Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dear Hillary Clinton,

Today while I was driving into work with, as usual, not enough sleep under my belt, I heard a story on NPR about something that John Kerry said or did in his new role as Secretary of State. And that led, of course, to thinking about you. That used to be your job, but now you are retired from it. Or, if not retired, you are not doing that job anymore. And I wondered: what are you doing now?

If I were you, I would be wearing the most comfortable clothes on the planet, and I would eat pancakes every morning for breakfast, unless I got tired of pancakes, in which case I might move along to waffles.

If I were you, I might get in my car and drive for a really, really, really really really long time. Wherever. Around lunchtime, I might stop for pie. Or french fries. Or, you know, french fries for lunch and pie for dessert.

If I were you, I might organize my photographs. Or maybe I would organize, like, ten of my photographs, and then I would take a nap.

If I were you, I would catch up on an awesome television series whose heyday, perhaps, has passed, but which has some truly excellent back episodes. I'm talking about Glee, of course. O! how I wish I could magically never have seen Glee, and then my daughter could come home for Christmas and be all, "What? You haven't watched Glee? Let's watch all of it while you grade and then while you bake." And we would do that, and it would be just as amazing as it was the first time. If I were you, Hillary Clinton, that's what I'd do: watch all of Glee, from the start of it until now, or whenever it stopped being awesome.

If I were you, I would have someone line up a pile of books that would be fun to read, and then I would read them. I would lay in a stock of some delicious snacks, and I would read those books and snack. Read and snack, snack and read. It's the pastime of champions.

If I were you, I would invest in some super-charged kicks, like these:

They are excellent, are they not? You could use them while you were walking the dog. Or maybe when you dashed into the grocery store for more snacks. Or just whenever. I'm pretty sure these shoes would go with everything. Or maybe you could just, you know, build your outfits around them. That's what I'm going to do, fyi.

Also, if I were you, I would watch all of Nashville on, because you can catch up on all of it, and it is so good. Not good good, just: good.

If I were you, I would buy all new bedding and make my bed super cozy and maybe never leave it. Or not for a few weeks. Only long enough to take the occasional shower and fetch snacks.

I hope that you are doing at least some of these things, H.R.C.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In which I request a do-over.

Yesterday, a colleague stopped by the table where I was sitting in the Writing Center. "htms," she said, "I've just been meaning to ask you. Is there some work we're supposed to be doing on that XYZ committee?"

I didn't exactly jump out of my skin, but I did the super-tired inner version of that. (It was simultaneously super panicky and inert.) "ZOMG I need to call a meeting of the XYZ committee!" I said to her. And I wrote: "CALL MEETING OF XYZ CMTE" in my agenda.

This failure to have called a meeting of the XYZ committee brought to mind another committee I have not called a meeting of. I have been contemplating both of these committees and how I need to call a meeting of them, but to be honest with you, the people? I don't have time for either one of them.

Which leads me to how I would like to roll the calendar back. The question is, how far? back to the days of late August when the English Department had a retreat and we formed a bunch of new committees and I stuck my hand in the air? Or before that? Before I ever had a big idea, then said to my department, "Hey! How's about this big idea? What ho?" and we went ahead with the big idea but since it was, after all, my idea, I was in charge of it and therefore: the meeting-caller.

Well, you may not be aware of this, but this isn't Back to the Future and I don't have a DeLorean anyway, and neither do you, the people (do you? if you do, we need to talk.). So I'm stuck with my over-committed present. Either that, or maybe I will have a nervous breakdown? But then, I always think that at about week seven or so of the semester, especially spring semester, where the downhill slide inherent in the second semester also means that stuff I started in August is as we speak cascading in a landslide-ish fashion toward me, which means I better keep running or else.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On trying to make a screencast.

Dear my OS,

It's no good when the tools don't work.

When every time I open my online screencasting platform, it tells me I got no Java. And when I google how come I got no Java? I find out that you, my OS, you took the Java preferences clean outta there upon the last update.

danger, Will Robinson!
What. The. Hell.

There is a system, my OS provider, a system that I have cobbled together out of Prezi and content and Screenr and usually YouTube. And the Screenr, she needs the Java. And you are telling me I got no Java? And you didn't even tell me so in the first place?

