Wednesday, August 31, 2005

happy thoughts

I read in Utne magazine that there are more public libraries in the United States than McDonald's restaurants. 'Course it's in the middle of an article bemoaning the fate of the library as we know it, but still. It cheered me up.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

subtle sister

A friend made me a mix-tape a few weeks ago, a friend I only know through the internet. I think the mix-tape, and its descendant, the mix CD, is one of the greatest developments ever. It's a musical form of the zine; totally punk in spirit, a home-made anthology of a person's character, an underground distribution of indie music and culture, stuff you might never hear on the radio or see on tv. Borrow a CD from the library, download an MP3 off the internet, burn it, stick it in the mail, you've got a grassroots culture thriving. My friend put all sorts of cool crap I'd never been able to hear, Bitch and Animal, Dressy Bessy, April March, Gina Young, Laura Nyro. And four tracks of Alix Olsen, hell-raising dyke and folk poet extraordinaire. I've been quietly going out of my mind over her ever since.

that night i learned
that skin is where this revolution gonna begin,
touching one woman at a time, showing there’s no crime
in feeling this good
God would be a dyke if She could find someone to hold her
--"Cute for a Girl"
She's a slam-poet-spoken-word-artist-activist; and slam poetry is so exciting because it's all about performance, interaction, in a way that traditional poetry isn't. It blurs the distinctions between literature, acting, hip-hop, folk music, politics and protest songs. If Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie had been born later they'd be slam poets.

i believe misogyny and patriarchy are closet homo lovers
and they screw over their sisters cause they’re scared to screw each other.

She's confrontational and in-your-face, adamantly political and erotic at once.
i believe you should learn more than one language
you should learn to talk in tongues and lips
i believe in nipples and skin and toes and hips.
i believe in noise from teeth and throats
and cunts
the noise of poetry, music, laughter, after screaming cunnilingus.
i believe women are sexy
without makeup or clothes
i believe women are sexy
when they’re reciting prose
--"i believe"
Some of her stuff is pure politics ("America's On Sale"), some of it mixes critique of national policy with confessional lyrics, some of it is political by being entirely personal. "Cunt Cuntry" is just magnificent. "Checking My Pulse" is every crush, date, and relationship I've ever had:

and I’m sorry if you’re thinking that I knew
what I was doing
I guess what I do best is look like I am in control
but tonight, tonight, I am a soft and untamed thing
and I will wrap my breath around you til your exhale comes clean.
I am checking my pulse
I am checking my pulse.

you are the buried penny at the bottom of the pool
so I guess that makes me the fool diving deep for you
I’ll stick you in my pocket
all shiny, all precious, and all not mine
Somehow she manages to avoid coming off as didactic or preachy. It's her humor and her word-play, because while the radical politics are great, it's not worth shit if your words can't handle the weight of it. Sometimes there's nothing worse than Bad Feminist Poetry.

So, in the "F" or "M" boxes they give,
I forgive myself for not fitting in
And blame the world for lack of clarity.
I deliberate.
Penis? I got one y’know. I write down "d" for dildo,
I write down "D" for "Don’t know,"
I fill in "F" for
fi-fie-foe male!
Yes, I’m a giant Vagina!
--"Gender Game"
She's got an ode to armpit hair that's fucking hilarious.

See, sometimes anger’s subtle, stocked in metaphor
full of finesse and dressed in allure
yes, sometimes anger’s subtle, less rage than sad
leaking slow through spigots you didn’t know you had.
and sometimes it’s just

fuck you.
fuck you.
you see, and to me,

That’s poetry too.
--"Subtle Sister"
Okay. I admit it. There really isn't any substance to this post other than to post quotes and say "See? Isn't she great? She's so fucking amazing! I would so totally make out with her!"

well, I don’t desire your superstar badge of bravery
for enduring modern-day slavery
in your maniacally economically-driven death trap.
anyway, I’d give the U.S a bad rap,
I’d kiss every fine iraqi dyke on the front line,
fuck national pride,
I’d go to their side--
i prefer crossnational desire to crossfire anyway
--"Dear Mr. President"
See? Isn't she great?? Plus, she's really, really fucking cute too:

