Although I'm quite doubtful I will get in anywhere, to Ph.D programs that is, because I was rejected by 12 last year, but I need to get a terminal degree! my employment situation is terminal! I have a terminal disease! the first two but not the last are true, unless perpetual melancholia undercut by mania is a terminal disease. I am actually convinced I am functionally illiterate, like I am Charly in Flowers from Algernon, on the downtick, you laugh! (or maybe there is no you there and I am a mere Echo, ) but I have been convinced for some time that I have been masquerading as a reader and a writer. Actually I will tell you the truth. I came up with this reading notebook/blog after reading Blake Butler's excellent list of the million and one books he read this year. And I thought about it and thought about it and I realized I hadn't read many novels at all, which made me feel really dumb and like the biggest poseur ever. The only thing on his list I have read is The Bruise, and I have started and really want to finish Rose Alley, and I read some of Ugly Man on the floor of a Barnes and Noble, and I don't know why I was on the floor of a Barnes and Noble, and I just remember feeling pissy that Dennis Cooper was in "Gay Men's Fiction" and Carole Maso was in "Lesbian Fiction" it felt like such a ghetto (look at me, so into my "women's writing," I call that a ghetto, I mean they should be there and in "Literature" as well) so I actually moved some of Maso to the regular fiction section, I find myself sorting things at a bookstore quite often, actually. In Ugly Man I read this story about these guys who bring in a boy to fuck and then kill, or is it kill and then fuck? and I really enjoyed it. Dennis Cooper goes there, in terms of the transgressive, in a way that I really envy, and I wish I could go back and redo my libertine phase, and make it less heteronormative suburban, and actually for the current project I was reading a lot of romance novels, and watching a lot of porn, as my character Monkey is kind of sort of based on Sasha Grey, and her mother is an Emma Bovary,. And lately even if I love a book I will only read the first 30 pages. Like, if I was actually a reader, and made a list of books I had read, I could say one of my best books of the year was Babyfucker, which blew my mind, but I haven't finished it. But I'd much rather be cowed by this list and light a fire on my ass to stop watching Gossip Girl on the Internet and become a more serious person, that is always my New Year's resolution, BECOME A MORE SERIOUS PERSON, than this list by Miranda July, which I don't know whether I'm kind of charmed by or totally annoyed by, which is usually the reaction I get from Miranda July. That reminds me of this article on quirk. I don't know. I know I'm saying I can't read, but I want to read. I love books. Interesting books. Infuriating books. Bendy-twisty books. And I hate when "literary" writers aren't serious readers. I reviewed Wetlands this year for Bookforum, which, as I wrote in my review, lacked any big ideas, and I would much more recommend Elfriede Jelinek's Wonderful, Wonderful Times, maybe my favorite book of all fucking time, or Story of the Eye, or Blood and Guts in High School. But the author Charlotte Roche, who's like some Berlin VJ (do they still have VJs? I dont' have cable) kept on claiming in interviews that she didn't read anything. That annoyed the fuck out of me. Or it could have been a lie. There were some scenes that were totally straight up out of Bataille, substitute avocadoes for eggs. I liked that she created some icky scenes that were memorable, that really do confront the reader, but we were supposed to think of her character as a heroine, this brave postfeminist, and I think that's the problem, the dialectics of postfeminism hasn't been properly examined in a novel, that's what I'm trying to do in Green Girl and in the novel I'm working on, Under the Shadow of My Roof.
What else did I read this year that's on Blake Butler's list that makes me feel so inferior (this is my own issue)? Again, some of Babyfucker, I heard a reading of Killing Kanoko at &Now, and it was AWESOME, and I would love to read all of it, and when I read them both I will explore them more in depth, and in an upcoming blog post I hope to write about Killing Kanoko and Babyfucker and this awesome essay by Joyelle McSweeney in a discussion of the birth metaphor. I wonder if I will always promise to write things in depth, and I never will, and I think that's quite possible, so this is a warning again on that front As my man Nietzsche writes "consciousness is a surface," and I am best when I am flitting thought to thought, never really delving deeply. This is making me reconsider going into a Ph.D and becoming a scholar woman. I actually once took a performance theory seminar with the amazing but intimidating-as-hell Loren Kruger, and I once asked her for a letter of recommendation, and she said no, because she wrote that a scholar needs to carefully reflect in a room for months at a time without any sort of immediate gratification of publishing (i am rewording her) but I seemed like I would be best as a journalist, and there were needs for both in this world, blah blah blah. Although I could counter now that I have finished writing a couple of books, but it's true I'm not good at sitting and thinking deeply about one passage of text or idea for hours on end, I flit around from idea to idea in a pretty rapidfire way (exhibit A). So perhaps I would be an atrocious scholar but I love to read philosophy & theory and last summer I finished History of Madness! but mostly I flit and take at random. But I want to be a Charlotte Brooke-Rose, by that I mean I want to live in Paris! I want to go study with Cixous at Paris VIII! Even though my French is remedial at best! I want to be an American Cixous! I really do. Actually I kind of look like Cixous, and my mother really looked like her, which really makes literal the whole idea of literary foremothers that Gilbert and Gubar get into. Actually in my messy mother-text Book of Mutter I paste in Cixous' picture, because she looks so much like me.
