HE SAID, MARIE, MARIE, HOLD ON TIGHT
~ The Waste Land, "The Burial of The Dead", Eliot
~ The Waste Land, "The Burial of The Dead", Eliot
Sunday, December 21, 2008
i read jonathan safran foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close in one sitting. it was very good, but after just coming out of don dilillo's Falling Man, and Synecdoche, New York--all which arguably, restage september 11, and are totally devastating and heartbreaking in their different ways, i don't think i could deal with another novel like this anytime soon.
the new yorker published this beautiful review of the letters of elizabeth bishop and robert lowell, and in light of eric's musing, "i don't know how to answer your question: if i deliberately hurt myself to be able to write," and later, "is it ethical to write something that you know will hurt someone else?" i thought i would include what bishop says sagely, when lowell proposes to use letters a poetic material:
One can use one’s life as material—one does, anyway—but these letters—aren’t you violating a trust? IF you were given permission—IF you hadn’t changed them . . . etc. But art just isn’t worth that much. I keep remembering Hopkins’ marvelous letter to Bridges about the idea of a “gentleman” being the highest thing ever conceived—higher than a “Christian” even, certainly than a poet. It is not being “gentle” to use personal, tragic, anguished letters that way—it’s cruel.
The article goes on:
In a letter about the misuse of letters, Bishop asks Lowell to live up to a moral standard guaranteed by an aesthetic one: be a gentleman, like Gerard Manley Hopkins. Lowell’s and Bishop’s letters were themselves a long, collaborative work of art, as rich in their own way and by their own standard as the poems. But Bishop seems more concerned that Lowell had changed Hardwick’s letters than that he had included them. These are the objections of an author, and one who exercised an enormous level of control over her material. That Hardwick was a fellow-writer only deepened the transgression. The idea that someone would change a letter, as Lowell did in transforming Hardwick’s into poems: this was a supreme violation not only of life but of art, the art of the letter.
anyway, i am glad to be leaving my house tomorrow. driving up to new jersey, then harlem and the bronx, then back to jersey, then jfk on tues morning, in transit in tokyo, and then singapore(!), and then two weeks in brooklyn. living alone, i tend to traumatise myself with idle reading (mostly depressive stuff), disturbing justin on the phone to shake off post-book trauma, postponing the supposed epic cookie bake, and packing ugh, that i will do tonight! after cleaning my bathroom and kitchen, and, de-snowing my car to (ugh), returning all these possibly 40-50 books that have accumulated between me and my room mate. the occasionally unfortunate condition that defines my life is this: one never really leaves until one really has to.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
when i look out of my window, where it is snowed out, beautiful, stark, desolate, ambulance sirens and snow accidents, in 14-inch snowed out ithaca, i think, hello, america.
i am alone in this house, because chandni has left. last night i had dinner with lu (bong, go figure), who ate this huge ton of food, and then then asked if i wanted to smoke up and wrestle in snow. we also talked (probably a little too enthusiastically) about yeast (yeast is really cool) and his cancer research with yeast cells and dna. i have lots of craigslist things to sort out (this house is being subletted to 3 different people over a course of 4 weeks, is that crazy, no? i also craigslisted--yes, get this--my car ride to nyc "calling for experienced driver to join me on the road from ithaca-bergen county. do not have much experience snow-driving. will share gas. room for 2" and got a lovely female law student as a taker). now i have my final paper to do for my independent study on book publicity. i am writing about trade book reviews, and amongst other interesting things, analysing charles bernstein's speech on the launch of Houghton Mifflin's Best American Poetry on the crisis of illiquid american poems, and the figure of the nytimes kamakaze reviewer, michiko kakukani, as well as dean howell's gilded age novel book salesman character, fulkerson. it's really random, and i'm not actually doing it for a grade, so i've got free rein.
i spent the morning reading on hedgefunds and madoff, and one thing that strikes me is that hedgefunds and pyramidal schemes are really borne from the same free market principles and the idea of spreading risks. and the difference between a ponzi scheme and the "hedging" of funds is frighteningly shady.
