“Here’s an example of the kinds of “questions” Bolling now has. After noting that the doctor that signed the birth certificate had “passed away,” Bolling pointed out that the doctor’s wife and son both were unaware that he had delivered President Obama. Bolling asked: “If you gave birth to the president of the United States, don’t you think your family would know about it?”—
“A genre designation created as satire by the ne plus ultra of ironic blogs, Hipster Runoff, which then became a real thing in some kind of apathetic life imitating apathetic art.”—Explaining chillwave to my dad.
“Instead, Obama’s weapon of choice is the drone missile attack which, while clean and far from the prying eyes of journalists, forgoes any intelligence gained from capturing the enemy. Dead terrorists answer no questions. Which means that the Gitmo files contain a level of intelligence on the enemy that will be a bounty compared to the poverty of intelligence coming in today.”—
So, it’s dogged me my whole life. I wasn’t supposed to like them because they were rap, and I was not rap. Then, I wasn’t supposed to like them because they were white and not authentic. After that, they weren’t rap enough. Then, they weren’t grunge enough. Then, for a brief period, they weren’t from Detroit enough. Then, they were too To the 5 Boroughs. Now, I’m too old and so are they. And all I want to do is listen to them.
Just let people like the fucking music they like. It doesn’t mean anything. The most Pitchforky people (or the thing that is actually relevant now (old!)) sometimes read the most idiotic, awful literature and I’m like, if this music that would be Foreigner and Maroon 5.
“Perhaps the bigger issue at hand, though, is the severity of the backlash to Egan’s comments and the reasoning behind it. Bloggers at the The Signature Thing declared it “majorly ugly girl-on-girl crime,” and numerous commenters declared a boycott of everything Egan from this point forward. Another blogger at NerdGirlTalking was utterly perplexed: “Jennifer Egan, have you even MET Meg?.. Because how could you meet Meg and then call her work banal or derivative? I don’t care if you think those things, Meg is so nice that saying those things are almost like kicking a puppy.”—
Oh, for god’s sake. Let’s get this out of the way first: it’s not somehow uglier for a woman to insult another woman than it is for a man to insult a woman or for a man to insult a man. Blah. “Girl-on-girl crime” is a phrase that should be discarded immediately (unless we’re talking sororities, because come on).
Secondly, regardless of whether or not people who enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants are upset, Jennifer Egan is allowed to call other works of fiction derivative and banal, especially when they’re sold off by book packaging companies like Alloy whose entire purpose is to find a popular niche and stick with it. Those books are all the same because they’re designed to be the same. They’re written to appeal to the kind of people who like the plain-girl-whose-best-friend-is-perfect-and-who-has-two-guys-interested-in-her-one-bad-one-good-but-she-won’t-understand-until-the-last-25-pages-the-end.
And I get it! I used to read them in college because they were time fillers and and didn’t make me want to kill myself like the stuff I had to read for my Russian seminar classes did. They were delightful fluff. And when I stopped having to read Solzhenitysn, I stopped reading chick lit, though I didn’t put two-and-two together for some time.
But it would seem that the women who are upset here are upset not because Egan insulted other women, but because she called out their (hugely profitable) novels for what they are. You’re allowed to like bad literature! Seriously. You’re allowed to like bad television and movies and music, but you’re also allowed to like bad literature. It doesn’t make you a worse person. You like what you like, but not everyone has to like it.
A woman should be allowed to point out that she writes serious literary fiction. Fellow authors are allowed to think she’s a dick.
But to try and say that what Jennifer Weiner has made bank doing is the same as what Egan won the Pulitzer for does a disservice to both sides of the argument — especially when the complaints of ghettoization are coming from people who have bought into that very ghettoization.
Jennifer Weiner’s complaint doesn’t seem to be, “My work is serious literary fiction.” Instead, she’s saying, “Yeah, I know and fully embrace the fact that I write chick lit, but you should treat it as serious literary fiction because I consider myself A Serious Person Who Knows About Literature. I mean, I went to Princeton!”