What. The. Hell.

In your defense, there is a bunch of yellling about Java and how it is dangerous, so maybe you're right. Maybe I shouldn't have it. But the screencast! It languishes! It shall perhaps remain uncast!

c'est le java.
Thus flummoxed by tomfoolery, shenanigans, and dilemmas, I had to respond to some student writing by hand. By hand, my OS provider! This is what it's come to.

All that Java-hunting has made my wrist sore.



Sunday, February 24, 2013

And now for a few, final, movie-related opinions.

We watched the Oscars at my daughter's house, and it was madness one step beyond. But it was great, and there was no shortage of reactions. Here are a few of my own, with selected notes from the crowd at my daughter's:

1. The music was mostly blah. Did not need to see the musical number from Chicago. Not tonight and not ever again, really. I like Adele but don't love the Bond song. Weirdly, the medley from Les Mis was the best music of the night, I thought, and I did not like the movie nor the music. Somehow, the cast singing live made it feel more immediate. I blame all the talk-singing of the movie. It was unbearable. But feel free to correct me if I'm wrong (but I'm not).

2. I was happy to see the visual gorgeousness of Life of Pi recognized in so many different ways. That film was mesmerizing.

3. While we're discussing Life of Pi, let's acknowledge that the young man who played the lead, Suraj Sharma, gave an absolutely wonderful performance, and if the little girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild can be nominated--and she should have been--so should Mr. Sharma. Also, the tiger should have been nominated, even if he was CGI. He was badass.

4. One more thing about Life of Pi: I was glad Ang Lee got the award for director. Nothing against anyone else. It was very touching to me.

5. Tarantino totally deserved that writing award. I loved when he credited his cast for making those characters so indelible.

6. I completely don't understand what the Academy's deal is with Leonardo DiCaprio. Because he's amazing, and was amazing in Django Unchained, and also I am literally breathless with anticipation about that crazy Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby. A wonderful, idiosyncratic actor. Diane Keaton said that he and Meryl Streep are the best mimics she ever heard of. For heaven's sake, Academy, get it together and give that kid an award.

7. I loved when Daniel Day-Lewis said that he had been planning to play Margaret Thatcher, and that Spielberg had wanted Streep to play Lincoln.

8. Little Quvenzhane Wallis was entirely adorable each and every time the camera caught her. I hope someone took her out for an ice cream sundae after the show.

9. I continue to think that Amour looks monumental and unbearably sad.

10. Anyone else think that the clips they showed for the acting performances skewed toward the scenery-chewy?

11. We all loved when Mark Wahlberg said "No b.s.!" about the tie for sound editing.

12. I thought Seth MacFarlane got off some pretty funny jokes. Like when he said Denzel Washington had a great sense of humor, since he was in those Nutty Professor remakes. Also, the whole Star Trek thing with William Shatner blew my mind. Pretty bold, pretty funny.

13. Completely disgraceful: The Master should have been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, and writing. It is a great film, better maybe than anything that was nominated this year.

14. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe that Argo is the best film of the year.

15. However, I did kind of warm to Ben Affleck bumbling around up there and choking up when he said his kids' names.

The end.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Oscars: a consideration.

The other day, my friend Ann mused aloud (on Facebook--that has sound, right?),
After I fell out of my chair in disbelief, I considered a short list of celebratory things I generally abstain from:
  1. going to Temple Square to watch the lights turn on at Christmastime.
  2. going to a park or stadium to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.
  3. dressing up for Halloween (except for wearing my The Raven tee shirt, which I save expressly for Halloweenery).
But I never never never don't watch the Oscars. I never even consider not watching them. Not even rhetorically.

I have heard others opine about Seth Macfarlane. What if he is awful? Dan Kois over on Slate says:
"What am I rooting for? I’m rooting for Seth MacFarlane to walk into the Dolby Theater on Sunday night complaining of a “terrific headache,” ask for an aspirin, and be given the night off by producer Craig Zadan. Filling in will be delightful Golden Globe hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who will then host the Oscars for 14 consecutive years."
Actually, I am rooting for that to happen, too. But I don't think it will happen.

I love the crazy over-longness of it, and the rousing conversations we have about the new, non-traditional, stupid ways they have of presenting the major acting awards. I love the sentiment and the industry shill. I love the clips, oh how I love the clips of the films!