on another note, am writing a magazine article over winter for some cheapy new publication, cornell book review, about the history of secretaries and scribes. last week i read that v.s. naipaul wrote a bend in the river through the aid of his wife (he had multiple wives, and he was also a brutal sadomasochist.) he would sit in a room, call her into the room, and dictate the text to her, while she sat and wrote it out. but eventually, what started off as the illusion of authorship and authority collapsed on itself. he was unable to write without her presence. in the end, she was not only the secretary, she became the muse, and he was unable to write without her. this really really interests me, especially after my last paper on milton and his scribes (milton was blind when he wrote all 10 books of paradise lost through the aid of random scribes, as well as with the aid of his daughters, who really strikingly, read all these latin and greek texts to him, without being taught what they were reading--they were merely trained in learning how to pronounce the greek and latin alphabet, and not to understand the language) so i examined his invocation to his muses in paradise lost, and the concept of authorship. i've been really excited by this, because it brings together all these things like the long-established distinction in western philosophy between writing and the voice, the issue of oral versus written culture, gender politics, the complexity of authorship. i will probably take the concept of scribes and dictation further next year.
i get like this when i live alone, and am snowed it so dreadfully.
Friday, December 19, 2008
reeling from the snow
SAN FRANCISCO (12-18) 20:06 PST -- San Francisco's gay community, which threw its political weight behind Barack Obama's campaign, is protesting the president-elect's decision to invite an evangelical pastor known for anti-gay comments to give the inaugural prayer.
Warren invited Obama to his church during the presidential campaign and more recently ignited a major controversy when he compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia, incest and polygamy during a video interview posted on Beliefnet.com and widely circulated on YouTube.
Obama, who opposed Prop. 8 but has also said he opposes same-sex marriage in favor of civil unions, defended his choice at a news conference Thursday, saying, "a wide range of viewpoints" will be presented during the inaugural ceremonies on Jan. 20.
Warren and Obama do share some common ground, especially regarding Warren's work in Africa on AIDS/HIV issues and his efforts to build schools there.
And Warren, who also opposes abortion, has drawn ire from within his own ranks for associating with Obama.
But gay leaders and supporters in San Francisco and across the nation said they are having a hard time understanding how a man who they see as associated with hate speech is worthy of giving the inaugural prayer. It is directly counter, they say, to Obama's campaign theme of unity and his promises to heal a legacy of cultural and racial divisiveness in his new administration.
Equality California, which led the fight against Prop. 8, has gathered 8,000 signatures since Wednesday night asking Obama to choose someone else, said Executive Director Geoff Kors.
Several gay civil rights groups issued Web statements asking Obama to reconsider, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Mayor Gavin Newsom, a strong supporter of gay marriage, knows Warren personally. He said he has conflicting thoughts on Obama's decision.
"Rick Warren is one of the most prolific religious leaders in the world, so from that perspective it is not a surprising choice," Newsom said in a phone interview. "He is redefining the evangelical movement by expanding it beyond guns, gods and gays to issues of poverty and global warming and peace."
The mayor said the decision is painful for the gay and lesbian community, especially in California, where people are still reeling from the passage of Prop. 8.
"The gay community has every right to be upset," Newsom said. "I hope people appreciate that Rick Warren was not just indirectly involved but very involved in taking people's rights away. I'm disappointed, but I understand the decision.
"Rick Warren is not someone who has been a champion of gay rights, and the president-elect could not be naive to that, yet he felt that the other attributes outweighed that," Newsom said.
Warren's other attributes are not enough for state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
"His work on HIV/AIDS is laudable, but that doesn't change the fact that he thinks I am a second-class citizen and should be denied fundamental rights guaranteed to me in a constitutional democracy," Leno said.
"My concern is the selection of Rick Warren goes far beyond Proposition 8. He has spent a lifetime disparaging and disregarding the LGBT community," Leno said.
Obama's choice appears to fulfill his campaign promise of bringing opposing groups together to heal, said Sue Kuipers, the youth pastor at Christ's Community Church in Hayward, whose Christian parishioners spent 40 days studying Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life."
"It's sad that it's become political," Kuipers said. "We can agree to disagree, but that shouldn't interfere with our ability to pray for each other as a nation."
San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty first heard of Warren's selection in a text message from a friend in South Africa.
Dufty said he is perplexed but is giving Obama the benefit of the doubt.
