You mean to say you don’t READ? and other judgemental shit I might’ve said once

Oh, the Times. Always tapping in to just what makes us all tick, yes? Today, an essay titled “It’s Not You, It’s Your Books” topped the Most Emailed list and earned itself a questionably focused Jezebel post. I’m not quite sure what Moe was trying to say there, but I think it’s an interesting article in the sense that I used to feel similarly. I used to judge people on the basis of what or if they read; I’ve actually been known to say, in the most ridiculously self-important and offensive way, “You don’t READ?” The truth is, I’ve always been sort of stumped by people who don’t read–after all, what do you do whilst waiting for the train or in the lobby at the dentist if you don’t read? The answer is, I think, plenty: zone out, pick up an Us Weekly, listen to your iPod or watch a movie on it, sleep, whatever. The truth is, I don’t even read on the train all that much, it makes me sleepy. I much prefer to stare into space and listen to my iPod. It’s when I get a lot of my good book-think done.

But I don’t think–and you can quote me in the future if this turns out to be untrue–I would ever not date or dump someone because of their reading preferences, or lack thereof. This is because my attitudes towards my own reading has changed significantly; when I interviewed for my internship at a literary agency last summer, my boss asked me what my guilty pleasures (reading-wise) were, and I told her that I read widely and never feel guilty about any of it, which was actually (and here I even surprised myself) true. I think I’ve always been wedded to my image of myself as a “book girl” and liked to define myself as such via intense snobbery, much like music snobs and film snobs do. But that’s so not me. I actually take a far more democratic view of the world of literature as it exists today, and while I don’t read romance novels (I just don’t think I’m enough of a romantic, sad to say, to really enjoy all those happy endings) I don’t begrudge anyone who likes them. Same with sci-fi/fantasy–not my cup of tea, but hey, some people really love that stuff and who am I to tell them it’s worthless? No one, that’s who. I think people who only stick to a certain genre (just like people who only read so-called “literary” novels) are severely limiting themselves to their detriment–after all, even I read some sci-fi and some fantasy and some romance and some horror–but that’s their business.

And while loving the same books or same types of books can be a connecting thread upon which exciting relationships can be formed, no matter how much you love books that’s only one aspect of who you are–there are so many other opportunities to bond on different parts of your life and background and family and things you can enjoy that to actually dump a guy (or girl, depending on your pref) for what or whether they read is, to me, sort of ludicrous. If I was with someone I genuinely loved–or even liked–I would hardly consider whether or not he read Pushkin (not that I have) to be a legitimate reason to dump him. I once had a guy tell me that he hated Pride and Prejudice so much in high school that he and his friends considered having a book burning party once the class was over, and it did bother me, only because Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels and the idea of book burning brings up a lot of Nazi-esque images that are otherwise completely out of sync with the person who said this to me, but I think he just said it to bug me and not because he actually meant it (though maybe he did). Otherwise, though, I’m pretty much all set with people liking or hating whatever the hell they want. Caveat, though: I don’t like it when people tell me they “hate” a certain author or book but have never read them. That’s why I stick with some books that I don’t like until the end–so that if I ever get into a conversation about them, I can at least give a reason for not liking it.

I always sort of imagined that the man I marry (if, indeed, I do marry) would not be a book person. This is because books are my thing. I’m a selfish reader. I like to hole up in my room and devour entire novels in one go. I don’t like to lend out my books. I love to talk about books, but I will always have other people in my life–considering my chosen profession–who will talk about them with me, plus there’s an entire Internet full of book lovers pretty much at my fingertips. Also, book lovers often turn out to be aspiring writers, and since I’m an aspiring writer I don’t want there to be any competition or comparison in my home life (though I love having friends that are aspiring writers). Plus, I usually find aspiring male writers really solipsistic and annoying and am not usually attracted to them, although there are of course exceptions to every rule.

The people in this stupid article are ridiculous. James Collins, whose novel Beginner’s Greek I started and read about twenty pages of before I abandoned it (I do plan to return to it, because of the aforementioned desire to finish all books I start plus it was free and what’s the point of getting free books if you don’t read them?), is quoted as saying, “I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).” Are you kidding me? Wrote people off for reading Virginia Woolf and John Irving? Too middlebrow? Ugh. If you know me in real life and that’s how I have ever sounded to you, I am SORRY and I will try to NEVER DO IT AGAIN. I promise.

The thing is, yes, the books people choose to pay for and keep do say a little about who they are, but I know plenty of people who adore the same books I do that are completely different from me. I mean, take for instance how much I like Stephen King; my father, who reads only historical nonfiction (mostly about the World Wars) and sci-fi, also likes him a whole lot. We also share a liking for Anne Rice. We are similar in some ways because he raised me, but we are actually quite different people, and our reading preferences on the whole are dissimilar at best.

Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony, the article says. I say, fuck that shit. Books are too important to me to be anything other than completely honest about what I read and like and speak about them in a kind and loving way (unless I want to eviscerate a book I hated, which as a reader who stuck with it to the end in the hopes it would improve is my God-given right!) without consideration of what some guy will think of me for it. I meant what I said during that interview–I’m not ashamed of anything I read, especially if I loved it. I expect others to do the same. If I get the sense that they’re feeding me bullshit about adoring Alice Munro or Milan Kundera, I would react the same way as if I felt they were feeding me bullshit about anything else. But if they really like Alice Munro, or Dan Brown, or don’t like to read at all, then what have I got to judge?