I am pretty mad at the Academy this year for failing to nominate The Master and Paul Thomas Anderson for Best Picture and Best Director, respectively. I thought it was a masterpiece and my pick for best film of the year. I really don't get why they didn't nominate it in these categories, especially since they could have--what is the point of nine Best Picture nominees if you could have ten? They should have just nominated it. Stupid.

Also we have not yet seen Zero Dark Thirty. I am a little bit afraid of the movie, and also I'm afraid the historian and I might disagree about it (what if I think the film takes a morally nuanced position about torture, and he believes that it makes an argument that torture is sometimes justified?), and I hate when that happens. Also, I am possibly a weakling, and maybe I can't take it? Also, I heard a clip on NPR today, and Jessica Chastain sounded like she was possibly hamming it up? (out of context, just ignore that.) Ugh. I want to see it, I should just see it already. Tomorrow: it must happen!

And we have not seen Amour. I believe already that it is great and superb and also I believe with all my heart that it will depress the hell out of me/us. I might have to see this one alone, as well.

Anyway. Whether we end up seeing the remaining movies or not, I like contemplating the fact of watching the ceremony and celebration of it all, and finding out whether I think Seth Macfarlane is a smug bastard, or possibly a comic genius? or something in between. In any case, I will be with my family and a plate of snacks, and we will watch it with noise and pomp and circumstance, and it will be, as it always is, one of the events that constellates my movie-going year. (I bet Ann will be watching them too. Will you?)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letter from Bruiser.

Dear Human People of the Universe who live in my House,

I am feeling much better.

Thank you for delivering all my medicine to me wrapped in ham, and thank you for letting me take it from your fingers without flinching.

Thank you for wrapping what you say is my last antibiotic in a piece of chicken this morning.

Thank you for sometimes taking my cone off. As you may know, I hate it. It brings out the nihilist in me. It makes me feel hopeless and despairing. And it's so huge. It's, like, Dada huge. Absurd.

However, I guess I'm not supposed to "lick" my "stitches." So I concede that the cone is necessary. Advisedly.

Thank you for letting me hop ever so lightly up to the chair and onto the bed. Thank you for watching Parks and Rec with me tonight, the double episode. I appreciated the company.

Please never put me in the car again, and please never take me to the Place From Whence Emerge Only Coned Dogs. Never again.

I prefer to watch for the guys who buy beer every day, and the kids going to school, and the families going to church. And the UPS guy. Especially the UPS guy. I think I'm in excellent shape for watching the street for them.

Thank you for the slightly longer walk tonight. I tried very hard not to caper excessively.

With love and many stitches,


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another episode of worse or better.

"Worse? or Better?" is the game I play almost every day. Not about my life. I try to only play "Worse? or Better?" about my life every week or so. But regarding ordinary life, the things going on around me--for that, the opportunity presents itself almost every day, to examine and to measure: are things getting worse, or are they getting better?

spalding gray, rip.
A couple of days ago as I was preparing to teach my class, I was watching the Steven Soderbergh documentary And Everything is Going Fine (streaming on Netflix!) about Spalding Gray, the monologist. I was thinking I would show a little clip. This led inexorably into YouTube, aka The Rabbit Hole, where there are Spalding Gray clips galore, from many, many of his best monologues. And this brought back to mind the time years ago when I first wanted to teach monologue, and I thought I would try to show students clips of Gray, and there were none to be found, almost literally none. Well, now they abound. So: Better.

cheesebread DOH.
However, recently when I went to order my favorite sandwich at the sandwich shop at school, things were not so rosy. As you may recall, what was possibly the best sandwich in the universe was a 4" on multigrain bread, bacon plus veggies, toasted, with pesto mayo. Apparently, these days, you can't get a 4" sandwich anymore--you have to get a 6" or a footlong. The bread choices are an unimaginative white on the one hand, or on the other hand wheat, and there is no more pesto mayo. The mayo that made me reconsider mayo! C'est disparu! Among the available condiments there is not even Dijon mustard--just regular yellow and honey mustard, which is an abomination before the Lord. A terrible state of affairs, I think we can all agree. Also, today, they only had cheese bread. No white, no wheat: cheese. I ask you.