"It's difficult to understand, but I would like to look back on this in a year or two and see it was a longer-term effort to heal division in this country," he said. "Maybe strategically we'll see something positive in this in the future, but right now, it doesn't make much sense."
Signal of anti-gay policies?
Andrea Shorter, campaign director for And Marriage 4 All, a Northern California gay marriage advocacy organization, is worried that Obama's choice could signal four more years of anti-gay presidential policy.
"Rick Warren is clearly divisive and anti-gay. He is a kinder, gentler dose of Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts. He presents himself as a warm and fuzzy new-age version of the same old stuff," she said.
"I think Obama did this because he has been under such scrutiny throughout the campaign about his legitimacy as a person of Christian faith. Maybe he sees this also as a way to give a nod of thanks and gratitude to voters who come from the evangelical right."
The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco NAACP, campaigned heavily against Prop. 8.
"I'm very upset. I can understand that Obama wants to be inclusive but not at this moment in his life and the life of this nation. We should be pulling people together. It is most unfortunate. Rick Warren belongs to a conservative evangelical group that is divisive and in some regards mean-spirited."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
tonight there will be a huge blizzard, tomorrow i will wake up to 14 inches of snow. i've weaned myself down to 1 benedryl a night. the whole day i have been drifting amidst a field of flowers, in need of sleep. i've done most of the craiglisting and apartment stuff (i love craigslist, and i realised the moment i discovered it, all i wanted to do was to list all of my stuff on craigslist and ebay, and that was the moment i realised, i had absolutely no sense of proper ownership). got the fireplace fixed, bought myself snow tires at the mechanic's. being the only girl in a workshop of grubby, cigarette-smoking car mechanics, is a hilarious experience. enter into bill's workshop, and the smell of noxious car fumes and stale cigarette smoke hits you like a vodka shot. the phone rings, it's the obnoxious phone advertisers, "you gotta call before 6am," yells steve, "that's when our boss, roger is in." (roger is not the boss, he is the cleaner, and he does not come in before 6am, steve explains later, eyes twinkling.) "you ever played a prank on s'one?" asks steve, tire in hand, rolling out the ithacan drawl, "i played one on that damn roger. i put a nail like this, something with 20 years of grease, (he lifted up a rusty nail for dramatic effect) into his soda, while he's not looking. he musta found out when he was three-quarters way through. oh boy was he mad." "so what'd he do?" i ask, amused. "roger, he took a grease gun, filled it with grease and shot me with it. i took an hour cleaning the shit up." then he asks, "so you ever played a prank before?" "sure i have, when i was little," i say. "how little?" "very little," i say, putting my hands out to illustrate heights. "what you say," asks bill, who is 70, the owner of the shop, cig in mouth, but doesn't look one day his age (and i tell him that, for his kicks and my kicks), "you gotta speak louder, you got one of those high girl voices that's hard to hear." they put the snow tires into the car for me, tell me to drive safe, and i do.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
when snow blankets the ground all weekend, and the only sign of life outside my window is an animal print, curiously bear-like, one gets the sense of winter, winter, winter. this is my second night of sleeping on benedryl pills, hopefully by the end of the exams i will get off them. writing to try to lift that strange blankness in my head that blankets me, like snow, when you first get up in the morning after benedryl.
