Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Jonathan Can't Write a Sex Scene

The best part Katie Roipe's complaint about the wimpy way new (white male straight American) novelists write about sex nowadays was the letters published Sunday. No, the best part was the charticle, definitely the charticle.

I have my quibbles too, though I didn't articulate them in time to make any letters columns or anything. OK, first thing, the reason the woman threw the new Roth in the subway trashcan was I bet less because the sex scene sucked than because Roth does the biggest dumbass move ever: He takes a character who is a lesbian and has her suddenly want to have a threeway with a geriatric MAN. MAN. SHE IS A LESBIAN. SHE WILL NOT WANT TO FUCK A MAN. That is what being a lesbian usually means. Lesbians are not all waiting to fulfill a man's fantasy, as most of us learned in like the 70s? Toss that beat into the garbage can, Zuckerman! Not even The Situation of Jersey Shore fame would commit such a rookie error, you demented old fiend!

Quibble two: Who cares if Dave Eggers or Jonathan Franzen can't write sex scenes? Or don't seem to know how to deal with sexuality at all, have no sense for its pulse through life and art? There are any number of women and gay male writers and men and woman from other countries and cultures who are very good at it. Read you some Mary Gaitskill or Kate Braverman or Kathryn Harrison (one of the funniest and most interesting and most extended I've ever read is in Envy, which I'm otherwise not so crazy about) and that's just the obvious opposition. One could go on all night. Heh-heh.

Quibble three: It's not the feminists' fault that the Wonder Boys can't do sex. It's a culture that wants to keep (mostly white) men in cargo-short diapers and bottles of beer for as long as possible, that celebrates the eternal boy, because they buy more toys and that shit pays off. Of course, should any man decide to kick over the traces and truly pursue his freedom (perhaps by exploring sexuality), that's a no-no. America, Inc. depends on manufacturing a mommy in the background tsk tsking to keep boys in line (for tickets to arena shows), but she ain't me, so stop saying she is. Even our biggest risk-taking artists can fall victim to that system.

Quibble four: I think maybe it's the glimmering of the beginning of white men critiquing their own privilege and position and how that is just barely beginning to shake and reshape just a little bit. So stay with it, guys, and if it means you can't do sex right for a couple of generations, we'll understand. You do a lot of other things really, really well, Mr. Angel David Foster Wallace et al.

Just speaking for myself? You know, I loved Motherless Brooklyn because it was a detective book, y'all! Genre! I'm a simple woman, and I like genre. I've barely made it through any entire books by one of those other Jonathan's or Seth's or whatever dudes with three names because they're not genre, probably. Their books are too hard! Or maybe not, I'm confused. I'm not smart enough for books without sex scenes.

But I have all kinds of patience with all kinds of women's writing. Wonder why? Cause I'm a sexist.

Here's the latest from the library: The Altman oral history, Joni Mitchell bio/critical essay Will You Take Me As I Am?, [books and subjects: flawed and fascinating]; The Beats graphic novel, Dr. Andrew Weil on what needs to change about our medical system, Becoming Jane Eyre, and a couple of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vines. See? Duh.

This is a chant by Sallie Ann Glassman of New Orleans, to Ogou Balendjo, a lwa variant of Ogoun. He is a sort of battle medic who can heal in environments of staggering destruction and from damage caused by toxins and poisons. He is also a healer of children, and is syncretized with Saint George. He brought me great healing once when I needed it, and I thank him and the Pomba-Giras for that healing and ask for him to go where he's needed. The chant calls on him to go into battle against disease and give us the victory of health.

Pou Ogou Balendjo, Lwa kap geri avek fe. Konbat maladi. Ede nou nan batay kont maladi. Geri nou. Ban nou la sante. Aksepte ofren'n nou. Antre non ke nou, nan bra nou, nan jam'm nou. Antre vin'n danse avek nou.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Will, Oscar, You Will: Special Death, Drugs, and Marriage Edition

The latest I Wish I'd Said That awards, brought to you by the Kiss My Happy Heiney Foundation: Giving Imaginary Powerball Winnings to Folks Maria Thinks Are Cool.