Sigh...I would so totally make out with her. To say the least. It's clear that I will not survive in Europe without her album Built Like That; fortunately I've got a friend burning it for me. Go to "Written" on the Gallery page, you'll find all the lyrics/words/poems on the album.
I am checking my pulse, making sure it hasn’t quit on me yet...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Now this is more like it

Went to visit a friend in Nearby Medium-sized College Town for a few days this week. S. is one of the coolest people I know. She came to live with my family as a foreign exchange student when I was 13, and she's essentially been state-side ever since. I call her my Brazilian Sister.
Anyway, we're hanging out, and when I'm in Nearby Medium-sized College Town, I have to visit this local shop called the Peace Nook. It's an organic hippie bookstore collective non-profit thing, so you can pick up your soy milk, yoga pants, the latest Le Tigre album, and a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves all at once. It's volunteer run and all the profits go to a local progressive pacifist organization. I love it, it's full of all sorts of cool crap. And it's where I finally found some decent magazines: I picked up copies of The Beltane Papers, Off Our Backs, and Velvetpark. They all smell like patchouli, swear to god.
Velvetpark--this is the the queer mag I've been looking for. There are so many reasons why it rocks out that I don't know where to start. First, it's got a kick-ass name. None of that cheesy "Curves" shit. Second, they have the D-Word right on the cover, above a picture of the likes of Rachel Maddow, Janeane Garofalo, and Amy Goodman. They've got a photo spread of cute skateboarding bois, an interview with Abwa Dawesar--my god, they've even got goddamn fucking Alix Olsen as a contributing writer! (She'll get her own post full of ardent swooning soon, don't you worry). In addition to the usual movie and music reviews. I'm not sure how I'm gonna live without it in Europe.
OOB, as it likes to refer to itself, is like an angrier Ms. It's very second-wave, which is awesome. I think that whole Second/Third Wave distinction is pretty arbitrary anyway. And they've got two, count 'em, two articles eulogizing Andrea Dworkin that treat her as actual person with provocative ideas, and not just That Fat Ugly Feminazi Bitch. Plus an article on women bloggers and four pages of Dykes to Watch Out For strips in the back.
The Beltane Papers is pretty similiar to SageWoman--articles, interviews, reviews, herbalism, art and poetry--with an advisory council that's a veritable Who's Who of the Goddess Spirituality movement. Plenty of ideas and inspiration to help me become a fantabulous hippie geek.
I just wish it hadn't taken me all summer to find some decent magazines. Doesn't that just figure.

Monday, August 22, 2005

in which I suffer another attack of passionate booklust

So I was doing a little creative reshelving at my local Soul-less Corporate Bookstore Emporium last night, trying to look casual with my arms full of bookmarked 1984s. I was passing a display table when suddenly, the clouds parted in the heavens, and as a celestial choir sang a beam of light poured down and I fell to my knees in reverence as I beheld a glorious vision:

Emma Donoghue's new novel Life Mask, on sale in paperback for $14.00.

Now you may think I'm being hyperbolic, but then you just don't understand. I love Emma Donoghue with a love that is pure and true. I'd totally marry her and have her babies if it wasn't for the fact that some lucky Canadian woman beat me to it. Hood was a touchstone for me in college; I was so sad to have to say good-bye to it when I graduated. It's my goal in life to own all of her work. And I've been waiting for Life Mask to come out (heh) in paperback for so, so long now, because I can't afford the hardback and anyway I haven't got room on my shelves for it. But now, finally, here it is; I picked up Slammerkin while I was at it. Slammerkin was rough, a tragedy like Macbeth in its horror, but irresistable nevertheless. There really is no pleasure like that of finally owning a book you've coveted forever. I've been casting about for what to read after Beat to Quarters; nothing was really sticking with me. But I don't want to start Life Mask *just* yet; maybe this afternoon; I want to just enjoy simply having it for a bit, the anticipation of reading it. You wait for a book this long, you want to do it right, not just jump in cold.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

