Monday, July 28, 2008

Collision course

I am basically just updating to link to my new "mix tape," Nothing Else Will Do. This playlist has, um, kind of a theme, and I apologize for that. It's very "love-ity-love," to quote Neko Case in Poetry. The word "love" is actually in 25% of the song titles. I didn't mean for that to happen, though.

One of the songs on there is a live version of a song I assume will be on Dar Williams' new album (which I heard was called Spring Again, but her official website tells me is called Promised Land). It's called "The Easy Way," and I can't stop listening to it. The line in the chorus is "I never took the easy way," which she follows in the last chorus with "because you know that easy's never easy anyhow." This got me thinking about a Wallace Stevens line (and I can't remember what poem it comes from) that I was reading the other day: "A revolution of things colliding." These two lines converging on each other lead me to the conclusion that things are never easy, even when (and maybe especially when) you try really hard to make them so; inertia is as volatile as intentional change; and what other kind of revolution is there, except when things collide?

That is pretty muddled, but it's a little snapshot of my state of mind lately. It's very mid-twenties-living at home-getting all kinds of advice from everyone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A step into the unknown

I've been reading Scheherezade Goes West by Fatema Mernissi, which Clare lent to me. There are a lot of interesting ideas in it about men and women and art and culture, some of which I'm skeptical of - but as Clare and I were saying to each other today, one of the author's main points is that travelers and scholars need to let themselves hear ideas contradictory to their own minds and cultures, maybe live in those ideas for a little while and get uncomfortable. So I'm trying. And, as usual, I tend to zero in on sections of books that I find the most relevant or interesting, regardless of their relation to the whole work, so here's a passage that I felt like coming back to:

One fourteenth-century writer, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya, who took the trouble to count up the words in Arabic that can be used to say "I love you," came up with a list of sixty, which he compiled into a book....On his list were many words that refer to love as a dangerous moment of mental confusion (khabal), or disorientation (futun) as a plunge in to the a privileged friendship....
Love pushes you to go beyond your usual routine and into directions you might not otherwise have taken. Which brings us back to our list. Many of the sixty words describe love as a compelling voyage (huyam), a step into the unknown (ghamarat), an adventure in alien territories.
(pp. 125-127)

This reminds me a little of an electronic conversation I was having recently about people's belief in the capacity of love to change situations, minds, or lives. It's something (in my experience) that people are often willing to believe in fiction (e.g., every ridiculous romantic comedy ever made), but not in real life - where sacrifice and upheaval for the sake of love can be viewed as weak or dependent. Then, of course, there are cases of real dependence, but - I think I'll stop this chain of backpedaling here. My point is: the second paragraph, especially, of the above passage resonated with me. Not that I'm thinking of anything specific.

I'm allowing myself to think that things are looking up. I have a few job leads, and a backup plan in case none of them pans out. Tomorrow, I'm going to the Newberry Library Book Fair for the fourth year in a row, though I probably shouldn't be buying a lot of books at this point. In the next month, I'll be traveling to Louisville and Rochester, and hopefully (finally) editing my school paper on indexing Sylvia Plath's poems down to a publishable size. I'm also reading (alongside Mernissi) Radclyffe Hall's classic The Well of Loneliness - which is a nice light beach read. So I'll let you know how that goes.

Also, just for fun, here's my entry about the Pitchfork Music Festival.

Quotation from: Mernissi, Fatema. Scheherezade Goes West. New York: Washington Square Press, 2001.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Johnny Sunshine

See what I did there? I promised you an ALA update, or even multiple ones, and I did not deliver. Sorry. I actually don't really have a lot to say about it. As I said before, I was much more excited to see Ryan and Michelle than about the conference, though it did have its highlights. The trip is sort of this long chain of sun and driving and mountains and laughing hysterically. Now that I'm back (I have been since Friday), I'm feeling pretty lackluster. I got rejected from another job by mail, though I did make one possible employment connection at ALA (the California Department of Corrections).

Since I've been back, I've restarted my reading of Lolita. I'm sure this is the reaction many people have to it, but I find myself incredibly ambivalent and uncomfortable. It's obviously very, very, well-written. I'll be reading along and sort of slip into the voice and think, okay, I can see this guy's humanity, and then Humbert will say something to remind me, like, hey, he could use Lolita to breed a daughter and granddaughter he could also rape.

Well, there's your brief and cheery update. I have some backed-up stuff I could write about, like the Liz Phair show I saw right before I left - okay, it was awesome, there's your post about that. Aside from the obvious musical awesomeness, that woman can pull off a vest-and-shorts combo like nobody's business.