I just finished reading The Girls by Emma Cline. If you’re interested, the book is a spin on the Charles Manson cult, of which I don’t know much except what is now common knowledge. It opens the door to a subject that I probably wouldn’t have broached otherwise, but my greatest interest in the book is the girls themselves. I can’t believe how many flashbacks I had to my teenage self: the insecurities, the self-consciousness, the second-guessing, all completely self inflicted because you think everyone is watching and judging you. The reality is, 99% of people don’t care who you are, what you look like, or what you’re doing, but it takes years to learn that lesson. These characters are all so real, like people I’ve actually known. The way the girls seemingly exist just to be around a man, to please a man, waiting for a man to acknowledge them, or, that they strive for approval from other “girls.” I don’t know that all women feel this way, but it hearkens back to an outdated model that I’m not removed from. Fussing over your hair and make-up, clothes, diets, all the ridiculous things “girls” do to elevate themselves because their mothers, or their girlfriends, or Cosmopolitan magazine, or some famous beautiful women made them feel like they ought to. I also found it compelling that the narrator, Evie, spends most of the book pining after another girl who mocks cultural norms of 1969 women, but who herself is pining after a man and going to crazy lengths to please him.
Overall, I read the lesson to be that we all have ideal characters we want to play, maybe based on a conglomerate of real or imagined people, but a look behind the curtain reveals that they are just as conflicted and human as everyone else. And maybe it isn’t their fault that we build up a persona of perfection around them, but who would admit to doing that? I also have to add that Emma Cline is a beautiful writer–she concisely delivers these images and emotions in ways I’ve never read before, but that are really striking and enjoyable to read. Although I was irritated by Evie’s dull post-teenage existence, I couldn’t put this one down!
With the arrival of November and what I might call the start of the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about thankfulness and what it means to be grateful. As much as it annoys me that I’m about to quote Oprah Winfrey, I stumbled across this quote this morning and it’s stayed with me:
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
Some people are easily contented, and others are constantly thinking about what’s next regardless of what they have at the time. I’m part of the latter group. It’s either called ambition or the formula for a miserable life, but as I get older I’m making more of an effort to be appreciative of what I have and where I am. Sometimes those “what’s next” hopes and dreams are fuel, and sometimes they get in the way of happiness.
A Curtal Sonnet–I wrote this for a poetry competition with Writer’s Digest.
In Plain Sight
He wakes and works and does all in plain sight,
a simple man in unassuming scenes:
Father, brother, partner, player and friend.
But consider this man who seems alright…
Beyond the smile and amid the routines
lies a great, confusing, complex loose end.
I only know this because he told me.
In plain sight, everything is as it seems.
To a select few we wouldn’t condescend
and act as who we think we ought to be.
I thought I’d donate some things to Goodwill in an attempt to start clearing out my spare bedroom of “stuff.” My general rule of thumb is to pitch things I haven’t used in a year. It’s different with books and movies, because you likely don’t want to hear the same stories once per year. So, I had to approach my DVD and book shelf a little more thoughtfully.
Though I don’t believe in getting rid of stuff for the sake of wanting to get rid of stuff, I also know I’ve lugged around the same DVD/book collection to multiple residencies without having even cracked some of the covers. It was easy to pull the 2000’s garbage movies that my husband probably inherited, like My Best Friend’s Girl and The Dukes of Hazzard, but it was far more tricky to get rid of any of the movies I had bought when I was “serious about film.”
I started with a book called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and it guided most of my movie purchasing in my early twenties. Anytime I saw a movie that was in my book, I bought it. I probably spent most of my disposable income building the ultimate DVD collection. It didn’t help that I was a film student at the time, drinking the Andy Warhol Kool-Aid at the UW-Milwaukee art school.
