Monday, June 25, 2012

"But What Will I Write?"

I’m reading Simone De Beauvoir’s roman à clef, The Mandarins, right now—and I say roman à clef partly to sound superior, snotty, and French, and partly because, well, that is what it is. In it, she fictionally depicts the lives of some Parisian intellectuals at the end of World War II. And, because I looked it up on Wikipedia, and Wikipedia knows all, I can break it down for you a little bit more: the character Henri Perron is thought to be Albert Camus; Robert Dubreuilh, Jean-Paul Sartre; and Anne Dubreuilh, Simone De Beauvoir.

Et voilà!

So, now that we’ve gotten this far, perhaps I can get to the point. Henri, who is also the editor of a leftist newspaper called L'Espoir, has recently published a critically acclaimed novel and has announced his plans to write a “light novel.” Of course, the more he talks about this, the more everyone gets excited and asks him a lot of questions about this “light novel.”

Too bad he doesn’t have the first clue what it’s about.

Now, bear with me, as I’m certainly no French intellectual—I know, I know, you’re shocked!—but my favorite aspect of the book so far is Henri’s inner struggle with self-definitions. Is he political, or is he a writer? Is he both? And his bigger question, considering how much he and everyone he knows has changed since before the war, is:

What in the hell will he write about, the past or the present?

So I might not be a post-WWII French intellectual, but anyone who defines oneself as a writer could likely identify with these nagging questions. You ask me what I’m writing, right now, and while on one side, the honest answer is, I’m writing Groupons five days a week and some blog posts here and there; the other, equally honest answer in my mind, is that I’m writing much more. I am writing scribbles of thoughts in a journal; I am constructing ideas and sentences in my head that may or may not ever make it on a page; I am questioning multiple times a day, “What will I write?”; and yes, I am writing Groupons and blog posts.

Yet still my head alternately feels too full to narrow down an idea or too empty to write anything at all. This has been driving me absolutely out of my mind, until I read the following passage, and I suddenly calmed the fuck down.

An excerpt from The Mandarins:

Henri imagined a solitary country home, pine trees, the smell of the scrub. ‘But what will I write?’ He continued walking, his head empty. ‘The trap is well laid,’ he said to himself. ‘Just when you think you’re escaping, it slams down on you.’ To recapture the past and preserve the present with words is all very fine. But it can be done only if there is someone to read them; there’s no sense to it except if the past, if the present, if life counts for something. If this world has no importance, if other men mean nothing, what point would there be to writing? There would be nothing left to do but yawn in boredom … Only there isn’t time enough for everything, that’s the tragedy of it. Once more the refrain began repeating itself insistently in Henri’s head… What was he to do? Give in? Not give in? Get involved in politics? Write?

He went home to bed.

I can only wonder if this “light novel” of Henri’s will ever even happen. That’s the problem with questioning yourself so much, isn’t it? After awhile, the only thing you have energy to do is go to bed. But maybe, later on, all that questioning will lead to action, and you’ll write something better, and more worthwhile, than you ever imagined.

After all, Camus wound up winning the Nobel Prize in literature. But it wasn’t for his novel. It was for his political essay, Reflections on the Guillotine.

Maybe I should start telling everyone I'm in the midst of writing a light novel. Next step, the Nobel Prize!

Just a thought...

Monday Mix Tapes: When We Inflate a Thought Balloon

It's Monday! Don't be blue. Let's just get a little weird.

I'm a smiling alligator. 

And for the finale, the new Twin Shadow video! Be still my heart!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You're So Sensitive!

so many feelings.

Have we met? If so, you might have said the above to me. It's highly likely. After all, I've been hearing this phrase my entire life, or some variation of it:

You're so sensitive!

Don't be so sensitive!

and my personal favorites: Get over it. Chill out.

Believe me guys, I'D LOVE TO.

I realized recently that while I do a lot of joking about feeling a lot of feelings,  I've never actually addressed the fact that I am oh so sensitive. 

The issue of sensitivity has plagued me forever. I kid you not when I say that one of my earliest memories involves being called out on it. The scenario: watching TV in the living room with my parents and brother. No idea what happened, but I remember getting upset about something my brother had said (thanks a LOT, Jay) and whining to my parents about it. I was immediately told not to be—you guessed it—so sensitive. (In response, I threw my beloved sheep blanket over my head and pouted.)

So it was with utter delight that this evening I opened my new issue of Women's Health and found an article that begins with: "Ever been told you're just 'too sensitive'?"


I like the article in particular because it addresses the bad and the good of being sensitive (yes, there are some good things about it!).