ETA: I was just thinking about this further and it occurred to me that my father and mother are excellent examples of how one divergent interest doesn’t necessarily negate an entire relationship. They both read, but my father is totally obsessed with music–of all kinds, classical and oldies and rock and zydeco and pop, etc.–to the point where he learned guitar and was even in a band for several years in college, and my mother hates music. Like, hates it. She never listens to it–she used to commute two hours to work (there and back) each day and subsist on talk radio–except when she’s watching American Idol. She also likes Elvis. But that’s IT. That’s like me dating a guy who only likes Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and yet my parents have been married for twenty-seven years this coming August. So, like, who’s to say?

ETFA: Apparently, you can weigh in on this subject with your own literary dealbreakers (my contribution: none) at Paper Cuts. Um, enjoy. Except: isn’t hating on The Da Vinci Code just as passé as liking The Da Vinci Code, “David”? God, why is the whole world so unoriginal?


ETA: In my personal news, I finished my AUT revisions! I think I’ll let it sit a week or so then go back to excise extraneous adverbs, but otherwise Round 1 is complete.

I didn’t catch this until way after it was posted by both Gawker and Galley Cat, but apparently there is an editor out there who recently found herself on the receiving end of an unexpected visit from an aspiring author. I have no idea how he got my name–I’d never met him before, she writes. But he came in asking for me by name and carrying his unsolicited manuscript (which, incidentally, is a kind of book I have never acquired and my company has never published).

The Gawker-generated traffic sort of overwhelmed her blog, but in addition she got lots of hate mail from people who were angered (?) or offended (??) by her post. I do not understand this at all. Apparently, Sheila, the Gawker reporter whose original post started the whole shenanigans, also was deluged with hate mail because she was forced to add this little disclaimer to the post: Note: these very sensible suggestions are from the Editorial Ass blog, not by me. So stop sending me angry emails about the ways in which you disagree!

I’m…so confused. I’ve read all of the suggestions and I find them quite reasonable. I don’t understand who could possibly have taken offense to them. This is all very obvious–don’t ever show up at a publisher’s office if you have not been expressly invited, don’t expect your unsolicited manuscript to receive anywhere near the same amount of attention or consideration as an agented MS (unless this is a publisher that still takes unagented manuscripts, in which case I don’t know but still don’t show up in person!), don’t call and harass the editor and his/her assistant, don’t be pushy and entitled. DUH. How is this not Gospel to every single person? Some of that might require research to figure out, but some of it is just plain old common sense. I have no earthly idea why anyone would object to the things that Moonrat said in her post. Also, the Gawker commenters really got stupid on that post–not wanting to be contacted by potentially crazy people that you don’t know/know if you can trust is a NORMAL feeling experienced by EVERYONE. It has nothing to do with people/phone skills.

Somebody named MisterHippity commented on the Gawker post, A couple of things here kind of pissed me off. For example: “Know what I acquire. If you send me your manuscript and it has nothing to do with what I edit, why should I do you the courtesy of wasting my very precious free time responding to you?” Ok, it takes exactly 10 seconds to send that person an e-mail saying “I’m sorry, but the subject of your manuscript doesn’t relate the kind of material I normally publish. So I’m afraid I can’t consider it. Best regards …” Instead, you’re going to leave that person hanging for weeks on end with no word because you’re so outraged that they “haven’t done the footwork”?

UH, YEAH. Has this person ever SEEN a slush pile before? They’re GINORMOUS! I do think that there are problems on both sides of the equation here, but authors who send blanket submissions without regard for agent and editor preferences, without doing any modicum of research, without knowing the rules of the game, are a plague on everyone, including themselves. I’m not using the word “game” here to imply that there is a malicious, manipulative agenda behind it all, but there are rules. There are. There have to be. Because any fool with a typewriter can “write a novel” and send it out. Agents and editors want badly to find manuscripts to sell and buy–that’s how they make their livings, but more importantly it actually matters to them, in a way that most people’s jobs don’t. There is no conspiracy in place to keep you, Unsolicited Author, from putting your brilliant thoughts and imaginings out there. The rules aren’t secret–they’re freely available to anybody with a library card (Writer’s Market) or the Internet (Miss Snark, Agent Query, FOR A START). You want to get published, write a great novel, then learn how to get an agent and get one. It’s a lot more work than that, full of rejection and failure and disappointment, but in the end, if you’re patient, hard-working, persistent (but not obnoxious), optimistic, and informed, you will get there.