The sad truth is that, rather than watching the movies that I thought were interesting or reading up on writers and directors that I liked, I pursued the “art” that I was told was the best and most meaningful. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
I am not a fan of Woody Allen. I never have been. I think he’s annoying and whiney. I dislike it when a character, who the writer clearly favors, delivers some bulldozing rant that’s meant to sound off-the-cuff when the writer must have spent hours coming up with it. That being said, I just had to have Annie Hall because it was in my book. I watched it once and hated it. Needless to say, it went in my donation box.
Now, I have no problem not liking something that is “great.” I’ve never had a problem calling out my husband’s garbage movies and he’s never had a problem calling out my boring movies. We at least have an understanding and we both like what we like. And maybe someone is thrift shopping right now, eyeing up their favorite Woody Allen movie on the $1.99 shelf.
Nine to One
I always thought I would change the world
with a Great Novel for my time.
So sure I was meant to be
a Great entrepreneur,
or a Great artist,
And I live,
and I have love,
and I feel passion,
and I have confidence,
and I let my mind run free,
and I do not dwell on regrets,
and I savor moments of Greatness.
I’ve been reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor in the order she wrote them. I picked up the book because I liked the cover: it’s an illustration of a peacock with elegant black text (I learned from the introduction that O’Connor kept peacocks on her property). O’Connor is a product of the Old South, and you can tell immediately, but I didn’t let that get in my way. Her writing doesn’t feel like it’s trying to escape you, which is exactly what I feel like reading right now. I’m picking up themes of morality and the danger of self-absorption, but mostly I’m just enjoying the unexpected experiences of these interesting characters. I can just pick it up, read a story or two, and put it down.
I wish I could say I’m working on a collection of essays, but I’m really only working on the first one, which for all I know could end up being the only one. I already had an idea for a collection by which each entry features a different moment of happiness, but I’ve been inspired by O’Connor that each entry can have a feeling like the others, but can also stand simply and on its own. When you try to make an idea too big, it’s tough to even get started. I wrote this poem to get the juices flowing for my first essay, which I think I will call “Champagne In The Pfister.”
Champagne in the Pfister
There’s a heat in my heart
Literally, a heat inside my chest
Flashes of the day blast across my head,
But all I can think about is how important this moment is
And I can’t waste it.
Wasabi peas and sesame sticks in a little silver dish
Perched on a low round table
Gold champagne to wash it down
My lipstick leaves a matte stamp on the flute
And i can see a crumb or two stuck in it,
Like dust marring a fresh paint job,
But it didn’t matter
A 3-piece jazz trio played a song about rain,
Maybe it was called rain,
But it made me cry.
Something without words
So i could make up my own words:
Something about how his left hand,
Now decorated with a sliver of silver,
Is the most wonderful thing i’ve ever seen.
And I’ll always have this moment.
Anyone who interacts with the creative world surely comes in contact with their fair share of Intellectuals. According to Merriam-Webster, an intellectual is a smart person who enjoys serious study and thought. For me, however, an Intellectual is a snob, a name-dropper, a smug and pretentious child who lives in an alternate reality. I’ve had a handful of Intellectual classmates, encountered a few Intellectuals in social settings, and have read a few books featuring Intellectual characters. It makes me crazy. Probably because I was raised Lutheran in the Midwest, but also because I can’t see the merit of intellect-by-association. These are people who appear to treat every day as a performance. Must be exhausting!
Sonnet for Intellectuals Everywhere: You Know Who You Are
He softly sips his Starbucks Fair Trade blend
swiping slowly across The Atlantic.
Pleased he can call the barista a friend:
His order memorized, his tips gigantic.
Tonight, he cooks. Not “cooking,” too domestic…
He curates flavors to challenge the palette.
A Veal Demi Glace that’s purely majestic!
Coltrane and vintage red strike the balance.
A little Safran Foer just before bed,
then it’s back to the grind at 10 a.m.
Theater professor or federal grant head,
something Necessary, but not layman…
He’s unshaken by a provincial like me,
and the words of a sonnet he’ll never read.