Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I thought my days of sending emails in the heat of the moment -- usually at night -- were over, because now I'm married and I generally sent those kinds of emails to boyfriends who were either breaking up with me or had already broken up with me, or who I was in the process of breaking up with. I'm a stayer, so they were usually breaking up with me, something I'm very grateful for because otherwise I might be with one of them still. And I'd rather be with Stoker, who, as expected, is still perfect for me.
But just because I'm married does not mean that I don't need friends. I may not need them every day and may not call them as often as I did when I was single. But I love them, still. And in some ways I wish I could call them as often as I did when I was single. But that would be pathetic. Part of the problem with that is also scheduling. When I have time to call them, they are busy. When they call me, I'm either working or having a rare moment with Stoker (who works between 60 - 70 hours a week; another reason I need my friends: I get lonely) and he comes first, naturally. And were my friends married, I'd expect their spouses to come first.
Anyway, I guess the thing with this friend (who I essentially broke up with) is that I had deluded myself into believing that she put as much importance on our friendship as I had. We all know that relationships are give and take. When one person feels like they're giving more than the other, something's wrong. And the both of you better address it. This kind of thing works better when it's an intimate relationship because it's weird to have two friends discussing a relationship. That's the beauty of friendship. You don't have to do things like that because you both obviously feel like things are going well. You don't have to have a DTR. Or a state-of-the-union. If a friendship isn't working, you both just fade out of each other's lives without much being said. It just happens.
That's why everyone who knows anything thinks friendship is a beautiful thing. It is the relationship that is chosen and not held together by marriage or biology. It exists purely for itself. It is completely voluntary and when it goes sour it is such a sad thing. But for all these reasons, that it is voluntary, that it is not held together by anything except pure will, it is the relationship that is not so much discussed. You don't go to counseling if it's not working. You don't usually say to your friend, "This isn't working for me," or "You don't call me enough," or "I want out," or "I feel jealous about your other friends," because if you did, you'd seem somewhat cuckoo.
Which, I guess is what I must be. Because basically I said many of those above sentiments to the friend I broke up with. But I'm a jealous person. I get jealous over the stupidest things. I suppose that's because I inhabit the world of ideas. I think about things. And my moon is in Scorpio, a very jealous sign. I didn't say to her you don't call me enough. Or I want out . . . at least not in those terms. I said I'm leaving. And I said this isn't working. And something about feeling jealous.
I know I look like a very small person. And I feel like one. And I feel sad, like I've lost my best friend. But she was probably only my best friend in my head and not in her own perception of the relationship. Because a best friend would have behaved like one. A best friend would have been aware of me, and so often she wasn't. And maybe I'm blind or simply ignorantly patting myself on the back, but I thought I was aware of her.
I'm full of shit, aren't I. You'll notice that's not a question. The thing is, I have many friends that I keep in touch with. None of them ever made me feel like I'm not quite as important as their other friends. But in this friendship, I nearly always felt that way. And perhaps that's just my perception. But that's the only one I have.
I'm going to go now and have my pity party by myself. I've been very depressed lately. Depressed and stressed. My job is ending soon and I don't have another lined up and to top it all off, this sick Egyptian I work with asked me to be his assistant and that just depresses me more. He's always borderline sexually harassing me, I'd have to be insane to consider taking his offer of being his assistant. Yeah right. But that's the only lead I have on a job. And then in my great, dramatic way, I go and end a friendship. Who the hell does that?
Monday, September 18, 2006
JJ's doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside it's gorgeous and clean and chic. They have coffee, espressos, energy drinks and my favorite Steaz Green Tea Sodas. And to nibble on? Imported chocolates. To read? A plethora of magazines (to buy).
Unfortunately, it's frequented by the rich college kids who bring their Mac laptops and set them up on the coffee tables and listen to itunes while they conduct "research" on the internet and write their fifteen page papers that are very important and pressing. They have to, you know, write those papers so that they can graduate and start out as CEO's of major corporations.
I'm being sarcastic. What those students probably don't know is that they'll start at an entry level position, maybe making $12.50 an hour, where they'll slowly work their way up the depressing corporate ladder. Or they'll look and look and not find a job in their chosen field and so they'll work for temp agencies while they wait for a law firm to hire them. Or maybe that's just what happened to me and I'm a cynic.
It's just depressing. I get so depressed looking at them with all their expensive clothes and computer gear and ipods and bags and taste. They have no idea what they're in for. Unless they know someone. Because it's really about who you know, not what you know. If they only knew . . . .