Worse. Inarguably.

some snow.
sugar doughnut, queen of doughnuts.
However. Oatmeal at Starbucks? They still have it. (if not better, at least not worse.) Lovely snow falling at five? Just fine. Sugar doughnut? better! A comprehensive list of what I have to do? better, because now I know, which is better than being menaced by the floating dread of flickering obligations.

In the game of worse or better, should I keep a running tally? or is the worse/better dilemma best assessed in an ongoing pulse-taking? Well, I haven't been keeping score, so at this moment: short walk with a recovering Bruiser, good dinner, new book looks promising, my feet hurt and so does my hip, but it's almost time for bed, there is a gorgeous potted hydrangea on my kitchen counter, and tomorrow is another day. I say: better.

gratuitous, possibly manipulative flower shot (in lieu of adequate conclusion? you be the judge.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, better known as Tuesday.

--not to moan about it or anything.

Discussing our respective long, long, long, long days, while preparing dinner. The historian is rehearsing the tenor of the conversation in one of today's meetings:
Mr. Dialectical himself.

The historian: . . . and it just seems like we've had all those conversations before--a billion times.

Me:  And it's not like one of those Hegelian deals, thesis-antithesis-synthesis. [hand circling in an ascending spiral]--what's the word for that?

The historian: Dialectic? That's the dialectical process.

Me: I know, but isn't there a word for that moment of transcendence? when things get better*?

The historian: I don't know. Probably.

precipitous descending spiral.
Me: [resuming:] but it's more like circling [hand circling in a precipitous, descending spiral] down into hell. Or like Sartre. No Exit.

Sartre was French.
*Aufhebung. FYI. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fillo dough vs. me.

I'm going to start at the end:

this wasn't hard. not at all. or only a little bit. okay, there was a hard part.

That's spinach and feta pie. We ate it for dinner two nights ago and also last night. It was delicious.

[backstory: A couple of months ago I bought yet another cookbook, yet another Jamie Oliver production.

so cute! and righteous! and cute!

30 minute meals! Let me state parenthetically that I think Jamie Oliver is the cutest, and also I admire his boundless energy and optimism and the way he throws himself behind a great cause, and also how cute he is. And a thirty minute meal sounded good to me, me who wanted to cook more in the new year blah blah blah and also buy more cookbooks, obviously a goal I am superb at.

SO a couple of weeks ago or maybe sooner, who can keep track? I decided I was going to make three things from the cookbook: tomato soup (made it, good but not thrilling), cauliflower curry Rogan Josh (interestingly, there's a curry paste called Rogan Josh, which, when I read the name, sounded like either a movie star or a good mate of Jamie's, but no: it is a Pakistani/Kashmiri dish of lamb)(which I have not yet made, fyi), and spinach and feta pie.

The latter recipe sounded rawther interesting and not so terribly challenging, because it was only eggs, feta, lemon, oregano, spinach, a little salt, pepper, cayenne, and fillo dough. Which, it's important to note here, I had never ever ever worked with before, or maybe only once but erased from memory. Since "how hard could that be?" is my life motto, I was all about this dish. The historian loves spinach and feta, and I love a pie.

So I came home from work on a long and exhausting day and thought, dammit, I am making that damn pie. I think we can all agree, this is an excellent state of mind for fussing around with a fussy and easily-dried-out and therefore infinitely-self-dismantling pastry. Hells yes! Let's make that damn pie, and let's be quick about it because: thirty minute meals!

It goes a little like this: beat 5 eggs in a bowl with 12 oz. feta, crumbled, and 2 oz. cheddar, grated. Add in a sprinkling of oregano, dried. Squeeze in half a lemon's juice. In a large-ish (10 in"?) cast iron or otherwise ovenproof frying pan, heat some olive oil and a little butter, and wilt 1 lb. of spinach until it is entirely wilted. Put the wilted spinach in with the eggs and feta, etc. You have an empty frying pan now, just to be clear.

See? that's just one paragraph. One paragraph takes seven minutes, tops.

Now, spread out a giant sheet of parchment paper. Is your parchment paper not a span wide? then take two giant sheets, side by side. Put some olive oil all over that paper.

