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Just finished The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. All mixed up. Not sure whether I liked it or hated it. I've never had to read something that so regularly refers to my specific demographic- white, straight cis-male- with a kind of easy, backhanded disdain . But the fact that it rankled definitely forced me to step back and identify why I should get so butthurt about it. And fact is, those references were mostly tangential to the point of the book anyway, so then I had to examine why I should focus so much attention on those small asides.
When it gets down to the meat and potatoes of the book, half of me wants to like it; Nelson is fucking smart, and she writes sentences that I have to sit and diagram, and then kind of walk around and squint at from every angle before I get the full meaning. And then those sentences interact with others in a way that changes the color of both and then I have to start all over. There's a joy to her writing that I haven't had to contend with in a long time of reading easy escapist fiction. Also, she just talks about worlds I'm only familiar with in the kind of glancing, benign ways afforded by a comfortable, cloistered progressive lifestyle. Gender fluidity, you say? Empowerment? Sounds nice, sure! But then she follows through and approaches my particular lifestyle with the reflexive dismissal that I imagine much of the country reserves for any facet of queer culture and wait, what the fuck did I do to YOU, lady? Don't pigeonhole me in with the knuckledraggers, some of my BEST FRIENDS are gay! I have a trans cousin, that's gotta count for something, right? And so on, etc. Which is exactly the kind of knuckledragger reaction I generally sneer at in others, and thus a great one to pick at and try to correct. I dunno whether she purposefully tries to elicit this response or whether she's just not writing for my demo and she really feels this way; either way, it achieves the same purpose, and it's pretty good food for the soul.
The other half of me hates it, for reasons I think are legit, or noble in a literary sense, but I dunno, maybe I'm just being a misogynist? Which is a great illustration of why I hate it; the book in both subject matter and style inoculates itself from any "mainstream" criticism. At many junctures, Nelson highlights her own uncertainties and hypocrisies- acknowledges, for instance, that she fights her own urge to categorize, sometimes unsuccessfully. She wants to believe that there are no obvious taxonomies when it comes to human experience, esp vis a vis love and family structure, but her pedigree as a writer and an academic make it difficult. Which I get. But then she turns around and says something blithe like "heteroromanticism has always left me feeling icky," or something of the sort. Which, what the fuck? You can't say that all love should be approached from an individualistic point of view, but then write off an entire subset of love. Or rather, you can, but it makes you look like a hypocrite and a schmuck. Even if you acknowledge in the same breath that you recognize your own biases.
Another example: early in the book, Nelson refers to a symposium she attended where one feminist philosopher was torn apart by another for publishing photographs of her (the first) with her kids in domestic settings. She was railed for basically trying to elevate humdrum family dreck into high feminist art/philosophy. Nelson uses the anecdote to elucidate her own point of view; essentially: "I side with the first lady." She then ends the book with a blow-by-blow account of her labor and the birth of her son. Spoiler alert: that shit is boring. No, man, you're just a straight white cis-male and you'll never get to fully appreciate the experience no. Shut up. It's boring. Nelson is a great writer, and this portion of the book reads like every other account of every other birth. It's like the two hundred and sixty photos of your vacation to Belize that you put in an iPhoto slideshow to play for the family at Thanksgiving. It's important to you, and that's great. But it's not singular. And you can't make it singular by pre-emptively discrediting critics of your point of view on the matter.
Incidentally, Nelson tries to elevate this anecdote by interspersing it with an account, written by her partner, of her partner's vigil with their(?pronoun still unclear?) dying mother. It only serves to subtract from Nelson's account of her labor- both by making the whole thing feel like a cheap, overused trick (juxtaposition of new life on top of death and the beauty therein) and thus a little bit exploitative, and also because Nelson's writing compares unfavorably to her partner's, which is plainspoken, beautiful, and cuts like a knife.
Still not sure where I stand on the book, and I really don't know if it deserved the unanimous praise it got when it came out (mostly by people who are way smarter and "in the know" than I am, so I guess that's points for praise), but goddamn did it make me think.
Now I'm reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King for the umpteenth time, and I'm not thinking at all, and frankly it's great.
Feel like you know everybody.
Never really got into "Modern Vampires"- listened again last week to see if it sparked something new, but alas. The new one, though- I'm with you on that. Totally different songwriting, and the production is just incredible. Had it on repeat.
Thanks, TNG. It means a lot coming from you- from everybody here, really. This is kind of the last place I still feel comfortable telling people that things don't feel 100% okay. That speaks to the community here. I'll be alright, sometimes it helps to just scream a little. Helps even more to hear people I appreciate shout back.