The good:
Emotions are also a good source of data, which means that sensitivity can make people more insightful and open-minded, says David Caruso, Ph.D., coauthor of The Emotionally Intelligent Manager. And those who carry the gene linked to sensitivity are better at making complex decisions, especially ones that could result in either big gains or losses.
Sensitive people could be more aware of and empathize better with other people's feelings, says Mary Rothbart, Ph.D., a distinguished professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon. 
 I read that part and was like:

And then I got to the BAD.
Of course, you can't act on your sensitivity all the time. Getting wound up and crying at work, for example, can come across as manipulative, dramatic, or weak ... Sensitivity-spurred behavior can also be hard on relationships ... When sensitive people experience rejection, they can become super-solicitous, anxious, withdrawn, angry, or sad—to the point where they become annoying or even unbearable. As such, they tend to go through more frequent breakups.

Annoying or even unbearable? Moi? 

Alas, I agree with it all. But whatever. I'd rather feel a lot of things really intensely than feel nothing at all. Being emotional/sensitive is not the same as being weak. I really am a lot tougher than I look when I'm sobbing (or pouting underneath a blanket). I swear. Just ask me, and if you're lucky I'll get overly defensive and possibly sarcastic! Oh. Shit. (But the good news is, I'll never, ever get uncomfortable if you cry around me!)

I'm really not that unbearable. I promise.

And you guys? For fuck's sake, quit telling me I'm so sensitive.

I know. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jewelry Stories

I went through a phase in college where I’d wear as many as eight bracelets on each wrist, usually beaded bracelets that would occasionally, and embarrassingly, fall apart during class, and go spilling across the floor. This was in part because I liked to sit and spin them in circles around my wrist, and partly because they were cheap beaded bracelets that weren’t meant to be tugged at, pulled at, and stretched the way I did.

The only time I managed to leave my bracelets the hell alone was the days I’d wear three of my mom’s beaded bracelets. They were purple and gold, something she’d bought on one of her “sister’s weeks” in Florida, an annual trip where she spent a week with my aunts, and from what I could tell, laughed a lot and told them way more information about me than I wanted anyone to know. These purple beaded bracelets were inexpensive too, but because they were my mother’s, and something I’d taken out of her jewelry box after she died, I treated them with better care than I would have otherwise. I wore them specifically on exam days, and would look down at my wrist whenever I was stuck on a question. I refused to leave my house and go to class until I had them on my right wrist, and the exam days I would forget them, I'd remember as soon as the test started and I'd start cursing myself and be convinced I wouldn't remember anything.

via [etymologie]

This was around the same time I never took off several turquoise rings, also scavenged from Mom’s jewelry box. The one I wore on my pinky was slightly too big, and over the course of college I lost it three times. Each time I was devastated, and reacted so dramatically that it was kind of scary, and absolutely ridiculous. Later, when I'd find it again, at the bottom of my closet, on a friend's floor, or wherever, I'd be giddy and act as if it was a sign: "It always comes back to me!" It was even more dramatic when I reminded myself that it was simply a silly turquoise ring that I had actually never even seen her wear. 

But it wasn’t about that. I had found the turquoise rings in Mom’s jewelry box the day after she died, and put them on my fingers. At the funeral home, when I couldn’t bear to look at my mother, who was no longer my mother at all, I’d look down at my hands and twist the rings. I thought of my mother’s hands, and the way they looked when she would clutch the church pew in front of her when we were singing hymns. And I twisted the rings around my fingers. Over and over again. 

A couple of years ago, for my brother Jay’s wedding, I decided to wear Mom’s wedding ring. I had never worn it before, partly because it was gold and didn’t match my turquoise, and partly because I was terrified of the guilt and grief I might feel, should I ever lose it. I kept looking down at my hands that day and seeing my mom’s hands instead.

I’ve worn the ring almost every day since. When I'm nervous or upset, I twist it around my finger, over and over again.When it's not on my finger I feel naked. I still look at my turquoise rings on my dresser, and enjoy the sight of them. Sometimes I wear them, even though they clash with the wedding ring.

Jewelry, to me, isn’t just an accessory. The jewelry I’m wearing is telling a story. Maybe no one other than me is interested, but I really don’t care. Maybe it’s part of the reason why I tattooed a book on my wrist. There’s a story there, if you care to hear it. I like to think other women feel the same way about the items they choose to put on their fingers, their wrists, or dangling from their ears or around their necks.

Today, I’m wearing my mother’s wedding ring, and a few other stories. On one wrist, a beautiful bracelet that was a birthday gift from my best friend, on the other, a turquoise bracelet that was a gift from my Aunt Linda, and a beaded bracelet I bought myself. Around my neck is a lightning bolt from Marco.

They might not all match. They might not even all make sense, worn together. But together, they piece together the makings of a story, and each one makes me smile for different reasons. Later, they might wait in a jewelry box to tell a story for someone else.

another piece found in Mom's jewelry boxes

Monday Mix Tapes: 1991

Now that her debut EP 1991 is out, it's probably time for me to come out and say it: I love Azealia Banks. This is why.

And here's where it all began. (If you're uncomfortable with a word that starts with "C" and ends with an "unt," well, maybe don't listen. Cause she says cunt a lot. Whoops. I just said it too.)

