Saturday, June 14, 2014

State of the union

2013 was an extremely hard year. I spent the first half of 2014 feeling like I'd finally adjusted to the new reality. But suddenly whatever wisdom or peace of mind I had achieved is gone again. It's perhaps not that the struggle in itself is so bad, but that no one I know is struggling in a similar fashion; there's a perceptible struggle gap. They may have their own struggles but they're of an entirely different nature. I feel lonely and somehow cheated, like I arrived at the wrong ending of the Choose Your Own Adventure. Ugh, sorry so maudlin.

Anyway I realized I hadn't blogged yet this month. So I thought I'd check in and tell you what I've been up to.

Reading


In May I read Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles, which was fantastic, sort of literally in that it's not particularly realistic. The characters are outwardly irrational — their motivations unclear and unexplained — but this is what makes them so compelling, and in any case they seem to be operating under some self-imposed, opaque but internally consistent moral code (which has naught to do with the prevailing moral codes of the setting/s). The dialogue is very funny, but it leaves you shaken. It's somewhat like The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in that the end is so unsatisfying as to be upsetting — meaning not that it's badly written, but that you hate what happens to the characters, hate watching their lives be ruined, which is like life I guess. (Bowles apparently considered Carson McCullers to be her literary rival, in the sense of a more commercially successful contemporary working in a similar grotesque style.)

Next I'm reading 10:04, Ben Lerner's newest, which reminds me a little of both Taipei and Open City so far. (Got that obligatory global warming reference in the first 20 pages.) See also my notes on Leaving the Atocha Station.

Watching

Rewatching the first four seasons of House on Netflix. The best episodes are the two 2-parters, the one where Foreman gets sick and the one where Amber dies.

Eating

Lots of salsa verde con aquacate. Here's the recipe:


Ignore that "3 hours" part at the end; it'll keep for a couple days in the fridge. But I usually split the tomatillo mixture into two batches and just make one avocado's worth at a time.

Thinking about

Moving. Our rent is going up pretty steeply when our lease renews, as it has every year since we've been here, and though I'm loathe to invite all the logistical nightmares of moving into my life right now, I want to stick it to these jerks and get out of here. I'm even considering buying, which may be a crazy idea. Is that a crazy idea? I need some stability in my life.

What's going on with you?

20 comments:

  1. Two Serious Ladies is the best never ever written.

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    1. ... I swear that said "best NOVEL ever written" when I typed it. But I shall stand by my statement.

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    2. The best novel never written! (It was Tennessee Williams' favorite too)

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  2. Must read that.
    Good luck w/the move - I hate moving.

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    1. John and I both hate it. A LOT. I may try to find a way to put it off for six months or more....

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  3. "never ever" would be a cool way to refer to an "unhappily ever after" ending (the conclusion I am drawing about it from "hate watching their lives be ruined"

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    1. Maybe the reason it's disturbing is that it looks like unhappily ever after from the outside but they both seem weirdly self-satisfied with their own decisions.

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  4. Summer is my time for rereading. I'm rereading Dhalgren for perhaps the 11th or 12th time. I'm thinking I'll reread the six Dune books (for the 20th time at least) I like big books I can get lost in. I too am moving because I am now on Social Security and I can barely scrape by. My bipolar disorder gets worse as I grow older. It's a degenerative disease. I want to stop writing my current mss and write some short stories but my brain says no my brain says keep slugging away and I know my writing is getting better and better not stagnating. Some days I am delirious with happy but I blame summer for that. I run 5 miles a day. I hate moving too. I've been in this house for 24 years. xo

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    1. J is reading Infinite Jest and keeps asking why it's so long. I tell him exactly what you said, people want to get lost in a completely immersive world. I haven't read a book that long since ... god, I don't know. Gone with the Wind in junior high??

      hate that you have to move my darling

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  5. Two years ago, after living in the same rented apartment (a tiny one-bedroom in an older building) for thirty years, I bought a place with more room, and in the space of about six weeks I sorted and packed and threw out etc. thirty years of living, and moved. (I'd some some early packing ahead of time, but the bulk of it was those last six weeks.) The first night in the new place when I got in bed, every bone in my body was exhausted, and I slept like the rock of time.

    Two years later I'm deeply glad I did it. I don't have plans to move again any time soon.

    Sometime during the past month or so I reread Basho's Ghost, Sam Hamill's account of traveling for a year in Japan sometime in the late 1980's and of the poetry culture there. I originally read the book shortly after it came out, (late 1980's) and really liked it, and I liked it fully as much when I reread it recently.

    And someplace in there, read a couple of John LeCarre spy novels for zone-out mind escape.

    And right now reading In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Mathiessen, which is his detailed account of the arrest and trial of American Indian Movement member Leonard Peltier who was charged and convicted (under questionable circumstances, as polite journalism would say) of the killing of two FBI agents in South Dakota in 1975. The book includes some general history and background of U.S. government policies toward Native American people, especially the various Lakota/Dakota tribes, conflicts over the years, etc. I'm liking the book. The U.S. government tried for a number of years to prevent publication of the book because of the criticisms it makes of the government and its quietly sympathetic stance toward Native American people generally.

