Monthly Archives: July 2005

Flynn

So about a good week / week and a half ago I did finish Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. I very highly recommend it. I’m generally not a memoir kind of gal, but I think I’m getting more and more interested in them. Last year I read (well, cheater read — listened to on MP3 — cut me some slack I was driving all over the place visiting my long distance boyfriend: Boston, West Hartford, to Ware, and back to Northampton and NPR just doesn’t have news on all the time!) Frank MCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis. I defintely liked Angela’s Ashes much better than ‘Tis, though ‘Tis was about an English teacher, so how could I resist? I just started Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Running With Scissors, which is set in the Pioneer Valley. Already in the first 5-10 pages he mentions Amherst and Northampton, though from what I understand about the book, I don’t think it will make me too homesick.

But back to Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. One of my coworkers said of the title, “Sound like my first year in Hartford,” and I’d have to agree with that sentiment for now — until I find Hartford’s hidden treasures. What I love about the book is its humility and less than linear structure. It’s Flynn’s story of working at a homeless shelter in Boston in the 80’s and having his absent and alcoholic father come in as a patron. I can’t say that the story is particularly forgiving, but it is also not unforgiving. Flynn details his childhood as well, peppering the 80’s narrative with chapters in a variety of styles focusing on childhood and teen years. I don’t know that I would say that his style is like Faulkner’s, but I think I like some of their common ground. The flaw that I saw with the novel is that there are two chapters that are written as drama, stage directions and all, and they didn’t work for me. They reference Beckett, and while I like Beckett (yet oone of my students abducted two of my heavily annotated Beckett books — which I suppose I was destined to lose after my best friend Sue had these books for about 6 years), the two chapters don’t work for me here in this text.

Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly recommend it. When I was at Bennington, Roland Merullo taught a class called Novels of the Working Class, and while Flynn’s book is not a novel, it would have fit in nicely. There’s a tendancy with some gritty stories, involving drugs, violence, sex, etc to be self-agrandizing, ultra-hip — and this book is devoid of that ego-trip. Read it and tell me what you think.

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‘Twas a Lovely Night for Some

Last night Sarah called me shortly after the rain began to ask me if I wanted to come over to her apt. for a little hang out session with her and her kitty. She had to wait until after it started raining, so I would have to cross the treacherous sreet in the rain of biblical proportions. (I love hyperbole.) The puddles I splashed in on my way over were very warm, bath water one might say. Just before I left to go to her apartment, I sat on my porch eating some yummy ice cream, watching the rain and the lightning, lightning that was obviously very closeby. The sound came with the flashes.

About 45 minutes later, we went out for dinner, and when we came home, the rain had stopped. Traffic lights had gone to a default blinker, and surprisingly, Connecticutians were driving in a fairly sane manner unlike their usual driving habits. Sujal was watching TV when Sarah and I came in, deciding it was a perfect night to sit on the porch and enjoy a cocktail. I was pulling out the gin and vodka when the lights went out. Who knew how long they’d be out. We light a candle, and the three of us sat on the porch enjoying the quiet — no air conditioners, no TV’s, no electronic hum of any kind. Around 10 or so, our neighbor turned on his generator, now the only sound of electrical humming, yet even so, it was a pleasant sort of white noise. The night was like being in a 98.6 degree womb, if only my mother would let me back in!

Latoyia Figueroa

I’m writing this post because Sujal tore me away from my reading induced nap and asked me to read this post about Latoyia Figueroa and then respond to it. He wanted me to write it to post on Fatmixx, and so I am also pposting it on my own beloved website:

When Sujal called me to ask me to write this post, I asked him to tell me about it first. I will admit, my first reaction internally was something along the lines of: Okay, so what do you want me to do about it? There’s nothing I can do about it. I think that was coming directly from my deeply rooted white guilt. And as quick as lightning, a flurry of thoughts ran through my head. I have never been a big fan of the hyping of missing women, white or otherwise. Frankly, I think that it paints missing women as entertainment. Just ask Sujal, I despise TV shows that rovolve around a woman being vistimized: raped, murdered, abducted, you name it. Years ago, I began thinking about how there are very few movies or books about men being victimized by women. (I think I may have even posted about this in the past.) I even opened it up to men being abducted and tortured by other men, and still my list was quite short. I asked a lot of people at the time for their knowledge, and collectively, we came up with a short list. the two that come to mind are “Misery” and “Man in the Iron Mask” (men without any heroic status in the text or film — and yet “Iron Mask” even seems to break that rule). For the most part, men are not protrayed as being so powerlesss. I’d say this goes for the news, too. Women, on the other hand, are the perfect object for victimization in pop-culture, non-pop-culture, and the news. Honestly, I began to think that women were victimized more in reality. I did a little online research to see if indeed women were more likely to be on the receiving end of violent crime. I came upon this website, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Men are indeed much more on the recieving end of victimization. I couldn’t find info on abduction and/or torture. I go through all of this because what really upsets me is how skewed the perceptions of women as victims are. There’s a book called The Culture of Fear. I have not read it, but I see it referenced a lot and know that it deals with fear being a means to control “the masses” and public perception. I also think that portraying the victimization of women, whether it is as entertainment or as news can foster an idea that this IS what happens, and therefore it’s out there, not that it is exactly okay to victimize women, but it’s out there — just like lying is not okay, but it happens all the time (perhaps not on the same scale).

