Archive for February 7th, 2012

February 7th, 2012

I agree with most of this, of course.

I agree with most of this, of course.:


But the reason I will always have issues with the Marie NotSettingOffGoogle floofaroo, and trust me, increasingly I think the only answer for me is to stay out of these things is: does craft not matter at all here? Because putting Katha Pollitt’s piece next to That Other Thing, I see some differences. And I say that not to be a snot; I say it because I resent it that any aesthetic disagreement with NotSettingOffGoogle means automatically that I must be questioning her right to subjectively express herself. She should be able to, by all means, but I resent being called upon, by way of my vagina, to salute women for bad craft.

This has been an ill-advised post on this tumblelog. Move along, everyone.

I think craft matters. And talent matters. I don’t think they matter to everyone in the same way. I am not a fancy reader or a writer. I am used to punk rock and zine writing. But I think a prescriptive vs descriptive stumble has happened here because I really don’t see where I have called on you or anyone to “salute women for bad craft.” In fact I obviously didn’t because I didn’t talk about craft other than noting that Pollitt had a nice turn of phrase. I didn’t discuss the merit of Calloway’s writing at all. I actually don’t think I am all that qualified to discuss their relative literary merits, and Im not very interested in that discussion anyway.

I was connecting some dots in a tradition, (and making a joke) but I think it is very threatening to some people (maybe you, maybe not) for that even to happen, to say that I see similar impulses in the work of the women I mentioned. I think a tradition of feminist vengeance is interesting.  Some of it might be good, and some might not be. I didn’t make a qualitative argument. You are reading that in.

I mean, I would think I could reference A Catcher in the Rye in a general discussion of the Bldungsroman without that being read  as either my personal stamp of approval of the book being a piece of Great Literature, or an insistence that others endorse this imaginary stance of mine. So I don’t see why the same isn’t true here.

When people say stuff about Lana Del Rey (who I do endorse aesthetically and craftily!) being inauthentic because she changed her name, I have  brought up Tori Amos and Bob Dylan as examples of artists who also did that and trust me, I was not calling on anyone to salute Tori Amos or Bob Dylan. 

I hope that makes what Ive said more clear. I mean you’ve got feelings, and that’s cool. But I don’t really want to be misrepresented or blamed for them. I’m not mad or anything but feel like this needed to be responded to.

February 7th, 2012

Something you should write


It’s pinging around in my head, but I can’t get to it right now. Maybe James Franco can do it:

“20something” “authenticity” + moments of realness = The link between mumblecore films, Tao Lin, and bands featuring banjo-plucking earnestness (let’s say… Mumford and Sons? The Avett Brothers? Fleet Foxes?). Hint: it’s not that they’ve produced any masterpieces! Additionally: notice how when people recommend these works, it’s usually because “it had that one part that was so familiar.”

It’s fine, up to a point. It may move you if you are in the right spot. But where is the elevation, the artfulness? The very careful choices? And this is a hoary old saw, admittedly, because 24 in 1941 is VERY DIFFERENT than 24 now, but can you believe that Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 24? What would he be doing if he was 24 in 2012?

Followup: Beyond the Muse: the role of female artists in this 20something realness tip.

Extra Credit: Why Lena Dunham and her relentlessly Female Gaze is an exception. *It is also not a coincidence, I think, that Lynne Shelton, Humpday director, has moved onto bigger films and the occasional Mad Men episode. I’m not sure where the Duplass Brothers fit in, though.

Hot tip: Writer who writes this piece is NOT ALLOWED to abuse the use of “scare” quotes.

February 7th, 2012

The other day I said “What if Marie Calloway is really Katha Pollitt?” and it has been…

The other day I said “What if Marie Calloway is really Katha Pollitt?” and it has been making me snicker ever since. It prompted me to go back and read Pollitt[s 2007  “Webstalking” piece again. Its ruthless recklessness is a precursor of Taylor Swift’s practice of feminist vengeance for sure:

I would plug his name into Google, Lycos, HotBot, Alta Vista and up would pop, in distilled, allusive, elliptical form, like a haiku or a mathematical curve, everything I should have known: the life behind my life. Out of a soup or cloud composed of book reviews, publishers’ notices, conference announcements, course assignments, Listserv postings, and tiny mentions and stray references embedded in documents devoted to some quite distant theme, a person would slowly condense, like someone approaching out of a fog who at first looks as if he were made out of fog, only darker. There on my screen glowed the programs of academic gatherings he had attended going back for a decade: the same female names appeared over and over entwined with his in panel announcements. Why hadn’t it struck me as odd that his “best friend,” a professor of English literature, was the respondent for papers he gave at conferences on art history and philosophy? Was I even aware that they attended these events together? And what about the philosopher he’d been seeing, I’d recently discovered, when we started dating, and the art historian who called all the time and then, one day, stopped calling? They were on those panels, too. I had been so out of it!

