Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Literary Classics in six words or less:

A sampling, here at Salon. They are not easy, folks. Here are my faves.

The Austen Oeuvre:

Unworthy entanglements neutralized, appropriate pairings proceed.
Sense & Sensibility

Hysterical mother marries off three daughters.
Pride & Prejudice

Poor relation annoys readers, weds cousin.
Mansfield Park

Alleged spinster, failed matchmaker makes match.

Girl renounces pulp fiction, finds husband.
Northanger Abbey

Yes this time, family be damned.

Or, to be utterly concise:

Worthy maidens get husbands they deserve.

Randall --


Bilbo took quest. Got the Ring.
The Hobbit

Twelve people tried to return it. (shouldn't it be nine? Or are we counting gandalf and others here -F-ette)
Fellowship of the Ring

Ring got tossed. Frodo came home.
Return of the King

Heidi Lynn

I'd have to think of some good ones for notably missing pieces of literature: Ulysses, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter. Or not.
Have a nice weekend, readership. Happy almost June!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comfy shoesies.

The folks at Shakesville are talking about shoes and I love it. I just got a new pair of sandals at aerosoles of all places, after the heels I got there for 29 bucks ended up being the first pair of heels I could walk in since 8th grade.

Here they are:
How many pairs of shoes do you have, readers? What are your faves?

Cranford wrap-up

So I've been on one of my frequent non-blogging benders, enjoying the memorial day sun and catching up on a bunch of freelance deadlines. But did I squeeze in time during all this hubbub to watch the final installment of PBS' Cranford. You bet I did! And did I love it?

I loved it sooo much, readers! I laughed, I cried, I cheered. I saw the cobbled streets of Cranford in my dreams. And I can't wait for the freaking Christmas special, bah humbugs aside. What a wonderful piece of artwork and production, and Judi Dench's acting was better than I've seen her in a long time. Brava, BBC!

Amy at Romancing the Tome has a hilarious round-up as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday SLEEP O Rama

I'm so sleepy and overburdened (with sleepiness) readers! See you when I recover from my (sleep) epidemic of exhaustifatiguetiredness. Hopefully there will be a spate of June bylines to prove that my exhaustion actually arises from (sleepy)semi-productivity.

While I'm gone, amuse thyselves with this video of a kitty falling asleep, Stephen Colbert's fave.

Monday, May 19, 2008

O, Tempora: (What the Times is missing in its HRC almost-post mortem)

Adam Nagourney came out with a nice little piece today summing up the follies of the Clinton campaign: from Diner-Tip-gate to Drudge-leak-gate to planted-questions-gate. There was just one leetle tiny thing missing.

It's the War Vote, Stupid.

It seems obvious to folks like me who were never going to vote for her in the primary for that reason (there were a lot of us). But although she was riding high at first, one of the main reasons Obama gained momentum in Iowa and beyond was because people wanted a viable alternative to mega-hawkishness. When they saw that he was viable, they moved towards him.

Why would the Times omit such a vital policy issue in its coverage? Perhaps because its own staff was helping to beat the drums for war. Also, it's not as interesting as debate gaffes and blown-up media scandals about tips in diners and of course, his holiness the Drudge Report. At least, not as interesting to certain Beltway media types. Just sayin'.

Ad-Nag also didn't mention her tacit encouragement of racism. Grrrrrr.

(as an aside, I'm sorry my posting has been vacillating so wildly between literary biznatch and election stuff, but that's how my mind is working these days. Sigh.)

Monday Morning Poem: Holy Sonnet, John Donne


Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Reaching way back in the canon here, for a super-religious poem from a Christ-loving, Jew-hater white British dude. But wasn't he talented!

In this poem he's basically saying that he's in bed with the devil and he wants to go to God, but unless He forcibly knocks him over, overwhelms him, and essentially rapes him (see the final couplet), it prolly won't happen.

If you divorce the religious stuff from the writing, I always find this poem to be about this slice of the human condition--how we even want pure and exalted feelings to overwhelm us in an animal and almost sexual way. It explains a lot about why fanatical belief is more widely appealing than reasoned belief. (Reason, Donne notes, is not enough to turn himself from the Dark Side)

Note the tight control Donne exerts over the writing, but how it still feels wild and desperate, and the neat way he fits the contradictions in to the final couplet.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Testing a fun new gadget...

This is how I procrastinate from writing an extremely vital pair of articles that are due on Tuesday.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I network, socially...

Find me on these networks, friend me, or don't.