But anyway. I have to hang out at places like JJ's because I'm essentially single, again. Single while being married. Because Stoker works 15 hour days and even on his days off he wants to go to into the studio for some reason. Isn't that weird? Hmmm. Maybe he's not really going to work . . . .
Just kidding. Now I'm getting depressed. Again. Seriously, he has a demanding job. He does work. And very often I go into the studio to see him and hang out. I was there, just last night, after I left good ole JJ's. I sat in the studio while he recorded this pretty good, though somewhat pathetic, guy, who is convinced this album is going to be HUGE. Maybe it is. You never know. It's not like bands know their album is going to be HUGE while they're making it. Right?
Sigh. I'm leaving.
It’s been blogged to death, and covered so thickly in the press I think the general public is in danger of suffocating. But I have to put my proverbial two cents in (in case you haven’t been able to tell, I love the word proverbial. Yes, I just love the idea of things being proverbial) regarding the poor Pope and the angry Muslims. I can just see him, poor Mr. Pope, offering an apology and having it not be enough. No, the angry protestors won't rest until he's given up a pound of flesh and perhaps a pint of blood. And I can just see the protestors violent at the suggestion that Islam promotes violence.
The cool thing about America is the freedom of speech. At least, the idea of freedom of speech, which in this annoying global society isn’t real at all. And probably, on lots of levels, it’s not a one hundred percent guaranteed freedom in America, either. Were it real, groups like the ACLU wouldn’t actually exist. As an aside, I typically hate the ACLU because invariably they take a side and it’s usually the side of the minority (which is good, if you’re the minority they’re representing). But anyway, I don’t want to open that can of worms. My point is that freedom of speech is golden. I think people should be able to say what they think without fear of being sued and be able to print the truth, whether it’s what I agree with or not, without fear of enraged protestors rioting in the streets.
Ultimately the beauty of living in this cold, cruel world is the diversity of opinion, culture and beliefs. Somewhere in it there is room for the warmth of understanding that occasionally happens between different cultures and various peoples. Even within the Muslim world there are different factions and groups with varying degrees of orthodoxy. What I don’t see is how the Muslim agenda of converting the entire world or killing them is any different than say, Hilter. Or the KKK. Or any group of people that wishes to eradicate another group of people because of race or ideology. So if the Muslims succeed in killing all non-believers, there would still be the different factions within Islam. They don’t have one great Islamic leader.
And what would happen without diversity of religion and ideas? Boring.
So about the Pope. I respect his intentions (see the full transcript of his speech). I doubt he knew the ramifications. And I don’t think it’s fair to try to blame him for violence or deaths that may occur as a result of rioting, angry protestors. If that logic works, then you have to say that smokers are responsible for global warming and all manner of smog, and that when a commuter kills someone in a fit of road rage, it’s the fault of everyone else on the road because they are there and so on. Everyone has the chance to choose. People are culpable for their own actions.
About the rioting Muslims. They are quick to anger and they are quick to find any excuse to riot, protest angrily, bomb, and kill others. The Pope’s apology was not enough for them, and I kind of think it will never be enough because the point isn’t to make him submit, but to have a visible reason to be angry at Westerners and infidels. So they have a scapegoat about why they’re angry. I understand being angry and annoyed about something someone else said, things public figures say, or the things that are sometimes printed about my religion (which is misrepresented in the press quite often). But I don’t riot. I get pissed and then I let it go.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Moving right along with my contentions or complaints, whatever you want to call them:
2) Smith uses big words for no apparent reason. And she uses obnoxious adverbs to describe how people say things. Words like gnomically, which you think you’d be able to figure out from its context. But no, you can’t because it’s an adverb, describing the way in which the son, Levi, has said the following, “‘Nothin’, Dad. It’s just what it is’” (22). Yes, I know what a gnome is, but what the hell does a gnome have to do with how the kid said what he said? Any normal person would resort to a sad, over-used word like didactically or sententiously because the average person would have a glimmer of what that would mean.
Another awkward word she used was proscenium. Does anyone know what that word means? Is it the new slang? I had to look it up, but I feel that were she a careful author, I could have figured it out (again) from the context. No such luck. This is the sentence it came from, “Howard came out from behind the proscenium and into his marriage” (11). I’m not sure what she means by that. Does Howard live in a theater? I mean, I’m just basing that assumption on the definition of the word. Maybe the OED has a different definition for it. I have no idea, as the OED’s online dictonary is not FREE (stupid OED). Or perhaps she means ‘curtain’ but wanted to sound intellectual and so used an archaic word.