And I’m sorry, but this kind of shit, this author coming into the building unannounced and trying to get a face-to-face meeting with the editor? It’s scary. I know because it happened to me. I used to work at a literary agency and we kept the door locked for expressly this reason–so that we could decide who came in and who stayed out. One day, a seemingly innocuous man came to the door and I opened it and politely asked him what I could do for him and he went on a forty minute ramble, asking me if I was familiar with the greatest baseball poem ever written (I wasn’t; apparently, that’s “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer). Then he proceeded to tell me that he had written the new “Casey at the Bat” and he wanted us to publish it. Now, I tried to explain that we were not a publishing company, we were an agency, but he wouldn’t listen, nor do I think he particularly cared. I tried to tell him how he could query us via email, but he was adamant that he didn’t want to go through all that hassle (seriously: “I don’t want to bother with that”), that he had something really special here. This whole time he kept trying to push his way into the office, which was very unnerving. Both my bosses were out of town at a conference at the time, so thankfully I could tell him truthfully that he could not, in fact, come in and talk to either of them.

Then he took out a bag of CDs on which he had recorded himself reciting his new baseball poem (I don’t know, something about a girl named Katie playing on a Little League team in the fifties…I wasn’t quite sure) and handed me one…then two…then a third, so that I could give one to my boss, keep one for myself to listen to, and ANOTHER for me to keep wrapped in plastic because in 20 years it would “put my kids through college” I kid you not. Then he proceeded to recite the poem for me from memory. This whole time I’m standing gatekeeper at the door, not letting him in, trying to impress upon him my need to go back to my work and also his need to query us formally via email or regular mail, but he wouldn’t listen. Eventually he went away because I took the CDs and promised that he’d hear from us in the next two weeks. It was such a relief when I closed the door, and I’m sure he was just a harmless man and just really enthusiastic, and we did listen to the CD (which was, of course, much more than we owed him since he a.) hadn’t queried us, b.) sort of harassed me, and c.) we don’t do poetry), but we eventually rejected it, which he wasn’t expecting and he did email me back angrily, but I didn’t respond.

My point is that you rarely get dismissed out of hand by a good, responsible agent (those are the only ones whose attentions you want, anyway) if you follow the rules. The rules being that you conform to all of their submissions requirements (most of them have detailed submissions guidelines on websites, and the ones that don’t are in Writer’s Market or on Agent Query), you only query them in genres that they have expressed interest in or sold before (Publishers Marketplace is an excellent source of this information; submission req’d for deals listings, though), you only query them the way they liked to be queried (some have forms on their websites, some only want email, some only want regular mail, some will take a combination of both, and some don’t want to be queried by unpublished authors, which is their right because it’s their business and obvs. they’re not the right agents for you, then), and you cut them some slack on getting back to you because agents get submissions numbering in the hundreds and thousands per week and, really, assistants and interns only have so much time.

The other thing is, most editors don’t want to see unagented stuff. Again, this is a time issue, and also because agents can usually be counted on to do exactly what uninformed writers refuse to do, which is tailor submissions based on known editor preferences and the needs of his/her list. It’s a streamlining thing, NOT an exclusionary thing. And, yes, it’s a higher quality assurance thing. Sorry. Not everybody gets to be a highly paid Hollywood actor, not everybody gets to be a Grammy-nominated musician, and not everybody gets to be a published writer. Lots more people get to be published than act or sing professionally, but still. There’s a carrying capacity. But showing up at publishing houses is not the way to get published; it’s the way to NOT get published. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by not doing the research and just bombarding random agents and editors with submissions. Moonrat’s suggestions are perfectly reasonable, and the very smart writers will either already know these things, or learn things things from her or other sources, and put them to use in their journey toward getting published. The not-smart writers who ignore them…well, let’s just say I’ve never seen a brilliant piece of work in an otherwise messy, completely rules-ignoring submission. Not everybody who follows the rules is talented and/or has a great novel to sell, but it’s my personal opinion that the ones who DO sell, 99.9% of the time they probably followed the rules to the T.

Beauty scoop

I’m a huge fan of all things Jezebel, but one of my favorite features (other than Fine Lines) on the Gawker-owned womanisty blog is Sephora Spy, in which an anonymous Sephora “cast member” (under the nom de plume “Jasmine”) gives makeup addicts like yours truly the naked truth about everything from how to get rid of cystic acne (spoiler: it’s hard!) to whether or not you can actually sleep in Bare Minerals (verdict: you can!). I love Sephora. I know it’s sort of a scam, because almost everything they sell there has a much cheaper drug store equivalent, but I don’t care. I’m an irrational girl that way.

I’m not actually that big of a makeup wearer, per se. I’m not particularly adventurous with makeup, just like I’m not particularly adventurous with clothes, which is why I own, like, one thing from MAC and it’s nail polish (it is pretty awesome nail polish, though, and I’ve already decided that my summer polish is going to be from Heatherette for MAC). (Note: For any makeup novices–or boys–reading this blog, MAC is a cosmetic company known for very dramatic, high intensity color schemes, the sort of stuff that looks pretty good in, say, a MAC ad or when you’re high on E in the club, but not so much in real life. Click the link to see what I mean.) But, like with clothes, I like high-quality basics, but while near-poverty has brought my Banana Republic addiction to a screeching halt, I still invest in sort of expensive cosmetics. This does not mean that I just waltz into Sephora every weekend like I used to and pick out something interesting to try–I really can’t afford that. But I do have a stable of products that I MUST HAVE available to me at all times. Allow me to bore you with what they are:

  • Clinique Clarifying Lotion 2: Some people think this is sort of gross, but I don’t wash my face, like, ever. My skin is WAY too dry for that shit. When I step out of the shower, I have about 60-90 seconds to launch into my skincare routine before I completely dry out and feel like I’m covered in scales. Ew, gross, right? Sorry. But it’s the truth. Clinique has a very specific three-step facial skincare system, but I skip Step 1 (the soap) because of the aforementioned dryness and go right to Step 2, which is the toner. Don’t let the word “lotion” in the product name fool you–this is toner. It’s kind of like astringent (did anyone ever use Sea Breeze as a kid? I totally did, ruined my skin for years but that’s what all the cool girls were using), but way less abrasive, which is good because in addition to my skin being really dry, it’s also really sensitive. I discovered a long time ago that I cannot use any sort of perfumed lotion on my legs because they will feel like they’re on fire. Anyway, the toner (applied reasonably all over the face and neck with cotton balls) removes any lingering makeup, dirt, and, most importantly, dry skin from my face and primes it for moisturizer. I cannot live without this stuff–believe me, I’ve tried. It was a disaster.
  • Clinique Superdefense Triple-Action Moisturizer SPF 25 – Normal to Dry Skin: Step 3 in the Clinique skincare system is a moisturizer, the iconic yellow Dramatically Different allergen and fragrance free kind, which I used religiously in high school and college but which, at the end of the day, I had to admit wasn’t heavy enough for my dry skin. I switched to Superdefense (which is twice as expensive, if not more) after using a sample I got during Bonus Time at Macy’s. This moisturizer is pretty intense–even I can’t use the super dry version, because even I have oily spots on my skin and they would probably erupt in zits if I used that formula–and I love the fact that it has such a high SPF in it, since I burn easily. Makeup experts always tell you to wear sunscreen under your moisturizer during the summer, but I can’t do that because of the aforementioned dry skin and the fact that I fucking hate sunscreen like the devil, and this combined with my foundation’s built in SPF (I’m getting there, I promise) seems to keep sunburn at bay (at least with regards to my face). I also love Clinique’s Repairware Night Treatment, based on samples I’ve gotten and used, but it is even more expensive than Superdefense and I can’t afford two really expensive moisturizers, but if you can I say go for it.
  • Bare Escentuals i.d. bareMinerals Mineral Foundation SPF 15: I heard about this product on Jolie in NYC about a year and a half ago and bought the Fairly Light/Light starter kit, which was a really great investment. It came with two trial powders (I decided to stick with the Light), three brushes–the large kabuki brush, the flawless application brush, and the concealer brush–a pot of Warmth (since you use it sparingly, this pot will actually last you forever–I still have mine and it’s almost full), the bareVitamins primer (which I used up but never replaced–I don’t think you need it if you moisturize, but that’s my opinion), and the ever-popular (and love my life) Mineral Veil, which works so well. I can’t rave enough about bareMinerals. Because of the skin dryness, liquid foundation has always been a bane of mine. The mineral foundation (I’ve never tried any drug store varieties, FYI) is weightless, full coverage without looking like makeup, and the Mineral Veil seriously makes your skin look perfect. I think that the flawless application brush is pretty useless–I use it as a blush brush–but the kabuki is great and so is the concealer brush, for covering blemishes and under-eye darkness. I also own some Bare Escentuals eye shadows, but I find them a little difficult to use because they’re so loose, although I do love the colors.
  • NARS Blush – Orgasm: I am for sure not the first person to rave about this blush. It’s considered universally flattering, regardless of skin color, and though it’s pricey ($25) I consider it worth every penny. I also adore the corresponding Orgasm Lip Gloss, which is also pricey ($24), but long-lasting without being disgustingly sticky and is equally flattering on everybody. I apply this to the apples of my cheeks (whilst smiling, of course), then sweep whatever remains on the brush over my T-zone and chin to achieve sort of a more uniform coloring effect. It’s hard to go overboard with the Orgasm because it’s so subtle, but it is a little shimmery so be aware of the disco effect.
  • Lip Balm: I don’t always wear lip gloss (and I never wear lipstick anymore), but I always have some sort of balm on or around me. I favor Burt’s Bees or Smith’s Rosebud Salve (which I have with me at work), but really anything’s good, ChapStick or whatever. I also really love Murad’s Energizing Pomegranate Lip Protector SPF 15, but it’s a splurge ($16).
  • Lip Gloss: I already talked about NARS Orgasm lip gloss, but NARS makes some great lip lacquers, too. My favorite is Baby Doll, which the Sephora website describes as “cotton candy pink” but is very subtle and glossy when you put it on. I also love Philosophy’s Big Mouth glosses, both the bright pink and pinky-neutral one, but unfortunately they’ve discontinued the shades I own and replaced them with these, which I guess are all right as substitutes. What I like about those glosses is that they’re even less sticky than the NARS (read: not at all) and are very subtle, but with a little bit of shimmer. I’d like to try Philosophy’s The Supernatural someday, too. There are so many lip glosses on the market, you really just have to try them on and see which ones you love and which ones you wouldn’t let near your lips again.
  • Eyelash Curler: My eyelash curler is from a drug store like a hundred years ago, but I hear Shu Uemura makes a really good one for $19. There’s also this weird mini version for two dollars less, but I don’t really understand how it’s practical. If eyelash curlers scare you, you’re not alone–my friend refuses to use one, or even let one near her, because they freak her out so much. But, really, they’re harmless, given that you know how to take it away from your eye only AFTER you release your eyelashes.
  • Dior Diorshow Mascara in Black: Lady mags love to talk about how Mabelline Great Lash mascara is, like, the cat’s pajamas, and I did use it for years, but…meh. It’s all right. Some people really hate it, though. I branched out a year or so ago with Diorshow and I can safely say that I’m in love. Its only drawback is that it only comes in three colors, one of which is Azure Blue which, like, why? Maybe because it was made for the runway? Whatever. Black is perfect for my life, and there’s a Chestnut option for those who prefer brown mascara.
  • NARS Eyeliner in Black Moon: I just learned how to use eyeliner, like, ten minutes ago when my cousin Emma and Aunt Christine were in New York. The thing about the NARS eyeliner is that it’s so smooth and easy to use, even for stupid novices like myself. The drawback is that it does come off kind of quickly, so if you don’t want to be a hot tranny mess (TM Christian Siriano) you do have to take it along with you and reapply if it smudges. But otherwise it’s fabulous.
  • Nailpolish: I already talked about my MAC nail polish, the name of which I cannot remember and which they don’t make anymore, but I think Esse nail polish deserves a mention, since I really love it. Wicked, a dark, DARK reddish-brown, is my favorite at the moment.


