Reynard sits in Oakland, where he is busy not writing a couple few books.
Reynard sits in Oakland, where he is busy not writing a couple few books.
Turn the captions on (the button that says CC), unless you happen to speak lyre.
Towards the end of summer, when the dull sun’s heat had lost its harshness, autumn began before it was autumn, with a mild and endlessly indefinite sadness, as if the sky didn’t feel like smiling. Its blue was sometimes lighter, sometimes greener, from the lofty colour’s own lack of substance. There was a kind of forgetfulness in the subdued purple tones of the clouds. It was no longer a torpor but a tedium that filled the lonely expanses where the clouds go by.
The real beginning of autumn was announced by a coldness in the air’s non-coldness, by a subduing of the still unsubdued colours, by something of shadow and distance in the tint of the landscapes and the fuzzy countenance of things. Nothing was going to die yet, but everything — as in a still unformed smile — looked longingly back at life. READ MORE >
One hundred and fifty years ago, a man named John Brown was put to death by the state. He was not gunned down in the street, nor was he unarmed. He was arrested by Robert E. Lee for leading a raid on the national armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He had planned to arm America’s slaves with a hundred thousand guns. He was a white man, a preacher. Newspapers called him “a madman.” In most pictures he had “crazy eyes.” Abe Lincoln declared him “insane.” One thing’s for sure, he was mad. His rage boiled over.
American poets compared Brown’s life to a meteor that tore across the sky as he sat in jail, very nearly bisecting the interim of his conviction and execution. Emerson called him a saint, “whose martyrdom, if it shall be perfected, will make the gallows as glorious as the cross.” Thoreau said, “When a man stands up serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above them by a whole body . . . the spectacle is a sublime one.” Both had attended his speeches and probably knew about the raid before it happened. Years later, Melville wrote, “the streaming beard is shown / (Weird John Brown), / The meteor of the war.” Whitman, who was there, put him in Leaves of Grass: “YEAR of meteors! brooding year! / I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia; / (I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d; / I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)” The actor John Wilkes Booth was there, too. He wrote his piece in Lincoln’s blood.
Even Victor Hugo, in exile, called for Brown’s pardon. “There is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel,” he said, “and that is Washington killing Spartacus.” READ MORE >
I hate when people announce a series. Usually when I announce a series, it just doesn’t happen. Like talking about something you’re writing, it makes it hard to finish, because talking about it makes it exist a little and that means you can move on. I prefer to move on. But I see no way around it: this is the first in a series of Concurrent Events. Hold on to yr butts.
At the crash of a Bank, vague, mediocre, gray.
Currency, that terrible precision instrument, clean to the conscience, loses any meaning.
The challenge is to analyze a history of effects other than by seeking to identify personifiable causes, to recognize that nevertheless the struggle is taking place as much among personifications as among persons, and to intervene to transform the social allegory without either buying into, or dismissing, the temptations of readability. For the necessity of reading and being read is a dream from which we cannot awaken.
— Barbara Johnson, The Wake of Deconstruction
In case you missed it (I almost did), “On Smarm” is an important essay.
Speaking of the Believer, do you remember that Philip Seymour Hoffman interview? I will miss him. That seems strange though, even impossible, because that Philip Seymour Hoffman, the one I know, exists in images projecting from themselves. And those will go on sparkling, like prisms in post-loop pulse ad infinitum.
The other day I was eating from a large tin of popcorn. Someone asked which is your favorite. Thru chews I said I like them all / for different reasons. That’s how I feel about these books.
Because sexism isn’t something we can turn off like a faucet, or fix like a leak, I asked Lazenby to talk about how we might consider the function of our actions in the context of systems we can’t control, which in fact inform our approach to their demolition.
I don’t really understand the particulars of what Reynard asked me to write about, because I don’t know any of the people involved. What I do understand is the incredible stability of systems when they are attacked on their own terms.
One system that we all live in presumes women can be treated as a bloc. It understands women as creatures who share a common, female essence that gives each woman her female traits. Things like frailty, irresponsibility, vanity, and above all, the need for a type of security—emotional and material—that men are uniquely equipped to provide. The system says: ‘Act as though these presumptions were true, and I will reward all of you with an immensely stable set of relationships between men and women.’
Now, if you find these assumptions about women to be totally false and patronizing, the obvious question is: well, how do you change things at a fundamental, system-wide level? I can think of a couple of ways that people try to do this (while really just engaging the system they despise on terms it can easily repel.) You could: READ MORE >
In the comment fields of life, there are no on & offs. There is no accept & delete. There is no excess & there is no restraint. Or maybe there is. Certaintly there is access. There is willingness & unwillingness. There is acknowledgement & avoidance. Engagement & disengagement. Inclusion & occlusion. There is hi & goodbye. There is yes & no. There is a river & there is a storm. There is water either way.