waking up in the morning to read the times is a particularly emotional experience today--the realisation that to live in america now is to live in a very transitional period. growing up, i'd never known what it meant, that word, historical change. when you live in singapore, one senses nothing really changes. there is something about growing up in singapore, studying every day, that makes life surround you. there are financial crises, retrenchments, near-explosions, losses, always progress, progress, progress. but when i say change, change is a very different word from the linearity implicit in the word progress. then i remember wanting to feel unsafe. i think i let myself go in jc--i mean, really let myself go, hanging out, being involved with with people twice my age, motorcycle-pillion-ing, cigarettes--because i wanted to feel unsafe. it's something funny to joke about retrospectively, when you've gotten over it all--the nausea, the feeling of shaking yourself up so severely that you're certain something in your head has popped. i also remember my love of writing poetry then, the desire to capture little moments, the desire to make little moments seem momentous and historical. i don't write anymore, but if ever i got back, it wouldn't be to poetry, it would be either a verse-play, or a novel, or A Very Long Poem. a different notion of history that suggests it doesn't just reside in the re-imagination of moments.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
doctors and nurses
the female side of my family has a history of insomnia. my mother and grandmother steal sleeping pills from one another. after my ice skating accident and bronchitis, i stopped running outside (yes, snow and sleet and all), my body got softer, and then i stopped sleeping. in the past week, i realised the kind of desperation not being able to sleep. i saw a nurse yesterday, (you don't have to have the same state of being as the rest of them, she said, and i felt calmed) and gymmed myself to death. at 11:30, i popped some benedryl pills, and my room mate read me a chapter from betty neal's Saturday Child (british romance story involving doctors and nurses, sort of like a british, 1960s version of grey's anatomy). and for the first time since tuesday, i slept for 8 hours. it was lovely.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
things to do when you have lost your voice
caught a virus after spending 10 hours in post thanksgiving traffic, eating macdonald's veggie burgers, listening to my friend lu talk about his girl problems and frat problems and family problems, and problems from having moved from mongolia to china to boston to new jersey, before he fell asleep, emotionally exhausted, leaving me with the toughest part of the journey to work through wet, rained out highways and realise it would probably be a sleepless night with milton and baudrillard.
anyway, these are things to do when you have lost your voice:
live quietly. choose your words carefully, speak less, listen more. clean the mirrors and sink. drink a lot of water (preferably four glasses at every sitting). buy theraflu packets (daytime ones, without antihistamines). make tea--herbal, white or green. drink warm things. watch the steam rise from your mug. sleep enough. clear the bedstand of pills and medicine bottles--trick your body into thinking, wellness. minimise on salt and sugar. make soupy things for yourself, like chicken broth with corn and watercress and wholewheat spaghetti(lunch); like tomato-chicken soup with mushrooms and tofu (dinner). eat them slowly, thinking healthful thoughts about goodness and warmth. clean the kitchen (try not to get the room mate sick). buy a lot of tissue (i like kleenex anti-viral ones). do the laundry. spend a long time in the bath, so that the steam enters into you and moistens your airways. make yourself surrounded by love. use the quiet wisely, because you won't be ill like this in probably a long time.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
sick to the core
i actually really terrified hmh is going to bought up by one of the big four. talked to e, who said it is depressing and taxing in the office. i need to call to confirm again the internship in jan, despite having more or less confirmed it over the phone a couple of days back, but i am terrified that the person i confirmed it with has been fired. this is not a paranoid thing to say. before summer, i was overjoyed when someone from s called me. but a few days later, the recruiter who gave me the greenlight for the 3rd round of interviews was fired, and i was left with a much harsher recruiter (the hr director). so it was a wasted trip to new york. now i am sick, in self-imposed isolation (can't talk without getting into a coughing fit) i can't even talk to justin on the phone ("can we text? i have no voice"). my mother is asking why am i not staying in singapore longer. i want to tell her, because i am a fool.
NEW YORK – More bad news from the book industry: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that it is "streamlining" its educational business, and eliminating jobs in both its education and general divisions. HarperCollins and Pearson, parent company of Penguin Group (USA), are freezing wages and considering layoffs.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
i drove up to jersey for thanksgiving with justin and his folks. his dad is still trying to pack up the house after the divorce, he's moving into an apartment in flushing, and donating everything to the salvation army. in alarm, i decided to inherit the wedding glassware. he loves those plates in a sentimental way. so i tried to take 2 pieces from every set. perhaps sometime in the future i will give it back to him. i also got a set of knives, a colander, and definitely, the coolest and best of all, justin's childhood dinosaur blanket.
justin and i met up with tee in new york city in the cantonese restaurant that i love on bayard street. i was so happy to see tee--was reminded of how he looks at life with such honesty and thoughtfulness--and very tickled when tee and justin started going on about guitars, amps and incomprehensible music things. justin and i watched synecdoche, new york (very, very good) that night at sunshine theater and discovered a tiny cafe/bar that plays portuguese jazz and sells lithuanian beer. i also found an apartment in brooklyn--carroll gardens, a very catholic italian neighborhood. i'll be living there with jimmy, an elusive old cat for two weeks in january.
[me] dawn, singapore, new york city, ithaca.
holding on tight -- vol ii
[archives] January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009