I tried to break into his e-mail. I had his password - “marxist” - or did I? When I asked him what his password was, a few months before he left, he had cleared his throat and paused. I attributed this hesitation to modesty - he was embarrassed to claim such a heroic identity, or to use such a large, noble, world-historical word for such a trivial purpose. But perhaps he hesitated because he was afraid I would use it and find out his secrets - or was thinking up a fake password so that I couldn’t. In any case, “marxist” didn’t work when I tried to access his mail through - nor did any of the other words I tried: “marxism,” “marx,” “karlmarx,” “engels,” “communist,” “communism,” “pannekoek,” “korsch,” “luxemburg,” “luxembourg,” “belgium, ” “chocolate,” “godiva,” “naked,” “breast,” “cunnilingus,” “fellatio,” or the names of our cats, his new girlfriend, his mother’s dead golden retriever. My password is “secret,” which is so obvious that e-mail programs cite it as the exact word not to choose, but which I liked because it was a pun - “secret” as a secret password, the word that is also the thing itself I noticed he didn’t ask for my password, but I told him anyway.

Mostly, though, I Webstalked him to find out what he was up to now. I knew when he went to Philadelphia for the College Art Association meeting, when his essay on eighteenth-century art-critical terminology was assigned in a class at Essex University, when he sent a flattering e-mail to the Web site of a conceptual artist whose work consisted of reading “Das Kapital” out loud in dozens of obscure foreign languages and invited this artist to be involved in a book he was “producing” with his new girlfriend. I don’t know what made me saddest: that they were co-writing, or at least co-producing - whatever that is - a book? That he was seeking out this half-baked poseur? That he prefaced his girlfriend’s name with “critic,” the way it would appear in Time? Clearly, his prose style had deteriorated since he left me - the man I loved would surely have written “the critic,” which is the correct and elegant usage.

When I first read “Webstalker,” I cringed. I was  horrified and so embarrassed for Ms. Pollitt. I was  angry with her friends. Why hadn’t they stopped her? Here was a serious feminist writer (I used to think this way! really! despite Jane Gallop!) writing about her messy personal life, and it felt weird and scary. Years earlier I had been in a destructive, obsessive relationship. I could never write of the humiliating bargains I had made with myself in order to keep it going. I folded up my New Yorker on the subway, trying to hide both myself and Ms. Pollitt from other people’s pitying eyes.   

The piece did have a quaint charm  (“What, for example, is a PDF?”) and a refreshingly naked desire for petty revenge against the ex and his unnamed-but-identifiable girlfriend, even if her own public humiliation was part of the deal. It helps to be a terrific writer, of course: “I was like Javert, hunting him through the sewers of cyberspace, moving from link to link in the dark, like Spider-Man flinging himself by a filament over the shadowy chasm between one roof and another.”

Reading it now, I see a confidence  that wasn’t there for me the first time. Possibly this is due to therapy, because I”ve been working on that whole vulnerability thing there, too.  “Webstalker” also feels very current in this world of xojane, Chris Kraus, Kat Stacks, Tracey Emin, Marie, Taylor, and others. I hate the rubric “confessional” for writing like this (and others it has been applied to, in particular female poets). It implies that the writer is seeking forgiveness. That said, I hope Katha can forgive me for my initial reaction, although I doubt she cares.

One does wonder, with that persistent feminist trouble with description vs prescription, what the reaction would be if  Rihanna or Katy Perry or Lana Del Rey or whoever were to write a song about webstalking her ex and making fun of his grammar (or swagger, whatever the kids are calling it these days). Or if Marie Calloway wrote about it. Maybe she already has.

[image: two white people kissing—one has red hair, the other has a blonde wig. On the right, it’s author Laura Albert, who created the persona of JT LeRoy and wrote several books and magazine pieces as LeRoy; on the let, it’s someone Albert hired to play LeRoy at parties and events.]

February 7th, 2012


February 7th, 2012

alithea: maybe someday something will be funnier than danzig…


maybe someday something will be funnier than danzig wearing a danzig shirt buying kitty litter but TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY! neither will tomorrow! not betting on the day after that, either!

February 7th, 2012

getoutoftherecat: get out of there cat. the beach might seem…


get out of there cat. the beach might seem like a giant litterbox with sand you could kick literally everywhere but in real life you would not like it. besides you always throw up in the car.


February 7th, 2012

superseventies: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — Our House…


Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — Our House - 1970