Digg! DIGG

How are thangs out in reader-land? I'm exhausted after a day of erranding and struggling with a sexist pharmacist and fascist insurance company--but that's a post for another day. I'm hoping to go out and eat some delicious Korean food with the men in my life and then relax and watch the season finale of the horrid SNL in a pleasant stupor.

Now that I'm done with Sula, my next projects are Glenn Greenwald's book on the right wing and the media, a scandinavian novel which I must review for Publishers Weekly, and possibly Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict if I have time.
Then I have to pick a Big Reading Project (Moby Dick? War and Peace? Proust? Danielle Steele?) for my trip to France, and I still haven't tackled Unaccustomed Earth yet. Argh!

So much to read, never enough time to read it all.


This sums up so much...

From a Firedoglake blogger, Ian Welsh, in a post about John Edwards and "the tunnels" of class:

And so I listen to John Edwards and I marvel that he dares speak of the unspeakable, of the great fear—not just of the middle class, but of all Americans. For we choose not to look at that which we fear. It's not that we fear the working poor, or their humbler cousins, the broken, those who don't even have a bad job. It's that we fear that in them, we might see people like ourselves.

For, to feel secure, in our beautiful world, we must believe that there is something fundamental that makes us different from the poor and the broken. We must think, "ah, but I'm smarter", or "I work much harder", or, less gratifying but still good "I have a better eduation than them."

We must think, then, "I am more valuable than them, I am different, what happened to them could never happen to me! I'm different! I am!"

We cannot see them as humans like us. That many of them work hard, or worked hard when they were allowed to. That most are not stupid, and that many are no worse educated than we (and isn't that the easiest thing to fix anyway, as if everyone had a high school diploma, or a B.A. or a Ph.D there would be jobs for them all).

People see Edwards as a class traitor. the fact that he has achieved the American dream and is still unhappy, dissatisfied, doesn't think things are fair, feels it incumbent upon himself to look out for others less lucky, makes them profoundly uncomfortable.
This is why.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Toni Morrison's Sula

Toni Morrison is as talented a writer as there is, if not the single most talented out there right now. Beloved is obviously a total masterpiece; I've read it three times now and get more out of it every single time, I still go back to read pages again because I feel that I haven't absorbed enough of her deeply-woven prose. Certain phrases from that novel haunt me like lines of poetry or bars from a song.

And as I've thought about all the gender/race issues in the blogosphere due to the election, it made me turn back to Morrison because she is so wonderful at describing the unique pain--and pride--that she feels are part and parcel being a black woman in America, an experience art can get us closer to understanding than anything else (although we can never truly understand each other's oppressions, obv).

Morrison's approach to race is fascinating--it's not the explicit subject of her novels but it is everywhere laced through them, both in subtle little pieces here and there and in her overarching themes. To read her books is to feel the heaviness of struggling to be personally free in a land that robs you of freedom. But these novels are also, almost always, about womanhood: specifically, sisterhood, sex and motherhood.

Sula, my fourth Morrison novel, is now is actually a great starting point for those who haven't read much of her work or are intimidated by the density of her writing. The plot itself seems rather pat, but the way it is told makes it quite unforgettable.

It's the story of two friends, Sula and Nel, who grow up entwined "as one" in town, the daughters of wildly different mothers. They end up witness to a variety of tragedy--the kind of brutal, violent tragedy that haunts towns like theirs, poor, segregated, at the mercy of white neighbors--and it both brings them together and tears them apart. Ultimately, society's rules, and the intrusion men, stand in the way of the perfect feminine union they had when they were younger. Morrison's take on what this all means is reserved for the final, heartwrenching page of this very brief novel, and I was surprised at how emotional it made me as I closed the book at last, on the subway. The town, Medallion, and the neighborhood, "The Bottom" with its assorted eccentric but poignant characters, felt frighteningly real, and so do the magic, signs and omens that Morrison works into her novels so deftly.

It was a gorgeous, affecting read, and now that I finished it and was so affected by it, I feel braver and more inclined to read Jazz, which struck me as more challenging (it's written to the "rhythm" of jazz music).
I also need to re-read The Bluest Eye, which I haven't read since sophomore year i high school and probably didn't "get" as much as I might now.

Thursday Link-O-Rama, Ugh! edition

This morning, emotionally hungover from a night of celebrating the newly-legal (in California) love between Barry and John, I stumbled into the kitchen, wrapped in a silk (ripoff) robe that I bought for $15 dollars on sale because it was missing its belt, and as I downed my morning pill cocktail of midol and claritin, I felt like an aging Hollywood belle on her last legs.