Actually, this is a true story, Cixous and Irigaray taught at Northwestern when I was there, although I didn't take any classes with them, because I was a dumb ass, at the time. But I had a friend who was a philosophy major, who took a class with Cixous, and I had never heard of her at the time, but she said to me at one point - I have this professor, she's very theatrical, and she reminds me so much of you. And it was Cixous! What a myth-making anecdote! I later heard Cixous speak about Derrida years later and what I remember most from the evening is what she was wearing. She came in, it was winter, and she was wearing a black long coat and underneath a black zip-up vest like the North Face kind but it wasn't, and then a beautiful long colorful silk scarf, it was very French. And then gobs and gobs of make-up, like a mime, a beautiful, severe mime. And the next day I went out and got a vest to wear under my winter coat! And I love how Cixous writes in Reveries of a Wild Woman about picking out cashmere cardigans and desiring them so deeply, a sort of clothing jouissance, which is something my novel Green Girl, who nobody wants, my orphanned, lovely work, touches upon, sort of existentialist novel of an ingenue who works as a perfume spritzer of a celebrity perfume named Desire at a London department store and is involved with other members of this sort of London demimonde of shopgirls and coffeegirls, etc. and is obsessed with the New Wave and hooks up with way too many losers. And department stores "temples consecrated to this intoxification" that Benjamin writes about in Arcades Project. And it's really inspired by Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star, in that there's a godlike narrator, but she's a woman, an ambivalent mother, I always have pondered why Lispector chooses a male narrator in Hour, and I think of how she wrote it at the end of her life, riddled with cancer, and that feeling of mortality infuses the work, makes it so poignant, a work that is so much about creation and destruction.
Anyway...all of my style icons are rock-star intellectuals and artists, many of them older. Besides Cixous probably my other big style icon is Maya Deren from "Meshes in the Afternoon," the black long top, the wide black dancer pants. For ever I went to stores trying to find the perfect Maya Deren pants. I have not yet succeeded.
Now when I think of Maya Deren I think of Anais Nin, who acted in one of her films, I forget which one, and how Nin said that Maya wanted to be made love to all day, they all had to take turns making love to Maya, because otherwise she'd be in a terrible mood, and that's a lot like the pot calling the kettle black, because I have been reading Nin's Incest journals, which are AMAZING, and Anais Nin gets more tail than anyone I've ever heard of in life/world history, male or female. Except maybe Zeus. She had like a magical golden vagina or something. Everyone had to fuck Anais or they'd go blind, Henry Miller, all of her analysts, including Otto Rank, and Artaud, and her cousins, and HER FATHER, and I am going to write about Anais and Artaud and Henry Miller in an upcoming blog post/essay. THIS IS NOT A TEASE! I just have to get my thoughts together. In terms of other style icons I would have to add Joan Jonas, whose videos I love love, who appeared on the cover of an art magazine in a green blazer with her black jeans tucked into her boots, and I totally started wearing blazers and tucking my jeans into my boots, and most recently Jenny Holzer, who's incredibly bad-ass in this interview, and I love that she watches Law & Order at night and eats frozen organic pizzas, and I loved her retrospective when it was at the MCA, and I thought her writing was a lot like Elfriede Jelinek's, these recycling of cliches to show how dehumanizing they are, and I really liked her torture memo stuff. Oh! my other style icon is Louise Bourgeois. I love her cells when she hangs her beautiful cream designer garments.