My other hesitation to post about this was because there has been a long standing clash between some white feminists and some feminists of color. I do not want to diminish the importance of any human being, which is probably the main reaction to this phenomenon of underreporting missing minority women. I would agree that it does indicate a disconcerting lack of concern for all individulas regardless of skin color. But I am also not prepared to get into a really big discussion of white feminism vs. feminism of color, and that is probably because I am white and have not looked into it too deeply.

So I guess my feelings on Figueroa are as follows: I am not a fan of any woman’s disappearance being paraded on TV, newspapers, or internet. I usually see these things as private matters, and I do not want to be a voyeur. I do, though, see the helpfulness of publicizing a face of a missing person to report leads. So I guess it gets a bit complex there. As for the fact that minority women are not given the same media attention, well, that is flat out wrong that our media reports that way, obviously. (though any good businessperson will tell you that news is a business, and they reposrt on what sells, so the larger society is equally guilty.) Clearly there are issues of race and class at play. Clearly as a nation we value some people over others. This is wrong. Bust again, I think it is wrong period to treat the victimization of women as entertainment.

The blogger on All Spin Zone wanted any blogger to link to mention Latoyia Figueroa to get her name out there to try to get leads. I do not know how to post pictures, so just click on All Spin Zone.

Tin House Workshop Update

The conference continues to go well. I mentioned before meeting all sorts of interesting writers who are fellow participants, but the presenters/teachers have been great. I have enjoyed working with Matthea Harvey, my workshop facilitator. She has been leading us to view each others’ work from a variety of perspectives, which has been great and refreshing.

There also have been nightly readings by some talented authors, and I love that I’m getting to hear people read that i might not have encountered easily in my daily life of teaching kids the “classics”. Some of the hihglights have been: Aimee Bender who writes fiction, Nick Flynn who writes memoir and poetry, Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Francine Prose, Kevin Canty and so many more.

I recommend checking these authors out. I began reading Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and I recommend it.

Tin House Workshop Update

The conference continues to go well. I mentioned before meeting all sorts of interesting writers who are fellow participants, but the presenters/teachers have been great. I have enjoyed working with Matthea Harvey, my workshop facilitator. She has been leading us to view each others’ work from a variety of perspectives, which has been great and refreshing.

There also have been nightly readings by some talented authors, and I love that I’m getting to hear people read that i might not have encountered easily in my daily life of teaching kids the “classics”. Some of the hihglights have been: Aimee Bender who writes fiction, Nick Flynn who writes memoir and poetry, Dorothy Allison, Chris Offutt, Francine Prose, Kevin Canty and so many more.

I recommend checking these authors out. I began reading Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and I recommend it.

Writing Workshop

I haven’t written much for the past week or so because Sujal and I were in Acadia national Park, and now I am in Portland, OR at Reed College at the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. I have been here working with Matthea Harvey in a poetry workshop. It has all been very good so far. I’m meeting all sorts of interesting people. One of them is Felicia Sullivan who runs a journal called Small Spiral Notebook. Anyway, I need to get back to my class. More later.

London

Sujal left this morning saying that he thought the bombings in London might help out both Blair and Bush in their approval ratings, and I’m sure he’ll elaborate later, but my first reaction, as I was watching CNN, was that since the British have been vehemently against the war from the getgo that they would would be extra upset about this and really want out. Of course then there’s the complexity that “we don’t want to send the message that the terrorists have won” — but I wonder how this will play out. It’s all just an icky mess. I also can’t help but notice that we seem to pay so much more attention to western lives lost than mideastern lives lost. I suppose proximity is a reason, but it’s still pretty sad.

I’m leaving for Portland, OR tomorrow, and I don’t want to be selfishly concerned about my safety, but I guess I am. NPR would have me believe that I am unsafe if I am taking the subway. I suppose I am lucky that there’s no subway between West Hartford and Portland, OR. I guess there is actually a “superway”, popularly referred to as a train. This self-focused worry perhaps illustrates why we (myself included) have a tendency to focus on western targets much more than eastern targets. At the very least, I wish for myself that I had more equitable concern for all people attacked. And I think I do (moreso than the republican faction in the US), but I suppose as humans we have to have a cut-off point of caring entiely, otherwise we’d be consumed by constant worry and concern. Ugh.