fluffy, and if they were stiltedly written they would be C or B work. Every time I work with a new professor I secretly hope that he or she will see through all of this and tear my work to pieces as it deserves, but they never do. Is it just because all of the other work is less well-written, so that by the time they get to mine they are so thrilled to see something flowy and pretty that they forget to critique?

Perhaps I am giving myself and them too little credit. It's a possibility. But I don't think so, and this pretty much means that I will be completely unprepared for grad school if I get there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

academic losers

After working feverishly for three days, not sleeping or eating; after talking for hours about phrenology and criminology and epistemological ruptures and the history of photography and the nature of realism while chainsmoking in a stairwell; after putting together a massive bibliography -- most of which we read -- including, among others, Sontag, Derrida, Lacan, and Ian Watt; after all this, my friends and I reach a mutual decision to give up. We'll skip class, forgo the grade, and not give our fifteen minute presentation on realism and photography in 19th Century Britain.

Instead, we're going to write an apologetic email to the teacher and spend the class hour in a cafe eating blueberry muffins and drinking cappuccinos.

Thank fucking god.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

reading list

A Question of Power, Bessie Head
Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault
From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, ed. Lawrence Cahoone
Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre
Les Enfantes Terribles, Jean Cocteau
Story of the Eye, Georges Bataille
Ariel, Sylvia Plath
O Taste and See, Denise Levertov
"Seeing," Annie Dillard
Rilke's Book of Hours
Junglee Girl, Ginu Kamani
The Foreign Legion, Clarice Lispector
The Encyclopedia of the Dead, Danilo Kis
Let us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans
Macbeth, Shakespeare
The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Light in August, William Faulkner
All the Pretty Horses Cormac McCarthy
The Metamorphoses, Ovid
The Rise of the Novel, Ian Watt
The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

None of these are for classes. I am going to be a very well-read dropout.

Monday, February 26, 2007

new lows

Very sad to discover that sometimes Spark Notes are enough to get you through class.

Hard Times, indeed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

paper anxiety

I continue to be crippled by my inability to write papers for good teachers. I can happily turn out shitty rambling messes for a teacher I don't care for, but I want so much to turn in good work for the excellent professors!

This is my cry of frustration to the universe. I must let it loose: I have been agonizing over a two page paper about a pulpy 19th C gothic novel. I should be able to spin this paper out in no time -- it's not like writing about Vanity Fair, which I also have to do...

Oh well. At least I am starting to accept the inevitability of my once-perfect GPA dropping drastically after this semester.

Friday, February 02, 2007

losing the blogging bug

I am alive, at school, functioning on at least a basic level. I have been memorizing poetry: too much Sylvia Plath, not enough Shakespeare, but still gratifying, still soul-feeding.

I don't know if I will ever really blog again; I don't find myself being called to this sort of self-writing. I'm taking a creative nonfiction course and every one of my autobiographical words is devoted to the weekly essays. I could, theoretically, just post what I write for that course, but there just isn't much draw in blogging for me right now. Anyway, all of the essays are written especially to please the professor. Because that's how to get good grades!

I'll keep this around. Maybe I'll start using it again at some point.

Friday, January 12, 2007

she picked him up by his fin??

Reading about Dooce's surprise betta makes me want to weep. There are so many things wrong with the way she is treating him, from the food she's giving him (flakes don't have enough nutrition -- dried blood worms are good, and there are special betta pellets that don't build up because the anorectic little dudes only eat one or two a day) to the container he's living in (too small! too small! Sebastian and Thelma [the snail] share a large tank, one that is somewhere between two and five gallons; also, she's provided no gravel or plants or anything for him to hide in) to the awful picking him up by his dorsal fin to move him from one container to the next. Probably she is using water that they haven't even bother to de-chlorinate. I won't be surprised if he dies within a month if this keeps up. I am horrified, and I'm no fish saint -- it's been a year and two months since I tragically killed Laertes in an accident too horrible to talk about, something I can only live with because my first fish, Finnegan, lived to a fine old age.

My lord. The woman practically lives online, and yet she can't even do the most basic research? I spent several days reading about bettas before I decided to get one, and I was a flaky fifteen-year-old at the time. Sure, he's an accidental fish, but that is no excuse -- the first site that google spits out covers every single thing she is doing wrong and then some.

I used to be regularly amused by Heather Armstrong and anthropologically and psychologically interested in examining the fun Freudian subtexts of her posts, but more and more I come away disgusted, questioning her popularity, her fanbase, and the character of the woman herself. I wonder if she realizes how awful she seems in a lot of these recent posts. I can't imagine she does because why post them? But at the same time I can't fathom such a serious lack of self-awareness.