Fortunately, I had these articles and blog posts to warm the cockles of my heart, and soon I had changed my lounge-outerwear and donned a chartreuse oversized man's sweatshirt with the words UNION MADE emblazoned 'cross its very breast. Thanks, dad!


  • I wrote about how sexracefascist the dmittedly fun and amusin' Iron Man was.
  • Tommy/Swvl interviewed Egalitarian Bookworm Dude (egalitarian cause of Star Trek and Extras, Bookwormy cause of the Bard) Patrick Shtuarrrt.
  • Greenlight got seriously meta when discussing youtube clips of celeb meltdowns.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If Edwards Endorses Obama Tonight...

...I am going to get appropriately tipsy

(on hope*)

*and alcohol.
too sexy for their red ties. This white feminist says... yum.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And... She's out.

Whew. The Portman-meister is no longer playing Cathy in Wuthering Heights. Thank the literary gods.

is relieved... for now. As for what LOLCB thinks about Ellen Page playing Jane Eyre, I think she says something like: "Genug, already with the Jane Eyre movies! Oy vey. Can't someone take some pity on Shirley already? Or at least do a nice TV special on The Professor? But," LOLCharlotte hastens to add, "if you must make the hundreth version, I do fancy that Juno girl. She's got Jane-ish spunk to her, if she's a bit too much of a pretty face. So what's new?"

(yes, I realize LOLCB as rendered above makes Charlotte Bronte appear like a cross between a yiddishe mama and a haughty brit. Creative license, people!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nuala O' Faolain

passed away today. She was one of my favorite authors and an Egalitarian Bookworm Chick extraordinaire. Her memoir, Are You Somebody? is one of the most frank and vivid self-portraits I've ever read. It reads like fiction, and among all the tell-all books about sex, it stands out for its lyrical, unapologetic, treatment of her own sexuality and her life as a young bohemian writer and radio producer in Dublin and Oxford.

Her novel, My Dream of You, which I read while living in Galway, Ireland is also an electrifying read. It's about a middle-aged woman (clearly based on the author herself) researching a love affair during the potato famine who stumbles into her own affair with a married man. It intersperses the modern story with the 1848 one, and for those who are interested in Irish history as well as good, sexy, mysterious fiction, I couldn't recommend it more. O'Faolain's prose shows her to be a clear inheritor of the Joycean tradition of writing unashamedly about the human body, while also being able to pinpoint much of the longing within the Irish soul.

O'Faolain was also a badass feminist, leftist, and spiritual atheist. She was one of those writers whom I just loved as a person because her writing was so warm and loving. It's sad that she passed away relatively young, and I will treasure her prose always.

Monday Morning Poem Excerpt: Locksley Hall, Tennyson

this is the bit from "Locksley Hall" (which is an extremely odd, but interesting poem) that was featured on Cranford last night, when Judi Dench's character, Matty, reads the lines aloud after her long-ago lover, Mr. Holbrook, dies. Holbrook's last gift to Matty was a volume of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poems:

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart's disgrace,
Roll'd in one another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.

Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten'd forehead of the fool!

Well--'t is well that I should bluster!--Hadst thou less unworthy proved--
Would to God--for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

I have to admit a soft spot for Tennyson. This littel excerpt is somewhat neo-Romantic, tho' the Victoirans and Romantics very much blended into each other. Cursed be the social lies! I love it.

Here's another odd, but intresting, Victorian artifact to go along with our Tennyson: Dante Rosetti's "The Blessed Damozel", which hangs in the art museum at my alma mater.

And they say the Victorians were proper. They were wacky!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

!@##$% the Clintons

that chapter is through. Them @#$%^&s done did something that they cain't undo.

Whoever ridin' wit' ‘em they can get one too.

(thanks, Lil Kim.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cranford--The PBS Mini-Series, Part I

How awesome is it that PBS is putting the BBC's awesome-making production of Cranford online? This way I got to watch the end of Dexter, season 1 last night and still indulge myself in an orgy of Victorian nostalgia and sentiment today. By the end of part 1, with its many ominous doctor's visits and tears, I was sitting on my couch, laptop perched on lap, bawling.

Seriously, how could you not like this mini-series? It's the Beeb at its best--beautifully shot , thoughtfully scored, perfectly acted without being a caricature. It takes Gaskell's meandering book and twines it together with some of her other novellas, adds some heft, and voila! Mini-series magic.