I’m about to get to work on AUT but I just thought I’d put this up. The image below is my desktop on my computer, not just because I love Atonement, which of course I do, but because I think it’s an incredible shot, one that doesn’t get nearly enough play in the movie.

briony and robbie

I think this photograph is incredible. If you haven’t read or seen Atonement you might want to navigate away while I talk about this, so that I don’t spoil it for you. First, there is the double frame, Robbie beneath the outer stone arch (representative of his outsider status, despite his posh education and good looks he’s still the charwoman’s son), Briony stretched out in the inner doorway, blocking Robbie’s entrance into the house. Their props are so significant–he’s pulling on gardener’s gloves, to show where he came from and where he is going (manual labor, hardship, prison, the war, etc.), she gripping her newly finished play, The Trials of Arabella, a play that “told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed.” These are the stays of Briony’s life–a very conservative sort of childlike morality has her in its grips, completely discounting the sweeping passion of the sort of love Robbie and Cecilia experience (see how close he is to nature, how far away she is from it?)–but the play also admits for a sort of love in disguise, the love that sneaks up on you in the form of a person you have known for a long time but never really recognized. The play itself is an enormously revealing thing–Robbie and Cecilia’s relationship first appears to Briony as the correlating to the relationship between Arabella and the devious count who whisks her away only to abandon her, but eventually, after many years, Briony comes to see that the truth of their love is much more that of Arabella and the doctor prince who saves her life after she falls ill. With her here, holding the play tightly, not looking at Robbie, looming over him and keeping him out, the photo is such a harbinger of things to come.

It is also (and here I come to my point) a brilliant little comment on authorship. Briony, here, is so much THE WRITER. She has her finished manuscript in her hand, but her most devastating, her finest work, starts right here, with this little tableau. She is not only Robbie’s friend (in a loose sense) here, she is his creator–she turns him into the person he becomes, she creates Robbie the Rapist, Robbie the Prisoner, Robbie the Soldier, Robbie the Epic Lover, with her lies. Here the frames take on a double-meaning; not only are they putting people in their place, separating, defining Robbie and Briony, but they are also the frames of Briony’s story, some of which necessarily fall away in the film adaptation but are preserved symbollicly here–the first frame, the farthest out, the farthest from “reality”, is Robbie’s frame, where he and Cecilia live, their lives altered forever by Briony’s fabrication and their destinies changed to assuage her guilt; then there is Briony’s frame, the authorial frame, the one we don’t recognize until it is too late; and, finally, there is the “true” perspective, that of the filmmaker (in case of the book, of Ian McEwan), the hidden frame. And then, of course, there’s us.

God, if only someday we could all create a piece of work that has a fraction of the complexity, depth, and beauty as Ian McEwan’s Atonement, I think we should all be very happy with ourselves.

El Oh El

In a section of Stephen King’s On Writing having to do with the horrors of the passive voice:

“It’s weak, it’s circuitous, and it’s frequently torturous, as well. How about this: My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun. Oh man–who farted, right?”

does it matter? if we’re all matter what’s it matter does it matter if we’re all matter when we’re done?

For the past, oh, I’d say month and a half, I’ve been listening to two things exclusively at work–the Atonement score, and Andrew Bird. Recently, it’s just been Andrew Bird. I am OBSESSED with this artist. Cambria’s sometime boss Kathy apparently knows him somehow, so I’m trying to figure out a way we can score great tickets through her for his next New York appearance, which I don’t think will be for a while. Step One of this plan–get Cambria into Andrew Bird–is going well. Step Two–get Andrew Bird to come to New York–is going to take a little bit more effort, I think.