I'm about to unleash the fillo dough on you, so I feel it's time to have a new paragraph.

Brace yourself.

Unwrap and unfold the fillo dough. With your extra-sensory perception and/or your third eye, observe how the dough begins to dry out even as you have barely unwrapped it. Lay four sheets, slightly overlapping, on the parchment paper. It will be a large four-sectioned rectangle. Pour some olive oil over that and lightly pat it all over and try not to let the fillo dough grip you in its fragile death grip. Put some more fillo dough over that first layer and oil it up again. Salt pepper cayenne. By now your wad of fillo dough will be almost as dust and will want to crack and fragment and otherwise make you want to scream. But that's okay, you just need two more layers! Just two! And then there will be another difficult part! So man up, you big baby!

Okay, so do you have your four layers? That took, like, three minutes--it only felt like your entire life.


[challenging part ahead, so: paragraph break.]

You just have to fit that fillo dough rectangle into the bottom of the frying pan. Piece of cake. Piece of crumb cake.

Let me just say that your fillo dough rectangle will not be jaunty and more or less planar. No, it will be floppy and flippy and also crumbly and just, in general, a horror. So you can either (a) try to flip it in a very speedy, smooth way, if you're a fillo-athlete-genius type, or you can (b) turn your frying pan upside down on the fillo, and then flip the entire misbegotten affair over, stuff the fillo into the bottom, and try your damndest to peel the parchment off the fillo dough which will cling like the neediest little codependent person.

Go ahead and scream. Curse. You probably better. Who knows if you'll make it through unless you do?

Then you put the spinach-egg-feta mixture in the dough-lined frying pan, fold all the remaining fillo over the top (this is easy), and put the whole thing into a 400 degree oven for, like, 18 minutes.

Thank what ever God you worship for getting you through that. But when you eat it, you'll think, wow, this is so good! I will probably make this again!

Make a little cucumber salad to go with it and you are good to go. Better than that: you'll feel like a virtuoso and a champ. So you might as well chop some hazelnuts with some powdered sweet chocolate, and roll scoops of vanilla ice cream in it. Because it's good, and it is your (second) sweet reward for going to the mat with fillo dough, which you are the boss of, and don't let nobody tell you different.]

I am the boss of fillo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Psychic reward.

This morning I woke up and felt so stressed out. It blew my mind. Like, I was stressed out while still in a horizontal position. It's all the things that need to be done. To be clear: all the things I need to do.

1. there is practically no Valentine-ry happening around here, which is not acceptable unto me. Why? are you trying to tell me I watch too much TV and that I wasted the weekend in a daze of detective novels? Well shut up, you might be right, but I need that television and those novels. I NEED THEM. (she says emphatically.)
2. grading.
3. helping people finish their digital stories.
4. more grading.
5. helping with this and that work project, drafting documents, etczzzzzzzzz

Is this whiny? Well shut you, you might be right. I can't help it. Listen: I felt dizzy before I even sat up this morning.

This cannot stand, man. Obviously, I have to make some cupcakes. With sprinkles on them. That's obviously Job One. Or I could grade. ORrrrrrr I could watch a little television and finish my Icelandic police procedural.

The nice thing, though, is that out of this unpromising start to the day, I got it together, sort of. On my way to work, I bought that Starbucks oatmeal that someone in some magazine said was meh but which I am kind of in love with. Is it silly to buy oatmeal at Starbucks? Well shut up, you might be right. But it did make me feel better. It helped me redeem the day. You meditate or pray in the morning, or take a walk, or what, cook oatmeal at home? I buy that oatmeal at Starbucks, and I ate it at my desk. Like you do.

Then one colleague came by--we have a standing pre-meeting before our bi-weekly discussion team meeting with the administrators (none dare call it negotiation). We talked about this and that, and then another colleague joined us. I had the occasion to reflect on the fact that I really enjoy and respect both these colleagues. Talking to them felt like a little bonus to my day. After the meeting, one of my colleagues talked me into waiting to grade (what? so much grading to do!) and going with her to grab a beverage at the Student Center. Then I worked with yet another colleague on the course we're co-developing, and chatted about this article we will/might write together (will! WILL.). 