Of all the great cosmic questions, WTF still strikes me as one of the most pressing, relevant, and ultimately humane. --Christopher Hitchens on the death of the man who survived bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If it's one thing I trust Rush Limbaugh to do, it's doctor shop. -- Commenter Mt. Skullcrush on a TPM item about Dopey's declaration that he was glad he didn't have health insurance, because this let him comparison shop and pay less when he had "heart pains."

Our key phrase back then was, 'I don't turn down nothin' but my collar,' " recalled Steve Charles, a singer with the Clovers, who sometimes appeared on show bills with Mask Man and the Agents. Washington Post's Terence McArdle (whom I once accidentally called McAdoo in print), in an obit for Harmon Bethea, aka Mask Man, a do-wop singer and subject of one of the best written obits I can recall, and there is nothing in the least snarky about that statement. A real life on the page.

One generally doesn’t indulge another person’s emotional processing at this length unless the jabbering is likely to conclude with sex. --Ariel Levy's New Yorker review of Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed. I've been feeling guilty about snarking on a lot of women's self-helpy memoiry enlightenmenty shiny happy minty fresh how-tos, because am I devaluing what's important to women, women's work, women's emotional lives? But then I'm all like, sheeeeeee-it, I know and respect women who are doing really complex, multifaceted projects and/or who are just plain funnier, more fun, more daring, more interesting than most I read in the most popular online magazines, which are all starting to sound like they've been written by the same three women in New York or London who are all really really worried about Botox and nannies. At least Gilbert's not all up in that.
MAN does my arm hurt. HELL. It really hurts to write. This is the true proof that nothing will shut me up.

UPDATE: Forgot one: A gentleman wiser than myself did say that on some such days, thou exits, pursued by a bear, and on others, the bear exits, pursued by you. From Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, fantastic fanfic by Alan Bertocci. Really great fucking writing, I mean like the Walter soliloquies? It was sent to me and I'm thinking I'm going to read three lines and oh, ha ha, and then I sat and read the whole thing so fast!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Waiting For You to Justify My Love

Some birthdays in early Capricorn have flashed across the facebook early warning system in recent days, but you're not the only ones who might want to sit up and take notice of the new moon/solar eclipse icumin in. By popular demand (of one kind poet), I will explain: On the 15th, there's a new moon and eclipse at 25 degrees Capricorn. A few hours later, Mercury goes direct--meaning it's not retrograde anymore. An eclipse is like a super new moon; it gives any new, fresh action a boost. Mercury going direct has a similar effect, so if you're in the habit of making resolutions, revisit them on the 16th and you'll be in better rhythm. The traditionally ominous view of eclipses is lessened here both by modern interpretation and by nice aspects to Venus and the Sun. A little while later, Jupiter pops into Pisces, which is a sweet, relaxed place for it to be--it used to rule there and still likes a visit. Around the same time, Saturn and Pluto have been engaged in a slow-grind of a square (Libra-Capricorn) that will stick around, because Saturn's going retrograde. Squares wear at you. The changes won't be easy, but they'll be real, unlike what most people think of astrology.

For all its appeal to me, it's hard for me to do, because I have a sort of hole in my head when it comes to dates, years, birthdays, anniversaries. I know they're important, and I know time matters, but commemorating it or marking it just seems superfluous to me. For some time, I forgot how old I was. Now I just think of myself as 50, to make it easier.

The point here is that the last time there was a new moon and eclipse on this degree was January 15, 1991. When I can connect a date with the movies and music of the time, it helps me pin down what was going down, and what was going down was Madonna. And the Gulf War.

I never got that lyric--"justify"? The last thing I'm going to do in a relationship is ask someone else to supply a rationalization; making excuses is an under-recognized solo pleasure. I think the gang that wrote it just liked the sound of the word, not that there's anything wrong with that. And I can't really watch the video without cracking up laughing, thinking: position ridiculous, expense damnable, but maybe that's just me. There are far more ridiculous positions and expenses, such as the Gulf War.

And there's nothing ridiculous about Charlotte Rampling, above, good golly.

Eclipses come along all the time, but this is a strong one, rated on the astrologers' scale as 5 on a a scale of, um, 1 to 5. The effect of an eclipse is said to last six months. I hope all your resolutions are fine ones, and I wish you the best in achieving them.