Anyway, perhaps I was inspired by Pat’s annual blog post; this year, he talked about some artist I’ve never heard of called Burial, which, as it turns out, is the first thing you get when you type the word “burial” into Amazon. To be truthful, I’d heard of Andrew Bird long before I started listening to him, from this guy who is sort of hipstery and I was just not going to be drawn into that, but I like to stream my friend Marisa’s music via our network when I’m at work and she has a lot of Andrew Bird. She eventually burned me a CD and now, well, it’s all I listen to.

andrew bird

What’s so great about him is that his lyrics are so apocalyptic and bizarre. “Fake Palindromes“, probably his most well-known song, is upbeat and almost cheerful, but if you actually listen to the words it’s quite violent and sinister. The folks at Song Meanings are mostly idiots, but someone over there did point out that it’s got a very horror movie quality, it almost reminds me of Stephen King’s Misery, except the captor/monster is a hot girl instead of, like, Kathy Bates. My stab at what the song means is that it’s about the transformation of someone you think you know into something that rips you apart, perhaps emotionally? I don’t even know, I’m not so good at the close reading (as anyone who was in Veeder’s class with me last year will tell you!).

There’s a very (and I hate to say this) aching, disaffected millennial sensibility to Andrew Bird’s music. I hate to say even more that this kind of stuff speaks to me, but it’s so hypnotic and brilliantly encapsulates all the frustrations of being young right now. “Banking on a Myth” sort of speaks to the way we, as post-college chumps, are simultaneously entranced and repulsed by corporate America. In “Masterfade” he takes on the omnipresent question, “What does it all matter?” by conjuring up post-technological Mayberry imagery, superimposing binary code on the blue sky. “Measuring Cups“, one of my favorite Andrew Bird songs, is a reflection on the people we were raised to be, the heavy expectations, the sanitized version of reality we were fed as children: ” so put your backpack on your shoulder / be the good little soldier / it’s no different when you’re older.”

The post-apocalyptic stuff I was talking about is really evident in another one of my favorite songs, “Tables & Chairs“. It reminds me so much of a Douglas Coupland book I read at the end of last summer, Girlfriend in a Coma, about a small group of friends that survive the apocalypse and how it transforms them and redefines their relationships with each other. Andrew Bird makes it all sound sort of fun–“there will be tables and chairs / there will be pony rides and dancing bears / there’ll even be a band”, he sings–but there’s an undercurrent of dismay here as well–“we’ll trade butterfly knives for Adderall…we were so tired of being mild.” “Plasticities“, too, has a similar feel; a jubilant uprising against the forces of consumption and corporate mind control, one that, perhaps, leads to the pony rides and dancing bears, but then what? “Plasticities” talks about fighting “your own personal Waterloo“, but who are you in that analogy: Napoleon or the Coalition? Someday I’m going to write twin novels based on these two songs–I already have the concepts, plots and characters locked away in my vault–because I think that the pictures they paint of the future are so interesting, at once promising and bleak.

I’ve always had a hard time parsing “Scythian Empires“, but I think what someone said on Song Meanings makes a lot of sense: “I believe Andrew Bird is talking about artifacts, and how ours are made of materials that will be forgotten in a thousand years, unlike the Scythian articfacts, which are beautiful and mysterious.” It’s as good an explanation as any for this song, which is so beautifully sorrowful.

Other fantastic tracks are “Fiery Crash”, “MX Missiles”, “Opposite Day”, “Skin Is, My”, “Imitosis”, “Heretics”, and “The Naming of Things”. I don’t know how the music snobs among my nascent readership feel about Bird, but I don’t really care all that much. I listen to a lot of music, most of it worthless (“Whine Up”, anyone? Love that song), but of the few really talented people I find myself drawn to, Andrew Bird is perhaps the most talented. I can’t wait for another showing from him.

Revision shhedual*

Confession: I haven’t worked on AUT in, um, a few days. Maybe two? It’s Thursday, right? Yeah. And I don’t really see myself working on it a whole lot tonight. I just have a hard time working on weekdays. It’s like, I get home from work around 7:30 or 8:00 and either I consume something (usually pasta, because it’s cheap and I’m broke) and then head over to my friend Cambria’s because she has cable and I don’t (last night after I got my couch we watched America’s Next Top Model**), or I stay at home and watch Netflixed movies and read a little before bed. I work much better on the weekends, when I can get up late and then spend about 10 hours unshowered and in my pajamas, writing (or, in this case, revising) my little heart out. In other words, I make more progress in marathons rather than sprints, which doesn’t surprise me–I was a distance swimmer in high school, never had great times in the 50 or 100 yd events but kicked ASS during the 200 and 500 yd free events. Not that swimming has much to do with writing, but…just go with the analogy, mmmkay?

So. This weekend. Needs to be the big push. I’ve decided to extend my self-imposed deadline to Wednesday, April 9 (or, I guess, Tuesday, April 8, because I want to email the revised MS to Joanna on Wed. morning), which will give me time to let the edits percolate before I give the MS another once-over and then send it off. I don’t plan on working very much the weekend of March 31 because my friend Jack (!) is coming into town all the way from sunny Arizona. Jack and I went to college together and last year when I was getting my MA at the University of Chicago, he was here in town, living just a few blocks from where I live now, getting his MA from Columbia. I haven’t seen him in over a year and a half and I’m super excited to hang out with him. Also? To hang out somewhere nearer my apartment. I feel like I always end up going to the UES or LES which, while fun, is quite far from my house via PT and I can’t afford cabs.