84 Charing Cross Road

It's one of my favorite books, and now I've finally managed to see the movie last night. I've been dying to see how they managed to turn a bunch of bookish letters between a British bookseller and a New York writer into a film.
They did manage it, with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft no less, it's got that nice serene Merchant-Ivory feel to it. But it is, essentially, two hours of people sitting in front of typewriters, with voice-overs. If you haven't read the book (and why haven't you???), it might not be all that interesting. I liked it though; Anne Bancroft's Noo Yawk accent is just what I imagined, and Hopkins's Frank Doel is charmingly unassuming. I don't know why they wasted Judy Dench as his wife Nora, she has all of three lines, though she does deliver them in a killer Irish brogue that reminds me of the nuns at my old grade school (hi Sister Eileen, Sister Laurentia, I'm glad you're not reading this thing). Like every good literary adaptation, the fun is watching the words realized on the screen, seeing Hanff constantly bawling out poor Frank ("SLOTH: i could ROT over here before you'd send me anything to read....what do you do with yourself all day, sit in the back of the store and read? why don't you try selling a book to somebody?"). I loved seeing Helene read Donne aloud, or make the Yorkshire pudding, and Bill Humphries' 75-year-old great-aunt exclaiming over the meat Helene sends them.
I'm kind of puzzled by the adaptation though. They invent a few things to keep the plot going, understandable, like Helene getting accidently arrested at a student sit-in at Columbia University (I can see that happening to her, and for all I know it really did). But they cut out some of the best lines, which is inexcusable considering the whole thing's just shy of 100 pages. Where's the bit where Frank snaps that his last name certainly is not Welsh, he's a Norman, thankyouverymuch? The part where Ginny and Ed get mobbed by the folks at Charing Cross when they're discovered to be Helene's friends? The part where Helene "goes out of her mind" over Pride and Prejudice after going on about how much she hates novels? Or when she decries the edition of Catullus that's been turned into "Victorian hearts-and-flowers" ("i mean it PASSETH understanding"). Why did they not include the letter of August 15, 1959, which is so good I shall reproduce it in full:
i write to say i have got work.
i won it. i won a $5,000 Grant-in-Aid off CBS, it's supposed to support me for a year while I write American History dramatizations. I am starting with a script about New York under seven years of British Occupation and i MARVEL at how i rise above it to address you in friendly and forgiving fashion, your behavior over here from 1776 to 1783 was simply FILTHY.
Is there such a thing as a modern-English version of the Canterbury Tales? I have these guilts about never having read Chaucer but I was talkd out of learning Early Anglo-Saxon/Middle English by a friend who had to take it for her Ph.D. They told her to write an essay in Early Anglo-Saxon on any-subject-of-her-own-choosing. "Which is all very well, " she said bitterly, "but the only essay subject you can find enough Early Anglo-Saxon words for is 'How to Slaughter a Thousand Men in a Mead Hall.' "
She also filled me in on Beowulf and his illegitimate son Sidwith--or is it Widsith? she says it's not worth reading so that killed my interset in the entire subject, just send me a modern Chaucer.

love to nora


Which is a heckuvalot of griping for a movie I honestly enjoyed, but I can't help feeling a bit like Helene did when she got that bowlderized Pepys Diary ("i could just spit. where is jan. 12, 1668, where his wife chased him out of bed and round the bedroom with a red-hot poker?").
Ah well. I'll still buy it on DVD, Someday When I'm Independantly Wealthy. When I grow up I'll be some version of Helene Hanff and Miss Marple, shuffling around in wool slacks and moth-eaten sweaters, solving murder mysteries as I knit away.
Oh, and it's Wiglaf who's probably Beowulf's bastard son, I've read the thing twice and it is too worth reading. Blood and guts and dragons and shit, what's not to like?

Friday, August 19, 2005

cue maniacal evil scientist laughter


1. Select a local bookstore to carry out your reshelving activities.
2. Download and print "This book has been relocated by the Ministry of Reshelving" bookmarks and "All copies of 1984 have been relocated" notecards to take with you to the bookstore. Or make your own. We recommend bringing a notecard and 5-10 bookmarks to each store.
3. Go to the bookstore and locate its copies of George Orwell's 1984. Unless the Ministry of Reshelving has already visited this bookstore, it is probably currently incorrectly classified as "Fiction" or "Literature."
4. Discreetly move all copies of 1984 to a more suitable section, such as "Current Events", "Politics", "History", "True Crime", or "New Non-Fiction."
5. Insert a Ministry of Reshelving bookmark into each copy of any book you have moved. Leave a notecard in the empty space the books once occupied.
6. If you spot other incorrectly classified books, feel free to relocate them.


