When I was 19, I had a late adolescent identity crisis and proceeded to get seven tattoos on my arms in a very short amount of time. I have no idea what I was thinking. On the underside of each forearm, I got the Japanese kanji for “genius.” Yes, I know, it’s ridiculous, but I was 19 and at 19, we do all sorts of ridiculous things without understanding we’ll have to bear the consequences of those choices in, say, our thirties. The idea of genius is really interesting to me and it’s something I feel I’m always trying to reach for, despite my limitations. As a culture, we are fascinated with the idea of genius. Genius this, genius that. In the public school system they try to ferret out little geniuses by calling them “gifted and talented,” even when sometimes a kid’s only gift and talent is managing to keep up. Bright children who demonstrate an aptitude for math or chemistry are fast tracked so they can become the next Doogie Howser who was a child genius who became a doctor as a teenager. Doogie Howser isn’t real, but it’s a sexy idea that someone is so brilliant they not only achieve greatness, they do so at an extraordinarily young age. The bar for genius is not always high. At the Apple store, when you need your products repaired you go to the Genius Bar where, more often than not, you will encounter someone who is decidedly not a genius. Not all geniuses are created the same. Albert Einstein was a genius. He had theories, all things being relative, and they were sound. He also had wild hair but he was a genius, so that was okay because for geniuses, the rules are a little different. I once helped a friend solve a problem and she shouted, “You’re a genius,” and squeezed my cheeks. I am no Albert Einstein. Most parents think their children are geniuses. They scrutinize their progeny for any sign of prodigious ability and if they can, say, sing or dance with remarkable aptitude, they shuttle them into reality television shows like America’s Got Talent, a show that makes it clear that when we say genius we are not always saying the same thing. My niece is six weeks old and in my family, we’re all fairly convinced she’s a genius because she stares with an unwavering intensity that is, frankly, a little creepy. She makes you look away she stares so hard and once during the fourth week of her life, when we were cooing at her like idiots and she was staring at us like the freaks we are, she said something that sounded like, “Hi” while throwing up a baby power fist. My sister in law and I looked at each other, high-fived and I said, “Baby genius, obviously.”
Sam Lipsyte has a really fantastic story in the new issue of The New Yorker called “The Dungeon Master.”
Next year, my collection of short stories, Happy Rock, will come out and it will include a story called “Rabbit Fur Coat.” It’s called “Rabbit Fur Coat” now. It was, in the first year and a half or two years of its existence, called “The Dungeon Master.”
Thematic similarities. Similarities in the characters ages. High school and role-playing games. Outsider freak and difficult friendships. Etc.
And so, the dilemma. Fellow writers (and people who like writing), what say you? Are you, in a similar situation, intimidated? Would you consider dropping the story from a collection? Or not sending said story out anymore, or for a while? Say, until the monster that is a badass story by a badass writer is no longer looming in your closet, making you feel inadequate to your writerly proclivities? Making you pull the sheets up over your head?
Say you’ve got some thunder you are are waiting to bring, and then a veritable god of thunder comes along and brings it first?
Should one cower? Or, hell, should one feel competitive? Should a writer buck up and maybe do a “Oh, yeah? That’s how you wanna play it, Lipsyte?” edit?
One thing I’ve meant to do more frequently as an HTMLGIANT contributor is simply to post about books I love, especially ones that didn’t just come out, especially ones that don’t get flogged constantly here already. I’ve got a mental list, but when there’s no publication date to which a post is tied… well, shit gets away.
But I read something in the past two weeks that absolutely got me by the throat, and I want to write about it: The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. It came out in 1953 and I’d never heard of it until a few weeks ago. I’ve rarely read a book that gnaws so thoroughly — and simultaneously — at the intellect and the viscera.
GIRLS TO THE FRONT: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, by Sara Marcus
Harper Perennial; September 28, 2010
[NOTE: A vigorous subjectivity is hereby asserted]
I was thirteen in 1994, born a few years too late and too many hundreds of miles away from DC or Olympia to catch the first wave of Riot Grrrl, before the media declared Courtney Love its leader and made short skirts, ripped fishnets and combat boots another uniform to choose from, on the rack next to grunge and goth and punk. The punk rock girls in Miami sort of had the right idea. We wrote zines and covered our hands (and arms and shoes) in magic marker, wore too much black eyeliner and publicly made out with one another, smoke and drank and bragged about the good drugs we could find, and applied duck tape to the rips in our backpacks and notebook covers and black jeans. But we were copying the look from MTV, not inventing it ourselves, and we were more interested in intoxicants than radical feminist politics. We mixed up Riot Grrrl with trampy adolescent showboating, equated it with bands like Hole and L7 and the Lunachicks, plus local favorites Jack Off Jill (more Manson-fanclub than feminist, but at least female), and generally, in the way of all younger siblings aping their older sisters’ trends, didn’t exactly get it right.
Luckily Sara Marcus is here to set the record straight.
September 28th, 2010 / 12:18 pm
If you are feeling fall, check out this mix I made of psych-folk/rock music from the 60s and 70s. Features mostly women vocalists. For fans of Vashti Bunyan, Linda Perhacs, Nico, and Josephine Foster.
Toward the Sunlight: Lady Folk and Psych-Rock from the 60s and 70s
1.”Towards the Sunlight” — Kim Jung Mi (6:53)
2. “Perfilados De Miedo” — Teresa Cano (4:03)
3.”Nothing lasts” — Karen Beth (5:27)
4. “Frijdom” — Irolt (3:16)
5. “Goodbye” — Cheryl Dilcher (3:58)
6. “Minstrel Boy — Wendy Erdman (3:12)
7. “Topanga” — Kathy Smith (3:32)
8. “Break Out The Wine” — Jan & Lorraine (3:06)
9. “in the corner of my life” — Bojoura (2:44)
10. “Sweet Mama” — Cheryl Dilcher (2:34)
11. “Song Celestial” — Windflower (4:47)
12. “Rainy Day” — Susan Christie (3:10)
13. “A shower” (驟雨) — Morita Doji (森田童子) (3:05)
14. “Number 33” — Jan & Lorraine (1:41)
15. “Last Ditch protocol” — Elyse (2:58)
16. “The joys of life” — Karen Beth (4:38)
17. “Dedication: Fred Neil (River Trilogy) Noah’s Dove/A Man Is/Water Is Wide” — All That The Name Implies (7:09)
And the fact that I’m wishing Google a happy birthday only frightens me more.
I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites. — Google CEO or whatever
Bump bump go the books on the top of the site. This site, I mean. When you roll your mouse over one of these books, they leap. When your mouse departs, they crunch back into the title banner like some old Atari obstacle. O obnoxious HTMLGIANT, where the hustle never sleeps. A recent commenter said, in fact, that she actually refrains from buying stuff recommended here because of all the “nepotism and over-hype.”
I mean, that’s fair. We’re probably not friends, dear reader. Statistically, you probably don’t know who I am, and I probably don’t know who you are.
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