To wit, I’m going out on the LES tomorrow night with my friends Katie and Cambria! We’re doing happy hour at Happy Ending, which is sort of a haunt of Cambria’s and mine because our friend Jessica’s boyfriend is a bar back there. I like it because the drinks are cheap-ish and usually strong, which is a very good combo if you are not so flush with cash. It used to be a spa and looks really trashy from the outside (very LES), but inside it’s sleek and red and downstairs there are refurbed showers where you can sit with your friends. Usually they’re reserved, but one time we went there and sort of commandeered a shower before anyone got there (before they’d even opened up the downstairs, but Jessica’s exalted status there got us in without major incident) and got to keep it the whole time (drunkards sort of filtered in and out, but whatever).

But after Friday, I am BUCKLING. DOWN. I’m around pg. 150 with my revisions, which means I’m a little less than halfway through (before revisions, I’d be more than halfway through, but I have somehow managed to add thirteen pages to the final count). I can get the rest done by Sunday, which means that I can use whatever downtime I have the NEXT weekend (when I’m not out with Jack and Cambria and his Columbia friends) to do the once-over. Sorry to bore you with all this, it’s really to keep myself accountable and give myself an actual schedule that I can follow. I work well that way.

Other random slices of my boring life:

  • I’m in the middle of Enchanted right now, and I have to admit that I’m simultaneously loving it and hating it. I got it because I really like Amy Adams (SO GOOD in Junebug, if you haven’t seen it please do), but I’m finding her character sort of irritating–I know she’s naive because she’s, like, a formerly animated Disney princess, but still, the bubbly personality and squeaky voice and omnipresent smile still grates–since I’m of the same mindset as Patrick Dempsey’s character, Robert–he doesn’t really believe in romance and neither do I. Of course, he’ll be converted by the end of the movie, but I’m pretty sure I won’t. James Marsden as Prince Edward is pretty hilarious, though. I know it’s a satire, and I’m trying to let that roll, but I’m losing patience.
  • We got our couch! We even managed to get it through our front door/hallway, though it was a bit of a tight squeeze. It is wonderful. I might have to name it, to show it how much I love it.
  • Still haven’t found our mail key. Apparently, our neighbors are never home. We talked to the girl who lives next door with her boyfriend and she hadn’t picked it up, but the other three apartments weren’t home. It was sort of strange. This was 8:00 PM-ish. Where were they? Do people actually live in those apartments?
  • My college BFF Carmen and her boyfriend Tim are coming to visit me this summer! She finally gave me the dates, and I’m very excited. My summer is pretty much going to be a revolving door of people visiting. It will be exhausting, I predict, but very very worth it.
  • Talked to my mom last night about my taxes and I’m getting money back from all three states (California, since it’s technically my permanent state of residence; Illinois, since I worked there over the summer for a wage; and New York, obvs.) and the federal government. It’ll be just enough to cover my outstanding credit card balance if I pay off the whole thing; I think I might pay off most of it and then get my iPod fixed. I decided a long time ago not to replace the headphone jack myself because I just don’t trust myself to open up my iPod and fiddle around with it myself. I’m handy, but not that handy.

So I think that’s it. If I don’t get a chance to blog tomorrow, happy weekend everybody!

*Pronounced as the Brits do. I’ve been watching far too much Shameless. My internal monologue has a Manchester accent at the moment. It is very disorienting.

**I was sad to see Aimee go, but, to be honest, every season we get a naive, vaguely religious girl on the show who’s uncomfortable being naked and similar and I just have about zero patience for it now. It’s like, do you even watch the show? Don’t you know that those type of girls ALWAYS go home? The job involves compromises; get over it. Also, I really like Lauren and Whitney, and conversely dislike Dominique, but I thought all that mean-girls stuff they were doing in last night’s episode, like talking shit about her while she’s trying to sleep IN THE SAME ROOM, is just being incendiary for no reason. Like, I get that they’re young and bored and they really don’t like her, but come on. It’s just not necessary, and Claire? You have a daughter and THIS is what you want her to take away from your ANTM experience? That you’re a bitch? Grow up.

ETA: Apparently, not all Brits say “shedule”. Thanks Trudi! Any writers out there should check out Trudi’s post on overcoming writer’s block, as well as her other craft-related posts. Spoiler: she compares writer’s block to erectile dysfunction. Very apt, I’d say.