I'm literally cackling with glee at the thought of committing acts of random guerrilla book activism at my local Borders. And as I used to be a lowly page during high school, I know the gals at the library will appreciate a little shake-up to the routine...
Via Bitch Ph.D. (note to self: update sidebar dammit)

this is me rolling my eyes at blue staters

I do love my home, despite all my bitching, and I so totally want this button--but, um, guys? That's not Georgia. I think I would have noticed if I lived in Georgia (my cousins in Atlanta will be surprised to find that they're now Midwesterners). I know us flyover states are pretty indistinguishable to you folks on the coasts, but jeez. And why do you only sell them in packs of 10 and 100?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I think I'm gonna start making zines.

It's pretty sad when I'd rather buy Bust's "Men We Love" issue than the latest from Girlfriends. I went to the bookstore to do my monthly magazine run and came up with nothing. I did end up buying the Bust issue, mainly because Mary-Louise Parker did one of the interviews, and I've been in love with her since I was fourteen (mothers, don't let your daughters watch and/or read Fried Green Tomatoes!).
Girlfriends calls itself "the word on lesbian lifestyle", to which I respond with a resounding WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER. This month's issue features insightful articles on which Fortune 500 company I should work for (cause I so have a chance to work for Lucent Technologies); how to come out once at said lesbian-friendly office space; the wonders of places I've never been to and won't likely visit any time soon, such as MichFest and the Yukon; which over-priced wine I should drink; reviews of movies I'll never get to see, TV I don't watch anyway, Hollywood rumors I don't care about, and books I'm not interested in reading. Then they put it all behind a frankly insulting cover--am I supposed to find anorexic models on a bender attractive? Because historically, I tend to go for girls who weigh twice as much as that topless office chick.
I guess I'm accusing them of targeting wealthy assimilating white 30-something dykes who live in San Francisco; which is ironic, as this month's letters-to-the-editor has a rant from a 50-ish woman accusing them of pandering to horny 17 year-old lesbians. I wish.
Bust has its flaws--it's a little too lipstick for my tastes, and at the end of the day, it's written by and for straight girls--but at least it's not as fluffy as Girlfriends. When Andrea Dworkin died I couldn't believe a lesbian magazine published such a flippant and sneering obit--repeating the old "she said all straight sex was rape! What a prudish freak!" myth. Maybe it was Curve that published it; I don't know, they're pretty indistinguisable (I am not even going to get into the Gwen Stefani cover that Curve published).
So, why do I keep reading magazines that have all the political conciousness of a sorority girl? Because they're the only ones out there. I know there are other queer rags--I've heard Fierce is pretty good--but they don't sell them here. And I can't afford a subscription, I can barely afford to buy Bitch and Bust every few months. And sometimes they're decent; last month's Girlfriends featured butch fashion, and how often do you see a butch girl in a tie on a cover? I ate it up. Besides, beggars can't be choosers. But I keep fantasizing about a magazine with a feminist conciousness like Bitch and Bust, that's written for queer women like Curve and Girlfriends, and--this is the pie-in-the-sky bit--speaks to my experience as a financially strapped midwestern dyke who did all her coming out in a rural red state. Or at least acknowledges my existence. Because I'm glad that New York and California have a queer culture and resources that I can only dream of. Good for them. Doesn't do me a whole lot of fucking good, it just makes me feel even more isolated than usual. Thank goddess for the internet, that's all I can say. I wish that whole "all feminists are lesbians" stereotype were true; it would increase the number of actual dykes I actually know from 1 to 3.
I did a little net searching and found there are at least two queer magazines in France: Tetu, which seems to be their version of The Advocate, written by men, with men on the cover, and maybe a sidebar on for lesbians inside somewhere; and a dyke mag called La Dixieme Muse. Whether I'll actually be able to find them at tabacs remains to be seen.
Clearly, I'm going to have to become a media mogul and start my own goddamn magazine.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Ultimate Shakespeare Mix CD

er, sorta. All that digging I did at the library was to no avail. They do not have the Twelfth Night soundtrack (!!). Nothing but counter-tenors and Italian operas. So I went through my CD collection and came up with quite a lot of English trad. I am such a geek.
Anyway, as requested, here is the track listing:

1. "Over Hill, Over Dale" -- Ralph Vaughn Williams. A Midsummer's Night Dream, II. i.
2. "Where the Bee Sucks" -- The Deller Consort. The Tempest V.i I've had to make do with a few counter-tenor tracks that are halfway decent. Composed by Robert Johnson in the 17th century.
3. "In May, That Lusty Season" -- Libana. Traditional Renaissance song, performed by a lovely women's choral group.
4. Departe, Departe/The Cobbler's Hornpipe/Third Act Tune -- Ensemble Galilei. I've seen them in concert and they're a fantastic early music group. This track is from their album Come, Gentle Night: Music of Shakespeare's World, which I liked so much I burned the whole thing. The first tune is 17th century French, the second is English trad, the third by Henry Purcell, written for a 17th century performance of Midsummer.
5. The Winter's Tale Set (Love's Winter Light/Apples in Winter/Drive the Cold Winter Away/Jenny Pluck Pears) -- Ensemble Galilei. More English trad, and the best rendition of "Jenny Pluck Pears" I've ever heard.
6. The King of Denmark's Galliard/Mrs. Winter's Jump -- Shelley Phillips. The first is by Dowland, the second a country dance tune.
7. The King -- Loreena McKennitt. English trad.

We have powder and shot to conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball to conquer them all.

Good for the histories, I thought.
8. "He that will an alehouse keep" -- The Deller Consort. English trad, blissfully counter-tenor free. And you've got to have a track for Falstaff.
9. "When that I was" --The Deller Consort. Twelfth Night V.i. I'm just going to have to live with irony of a grown man trying to sound like a 10 year old boy singing about how he's a grown man. But this is one my favorite Shakespeare songs, so I couldn't not include it. But I wanted Ben Kingsley's performance of it, godammit!
10. Sigh No More, Ladies -- Patrick Doyle. Much Ado About Nothing II. iii. Doyle has a cameo as Balthazar in the movie, and he's got a lovely, proper tenor voice. With a nifty Irish accent to boot.
11. "O Mistress Mine" -- The Deller Consort. Twelfth Night II. iii. Sigh. Oh, Ben Kingsley! What might have been!
12. Scarborough Fayre -- The Mediaeval Baebes. I always thought this would have been one of the songs Ophelia sings in her madness. And this rendition gives me shivers.
13. The Woods and Rivers are Silent -- Mediaeval Baebes. Torquato Tasso, 16th century Italian. The Romeo and Juliet track; the lyrics translate as:

The woods and the river are silent,
And the waveless sea is at rest;
In their caves the winds are at truce and peace,
And in the dark night
The white moon creates lofty silence;
And we keep hidden
The sweetnesses of love:
Let love not speak or breathe,
Let kisses be soundless, and soundless my sighs.

14. Greensleeves -- Loreena McKennitt doing Tom Waits doing King Henry VIII, in the process turning a well-worn courtly love ballad into a heartbreaking lament. Good for the sonnets and all the star-crossed and scorned lovers.
15. Pardon, Goddess of the Night -- Patrick Doyle. Much Ado V. iii.
16. Double Trouble -- John Williams, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soundtrack. Macbeth IV. i
17. Twa Corbies -- Boiled in Lead. Scots trad, and the creepiest version I've ever heard. All the ghosts, battles, and gruesome bits.
Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane
And I'll pike oot his bonny blue een
Wi ae lock o his gowden hair-o
We'll theek our nest when it grow bare-o
Theek our nest when it grows bare

18. This Ay Nicht -- Mediaeval Baebes. English trad. More creepiness.

When thou from hence away do fall
Every night and all
To brigger dread thou kommst at last
And Christ recieve thy soul