The historian has a friend who says that his job working at the university gives him psychic income. That's what my day was filled with: opportunities to work with people I respect and enjoy, conversations that give me things to think about, the chance to think and talk about ideas and texts. The fact that my job gives me the chance to discover new things all the time.

The psychic income just kept on coming. I picked up another book from the library. I got stuff for valentines which will have to be late, but hey! love is forever, the people. I came home and the house was so quiet. I graded in that quiet quite happily. We ate leftover spinach and feta pie (I will tell you allllll about it tomorrow). We took the dog for a walk in the dark. 

And sometime soon, I will make cupcakes. Oh yes! there will be cupcakes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I finished reading a satisfying police procedural last night. It's a long running series, and the last several novels have the protagonist now serving in a cold case division. This, is, of course the absolute epitome of what I've been thinking about lately--the ways we return to things. Because maybe the first time around, we weren't able to pay proper attention, or the thing didn't make sense, or it went wrong. We got it wrong. Or, really, I did--I got it wrong. Maybe this is one reason I have always loved the detective novel genre, because it relies on going over and over and over some puzzling, unjust thing again. You have to. The detective has to. In order to figure it out, whatever it is. The puzzle, or the injustice.

Well! You'll be happy to know that I have some other stuff that depends upon returns. Like, for instance, the couple of movies we saw this weekend, Side Effects and Broken City. Both of them require the viewer to pay close attention, and then require the viewer to ask him/herself whether what s/he saw was what s/he thought s/he saw. (All those gender-neutral hybrid pronouns just made me really really tired.)

I recommend Side Effects, and do not, really, recommend Broken City, not unless you have low(-er) standards (that's me), really like Mark Wahlberg (me), and really need a movie to see on a Saturday night and you're not quite ready to commit to Zero Dark Thirty (me also).



...which, honestly, I hope you find as satisfying and also as persistent in memory as I do.)


I read at BYU on Friday. It was such a lovely day, among lovely people that I really like. So much has changed about that place. I walked past the entrance I didn't usually go into of the building where I spent hours and hours for a couple of years, practicing the piano in the basement. If I had gone in the other door, the one I usually did use, I could probably have walked straight to the room with the best piano--the Steinway, the one with the sweet action. I didn't, but I could have. Little stations of memory that I walked right past. 

Today, I was thinking about a little digital story I hope to make, about the shrines I build and the shrines I visited when I lived, as a little girl, in Japan. I took a bunch of pictures of the installations of stuff I have all over my house. Then I remembered this beautiful piece of cut paper art, using a three-part quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh about daily practice and the breath. The thick paper opens to reveal three sacred places.  It is a beautiful piece of art that I haven't ever put up because I don't want it to be ruined, which is absurd. I have had it for a few years--the historian gave it to me--and I always open it and put it away again.

I looked for it, because I remembered it while I was taking photographs. I couldn't remember exactly where I had put it for safekeeping. Was it tucked in between books of poetry? laid atop the books? in the myriad of things I have on my desk? I looked everywhere, then looked again in the same places. I looked in the music cabinet, then back to my shelves. The third time around, I found it by looking more closely. Just a couple of days before, I had done the same thing, looking for a book of poems.

I am the detective of my own life.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Dear writing:

After a week with four rejections and a months-old draft that just kept sitting there, being drafty;

after a day when I felt the lack of you,

as well as my own disappointment with myself, more piercingly than ever,

thank you, writing, nonetheless for standing by me:

thank you for moving me at 1 a.m. from what felt like sure sleep

to get up, because there was something that needed to be written,

something that kept me from sleep, something urgent enough

that I decided to get up and write it.

And thank you, even, for the four and half hours of sleep I lived with today,

because every moment at the thin edge of exhaustion,

it was there, that new piece, what I traded for sleep.

yours, htms

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


At dinner last night (it was soft taco night, which is a thing at our house):

[assembly of the soft tacos by all]

[hence, very, very quiet.]

[parenthetically: what is the sound of one tortilla folding?]

[a flour tortilla. soft tacos.]

Me: [to running son:] So how's that Chinese poetry class going?

Son: [incredulous.] How do you think? Poetry is stupid.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

On reading.

