Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

getting me through today ("Somebody Was Watching Over Me")

Pops Staples, Don't Lose This

Maria Muldaur with Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Ann Peebles, and others

Friday, August 21, 2015

pumpkins are horrible disgusting squishy Alien things

some more angel voices

Clara Ward (1961)

Mahalia Jackson (live) (the call-and-responses really make this)

Mahalia Jackson (live, 1964) (the sound dynamics she shows off here are jaw-dropping)

Itty bitty Natalie Cole (I think she's in her mid-twenties? here). If you only know her from "Pink Cadillac" you are in for a surprise. UTU comment says Natalie Cole was taking part in "In The Spirit" with Rev James Cleveland, Marion Williams, Dorothy Norwood and The Southern California Community Choir at All Saint's Church, Northampton, England on Thursday 27th November 1980.

Through this world of toil and snares, If I falter, Lord, who cares?

After all that J-Franz BULLSHIT I needed something to scour my soul clean. I was looking up the lyrics to "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)", which sounds like the angels getting down and sweetly dirty on a late Saturday night (heard it at a random Spotify suggestion), and that led me to this phenomenal live performance, which led me (that's what I do on UTU, I just click click click around) to THIS, Bessie Griffin singing "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" live at Montreux in1981 with Charles Barnett on piano. Sweet Jesus indeed. The whole thing is incredible but at 3:00 in when she does that wail that somehow turns into a growl and then the praising hymn of "I -- I am weak, oh but Thou art strong, my good Lord! Jesus, Jesus keep me from all wrong...." and it's like going to church and the best party ever and Heaven all at once. Thank you, Kenneth Morris. Thank you, Bessie Griffin. And thank you, piotrgibus on YouTube, whoever you are, for uploading that sensational beauty.


And then Anne Thériault terrifyingly brings it all back home:

the best thing ever written about Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.)

(Including that bio, which I didn't like, unlike the rest of the civilized world. ((Then again I've always agreed with Huck Finn, Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.)) )

You were brilliant, I think, but consumed by the inevitability of the abattoir. In your fiction, all the gates are closed; characters are funneled down a chute to flashing knives. In your best fiction, the characters know what is happening, but the knowledge makes no difference; there’s no way out.
You didn’t believe in the possibility of escape. Assuming the nom de plume and persona of James Tiptree, Jr., meant at least you could step outside the chute and be the one wielding the knife. As Raccoona Sheldon, on the other hand, you were bound — as were we — inside the doomed and running cows; then you sometimes tantalized your victims with a vision of a better reality before tearing it to shreds before our eyes (“Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!”), and sometimes you focused unwaveringly on the stark machinery of death (“The Screwfly Solution”). But for you there was no way out.
Rereading Slaughterhouse-Five taught me two things about the novel: how great it really is, and what it’s really about. It’s not about time travel and flying saucers, it’s about PTSD. ....“He tried to remember how old he was, couldn’t.” This is Billy the optometrist. “He tried to remember what year it was. He couldn’t remember that, either.” For the traumatized soldier, the war is always present, and the present is always the war. He is unstuck in time in the sense that he is stuck in time. His life is not linear, but radiates instead from a single event like the spokes of a wheel. Everything feels like a dream: a very bad dream. The novel is framed the way it is because Vonnegut, too, was traveling in time. He needed to make himself a part of the story because he already was a part of the story.

William Deresiewicz on Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Horses go blindly to the sacrifice, but the gods give knowledge to men. When the King was dedicated, he knew his moira. In three years, or seven, or nine, or whenever the custom was, his term would end and the god would call him. And he went consenting, or else he was no king, and power would not fall on him to lead the people. When they came to choose among the Royal Kin, this was his sign: that he chose short life with glory, and to walk with the god, rather than live long, unknown like the stall-fed ox. And the custom changes, Theseus, but this token never. Remember, even if you do not understand . . . It is not the sacrifice, whether it comes in youth or age, or the god remits it; it is not the bloodletting that calls down power. It is the consenting, Theseus. The readiness is all. It washes heart and mind from things of no account, and leaves them open to the god. But one washing does not last a lifetime; we must renew it, or the dust returns to cover us. And so with this. Twenty years I have ruled in Troizen, and four times sent the King Horse to Poseidon. When I lay my hand on his head to make him nod, it is not only to bless the people with the omen. I greet him as my brother before the god, and renew my moira." 

 —Mary Renault, The King Must Die (1958)
In mazes there are turns and choices and dead ends. But in a labyrinth there is only one way in, which leads all the way to the center, where something terrible like a minotaur might eat you, and then it turns and comes only one way out. This struck me as a really excellent metaphor for the way I experience the memory of being kidnapped and raped by a man I used to love, and so the structure of the book follows the labyrinth in and in, toward the terrible center, and then turns and comes back out.