19. Cymbeline -- Loreena McKennitt. Cymbeline IV. ii. Fear no more the heat o' the sun...
20. Full Fathom Five -- Maev. Tempest I. ii. Everybody and their brother decides to do "full fathom" when they take it into their heads to sing Shakespeare, but this is the best version I've heard. She actually sounds like the ethereal Otherworldly creature that Ariel's supposed to be, not like a bunch of wandering madrigal singers. Though Vaughn Williams' version is good too.
21. "Those Cloud-capp'd Towers" -- Ralph Vaughn Williams. Tempest IV i. We are such stuff as dreams are made on... Huzzah for English choirboys!
22. The Bonny Swans -- Loreena McKennitt. For whatever reason the "Cruel Sister" ballads are one of my favorite English trad tunes. It's just an intriguing combination of random violence, surreal fantasy, and gothic morbidness. There's a million versions, but I chose this one because the refrain is the appropriately Shakespearean "Hey ho and a bonny-o ".
23. The Mummer's Dance -- Loreena McKennitt.
We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay
This one fits with all those lovers getting lost in the woods.
24. Lhiannan Shee -- Mediaeval Baebes. English trad. Okay, pretty much an excuse for more MB, but also works for all the fairy mischief in Midsummer. The song's actually in Manx gaelic.
25. Prospero's Speech -- Loreena McKennitt. Tempest V.i. Now my charms are all o'er thrown...

So it's really more of a Music to Read Shakespeare By mix. But I'm pleased with it. I've got quite a bit to catch up on, since I don't read the plays until I've seen them first. Which is a bit of a problem with the more obscure ones (I had to read Troilus and Cressida for class, but you're not missing anything. Though it is notable for the bit where Patroclus is accused of being Achilles' "man-whore"). But you get to see some interesting stuff, if you're willing to hunt them down; like John Cleese as Petruchio in a 1980s BBC adaptation of Taming of the Shrew. Which is really the only reason to watch Taming, in my opinion.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Beat to Quarters Drinking Game

For a bit there I was considering looking at how the book's publication in 1939 influenced its writing, but then I thought: Dude, it's summer, and I have a series about grog-swilling sailors. Drinking game! Can be readily adapted to any Horatio Hornblower novel.

Take a drink whenever:
--Horatio's neurotic insecurities, which are particularly bad in this one, make you want to beat him over the head with a belaying pin. Even though you don't actually know what a belaying pin is.
--Forester has his characters run around talking about the mizzen topgallant staysail and expects you to understand it
--for that matter, you'll also need a drink whenever a sticky situation or dramatic plot point is resolved through naval jargon
--however, have a drink in celebration when Hornblower orders his men to fother a sail, because thanks to A&E's adaptation The Duel, you actually know what that means.
--someone refers to Horatio by one of his unfortunate nicknames, such as "Horry" or "Horny"
--he snaps irritably at poor Lieutenant Bush
--he paces the deck
--Forester describes Hornblower's mind as "analytical," "calculating," or "mathematical."
--Hornblower has a mood swing worse than a PMSing teenage girl
--Hornblower gets fucked over by the Admiralty
--Hornblower worries about getting fucking over by the Admiralty
--poor Maria is annoying or compares unfavorably with other women
--take a swig of some grog, perhaps rum, and toast his crazy genius when Hornblower makes his men dance hornpipes while rowing them into battle
--Horblower goes up against a larger ship that out guns him while his dismasted ship sinks beneath him, they lose the weather-gage even as a storm is brewing on the horizon, their guns are out of range, the tangled and destroyed rigging has caught fire, and oh no! a volcano just erupted and here comes a tsunami tidal wave to drown them all! and he still manages to save the day
--have a glass of sherry or cognac, something appropriately snooty, when Hornblower has to meet with the local Viceroy/Govenor/insane despot in his shabby dress blues.
--Hornblower takes a game of whist too seriously
--Horblower thinks about how much he dislikes Lady Barbara
--have a glass of wine during Hornblower and Lady B's cozy tete-a-tetes at the taffrail
--have one of those coconut drinks with the little umbrella while they refit the ship at the Isle of Coiba
--Forester makes a transparent attempt to rally the beleagured spirits of the British reading public by going on about how his sailors thrive under adversity
--enjoy a shaken (not stirred) martini whenever Hornblower tries to be all nonchalant and Bond-like in front of his officers and crew
--toast Lady Barbara with some absinthe, maybe, when she defends the Romantic poets against Hornblower's neoclassicists (he would like Gibbon and Dr. Johson. Typical)
--enjoy a Sex on the Beach (somebody should, after all) as Hornblower fails to make it past second base with Lady B in Chapter 23
--Hornblower consoles himself with the thought that he did his duty

