But I digress.
Okay, wait, one more anecdote: When I was nearing the completion of my toxic girl lifespan, by that I mean right after my mother died and then my former best friend/partner-in-crime offed herself and I met John, the order there's a bit mixed up, came closer to bourgeois coupledom with Denby platewear and thoughts of exercising on Elliptical machines and increased cupwear for sagging breasts purchased at various Midwestern or Southern Macy's, I wrote a column for a publication for an alternative weekly in Chicago in which I named myself Janey Smith. And the column was called Fresh Hell. So two other authors: Kathy Acker for the character and Dorothy Parker for the title. I have written about this before and Chris thinks I should not really write about it so much in the book, so I will write here. And I wrote about basically adventures in fucking, and then adventures in coupledom. As a former professor/idol of mine said when she discovered I was the author: Oh you write those delightful stories about girls going to bars. And no one knew my identity, but people did read it, it was my first instances of really being this public author. It was exhilirating. I remember going into my favorite clothing boutique which at the time I would visit but not buy anything at, because I couldn't afford it, I still can't afford it, doesn't mean I don't occasionally buy things, and they were all reading it, and then I outed myself, shyly, and all of a sudden I was a celebrity. I was Janey Smith (they didn't know that I was a bastardized weak chicklit version of Acker's Janey Smith, but anyway). And I remember one of them saying, "I love Janey Smith, but I would hate being friends with her in real life. She's so mean."
This anecdote feels purposeful, somehow. Perhaps because I realize as I articulate my neurosis and strangeness in this public way that I am not presenting the most ideal image of myself - but this is who I am. These blog posts I realize are not flattering portraits. But I am not although I once played at being nice, or digestible, or easy to get along with. Even when I tried - desperately - to get people to like me that never happened, easily. My whole life spent alone in the bathroom stall. I have never won at popularity contests. I am vulgar, prickly, aggressive while also passive, impolite, "difficult," neurotic, self-obsessed, while paraodoxically endlessly self-loathing. Perhaps I never wanted to be loved. I merely wanted to be seen. And I in turn will see you, will read you, regardless of whether you are perceived of as "difficult" or "mad" or "angry," perhaps BECAUSE of those things.
and yet still I lack Henry Miller's ego, his swagger, his bravado, because despite those qualities I am streaming forth, those loathsome negative qualities, I still hate myself for them. This is why I cannot be the genius asshole. I lack the ego. Except sometimes when I don't. And instead of grabbing the chance and writing - this song of myself - and other, difficult women - I don't. I instead read. I have started instead of spitting out to swallow lately.
I have become addicted to reading, lately. And I don't say that in a way like, Oh, look what a serious bluestocking I am. I have become a serious book hoarder, and this morning after waking, still feeling sickly, literally stood up unbreakfasted and uncaffeinated for an hour and read a book on Blanchot and Bataille and Laure for an hour, while undescribably standing on one leg, balancing myself in that position, in my office I never sit in because it has become overrun by library books and bought books and used copies on Abebooks. Everyday books by Abebooks arrive. I rip them open, worry over them, get displaced. I am speedreading without digesting. I am flipping and feeling woozy. I am reading because I am terrified of beginning this book and failing again. I am surrounding myself with all the authority of the world. These words act like a sort of thought suppressant like my bright green ogre pills. Instead of my voice I am keeping notes, endless orange Rhodia notebooks, on all of these books, which I am hoping I will read enough, so I will understand, something, so I will understand, SOMETHING, in order to potentially write a book about it in two months for a press everyone keeps on saying the name on like it's something which I know it's something I know and I know I'm going to fuck it up and during Eileen's reading at the gallery in DC when she kept on saying the name of the press I kept on breaking out into a succession of hypochondrical: hives, chills, lesions, although they were spiritual instead of actual. At this stage I have forgotten everything I have ever known. And madness narratives. Yesterday I read The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman the most delightful book - I am the Joel Siegel of book critics for fuck's sake - this is what I'm terrified of doing - It is a delightful book. I have no idea what to say about it. Yesterday I read more and more and read through Anna Kavan which I've read through 35 times. This is another stage. I become convinced I need to reread everything I've read in the past year because I need to form an impression of it, it needs to somehow impress itself on me, for me to remember it, like tactilely, physically, and then I will be infused with the spirit of that book and can write about it eloquently instead of using meaningless adjectives: ecstatic, gorgeous, terrifying. I am realizing for this book I need to be a talented reader and I am realizing instead of being a talented reader I am instead an enthusiastic sponge. I am realizing I read like a girl. I read like Emma Bovary and perhaps Flaubert is saying she is a bourgeois, bad reader - but he as author he too felt the spirit of his character, he swallowed the spirit and felt viscerally, bodily, badgirl Emma tattooed on his soul.But perhaps I need to write about what it means to read like a girl. What it means to write like a girl. And I who disavowed "girl." For years disavowed "girl." But what am I but a girl. If anything I was clothing myself up like a woman and I have the sagging wilted armor of a woman and but I'm still a girl - through trauma, through repetition, through return. I am experiencing right now the terror of influence and the dread of authorship.
What I meant to write about is that I am reading HTML Giant too much. Mike Kitchell writing about Kathy Acker. He used the phrase the "bourgeois mode of art appreciation." And I asked, in the comments, "Why is writing how a book makes you feel a bourgeois mode?" And Mike, answered eloquently:
writing how a book makes you feel is not a bourgeois mode-- the number one thing i appreciate in art is the level of affect it spurs, however i appreciate affect more at an immediate level (as in "i am actually feeling this myself in my own encounter with the text" [whether the "text," as it stands, be literally text, or sound, or visual art, or a movie, etc] instead of "there is a level removed where i am thrusting myself vicariously into the position of the protagonist in said narrative")
the bourgeois mode is ostensibly declaring an art's ultimate worth based solely on a positioning in which relatability (i.e. this narrative is worthwhile because one time in high school i was sad and depressed & because this character is sad and depressed i feel comfortable experiencing and re-encountering said emotions & in fact i feel "mega positive" about this because i know about it man) is the ultimatum.
And I agree with this. Or I always have. That writing about one's encounter with the text - reading today Bataille on how a text should tear one apart, wound one, produce holes in one - is an interesting mode, and that traditionally the sort of Oprah-idea of identification is bad, that we usually decry, as I wrote in the comments, as dangerous and antiintellectual. But I wonder how much I read like a girl? I read for identification, often. Or I did in the early days, when I was a "bad reader" (I am still a "bad reader") reading Kathy Acker and inhaling Blood and Guts or even Acker on Laure. As I wrote, I do read Jean Rhys partially because I do identify so intensely with her character's experience, not only the rhythm and the language, and all of that that does rend me, that does tear me apart, a mystical experience. And Mike and someone else wrote very good things, which by the way I agree with, one cannot read a text to just confirm one's own self - "I identified with it" - isn't that the bane of teaching literature in the classroom? But why can't there be something intensely liberatory about reading a text where you see echoed your own experience, like girls reading and loving The Bell Jar? Reading of breakups and breakdowns. And isn't this mode of identification - no - mythification - yes - adulation - the reason that Sylvia Plath is often seen as a less serious writer, because she has such girl-fans?
My Works Cited will consist entirely of the comments page of HTML Giant and glosses from Wikipedia.
EITHER: I am having a breakthrough: OR: some sort of breakdown. But as Laure says one cannot have communion without spectators. This is like her cherished bullfight. Watch me rip myself to shreds.
Update: Just got email that the book, this book, will most likely be moved to Fall 2012. So in a way this eases a state of emergency. Although I wonder whether this was a really positive, cathartic state of emergency, of urgency.