Feelings

July 30, 2019

I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language that is chiefly made by men to express theirs.

Thomas Hardy
Far From The Madding Crowd

When you think of a woman consumed by fury, what do you think of? Is it the classical Greco-Roman representation of a woman scorned: Medea, Electra, and Medusa – tales of anger and revenge; or is it the modern-day stories of hard-bodied feminism and black widows – North Country (2005), If These Walls Could Talk (1996), Gone Girl (2014), or A Woman Scorned (2000)? It seems, historically, that if a man is furious, it is righteous fury, or biblical fury. Its violence is synonymous with justice and honesty, and if not at all times justifiable, it is always forgivable. The story of the angry man is not one of destruction, but one of rebirth. Women’s anger bears an entirely different image: the picture of the screaming woman, her anger neither acceptable nor forgivable. It is not a story of redemption, but a story of self-destruction; a story of women who choose a darker path, and never recover themselves. They, in a way, become less stories about angry women than they do about women stricken by madness – so unspeakable to society was the idea that women could be angry that they found it more acceptable that women simply sink into depression or insanity, such as the stories of Calypso and Ophelia. Today, society’s acceptance of women’s anger is slowly growing, but it is an agonizingly slow process. The image of the Victorian woman is a hard one to break free of, it seems – the soft woman sitting at home, accepting of what is given to her and taken from her, pliable and subservient. This is not a question of individual choice, but of social freedom. Even when accepted by popular society, it is an even smaller margin that accepts ugly female anger – the kind that cannot be fixed by a gentle word, or a man’s touch, the kind of emotion that almost transcends anger and moves to rage, a scream that refuses to be quieted. When we read of anger like this, we find it ugly and unpalatable – which bears the question: why do we accept it out of men, and not out of women? A passage by Ana Božičević, from her poem “Casual Elegy for Luka Skračić,” puts this in clearer words than I ever could with only two lines:

“I want to be the kind of monster you
don’t want to fuck — ”

Isaak Frank
Anger in Female Literature

I don’t relate to standard psychologizing in novels. I don’t really believe that the backstory is the story you need. And I don’t believe it’s more like life to get it — the buildup of “character” through psychological and family history, the whole idea of “knowing what the character wants.” People in real life so often do not know what they want. People trick themselves, lie to themselves, fool themselves. It’s called survival, and self-mythology. I wanted to create a person who felt in her thinking how I think a person might actually think, but through literary language, mine, not stream of consciousness (with all due respect for those experiments), and maybe that’s one trick of it. I don’t do the big hand of God placing people around the Kriegspiel board and claiming to see into their deeper motivations. Even Freud would not do that. He would probably just listen to what they are saying, and let the reader interpret.

I do study Proust, for multiple technical virtuosities but also his swerve, as you say, between characters and in scenes. Certain films can help for that, too, in terms of understanding how multiple conversations at a table, or in a room, can take place and remain separate, and dissonant, and also gather themselves, accidentally, into a collective rhythm and an affect. Altman is very good at that, for instance. So is Jean Renoir. I compared her voice to water above but really it’s about neutrality, as you say. About the tone of the whole, every part has to kind of vibrate on the same internal register. It’s impossible to describe or name that register but I know when something is off from it.

Rachel Kushner
Interview in Guernica 17th February 2014

Haywire

July 29, 2019

When I was a kid,
there was always someone old
living with my friends,
a small, gray person
from another century
who stayed in a back room
with a Bible and a bed with silver rails.

They were from a time before the time
the world just plain went haywire,

and even though nothing
made sense to them anymore,
they’d gotten used to it,
and walked around smiling vaguely
at the aliens ruining the galaxy
on the colour console television,

or the British invasion
growing from the sides of our heads
in little transistorized boxes.

In the front room, by the light of tv,
we were just starting to get stoned,
and the girls were helping us
help them out of their jeans,

while in the back room
someone very tired
closed her eyes and watched
a wheat field where a boy
whose name she can’t remember
is walking down a dusty road.

No sound
but the sound of crickets.
No satellites,
Or even headlights in the distance yet.

George Bilgere

My father could give me over to the comparative wholesomeness of American life, leaving himself free to sit in his darkened bedroom and drink whisky until his long sensitive nose floated hazily in front of his face…

Poppy Z. Brite
Calcutta, Lord of Nerves

Send in the Clowns

July 29, 2019

A girl of ten years is standing with her father’s gun in her hand. It is her birthday. The living room is in a fine house with views over the Hudson river. Her father, an architect, has arranged for a pair of clowns this afternoon to entertain his daughter on her birthday. But she hates clowns. The voices in her head tell her they’re just dirty old men in makeup who want to touch her and her two sisters in a nasty way. So she takes her father’s gun from a drawer and shoots both of them dead after feeling the half-tumescent penis of one of them in his baggy clown trousers.

…Louis used to rape me on the porch swing after Dorothy had driven into town… he was a jumbled agony of tears and lust and the seat cover fabric was a mesh of wild pink roses that Dorothy had embroidered at nights and I counted the roses and the stars in the sky…and I rented out my little pussy for no money and afterwards he always wept and tried to untangle the knot of chewing gum in my hair…

Sara Stridsberg
The Faculty of Dreams
Trans. Deborah Bragen-Turner

feeling him fill her

July 28, 2019

Her aching sex was filled, her tight nipples throbbing, and she snapped her hips, lifting him as she had lifted the Prince feeling him fill her, pinon her.

Anne Rice
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

Over the centuries, truly great raconteurs—those whose stories we listened to—have been replaced by writers and in some cases, great cinematographers. However, even great movies usually start with the lure of the written word.

Did a particular book brighten your life recently? Did it cause you to smile or laugh out loud? Reading’s good for your health. If you weren’t enjoying a book, did you have the courage to set it aside and find another, one that you did enjoy?

Have you taken a bite of something literary that you haven’t tasted before, like sampling at a buffet? Have you looked closely at a story from a new angle—a wide angle, a close up, or a macro—a view you hadn’t previously considered?

While reading, keep on processing what works, and what doesn’t. Good writing is bound to influence us, while stories give us an opportunity to absorb different perspectives on the world.

And here’s a special reminder from author Annie Proulx: “Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” Without reading, there would never be any writers.

Michaele Lockhart
Story, Reading and Writers

I’m not interested in absolute moral judgments. Just think of what it means to be a good man or a bad one. What, after all, is the measure of difference? The good guy may be 65 per cent good and 35 per cent bad— that’s a very good guy. The average decent fellow might be 54 per cent good, 46 per cent bad — and the average mean spirit is the reverse. So say I’m 60 per cent bad and 40 per cent good — for that, must I suffer eternal punishment?

Heaven and Hell make no sense if the majority of humans are a complex mixture of good and evil. There’s no reason to receive a reward if you’re 57/43 — why sit around forever in an elevated version of Club Med? That’s almost impossible to contemplate.

Norman Mailer
On God: An Uncommon Conversation