I loved her in this documentary. I love her tantrums. I traveled to London to go to her Tate show, and then I traveled to New York to go to her Guggenheim show, and it was cool seeing her spiral hanging sculptures at the Guggenheim, but there were too many children there. Sometimes I have fantasies of going to Bourgeois' salon in New York, and we would have a conversation about her insomnia drawings, that's my favorite of hers, and then the red cells, but I'm sure if I was ever in the same room with Louise Bourgeois I would go absolutely mute. Sometimes when I was feeling blue in Chicago I would go to the Columbia College library downtown and look at the Insomnia Drawings there. I would love to have insomnia, Nietzsche had it too, as did Flaubert? I know this is extremely insensitive to those who are tormented by it, but I would love to be more tormented, I think that would make me more interesting, instead I sleep 10 hours a day. I have one of her pillowcases framed in my office with the words in red, KEEP CALM, and it is my mantra, because although I may not fit into the frenzied mode of artist that Nietzsche dictates I'm more than a bit high-strung and prone to a tamtrum or two in my day. Louise Bourgeois is my mother too, which she would hate, she says she doesn't want to be a mother, she wants to be a child. I have this wonderful book of hers, Destruction of the Father, and she is really such a writer of voice, I love her scribblings on her drawings.
Actually, a funny story, I had an Amazon.com wish list and my father wanted to buy me some books for Christmas two years ago and I asked for Destruction of the Father, and my father grunted at me that he thought the book was about him. That I had somehow planted this book in my Amazon.com wish list as a passive-aggressive way to communicate my daddy issues, which I have of course, plenty, I have more mother issues, I think, but someone very smart once said to me "Beware of the less obvious parent." And I think there is something about being reborn as a radical writer and having to somehow destroy or murder your father, not literally of course, although this does call to mind a particular scene in Juliette. But you have to dismantle this notion of patriarchal authority. But still I thought this story was very funny, because my father thinks everything is all about him, and years ago when I told him I wanted to write, he got a strange look on his face, and he said "Just don't embarrass your father" that was his biggest worry, and I hope my family doesn't want to read my novel coming out, because in it I'm trying to dismantle sentimentality and Catholicism and bourgeois virtue, and there is the phrase "fuck'n'run." Although I remember reading somewhere that Elizabeth Wurtzel's mother never read Prozac Nation and I don't think my family would really be able to process the book, not that they're unintelligent, but there's more than a fair share of pornographic language in some sections, and I think people see what they want to see.
Anyway. Where the fuck was I. I am in a trance like Sylvia and Ted doing Ouija. I did actually have an outline for this blog post, and then I started writing about style icons, and my father issues, and now I feel I'm in psychoanalysis. Actually after reading Anais' journals I decided I wanted to go into psychoanalysis, because it would make me feel closer to Anais Nin and H.D., and I called the Cleveland Center for Psychoanalysis, and then I realized it would involve driving an hour and going 5 days a week, and they have been calling me, and I won't return their calls. Because I have avoidance issues. I love reading Freud and Lacan etc. but I guess I just wanted to go to psychoanalysis to debate, like, do you really think the Narcissus metaphor has replaced the Oedipal in explorations of subjectivity? and when I just moved here to Akron, I had a massive breakdown, and I went to a therapist that my insurance would pay for, and all she did was ask me questions off a form, and then diagnosed me with adjustment issues, which I have problems with, of course, as I am anti-psychiatry theoretically, as I have read my share of Laing, Deleuze, Foucault, etc., and have had more than my share of personal experiences with Herr Mind Doktors, I know, quelle surprise, and then I thought this person has probably never read Lacan or Foucault, and I was just disgusted, and I never went back. For a while in Chicago I had an amazing therapist who kind of looked like Santa Claus, but then I saw him on an episode of the local PBS restaurant show Check Please, and his suggestion was this totally wanky jazz/steakhouse, and I couldn't possibly go to him ever again after that, obviously.
Oh, here's Bourgeois' Destruction of the Father, her scene sending up Tantalus, one of my favorite Greek myths, which somehowreminds me of the Peter Greenaway film where they kill Helen Mirren's lover who is a bookshop owner by cramming him full of the pages of his books, and then they cook him up and eat him! oh! I love how the colors of Helen Mirren's outfits change in that movie! and that scene where she fucks the guy in the bathroom!
In the next few days I will post my Part Two of this essay about the best books I read this year and my meditations on the anorexic (vs. bulimic) text.