3) It bothers me when a man tries to write from the female perspective, and vice versa. Smith attempts to describe the world as a man views it. I don’t think she can. Although, you’d think what with the whole male-gaze thing going on, it would be easier for a woman to get away with writing from the male perspective. In Smith’s case, I don’t think she achieves it. At least not in the first 45 pages. For example, Howard is talking to his son Levi, who is “topless to the waist”*, when “Levi released a deep, vigorous laugh that in turn flexed that extraordinary stomach, creasing it like a shirt rather than real flesh” (23). Let’s be honest, would a man who is not gay look at another man’s naked stomach and think to himself, “That’s extraordinary.” Let alone the man’s own father? I’m just saying. The detail of the boy’s stomach would be a tad more fitting were it a told from a woman’s perspective.
But maybe at the end of the book, the big twist is that Howard is really a woman who has been masquerading as a man.
The thing is, I don’t fancy myself a critic and I don’t want to be critical of this book. I want to like it. But I can’t. There’s too much that offends my sensibilities. And I don’t want to be critical because she’s at Harvard. And so many other critics** praised the pants off the book. Perhaps I’ll discover that all these things I’ve complained about are tools the writer is using to convey some important message. If that were the explanation, I’d have a difficult time not scoffing and saying that’s bull-shit.
In the event that Zadie Smith and I become real good friends someday, in the future, I’ll tell her I had jet-lag when I tried to read the book. And I was on prescription pain-killers for a root canal I’d had recently. And when I wrote this blog entry, I’d mistakenly thought I was supposed to take the pain-killers with alcohol. And then I’ll apologize profusely, should she ever discover that I was the cruel blogger who lambasted On Beauty***.
I might keep reading in the hopes that it gets better, or I become more forgiving. Then again, I might throw the book away. Or give it away, along with David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day. Yeah, I didn’t like that one either.
[see part 1]
* Yes, that’s how Smith describes it. It’s redundant right? The definition of “topless” pretty much refers to ‘to the waist.’ Unless you’re topless to the collar bone. Or the nipple. I mean, what gives? Or is it simply a British-ism? That’s another thing, later when Howard is in the motherland, he starts calling things fags (cigarettes) and jumpers (sweaters) a lot. Out of the blue he’s suddenly extremely British. A tool? Or the author’s insecurity?
** They were paid off.
*** In my dreams. I’ll never have the honor of meeting
a published author. That is an honor, right?
After a little research, I’m somewhat daunted to have the (perhaps uninformed) opinion of the book and her writing. She is: a) a British writer (I foolishly worship the British. It’s their accents); b) 3 years older than me (this proves that I’m lazy. On Beauty is her third book. How many books do I have? None.); c) she’s a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University; d) when I Google her name, there are 1.35 million results (compared to the paltry 85 when I Google my name).
So, how can I find her writing so crappy when Harvard adores her enough to bring her into their flock? With all the acclaim, how can I think she sucks? I don’t know. That’s the point. I’m confused.
Let me explain why I think the book is so terrible.
1) In the opening scenes, after the emails from the oldest son of this family, there is some kind of secret argument going on between the husband and wife. Or perhaps it’s not secret and I’m just daft. What happens is that the reader (me) can’t really tell it’s an argument because there are lots of metaphors and conversations. Smith seems to be attempting to capture the familiarity and intuitive way a family works. She does a lot of describing of the small, unimportant details (or, I would think they’re unimportant), like every single action a character engages in while speaking.
At one point the mother, Kiki, has been arguing with her husband and starts talking to the younger son. Suddenly she bends at the hips. The author is about to launch into a description of how Kiki is retying her head-dress. But the structure of the sentences in the paragraph is incredibly awkward. Maybe I’m wrong but we read one sentence at a time. You can’t just cut stuff off. In the middle of an idea. It’s uncomfortable to read. How she bends at the hips. Then tips her head forward and releases her hair. Personally, it would have been smoother to combine those ideas, so the reader isn’t left with this image of Kiki bending at the hips for no good reason.
Plus Kiki and Howard (the husband), are immediately at incredible odds with each other. Suddenly Kiki is asking Howard why he’s displaying so much animosity towards the family. And we, as readers, have no idea where her indignation at Howard has come from.
Or, it could just be me. Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know why Kiki was angrily throwing stuff into her bag out of the blue and saying things to Howard in short, clipped sentences.
So far, the only thing beautiful about this book is the cover, which is indeed classy.
[see part 2]