Welcome to the blogpacalypse

Well, it’s happened. Incredibly true and funny (and funny ’cause it’s true!) blogsite Stuff White People Like is being turned into a book. Like, of course it is. And I’m sure it’ll be a really funny book. But here’s the thing: blogs are blogs because they’re not books, or anything else, really. They’re blogs. Blogs based on books are just risky, because it’s not a given that the material contained within a blog will be either funny or interesting in book form. I think it’s great that publishers are taking bloggers seriously and trolling the ‘sphere to find promising new writing talent, for sure, but lots of web traffic does not necessarily equal lots of book sales. Why? Because you can read blogs for free! I think the best (and most successful, although I can’t back that up) blogs-to-books stories are where the blog is a jumping off point for the book–the inspiration, the foundation, maybe a few especially favorite entries are edited/rewritten into essays–but, in the end, the book is an entirely new entity. Or so I think. I’m really not an expert. But it just seems like publishers are just optioning blogs as books nowadays because it seems like the work is already done, or nearly done, but I can’t imagine that it’s any easier to wrangle a blog between a cover than it is an unwieldy but promising manuscript. If you know better, please school me (and I mean that).


I just clicked open Jezebel for my daily dose of femiladyism on my lunch break and I saw this post about the Girl Scouts of America and something about staying relevant. To which I say A. the Girl Scouts will always be relevant as long as there are cookies involved, and B. what? The post basically gives “blowjobs” (and other “nonactivites” that comprise most of an adolescent girl’s nonschool waking hours, such as shopping and MySpace) as the reason for the Girl Scouts’ declining numbers. I’m interested–are these attrition rates (as the girls age, they drop out of the GS) they’re worried about, or girls not joining at all? Because don’t you join GS in, like, kindergarten or first grade usually? I remember begging my mother to join in the third grade and other girls in my class being shocked that I would be allowed to do that, like, DON’T YOU NEED A SPECIAL GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED WAVER? And are first graders really giving blowjobs? So is that really the reason? I know a few people who were Girl Scouts from Daisy to…whatever the last level was, but they’re the exception. I feel like most girls I knew who were in GS dropped out before high school. So, if that’s what they’re noticing, then I guess the Jezebel theory is sort of relevant, but also, this surprises them? I was in junior high more than ten years ago…shouldn’t they have noticed this trend a little earlier? I certainly did.

I was a GS for about five minutes (or two years, one as Brownie and one as Junior) before realizing that it really wasn’t my thing…I couldn’t get over the horrible discomfort that I would feel during cookie and candy (we were forced to sell M&Ms door-to-door, too! Oh, the humanity) seasons, because I was (and remain) terrified of pushing someone into buying something they don’t want. My parents finally got sick of shelling out money just so I could hit the minimum sales (I never sold enough boxes to get those cool stuffed animals or neon pink convertibles or whatever the prizes were) and were like, “Level with us. Are you in this? Because if you are, suck it up and learn to sell candy and cookies. If you’re not, we’ll take you out of Girl Scouts.” I have to admit, whatever my reaction to that was then, I remember feeling a great sense of relief. I didn’t really like my troop (it was cliquey and exclusive) to begin with, and I dropped out after the fourth grade.

It occurs to me now that sororities are sort of GS on a grander scale, or GS are sororities on a miniature scale (that one’s more likely, as the GS of A was formed in 1912, fifty plus years after women’s fraternities started popping up on campuses). I’d be interested to see if sorority enrollment is declining. I feel like there’s a very clear emphasis on individuality in today’s culture that sets it as apposite to the “joining” phenomenon, which is, of course, ridiculous. You can be an individual and still be part of a group, or several groups. You’re not a lemming because you hang out with people with similar interests in an organized setting. Maybe it’s the uniforms that get little girls–I mean, they are hideously ugly. Or maybe it’s the fact that the GS isn’t really very cool; the organization is showing its age, it’s not modernizing as it should. You probably get a lot more GS involvement at schools where the perception isn’t, “Oh, all those dorky girls who have no friends are banding together to sell cookies.” Girls, even little girls, want to do the cool thing, but earning badges for learning how to needlepoint? Not very cool. Earning badges for, say, making your own music video or designing a kick-ass MySpace layout? Cooler, and you still learn stuff. Woman up, GS, and welcome to the 21st century!

Or MAYBE, it’s the fact that, like me, little girls are sick and tired of having to shill prepackaged baked goods outside of grocery stores (or, in New York, building lobbies) when they could be, um, updating their MySpace profiles. The GS of A isn’t irrelevant because little girls are changing, it’s irrelevant because IT WON’T CHANGE WITH THEM. Should the GS start bringing their members to keggers thrown by the Boy Scouts? No. Should it be embracing the girls’ developing interests and helping them to grow up to be responsible, well-rounded, educated, and, dare I say, cool young women? Probably.

Egg hunt

For those of you out there who are big fans of John Green, author of such YA novels as the Printz-winning Looking for Alaska and his follow-up An Abundance of Katherines (which has the world’s most kick-ass cover, IMHO), you should check this out–Green and his brother, Hank, have created some sort of Wikipedia-esque site to promote/tease his new novel, Paper Towns? I say this interrogatively because I actually don’t know that for a fact. It’s sort of just what Green hints on his blog. So…should be fun? I’m going to tackle it and see what I can come up with–apparently, there’s an Easter Egg (geekology for an intentional hidden message or feature in an object such as a movie, book, CD, DVD, computer program, video game, or website) that I assume (? again) will reveal something about Paper Towns. So what are you waiting for? Go hunt!

ETA: I found it! Can you?