The reviews have been totally positive, even glowing, with one exception: Ginia "feminism is dead" Bellafante at the Times, who concludes

"The impulse to produce “Cranford” stemmed, I would guess, from an understanding of it as a treatise of feminism little known beyond the world of women’s studies. But adapting “Cranford” only highlights how tenuous its feminist message really is. What single life does to women, apparently, is turn them into dithering twits. And the series only reminds us that what constitutes a happy ending is the attention of a good-looking and prosperous man."

Seriously Gina, are you the same woman who declared HEIDI F-ING MONTAG of "The Hills," a feminist hero? Obviously, you, Gina, are the twit! The novel is steeped in irony, and Gaskell isn't a feminist by our contemporary standards anyway. She is a proto-pseudo-feminist, and an interesting one at that. The film satirizes the aging process and has nothing but positive things to say about sisterhood. The novel's most touching moments are when the ladies band together to help their neighbors. Several of its heroines are spinsters by choice. Stop trying to read stuff that's 150 years old into a modern framework! As the ladies of Cranford would say, "This is highly irregular."

Cranford--The Book.

I read the very brief, and very amusing, Cranford on a series of bus and subway rides throughout Manhattan. This was very incongruous, of course, because the book details a "lost way of life" in a tiny English country town, which is populated primarily by spinsters and widows. (!!)

The book has little in the way of plot per se, being rather episodic in nature, and it's only really appealing to those of us who adore Victorian culture; but within that context it's a definite must-read. Gaskell is a good clear writer with a really strong sense of justice and right and wrong. She's a proto-feminist in many senses, although she adheres to gender stereotypes, she idealizes the place as a sort of utopia of feminine values, among which she includes a good deal of kindness and community. She also uses a wry irony throughout the novella that is almost Austen-like.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of a "girl's book" for middle aged women. It had the serial nature of classics like Little Women, A Little Princess or the Anne of Green Gables series, and was full of "scrapes" and mishaps and comings and goings, but also had an underarching group of mysteries and Gaskell, like the authors of the above, hits you with an emotional wallop every once in a while in between the hilarious episodes.

Definitely a fun read (and now I've read three Gaskell novels. Holy crap. My overindulgence in Victorian literature continues to trollop[e] any modernist/po-mo progress I make). Now on to watch the BBC adaptation online!

Monday Morning Poem:Justice Denied in Massachusetts

Justice Denied in Massachusetts (1927)

Let us abandon then our gardens and go home
And sit in the sitting-room.
Shall the larkspur blossom or the corn grow under the cloud?
Sour to the fruitful seed
Is the cold earth under this cloud,
Fostering quack and weed, we have marched upon but cannot conquer;
We have bent the blades of our hoes against the stalks of them.

Let us go home, and sit in the sitting-room.
Not in our day
Shall the cloud go over and the sun rise as before,
Beneficent upon us
Out of the glittering bay,
And the warm winds be blown inward from the sea
Moving the blades of corn
With a peaceful sound.
Forlorn, forlorn,
Stands the blue hay-rack by the empty mow.
And the petals drop to the ground,
Leaving the tree unfruited.
The sun that warmed our stooping backs and withered the weed uprooted -
We shall not feel it again.
We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain.

What from the splendid dead
We have inherited -
Furrows sweet to the grain, and the weed subdued -
See now the slug and the mildew plunder.
Evil does not overwhelm
The larkspur and the corn;
We have seen them go under.

Let us sit here, sit still,
Here in the sitting-room until we die;
At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go;
Leaving to our children's children this beautiful doorway,
And this elm,
And a blighted earth to till
With a broken hoe.

This poem, written by sexy ingenue, brilliant sonneteer, and Egalitarian Bookworm Chick patron saint Edna St. Vincent Millay, was written in response to the state-sponsored murder of Sacco and Vanzetti, which Millay had tried to protest with all her might.

So yeah, the blighted earth and the mildew and weeds-- it's an extended metaphor about the end of America. America is the farmhouse and the once-prosperous farm that is now decayed, corrupted, and resistant to change and cultivation. The despondent farmers are the truly patriotic Americans, thwarted by injustice.

Now go back and read it again and absorb ESM's genius.

Friday, May 02, 2008

More Unhappiness-inducing Links

The suicide of the Deborah Jeane Palfrey, DC Madam is seriously one of the more fucked up things that's happened in a week of serious fuckupidtudes. The feminist blogs have covered the double-standard of the trial, the way powerful men in the situation were let off the hook (even Senator Vitter) while the women ended up disgraced or dead.