As a pagan, I make a few goals on Samhain (Halloween) and then, on Candlemas (Feb. 2, you call it Groundhog Day, we call it maze), I make the traditional three vows: One for myself, one for my community, whatever it is and I still haven't figured that out yet, and one for our world.

Photos: Madonna, of course, and Charlotte Rampling by Helmut Newton, used entirely without permission, but used because Madonna was influenced by The Night Porter in the creation of the video, but I can't bring myself to put the iconic image from the movie up here. It's interesting how those images have been appropriated in the name of women's oppression and women's freedom alike; at this stage of my life, I'm bewildered by and, well, might as well say so, opposed to the application of Holocaust-related imagery of any kind to any other purpose than to continue to speak the truth about that historical event and what it could mean to us today. Unless you're talking about Mel Brooks, who has carte blanche. Perhaps it's any whiff of glamour around the era that repulses me. I think the movie was sincere in trying to get at some truths about the aftermath, but the images then took on a life of their own. I also suspect Madonna didn't quite realize what she was doing and just considered it a sort of Caberet-80s Berlin-edgy sexytime costume, but maybe I'm underestimating her, a dangerous practice! Ow!

I was supposed to have a big editing job coming in tonight, but they haven't finished it yet, but didn't tell me that until it was too late to make any other plans. So I had dinner and a movie at home with my girl. We saw Hairspray, and she danced the whole time.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Top Ten from the Bottom

Started 2000 fevered and ending the decade fainting. In deference to my iron-depleted attention span, the ten words--well, occasionally two-word phrases--that sum up the decade, to me. Not really in priority order, except for Number 1.

10. Roll. As in the heroic-turned-jingoistic "Let's roll" and a thousand other uses. We do not lope, nor do we glide. America will always be on wheels, until it crashes.

9. Bottle service. Big silly demanding babies paying too much for everything, aren't we.

8. Known unknowns. Two words scarier than any Saw marathon could ever be.

7. Derivative. They couldn't even think of an original way to rip our asses off.

6. Abs. Tossup between this and yellow teeth. Doesn't matter which type of marketing, media, social networking or information-type-service you subscribed to--unless your face was buried in a library book, if you want to find anything out, you'll have to face down someone telling you that you must change the color of your teeth or the appearance of your external abdominal area and they, they alone, have The Secret. Everything we bought and sold in the past decade comes down to this: There's something wrong with you that you need to pay to fix.

5. Baby blues. Rush's alleged name for his alleged favorite poison. The various forms of hillbilly heroin edge out meth for me this decade, because I suspect they'll have a longer character arc. Hey, I like vic as much as any other gal, but things are getting a little out of hand for those who can least handle it. I think they'll be killing a lot more people for a long time. Unlike meth, they're killing a lot of people who had no intention of dying, and being prescribed by people who had no intention of killing people. There are other ways of dealing with pain, one of which being not chaining people to computers for hours and hours and making them work more for less money. Code Monkey like Tab.

4. Robust. Well, the second syllable in nearly all cases applies. The whole word, hardly ever.

3. Slider. Encapulates the sad and fruitless, literally, quest for authenticity we're trapped in around here. Evidence of how foodie snobism and every other elitist fancy, from roots music to trucker caps, fetishizes something basically OK in moderation and occasionally spectacular and puts it thru the hipster machine. Little hamburgers started out real and reviled, from the Little Tavern yet, then got super expensive and gussied up, and now the menu at Applebees (which I just researched) actually has an entire category for sliders. Beat out Asiago, chipotle, panko...it's all good, until it's all too much. Plus: It's what happening now!

2. Subprime. And it's where it's at now!

1. Cocksucker. I'll never forgive the gods for not granting me a last season of Deadwood. But it also applies in so many other wonderful ways.

PS: This is not a good time to make New Year's resolutions. Mercury retrograde and between two eclipses. Wait til after Jan. 15--the new moon is like a super new start.

PPS: Oh and please god please don't bring up that "decade REALLY starts in blah blah" shit, you're boring and living in an Idiocracy, what do you expect.