In honor of this auspicious event, I’m reposting five of my favorite posts. These aren’t necessarily the most clicked or linked, or the ones with the most comments… these are the ones I like. Because it’s my birthday. Kinda sorta.
So, without further ado…
April 24, 2012: Endings. Beginnings. And Adrienne Rich.
In her essay “Notes Toward a Politics of Location,” Adrienne Rich says,
“It’s hard to look back on the limits of my understanding a year, five years ago—how did I look without seeing, hear without listening? It can be difficult to be generous to earlier selves, and keeping faith with the continuity of our journeys is especially hard in the United States, where identities and loyalties have been shed and replaced without a tremor, all in the name of becoming….”
I love that, the reminder to be generous to our past selves, to try to understand our mistakes and complications and the things that seem so stupid later. The essay as a whole is talking about Rich’s transition from a second wave to a third wave perspective—she says she initially thought the category “Woman” to outweigh all other categories of nationality or religion (a traditionally second wave perspective), but then, later, she saw the problems with that generalization. Her change in perspective is historically interesting, but her acceptance of her changes is what I find most fascinating. She accepts that humans aren’t static. When we’re wrong, sometimes we think we’re right. We don’t know everything yet. And that’s ok. […]
December 27, 2011: Plot Junkie: Mordant’s Need
The first time I read these books I was in Bible college, taking a children’s literature class. Although for most classes we confined ourselves to the campus library (heavy on John R. Rice and Charles Spurgeon, praisejesus), for this class we needed some slightly more, um, popularly acclaimed texts. We were to read 100 Caldecott or Newbery winners and write a short summary of each, including themes, major characters and plot points. The idea was that once we were educators, we’d have a personal anthology of reading material to suggest for students. You know, stuff like “read Johnny Tremain when your hand is melted together in a freak bullet-making accident.” Definitely not a terrible idea—if I planned to teach in junior high or high school, (and if I didn’t already have five zillion book suggestions at my [thankfully not melted together] fingertips) it would have been very helpful. […]
I spent last weekend dreaming about selling my somewhat meager belongings and moving to Italy. (I was reading Frances Mayes. I’m susceptible.) I still wish I could move, and the fact that I backed down seems less a triumph of common sense over recklessness than a cowardly taking of the safe track. I need a safety net and a five year plan- I hate it, but that is, apparently, who I am.
All of that goes to establishing mindset. This is why I was watching Last Holiday, a movie I’ve seen before and judged really crappy somewhat substandard then, LL Cool J notwithstanding. I long for that kind of freedom, for the sheer impulsivity that is officially allowed (by whom? I’m not sure…society at large? community? common sense? the last, of course, is just the internalization of the formers’ judgments… they- the ever-threatening “they” catch us coming and going) when the longevity question- the planning for tomorrow bit- is taken off the table. (I’m reminded, as I so frequently am, of Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place: who would I be, what would my life look like, if I weren’t so pre-occupied with my own futurity? ) In the elimination of the idea of the future in The Blue Castle and Last Holiday the protagonists are given the freedom to travel, to speak their minds, to quit crap jobs, to be—truly be—in the moment. […]
September 24, 2012: Fragmented Conversations
Roland Barthes says the “fragment breaks up what I would call the smooth finish, the composition, discourse constructed to give a final meaning to what one says” (209). He was talking about writing articles and discrete paragraphs instead of book-length works, but that idea of breaking up the smooth finish caught me. And while Barthes might have been horrified to be invoked as blog-philosopher (probably not, he seems pretty cool) this exchange of the fragment for the finished product struck a note with me. […]
I loved the book. I sympathized with Lily, though I kind of despised some of her decisions. Her movement through the novel is like this inexorable slide from respectability to utter bleakness. She keeps sabotaging herself: at a pivotal moment, she blows off an appointment with the eminently suitable (though dull) suitor whom she has been chasing all weekend, allowing a horror of a fellow guest to poison his mind against her; she (possibly nobly, but still) refuses to use the letters that have fallen into her hand which would have rectified her social (and thus economic) difficulties; she basically just makes really short-sighted decisions regarding some of the characters who very obviously don’t have her interests at heart. Although she seems to be so fitted for the society life, she is repeatedly unable to manage the negotiations that are necessary.
I thought it interesting that Lily herself mourns her dead mother specifically because she would have managed those negotiations for her. […]