    Meanwhile, writing, reading poetry, etc. Lots of rain here the past couple of weeks, the ground heavily saturated, makes trees vulnerable to toppling in high winds. Supposed to dry out toward the end of this week.

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    1. Oh man. Once I lived in the same apartment for 4 years and it was quite a job cleaning up. Can't imagine 30. I love the freeing feeling of throwing shit out though, realizing that you never use or even look at it.

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    2. From 2009 to 2012 I lived in a glove compartment that had been a pied-à-terre for a peripatetic businessman. I liked the old ivy-covered brick building it was in, but it was so small I had to put many of my possessions—books, mostly—in storage. & I never decorated it; it was always monastically spartan. By winter 2011 I was feeling very Mr. Bleaney and glad to move out.

      I'm not sure why 2013 was so hard for you—does your husband's health have something to do with it? Just a thought, don't mean to be impertinent--but I've had my problems too. Probably nothing compared to yours. Recently I was teaching a dual-enrollment cc Speech class at a Catholic high school--11 11th-graders. It went great until about four days before the end. A couple boy-crazy ditzes who'd been rummaging cyberspace for info about me found my main blog, which I'd unwisely left accessible to the public. Poems rife with sex and drug references, f-bombs, and blasphemies. Worst of all, I'd written a lusty appreciation of the charms of a young, single English teacher at this Catholic school, followed by a clever but obscene and anti-Catholic Silver Jews video. I didn't name the teacher, but these girls easily guessed her identity. Via social media they spread the titillating news to the rest of the class and thence to the whole fucking school. The teacher went to the office and complained that she couldn't deal with the kids asking her if something was going on between her and Mr. Grove. Naturally these shithead administrators called me on the carpet. Arms crossed in front of their chests they told me they'd read a bunch of my blog posts and found them “very offensive.” That's all they had to say, “very offensive.” Then they replaced me with a sub for the last four days of class, and to appease them I killed both of my blogs. So if someone parrots “Poetry makes nothing happen,” don't believe it. It can at least make you drink hemlock for impiety and corrupting youth.

      Recent reading: I read a LOT of books at the same time, but here are some recent reads: three books by Richard Hell: Godlike, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp, and Hot and Cold. So far my favorite is the last—delightful collaborative poems, especially the chapbook Wanna Go Out?, ostensibly by a whore named Theresa Stern but really by Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine. More fascinating than Ern Malley's Darkening Ecliptic. Useful essays about Bill Knott and William S. Burroughs. Riveting diary excerpts (he's quite the sybarite, apparently). Other reads: two by Colin Wilson, The Outsider and The Occult. I strongly recommend all these books.

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    3. Wow. That sounds pretty mortifying. But two points for poetry I guess?

      Yeah, husband's health ... unfortunately it's not just an annoyance but somewhat life-ruining.

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  6. Yah moving blows--or rather packing up sucks; now I live off I-10 at various points (for the time being) and it is the best dynamic that's happened with me in ages and the fact that my final destination is a bit fuzzy is I think perhaps good too; hopefully it'll be the ft Lauderdale area, but if work there looks unlikely, then I'm guessing it'll be back to Houston, which is--based on like five days, feeling good. And oh-no oh-no to whatever scary health issues your husband is going through; it's likely irrelevant, but both my parents have cancer and the method I have either embraced out of imagination or necessity is to have the stance that I am not going to kill them in my imagination until their deaths are immanent and luckily shit's not super overtly freaky yet for me though I don't think I've adequately digested what a bone-marrow transplant means (though thank heavens what it means is not what it meant twenty years ago). Argh I hope I'm not being really gross and tedious....handshake in support of you staying strong!

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    1. Yeah it's the packing that blows. I generally hire movers now, I'm too old to actually load a truck. I enjoy the other side of it -- setting up a new place.

      I'm sorry about your parents! I think bone marrow transplants are pretty safe as long as they find a good match, usually someone in the family.

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  7. Actually now they use the patient's own stem cells; he's had the harvesting part performed...and apparently part of the treatment is you actually have your bones go all tabula rasa on your ass or blanked out of some awkwardly essential kind of cell, and then somehow it just sort of blossoms back into place; the way he described it was as someone cutely sketched out. Ha, I have no need to load a truck--my life fits in a sedan! I am so not a home-maker, though I am a homebody--umm can we raise our noses and quip blah to gendered implications: sorta joking sorta not; that's "the" cool and crummy thing about being gay--socialization narratives are anything but obvious.

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    1. Lucky you, with your life fitting into a sedan. We need a giant moving truck plus professional brawny types.

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  8. I'm with you on the "lucky you" but could also argue it's lucky to have a sleep scenario that could at-least pass for settled, for domestic, for not living alone but having a spouse! Urgh apologies for homosexualist envy--which of course fits very, very awkwardly with having a spouse with what I gather are severe health issues; I do not envy nor find ill-health a dynamic anyone deserves!

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  9. Please delete me if prior comment only screams jerk not vulnerable-toned envy.

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