It's just a crime that they haven't filmed this one with Ioan Gruffud (I spent the whole novel wondering who they should cast as Lady B, and decided on Rosamund Pike). I mean, there is the 1950s Gregory Peck version, which doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the book from what I remember. And I've decided to find it amusing (rather than sad) that one of my favorite parts is when Hornblower and Lady B are arguing over the merits of Wordsworth versus Gray. Though Horatio's suggestion that "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" would have been better if it had been written by Pope in heroic couplets makes me shudder.

Oh, and guess who got a nice shiny harback copy of Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady, for fifty cents? Yeah library sale table!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

And yet another piece of my soul just died

So I'm driving around Suburban Wasteland with my sister the other day. We've been--shudder--shopping, a necessary evil that I can only accomplish with my sister to drag me around. My sister, I might mention, is my dearest friend, but I find it hard to believe that we came from the same womb. She's a 0-on-the-Kinsey-scale, blond, tanned, Laguna-Beach-watching, Kelly-Clarkson-listening jock who's always resplendent in pink. She is clearly a native of Suburban Wasteland, where the only thing to do is buy shit and burn gasoline. I think I must have been a changeling. At the words "shopping" and "mall" I turn into Mary Krull, the loud genderqueer radical theorist dyke in The Hours. I start twitching and practically break out into hives; I must be allergic to capitalism (why not, I'm allergic to everything else).
The point is, we've finished our little torture expedition, so I'm already in a cranky mood. We're driving down one of the main strips, and we're passing by the wealthy neighborhoods we don't live in. One of them has a big sign at the entrance that declares it to be the Walden Pond subdivision. I. shit. you. not.
I think we can safely state that the 10th Circle of Hell is officially located on the west bank of the Mississippi. Seriously, where do they dig up these cretins with such a brilliantly inspired sense of depravity? They named a subdivision of SUV riddled McMansions Walden Pond??? ::sputter:: I'm just speechless.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.
Thank God men cannot as yet fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth! (er, well...)
What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.

I don't know why I'm shocked, really. These are the people who raze a hillside full of 100 year old trees and name the resulting asphalted nightmare Arbor Oaks Condominiums. If you asked them if they've read Thoreau they'd probably sneer and say they don't read latte-drinking French queers.

A life of quiet desperation indeed.

I was so depressed I had to make an emergency run to the library sale table. I made quite a haul: Patrick O'Brien's Master and Commander, a collection of some Aristophanes, Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad, Gulliver's Travels, and The Canterbury Tales (now I can finally mend that gaping hole in my English education. I've never read them! I know! It's tragic.) Not that I'll manage to read any of them before I leave the country, but it's comforting just to know I have them.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

this made my day

So I'm surfing the net, trying to find some info on queer culture in France, because god knows it's got to be better than living here in Jesusland. It's a bit tricky trying to learn about anything outside of Paris (and I thought myopic regionalism was limited to San Francisco and New York, but apparently countries smaller than Texas can do it too), but I did run across this interesting bit of info: apparently there's a new lesbian bar in Lille called Miss Marple.