Near the end of the year, last year, the year of our Lord 2012, I found myself not reading. Well, I was reading, of course: reading student portfolios and posts on the internet. By the score. Finding recipes, reading those. A magazine or so to leaf through.

But no books, nothing to lose myself in, no big stories. It was disturbing. I would say to myself, I've got to find a book to read. And then I would go on, not finding a book to read, thus reading posts on the internet and recipes and a magazine or so. It was a very sad state of affairs.

In the year of our Lord 2013, however, I have found myself reading again. This happened, largely, as I wrestled with myself over Lidia Yuknavitch's Dora: A Head Case. Which I was reading for my book group. As is the case so often, when I'm reading something that I need to read for some external purpose, such as a book group which I myself chose to belong to, I resist the book, which is obviously trying to be the boss of me. I put in my request to the library's robot, which obliged me almost immediately with the book, and also a Norwegian police procedural. In an absolute miracle of self-discipline, I required myself to finish Dora before I started the Norwegian treat.

I found the character of Dora to be excessively mean and I found her voice to be only intermittently in the author's firm control. Yet I found, as I resisted and persisted, that the book moved me and gave me things to think about, and I am still, in a sense, in the grip of Dora, a little.

I began the Norwegian procedural with great happiness, since I knew and liked the main character very much. About five-eighths of the way through the novel, when there were too many characters in an excess of jeopardy, I skipped to the final pages to find out who made it and who didn't. Then, I went back and read the remainder of the book slowly and carefully. It was excellent.

Next, I read the long-awaited third installment in a young adult series. Very gratifying.

In the meanwhile, I have assembled most if not all of the books I have bought but I have not yet read. That's how I came to pick up Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed, which I found to be devastating and beautiful. There were no apparent felicity conditions for my reading of it: it isn't part of a series, it's not a piece of genre fiction, and I did not read it for my book group. Instead, I picked it up because now, apparently, I am reading again. It is pure joy.

Happily, I got an e-mail from the library's robot today, informing me that three of the books on which I had placed a hold were awaiting me on a shelf in the "Holds" section. I drove to the library after work and found not three but five books, each with a slip of paper in it with my name on it. I am reading, I am reading. I have books on deck. Life is good.

Monday, February 04, 2013


Dr. Write tagged me to answer these questions about a writing project. Here goes:

1. What is the working title of my book?

It's flicker.  Also, I have another manuscript, and its working title is Now disappear. It's been awhile since I looked at that second one, and where I once feared that title might be pretentious, I now am pretty sure that it's pretentious.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Who can say? Why do people write poems? What is poetry for, anyway? Sorry, I got distracted there by the utter senselessness of my endeavor. NO! Stop it! I am interested in the intersection of sacred discourses and everyday life. That's what the idea of my book is.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
speaker of the poems, option 1.

My book falls under the sign of POETRY.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I have already signed over the rights to flicker to a major motion picture studio, which cannot be named here, sorry. I hear they are talking to Charlotte Rampling to play the lead, but I also heard they might ask Tilda Swinton. I'm okay with either.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

speaker of the poems, option 2.
flicker traces the intersection of sacred discourses and everyday life, its speaker seeking reconciliation and finding it only fitfully.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither. I hope I hope I hope my book will be taken by a press that publishes poetry. I will accomplish this by continuing to send it out and also by means of small, magickal rituals which I cannot, unfortunately, describe here for fear that their efficacy might be diminished.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This iteration? I guess a couple of years. But one way or another I have been working on some version of this book for a really, really long time.

8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Maybe The Wild Iris because of its themes? I count among my poetic influences Elizabeth Bishop, Hopkins, Frost, and Lorca.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Honestly, my life within my faith, my life with sacred books, my life within my family.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Hmm. The language is vivid and the writing is musical, and the poems are interested in talking to you, the reader.

I tag: Kristen, Pam B., and Brandon A. Do not shirk!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

With apologies to those who love American football.

At breakfast yesterday morning. The historian is reading the newspaper:

The historian: Apparently 27% of Americans believe that God influences the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Me: [still waking up.] Huh. [pause] But He only influences the outcome. He doesn't determine it. So...

Historian: I guess that's right.

Me: [ever more awake:] Just so you know, I don't believe that God influences the outcome of the Super Bowl. Because I'm pretty sure God doesn't really like football.


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