Sometimes I would like to email her and try to kindly (as kindly as I could manage, which would probably sound more curt than courteous) inform her of how shallow and entitled she comes across (see: New York Post) or how appallingly ignorant she is being -- but I don't feel like courting the possibility of ending up on one of her email posts.

*edit* Okay, so I joined the ranks of the other fish owners who are probably recoiling in shock from that post and sent her a quick email with just a few links to betta care websites and a sentence of goodwill towards Lou. I now wash my hands of the issue. You can lead a horse to water, etc.


Additionally, I am wild with the stress of packing and the horror of snow. We leave on Sunday. I hope.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Why I did not make a list of my favourite albums and songs of the year, with or without intelligent descriptions: I only bought four CDs, and only two of them were actually released in 2006.

Why I did not make a list of the best books I read in 2006: I read 94 books, not counting poetry and textbooks and theory and the ones I forgot to write down. 36 of these books scored highly in my complicated reviewing system. How can I possibly winnow it down?

Why I did not make a list of the worst books I read in 2006: I already complained about The Concrete Garden and I am vaguely embarrassed to admit that I read some of the other really rank books.

Why I did not make any new year resolutions: I prefer to make resolutions on my birthday. It's more meaningful for me. Also, I am feeling awfully hazy about my future and my goals -- not that this is a bad thing! It isn't bad at all! Better to feel nebulous than to cling rigidly to ideas about The Way Things Must Be. Being hazy suits me just fine right now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

the last books of 2006

I ended up finishing four out of the five books I hoped to read before 2007. I could have read them all, but really, I was setting myself up for failure by including Saul Bellow, and I knew it at the time. The Adventures of Augie March? Really, what was I thinking? I will read it someday, but it is exactly the sort of thing I am not hungry for right now. I would have finished it out of sheer disgruntled stubbornness if I hadn't been sidetracked by a reading and rereading of every Faulkner book in our house.

Because I wrote about the other two books, here are a few late-night comments on the last two of the project:

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami
--I have read several of Murakami's books (well, two) and I think this one is by far the most successful as a coherent novel. Murakami is good but never excellent because he so often seems incapable of tying his -- admittedly charming and unexpected -- concepts into a large piece. His endings are especially terrible, I think. He is the sort of author who should probably stick to short stories; that medium would at least allow his absurd and lovely ideas to shine like the gems they are, undisrupted by the clutter of attempted overarching plot. Wonderland seems to be an exception. At the same time, I was never once as charmed by anything in this book as I was by several parts of Kafka on the Shore. Still, it was a decent read.

And it prompted the realization that I will probably fall in love with the first decent man who gifts me with a pair of excellent nail clippers during a multi-course meal in an upscale restaurant.

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

I was expecting more. Of course, what I was expecting was based on no actual knowledge of the book itself, but was instead formed from a combination of good reviews and an incorrect assumption of the plot. You see, I thought the book was going to be some sort of macabre postmodern surrealist story about a serial killer. I had no idea it was about mail! I thought that it was probably about 49 murdered prostitutes buried in an abandoned lot or something. All I can say is that I clearly spend too much time watching Law & Order and not enough time reading newspapers.

The book wasn't great but wasn't bad. I would read more Pynchon, but wouldn't buy him. This was the last book of 2006: I read it in one sitting on New Year's Eve.

The first book of 2007 looks to be Absalom, Absalom. I love it, and not just because I have a latent obsession with the American Civil War. I have mixed and turbulent emotions about Faulkner as a person and as an artist, but there is simply no denying his brilliance. I actually started to weep at one point last night just because the wording of one sentence was so perfectly sonorous, so much like music, and I cried at its beauty and at the certain knowledge that I will never be able to construct anything so perfect.

I would post the sentence if I could find it in the book. Oh well. The content wasn't remarkable anyway; I probably wouldn't have realized its glory if I hadn't been mouthing the words as I read them -- something I often do with Faulkner just to keep the structure of his sentences clear in my mind. Full display of the music of language is one convincing argument for books on tape. I suspect that certain parts of The Sound and the Fury would be just magical if read aloud in entirety.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

no new year cheer, either

Our Denver trip was prematurely shortened by blizzards. The good is that my grandmother still knows me.The bad is that she does not know my cousins, who were also there, and that she is losing the ability to differentiate between her sons. More than once she pulled me down to wheelchair-level to ask me in whispers -- those agonizingly loud whispers of someone who has become quite hard of hearing but refuses to wear aids -- who those children belong to, which boy is visiting now? But she knows me. I think -- I like to think, I must think -- that she will know me until the end, that I may be the one person she does not forget. She knows me, but there is so much bad that it's hard to remember what a gift this is.


Wondering: at what point does a dabbling piece of writing become a book?