That is just fantastic. The Literary Goddess smiles upon me (I just started The Jane Austen Book Club as well). Looks like I'm going to have to take a little trip to Lille. I wonder how the French manage to pronounce it though...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

High Tide in Tuscon: Essays from Now or Never ~ Barbara Kingsolver

I think I have mentioned the rather torrid affair I'm having with the second-hand sale table at my local public library. It's amazing how often you can find a classic or out-of-print gem amidst the sea of battered children's picture books and romance novels. And the most it will ever cost you is fifty cents.
The fact that I managed to get a shiny harback edition of High Tide in Tuscon for two quarters amazes me almost as much as the fact that I've gone this long without my own copy. It's one of Those Books, as I call them. Books that stand out in your memory, the ones that influence you or speak to you in ways that others don't. High Tide in Tuscon is very high up, alongside A Wrinkle in Time, Hood, Tipping the Velvet, etc, in my list of Those Books.
High Tide was my introduction to Barbara Kingsolver. The first time I read it was the summer I was 13. I have family in Austin, Texas, and I spent a lot of my childhood summers there for reunions. I love the West Texas hill country. It was so different from my midwestern forests and rolling farmland and rivers. It had this searing dry heat and spare beauty, all cactus and scrub, no trees, not like the ones back home. And strange animals like fire ants and armadillos and rattlesnakes. The food was different, the people were different (even now I still privately think of my Austin relatives as The Cool Cousins), the music was different. You had to drive forever to get there, 16 hours in a hot, crowded van; it was always more of an oddessy than a family vacation.
So I was thirteen, and I had just spent the school-year mooning over my friend Annie, my first big crush. I was in the middle of my vast group of cousins in terms of age; too old to play with the little ones, too young to hang out with the older ones. But I was a solitary kid anyway and liked to wander off by myself. I went inside to escape the heat, and in the living room I picked High Tide in Tuscon off the end table and curled up to read. Now every time I see the dust jacket it makes me think of leather arm-chairs and lemonade and cicadas screeching in the heat.
I think this must have been my first real "grown up" book. Aside from Jane Eyre, which I also read that year. But Jane Eyre was a novel; High Tide is a collection of Kingsolver's essays. I don't know if Kingsolver calls herself a feminist or not; but I certainly consider her one. All of her work, fiction and non-fiction, embodies the feminist adage that the personal is politcal. These essays exposed me to ideas and conflicts over environmentalism, global capitalism and third-world poverty, the nuclear arms race, censorship, "family values", peace protests, and West African voodoo, among many other things, and she does it all by connecting it with her family, her childhood, her friends, her daughter, just ordinary things. The title essay is a meditation on place, human relationships, the natural world (she was trained as a biologist originally), the concept of home, family, starting over, all centered around her manic-depressive hermit crab named Buster. Did I mention that she's funny? Because she is. Which is what piqued my interest in the first place, and what kept me reading when I was just 13. And I kept reading High Tide because I found that she was very much like me; gawky, unpopular, awkward, socially inept as a teenager. Bookish, too, obviously; one essay is titled "How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life," a claim that applies equally well to my own experience.
If there is danger in a book like Martha Quest, and the works of all other authors who've been banned at one time or another, the danger is generally that they will broaden our experience and blend us more deeply with our fellow humans.
Which is pretty much what High Tide did for me. I'm browsing through this collection (no mean feat, it's very tempting just to sit down and read it straight through) and I'm just astounded by how much this book influenced me, and I never realized it before. There are ideas and facts and anecdotes in here that came to revolutionize the way I thought and believed and saw the world; Kingsolver herself didn't do all that, but High Tide gave me hints and glimpses of possibilities of things I'd never encountered before. Basically, I picked up some ideas in here and eventually just ran with them til I found a place to be.
I was kind of shocked, when Oprah chose her novel The Poisonwood Bible, that she was so quiet and soft-spoken. The voice I heard in her essays was opinionated and passionate and strong and witty. But I found that of course she was still all those things; and I think that's the only episode of Oprah that I've managed to watch in its entirety.
Well. That's me waxing rhapsodic on one of my favorite books. You can wake up now and un-glaze your eyes, cause really, you shouldn't listen to me blather on about it, just go read the book. Am currently suffering a case of post-Harry Potter reading funk. Should I start on the Jane Austen Book Club, or the Amelia Peabody Mystery series? It's a conundrum. Still working on the Juvenelia, however; when I said I was going to savor it slowly I wasn't messing around.