- The Rumpus interview with Lacy M. Johnson

Monday, August 17, 2015

If it's true Marx said "God save me from the Marxists" I can imagine DFW muttering "give me patience to withstand the bros," sure. I think the same kind of thing happened with Kurt Cobain, who was often frustrated when fans didn't share his political views (that whole "Polly" thing).

I did know a lot of BRO-type DFW fans (they dominate the discourse over on Goodreads AKA Badreads, sadly) but I first read Infinite Jest because it was about addiction, and I know a lot of other people who've done the same. Did he often act like a dirtbrag bro, even write like one? (I have never read Hideous Men and don't fucking plan to.) Sure, it was a macho pose; a pose a lot of other male intellectuals assume because GOD FORBID someone with a DICK value something other than fighting and fucking (the girly version of this is GOD FORBID someone WITHOUT a DICK values something other than makeup and babies. One of the worst things about sexism is how anti-intellectual it is, on both sides). If you want the epitome of smart-sensitive-guy-crushing-himself-beneath-macho-armour, look no further than Hemingway.

I don't think DFW was quite that far gone, but any time a guy announces his intention to go off antidepressants because he wants to be more creative, or he wants to be free, or he wants to be calm, or perfect, I hear the same old bullshit: men are supposed to need nothing. (Women get the opposite treatment, our daily lives and thoughts are pathologized into male-centered illness. You don't want a career, you're hysterical because you don't have a dick and want Daddy to fuck you! and so on.) Add in an unhealthy slug or two of perfectionism bred of child-prodigy status and you should be good enough to do this all by yourself turns into not just a mindfuck but a twisted moral imperative.

So yeah, it's not surprising young male intellectuals In Pain because they're Nice Guys flock to the shrine of the bandana. But that was armour too, that's not where his heart was. (It never fails to amuse me the media absolutely does not pick up on how the bandana was a STYLE for young rappers and bangers back in the day. I dunno how popular it is anymore, but when I see a guy wearing it I instantly flash back to Santa Fe in the mid-eighties.) He suffered from that whacked-out Lockean ideal that you can peel back all the qualities (the bandana, the addiction, the pretension, the intelligence, on and on) to some kind of Pure True Self that would be able to transcend everything. But that's like someone with polio deciding to crawl out of the iron lung because they want to run a marathon.

His brain was sick -- not his self, but his brain -- and when it wasn't treated, the disease overwhelmed his mind, that big, beautiful, powerful engine of treasure, and killed him. That's it. That's what happened. That this happens over and over in literary history doesn't just tell us this is true, but also how powerful the myth is that we want to believe will overcome that truth.

Friday, August 7, 2015

CR: And so what will you do with that year [off]?

DFW:  If past experience holds true, I will probably write an hour a day and spend eight hours a day biting my knuckle and worrying about not writing.

CR: Worrying about not writing. ....Not worrying about what to write.

DFW: Right. Yeah. Worrying about not-writing.

- DFW on Charlie Rose, 1997

(He is SO SHY. And OMG, the poor dude has like NO armour! He rears back when CR is like "Respect means a lot to you" -- "You this in my face?" His speech is so soft and intense and not quite pressured and he obviously wants to be articulate and thoughtful.) ("You're seriously asking me for my view on The English Patient?")

Nearly twenty years ago, now. Man.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

He wants to become an actor. And he wants to accomplish this by getting his Equity card at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. He wants to go there because they are doing Chekhov's play The Sea Gull that season and he feels he's perfect for the role of Konstantin Gavrilovich, the young writer. He's sure that he's right for it, because he's very sensitive like Konstantin. And he has a relationship to his mother not unlike Konstantin has to his mother. Also, he likes the fact that Konstantin gets to shoot himself in the head at the end of every performance and then come back the following night to play himself again.

- Spalding Gray

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So I made a big mistake Try to see it once my way

Alice in Chains - "Would? (Unplugged)"

books read in August 2015

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

81. Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings, Shirley Jackson (2015)
82. We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s, Richard Beck (2015)
83. The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, Jessica Hopper (2015) (rather ehh....very, very bloggy)
84. Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett (1996) (reread - still as classic as ever)
84. Quack This Way, Bryan A. Garner and David Foster Wallace (2013)
85. The Shepherd's Crown: The Last Discworld Novel, Terry Pratchett (2015)
86. Blue Nights, Joan Didion (2011) (reread)

all 2015 booklist posts