And if you want to get even more depressed, read this story about Palfrey's mom's 911 call. It will totally break your heart.

It's funny, isn't it, that there appears to be a parallel to the Sean Bell case, in terms of who gets let off the hook by our justice system and who ends up without a life. That parallel helps inform why why the oppression Olympics (which to be honest, was started by some irritatingly tunnel-visioned second-wave feminists) is such a load of crap. You just can't one-up each other to see who is more oppressed. All the "isms" manifest themselves in different ways, some more subtle, some less, some more blatantly harmful, and they interlock and intersect.

Thankfully, Betsy Reed's cover story in The Nation is timely--without in any way giving a pass to the sexism of the media when covering HRC, she makes it clear how disgusting it is that the Clinton campaign has been race-baiting Obama, giving credence to the Wright story and so much else. Well, this radical white feminist jewess is seriously pissed at Clinton. It would be very very very hard for me to pull the lever for her if she steals the election from Obama.

Choice excerpts:

Among the black feminists interviewed for this article, reactions to the declarations of sexism's greater toll by Clinton supporters--and their demand that all women back their candidate out of gender solidarity, regardless of the broader politics of the campaign--ran the gamut from astonishment to dismay to fury. Patricia Hill Collins, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland and author of Black Feminist Thought, recalls how, before they were reduced to their race or gender, the candidates were not seen solely through the prism of identity, and many Democrats were thrilled with the choices before them. But of the present, she says, "It is such a distressing, ugly period. Clinton has manipulated ideas about race, but Obama has not manipulated similar ideas about gender." This has exacerbated longstanding racial tensions within the women's movement, Collins notes, and is likely to alienate young black women who might otherwise have been receptive to feminism. "We had made progress in getting younger black women to see that gender does matter in their lives. Now they are going to ask, What kind of white woman is Hillary Clinton?"

The sense of progress unraveling is profound. "What happened to the perspective that the failures of feminism lay in pandering to racism, to everyone nodding that these were fatal mistakes--how is it that all that could be jettisoned?" asks Crenshaw, who co-wrote a piece with Eve Ensler on the Huffington Post called "Feminist Ultimatums: Not in Our Name." Crenshaw says that, appalled as she is by the sexism toward Clinton, she found herself stunned by some of the arguments pro-Hillary feminists were making. "There is a myopic focus on the aspiration of having a woman in the White House--perhaps not any woman, but it seems to be pretty much enough that she be a Democratic woman." This stance, says Crenshaw, "is really a betrayal."

I was at WAM! When Reed participated in a very interesting panel about sexism and Hillary. In fact, I documented how happy I was that she brought up the racism in the campaign as well, and as the race stuff has blown up and blown up since then, it was a prescient presentation and a much-needed piece. Word!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day

Workers of the world unite!

Like last year, I'm going to celebrate May Day by posting my own (in this case, very poor) amateur Spring photography.

The flowering of trees is probably, for me, the most hopeful thing that happens all year. When they come back and surprise us with a kind of color and texture and light that we had forgotten about all winter, it's both suprising and comforting. Our hearts leap up, to paraphrase Wordsworth, and we believe good things are possible. May Day is actually a mega-pagan holiday as well, and back in Cambridge, my roommates and I used to watch the local pagans do morris dances and swing their wreaths around the maypole early in the morning. It was kind of awesome.

The pagan stuff and union stuff are not that unrelated, really. May Day, and International Workers day, are about seizing the hope and renewal of the season and trying to make change in our society, and the way we are treated. This year in particular it's important to stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters who have faced so much hate in the national arena.

So yep, solidarity! And if I dare say it in the middle of this depressing week, Yes we can.

Thursday Link-O-Rama, I'm Going to Europe Even Though I Can Ill Aford It (because this country f*cking sucks) edition

I've been absent from these here internets because I've been busy banging my head against the wall watching The Reverand Wright Scandal on TV our "liberal" media use racist bullshit to derail a candidate who actually had a chance of changing this country for the better, for the third time in MY measly little LIFETIME (not the racism, but the derailing).

Also I've been online doing all kinds of crazy airline research, still ended up spending way too much money on tickets for me and my boo to go to Europe. But at least we won't be here!

Today's Links, sponsored by GOD DAMN AMERICA.

  • [Greenlight] takes on pot-arrests in NYC and offers helpful advice.
  • Me vs. Tina Fey, Round 2 (a review of the atrocious "Baby Mama").