This is all shockingly accurate. It follows the course of my interactions with the filmmaker to a tee. I'd be cool if they wanted John Williams, because nobody's John Williams. They wanted the theme to "Little Miss Sunshine." That should've been my first warning. Anyhow, thanks for this. It helped.
You know what, even just saying this is enough. Just been too long between hearing from anybody in the outside world, the tunnel vision is clearly getting to me. Needed this, thanks.
Those are some tight harmonies, powerful lyrics. Always great to find a new medium and see where the inspiration takes you.
Glad to see that you're still finding time to make music. Can't wait to hear more new songs.
There's a peculiar subset of ultraliberals I followed on Facebook before they drove me screaming away from the platform entirely- acquaintances from when I was in Seattle. One had been my landlady. She would make giant dinners for the neighborhood every two weeks and feed anybody who walked in the door. Another was the doula we used for my wife's first labor (regrettably, it turns out- she had no formal training, hated hospitals, and charged us $500 for nothing more than a desultory offer to pour holy water on my wife's back during the process). Another was a second grade teacher at the public school down the street. All of them voted for Bernie in the primaries. All of them excoriated Clinton in the generals. All of them vowed not to vote if given the choice between her and Trump. All of them- ALL of them- are curiously supportive of Trump now on social media. To a point of mania.
He stands against everything they purported to support before the election. He's the embodiment of white rich male priviledge they rail against. "grab 'em by the pussy"? "Shithole countries"? "Good people on both sides"? This is gruel that, from anybody else, they would not stomach. But every time a new negative story emerges, they cry fake news, or they find a way to spin it, or they mention how Obama did the same but worse.
They're not Russian bots. They're not sleeper conservative agents. They're true blue, dyed-in-the-wool liberals. And I'm convinced the only thing holding their tattered souls together right now is, as you say, cognitive dissonance. These were the people who not just refused to vote in the generals but when the grease hit the pan ACTIVELY CAMPAIGNED against Clinton. It could be argued that this is the demographic that gave Trump the election through intransigence, antipathy, bullheadedness. And all on the precept that neither candidate was any better than the other. I had discussions on this very site with people who said the same. And of course it's nonsense. Clinton wouldn't have made the court nominations that Trump did. She wouldn't have gutted Obamacare from the top down. She wouldn't have shut down government in a quixotic mission to build a two thousand mile wall (how absurd does that sound when you read it out loud). She wouldn't have used the bully pulpit to dog whistle racism, cheerlead intolerance, insult women, muslims, south and central Americans, Africans... she wouldn't.
But to admit this, or even to admit that the current president is wrong in doing so, would be to admit that of course there was a better candidate and a worse candidate. Which kicks a central strut out from beneath the Bernie-at-any-cost ethos. To admit such would be to admit that, okay, not only was I wrong, but I was so wrong that I set my own stated goals back by years, possibly decades, and when you take the supreme court into account, perhaps even generations. I voted America's screaming, pants-shitting id into the most powerful station in the country, maybe on earth. So what do they do? Dig in, drink the piss-flavored kool ade and insist that things are, in fact, going better than when that horrible Obama was at the catbird seat. Cognitive dissonance.
I understand it, but it still infuriates me.
Would love to get Joe Trump Voter's take on this. "LOCK HER UP" was such a central theme to the 2016 campaign. Jared "now I'm a real boy" Kushner can't even plead ignorance the same way Clinton did since they made such a goddamn stink about it directly preceding. Then again, this is the electorate that regularly says shit like "I still support what Trump does, I just wish he wouldn't tweet about the stuff he's doing", so maybe cognitive dissonance went down the shitpot years ago
You might like it. Picked it up because I thought it was gonna be all sorts of crazy shit about underground facilities- which it is, in part. But mostly it's about the arms race and how our leadership is constantly pushing the nuclear envelope even when everybody recognizes that it's not in any way a good idea. It's infuriating. Not so much a frog slowly boiling in a pot as a frog sitting in the pot and periodically turning the burner up.
Read Raven Rock followed directly by Fear by
Bob Woodward. That was an unintentionally v. stressful progression. Woordward's book was poorly written, which surprised me. Also: don't like the idea of current president clenching dick with one fist, nuclear briefcase with other. You're welcome for imagery.
Cleansed palette with Lincoln in the Bardo by Saunders. Pretty, but will have to give a few more reads to get the full effect.
Then I needed some trash so I read Children of Time. Play a stupid game, win a stupid prize. Terrible book. Dialled back the schlock, now reading The Alienist which is nice because it's trash but written in a poorly-conceived 19th c. vernacular, so you can pretend it's highbrow.
Next: Killers of the Flower Moon before I give up and revert to something by Stephen King.