Because there are also maybes. There are I’ll consider its. There are that’s a fine points & what else have you got to says. There are I respectfully disagrees & there are I need to think about its. There are apostrophes taken & ignored, acknowledged & untaken. There is a wealth of unexplored landscape. There are loops & holes & loop holes & there are twists & turns & twirls & I dunnos. There are especially I dunnos. A succession of them, like a foolish parade that swallows itself in a smatter of red.
Apology is not a precondition of saying I dunno. “I dunno” is full of flavor & sometimes vigor & definitely spice. Some say opera, others say life. Some say private & some say public. Some say pirate, others say privateer. Whatever the sphere, it’s been made clear, we are all a little less than godly. We are shit, gaudy at best & at worst we are naked.
Maybe that’s not right. Maybe at best we are naked.
The weird thing is, when I look into the night, I hope to see satellites, but all I see is stars.
I think everyone has an Internet feud they will never forget. Here’s mine: in January 2010, Jimmy Chen wrote a post for your site (that has since been removed) in which he showed a photograph of Zelda Fitzgerald and “complimented” her cute rolls of back fat. In the comments section, I called out the sexist move of reducing a female writer to the shape of her body, and was immediately dismissed with a “fuck you” and someone asking why I had a sexy picture of myself on my own blog.
And on my blog, Chen told me my life would be easier because my face looks like this.
In an open letter apology (that has also since been taken down), he wrote, in his defense:
“Leah [sic] Stein has a ‘right’ to post a sexy picture of her, and I have a ‘right’ to think her life will be easier because of her beauty than an ugly woman’s which is why she [sub]consciously posted it.”
There is nothing easy about the life of a writer with the face of a woman, especially when men get to tell you what you’re allowed to do with your face. Which brings me to yesterday’s post by Garett Strickland, about how Kate Zambreno humiliated him when she unfriended him on Facebook, taking away his ability “to participate in a conversation I’ve got as much right to as any other human being, regardless of the seemingness of my being white or male.”
Note that both Chen and Strickland are eager to point out their “right” to write whatever hateful, sexist, ignorant thoughts cross their minds, even in the personal spheres that female writers are often forced to create out of necessity for their own safety (Chen was commenting on my blog; Strickland was writing on Kate’s own Facebook page).
In retaliation for his hurt feelings, Strickland goes on to unleash what I can most accurately call a sloppy prose poem about sexual inadequacy, which ultimately turns Zambreno into a doll, “Made by Men,” who arrives in a box. When he pulls the string, she delivers “reactionary polemic” that Strickland can’t understand due to “personal deficiencies.”
Here’s the most significant thing Strickland doesn’t understand, the worst of his personal deficiencies: he doesn’t realize that by objectifying Zambreno and turning her into a doll, he is being aggressively chauvinist. He isn’t participating in a conversation he has a “right” to. Notably, in order to have a conversation, he has had to create a doll who can only spew pre-recorded messages, who can’t actually talk back.
To Chen and Strickland, I would ask: have you ever been reduced to a body and a face? Have you ever felt afraid for your safety because of your body? Has anyone ever trivialized your work because of your gender?
In the summer of 2011, I met with a team of Random House sales reps who would be responsible for bringing my novel and poetry collection to bookstores and libraries around the country. One asked me what kind of cover image I wanted for my novel.
“I only know I don’t want a headless woman on the cover,” I said. “I don’t want my book cover to exclude men from picking it up.”
“Do you really think a man would read your work?”
“Well, a lot of men like my poetry,” I said.
“Only because you’re cute,” I was told. By my editor.
I didn’t know what to say. I like to think that out of the 37 people in the world who read poetry, the men who read mine are finding some merit there, and not just jacking off to my author photo.
Chen has described Zambreno as “a feminist who hosts an irrational hatred of me due to not being able to perceive my misogyny ironically,” but what’s truly ironic in all this is that Zambreno has written an entire book about women who were written off, robbed, and institutionalized for/because of their creative talent, while their husbands and lovers were celebrated. I read Heroines with my jaw hanging open in recognition, especially when I got to page 140. She describes Chen’s Zelda post and the feuding in the comments section:
The snarky dismissal. I answer back with vitriol. It becomes heated, ugly. Personal. Slurs of a sexual nature slung in the comments section, mostly by a chauvinistic supporter of Chen’s. A way to bully, which is to humiliate, to silence, to make a woman smaller whose behavior is seen as outsized. (Won’t she fucking shut up?)
As writers, we know words carry power. I challenge HTMLGIANT contributors to use their power to make this site the weird-ass literary carnival it is at its best, without using discriminatory, sexist, hate speech that objectifies, humiliates, and infuriates their female readership. To quote the Urban Dictionary, please check yourself before you wreck yourself:
Take a step back and examine your actions, because you are in a potentially dangerous or sticky situation that could get bad very easily.