But has anyone ever looked so damn adorable (and worn a Mickey Mouse sweater?!) while doing so? Doubt it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh, Fiona: My Favorite Sullen Girl Returns!

Seven years: It's a very long time; it is no time at all. Seven years ago, I was 21-years-old, living on 2nd Street in Bloomington, having a great time and having a miserable time. Seven years ago I was listening to Fiona Apple.

Seven years ago it was 2005, and Fiona Apple had just released Extraordinary Machine, her first album since When the Pawn... in 1999. I was giddy and talked a lot to anyone who would listen about how Fiona Apple's first two albums helped me survive high school. I loved Extraordinary Machine (but not as much as her others) and couldn't stop staring at the album artwork, with Fiona looking as beautiful as ever and really, not so sullen at all.

Besides, she was singing songs like this:

So while that album couldn't possibly take the place of Tidal in my little sullen girl heart, or When the Pawn... it didn't have to—because Fiona and I had already sealed the deal long before then.

Whether she was moaning "I tell you how I feel but you don't care"; mouthing off, "If you wanna make sense, whatcha lookin' at me for? I'm no good at math"; or asking and pleading, "Shall I release you? Must I release you?" Fiona seemed to have felt every emotion I was going through, or maybe ever would, starting from when I first heard her announce to the world as she was taking off all her clothes and staring into the camera:

"I've been a bad, bad girl"

It didn't matter that in 1996, I was only 12. Or maybe it did. Because when you look at it that way, I've been listening to Fiona for pretty much my entire life. Maybe seven years isn't that big of a deal, in the scheme of things. And so, after a seven year wait, she has released a new album: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do

It's a mouthful, and I love it. And I love that you can stream the full album on NPR rightnow. (Like right this very second.) And I love that she released a video for the first incredibly badass single, "Every Single Night" and she's wearing a fucking octopus on her head, not to mention singing about how "every single night I endure the flight of little wings of white-flamed butterflies in my brain" because maybe, some people hear that and think, "What the fuck?" but I hear it and think, "Exactly, Fiona, exactly."

There's also a song called "Werewolf," and it's currently fighting with "Jonathan" to be my favorite track on the album.

Seven years ago I was listening to Fiona Apple, and I was listening to her seven years before that, and still before that. And I suspect that seven years from now, if I'm lucky, I'll still be listening to Fiona, having a great time and having a miserable time. I'm going to see her in concert on July 10. I'm so excited, I don't even know what to do.

For more of my favorite sullen girl, read her interview with Pitchfork. Listen to Tidal. Listen to everything. Roll around in your underwear. Put an octopus on your head. Just do whatever the fuck you want. It's what Fiona would do.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: 'Well, It's Pretty Involved'

You know what hasn't happened here in too long? A little Bukowski, that's what. I was just staring at my pile of Bukowski books and thought, I kinda miss that asshole.

So without further ado, from You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense:
[via here]

I was having a coffee at the
when a man
3 or 4 stools down
asked me,
"listen, weren't you the
guy who was
hanging from his
from that 4th floor
hotel room
the other

"yes," I answered, "that
was me."

"what made you do
that?" he asked.

"well, it's pretty

he looked away

the waitress
who had been
standing there
asked me,
"he was joking,

"no," I

I paid, got up, walked
to the door, opened

I heard the man
say, "that guy's

out on the street I
walked north

This House Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us

I don't know about you guys, but when I feel like I'm losing my mind, it never sounds so damn sweet:

Summer Camp's new album drops July 10! (God, I love saying when an album drops, don't you?)

The first single from the new EP Always makes me really happy. It's called "Life," and you should go listen to it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Greetings from Cubicle Land: Bless You, Earbuds!

Hey guys, it's Friday! TGIF, etc. etc. Here's what I've been listening to all day to drown out the sounds of the girl in the cubicle next door, who either finds writing Groupons HIL-arious or knows something I don't, because she laughs incessantly all day. Like weird, hiccupy laughter. I do not enjoy. I like to respond by staring at the back of her head and rolling my eyes dramatically. How dare you laugh! I'll show you!

But then again, I can't really talk, considering yesterday I laughed till I cried over this. And this. I wonder what hiccupy laugh girl does when my cackling laugh annoys her?

As for me, I'm listening to this, for experimenting with my head nodding and dancing while sitting down but pretending not to be dancing because I am in a cubicle at work:

And this, for when I'm pretending I know a lot about the "UK arthouse scene" and am crushing on Jessie's Ware's makeup and hair:

And then, when the giggling gets too out of hand, I drown it out with a little bit of this, because if Tina's singing doesn't work, certainly her hairstyle is distraction enough:

I also experimented with listening to "thunderstorm and rain sound for deep concentration" and "ocean waves" but instead of drowning out the laughter, it just made me have to pee. And then I ran into laughing girl in the bathroom. Awwwkward. Neither of us laughed. Or made eye contact.

Just another day in cubicle land.