[A self-indulgent note for those interested: I wrote this poem about eighteen months ago, as a letter to myself, in the future, on my 26th birthday. As a sort of present for making it through the first 25. Anyway: that’s today! So I’m posting it here. Indulgence over. Thanks for reading! S]
Where The Wild Things Are
Saturday sounds for the Situational Sweethearts, Sunday collapses in Renaissance Bros. The drinks are smeared off & ink is sworn off & paved in pencil our vision is plural. Letters for pleasure from friends in infinitude, abstracts of triumphs on loan for display. “I love you” is falling untrammeled like family, the words come out & they are hard to connect. Righteously no one tries, righteously everyone does (they’re recording now as we speak). Shook our fists, shook our hips, it was a Dance Anthem apocalypse, the proximal gist: Farewell; Everything Is Connected; You Are Your Face & I Am the Mirror-Filled Air. “I love you” is falling & we belong to the ground, there is nothing to say but we have words on retainer: “The plot is uncolored,” “it snaps together like snow,” we walk into it late, a little Indie Rock, a little tired of people, its remains distant, its absence the kind of genius that won’t concern you in this millennium, welcome to it by the way where the boys tear possible pure, where the girls frenzy fashion from doubt, where everybody’s a gin & tonic, everyone’s a beer with a glossaried past, & have the boys mentioned they’re talk chicken soup, & have the girls mentioned they’re essays first published in The Paris Review in the spring of 1985. It’s October but the night performs August equations, it’s “downright anecdotal!” I imagine, New York is woozy & London is awake & my ideas are children sweating in their sleep. When it sleeps the city dreams of re-ending the century, of rewinding what was said about the sweetness of crisis, of glitchy accomplishment & food in the bed. Sex lapsing into focus. Stars lapsing into focus. In the kitchen is magic & in the bedroom is bad data, age & its ratio of flexible terms: 9 is for Stop wearing heart couture. 24 is for Start wearing heart couture. 23 is for the strength to wane, the will to feel primal / throw your hands in the air, U2, Rihanna, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, amen, deep in my heart, couldn’t care less, against against against against. “I love you” is falling & the charts don’t forgive, I’ve got sisters shaking themselves with success, I’ve got cities shaking themselves with architecture, One-Hit Wonder’s gonna bang the drum, No-Hit Nothing’s gonna end the Cold War. Which is already over, congratulations: Dance Pop Class of 2000; Mnemonic Kissing Class of 2000; Getting Into Politics, I Mean It Class of 2000; Four Meals a Day Class of 2000; Smoking for Looks Class of 2000; Like a Virgin Class of 2000; Like Wild, Like Things, Like Places, Like People Class of 2000. Like It Was Class of 2000. It’s 2009, Sing me a compliment your memory mumbles but with time cowering still I’ve already written it, your heart pumps my brain with ballads of blood, “J you were the bright-ish lights,” “K you rock like a baby,” “L your lips are a globe on the street.” New without the novelty, exclaimed without a point: “I love you” is falling but there’s water below, you’re 9 you’re the King, you’re 24 you can swim, 23 exiles you, 21 crowns you Prince of Boats, by 15 there is no memory of this at all — that’s the 20th Century for you — we were against it from the start, we were against this one too but now we’re for it, it asks the wrong questions but who here doesn’t, How are you, How’s poetry, How’s X, How’s Y, even the right ones insist on their commas, whatever happened to making a point, or a mark, or haste, or out, you’re a pretty good idea but who here isn’t, it’s Saturday, it’s Sunday, it’s Monday, Happy Birthday, eat your food, it’s getting cold, we love you very, very much.
Next year sees London play host to the Olympic Games, and as is now traditional, there’s going to be a ceremony which will be eye-peeling, ear-shredding and very probably taste-destroying in its splendour. It’s being directed by Danny Boyle, the man who gave us Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. These are the facts.
Where we move into slightly more imaginative territory is the rumour that Danny is approaching rock legends such as Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lydon and the Rolling Stones to form some kind of supergroup, to really get things going with a bang.
This may be the most beautiful book in the world — lighted from within and somehow embodying all forms of literature at the same time. The 44 prose poems of “Illuminations” were Arthur Rimbaud’s goodbye to poetry (though he had said goodbye before); they are poised on the brink of a new world. Rimbaud was on his way to Africa to live a life of commerce, to enter the world of buying and selling. In 1875, he gave the manuscript, famously, to his friend and ex-lover Paul Verlaine, requesting him to send it to a publisher.
"Illuminations" is often called the first work of Modernism; an opening that paved the way, John Ashbery writes in his introduction, for the Cubists, the ballets of Merce Cunningham and everything else we might care about. The language evokes memories a reader never knew she had: A future is built, boulevards and cities, using only words. "The Splendide Hotel was built amid the tangled heap of ice floes and the polar night. Since then the Moon has heard jackals cheeping in thyme deserts — and eclogues in wooden shoes grumbling in the orchard. Then, in the budding purple forest, Eucharis told me that spring had come." The poems are riddled with youth ("In the wood there is a bird, his song stops you and makes you blush") and a Bob Dylan-like exhortation to make room for the young: "I am the learned scholar with the dark armchair. Branches and the rain hurl themselves at the library’s casement window." And this: "As for the world, when you go out, what will it have become?"
“It will do you good to pursue your dreams! Spanish guitar lessons! I believe in throwing naked enthusiasm at a problem! Hope is not a four-letter word! (Technically, it is. You know what we mean, asshole! Vinyl records!) The only thing to fear is the fear of oneself! Good Lord, is that a freshly baked rosemary quiche? Energy-saving air-conditioning!”—
Please, PLEASE someone explain to me why I woke up this morning with “Brimful of Asha” buzzing in my head? It hasn’t been relevant in nearly 15 years and now it won’t leave. I’ve been up for two hours and through my shower and the walk to 30th Street Station and getting coffee and being on the train and walking up to the office it’s been:
BRIMFUL OF ASHA ON THE FORTY-FIVE
BRIMFUL OF ASHA ON THE FORTY-FIVE
EVERYBODY NEEDS A BOSOM FOR A PILLOW
EVERYBODY NEEDS A BOSOM
and I want to kill myself. Someone check on me later today to see if I have, in fact, done so.
Things I've written in a professional capacity today
I need some help with this German website because I’ve gotten as far as I can on my own (my exposure to German coming, as it does, from watching lots of WWII documentaries with my dad over the years and one horrible slog through The Sorrows of Young Werther in a course in college).
So, how many C-Strings did you end up buying? One for each day of the week?
For the uninitiated, a C-String is a hideous piece of, um, lingerie I guess one could call it (at least that’s what its creators call it) that Justine clued me into the other day. If you don’t want to check it out for yourself, it’s… well, no, in fact you HAVE to check it out for yourself because it’s indescribable.