Tuesday, November 4, 2008


It's definitely a misstep to post twice about Joan Didion in my sensitivewhitegirl blog, but since I never post, nobody's counting. I've been rereading After Henry, which she published sometime in the nineties. The essays are preoccupied by the question of how we allow narratives--or their lack--to govern our lives. The essay about Patty Hearst turns on the question of Hearst's ability to "cut her losses" and abandon her former identity in favor of something that makes more sense at the moment. Didion believes this to be a Californian trait; the West rejects narrative and embraces chaos, whereas New York floats in its own history. Kind of like Bill's mom's outlook on baths, for those of you who like "Freaks and Geeks."

Needless to say, this is something I've thought about. There are days that I can't get through without making some arguably useless effort to order my own Filth. On "Madmen," Don Draper tells Peggy to cut her losses; he says that it will shock her how little responsibility she'll feel to her past. Bobby Barrett tells her, "you have to start living the life of the person you want to be." Maybe I am a New Yorker--I think I like the drain better when it's clogged.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


When I was in middle school and "Friends" was in the height of its popularity, my mother didn't let me watch it. It affirmed her principled opinion that "primetime sitcoms" were "too risque." She objected to its cavalier attitude toward sex. "People are always just...sleeping together," she used to say.

Maybe because of the mid-'90s ban, I've experienced a huge surge of interest in "Friends" for about a month now. Maybe it's because I'm now officially twenty-something. I keep thinking I'll get sick of it, find its Normalcy ultimately unappealing. But what Nick termed its "blandness" is, I think, exactly what gets me about it. "Friends" appeals to a universality that shows like "Seinfeld" ignore. I long to be as comfortable with the structure of my existence as these six seem to be. Though the theme song alludes to their Troubles ("your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA..."), they seem really happy being humans. They don't feel driven to distinguish themselves from one another, or to accomplish wordly goals. Their personalities are enough.

Central to the universal appeal of "Friends" is, clearly, the boner everyone gets for Jennifer Aniston. In the first season, Rachel's miniskirts and white lace aprons and that blue velvet mock-turtleneck (!) render her basically irresistible. But one does wonder what it is about Jennifer/Rachel. She's not THE most beautiful woman in the world (her chin is really strong, none of her features are delicate---dare I compare her to Blake Lively??), and as Ross points out when he's deciding whether he should date her, she's Ditzy, Spoiled and Just a Waitress. Nonetheless, the impression one gets when watching "Friends" is that men are powerless in the face of Rachel Green. And it makes sense--she plays by the rules. She plays her evolutionary role, and it's super attractive. Also, duh, she has great boobs.

In "The One With the Fake Party," (click "read more" at the bottom to watch a crucial section), Rachel stages a party for Ross's girlfriend Emily in order to invite over the man she has a crush on. As the night progresses, she walks herself through the process of attaining Joshua, growing increasingly desperate, but never losing confidence in the basic tenets of her method. She plays hard to get, she demonstrates to Joshua that she can knot a cherry-stem with her tongue, she changes into her "lucky" black dress, she stages a game of Spin-the-Bottle, and finally, she relies on the powers of her high school cheerleading uniform. It's really hilarious, because everyone knows that Joshua must at least be attracted to Rachel. Who wouldn't be? And Rachel never suffers from any real loss of self-esteem; instead, she experiences intense frustration that things aren't going her way au moment.

I wonder about this alpha-female prototype. To me it's totally exotic and fascinating, and yet all women have some idea of how to play the game at which Rachel displays such expertise. It's not that hard to impress dudes, and yet I have trouble imagining myself as Rachel---so fully entitled, and so fully committed to her own femininity.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This is an internet survey. It's called, Jason Schwartzman: Do-able?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Bethany: yep.
I wonder if youtube and such will decrease our ability to decide things.
I mean, describe things
like, we can just show exactly what we mean.
me: hyperlinking in conversation
4:38 PM Bethany: yeah.
me: yeah
Bethany: you should write a blog post.
me: i did
Bethany: no, I meant about what I just said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've been reading a collection of profiles by Claudia Pierpont-Roth, who writes for the New Yorker, on notable twentieth-century (female) minds. I thought my blog's (ever-expanding, because I post so much) audience would appreciate the following:

on Eudora Welty's family/her relationship to the South--
"Her loyalty to a past and now often despised way of life was naturally intensified by a loyalty to the family she'd lost, but also, it seems, by her need to justify her years of sacrifice to them. (Compare Faulkner on the subject of the artist's sacrifice: 'If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode to a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies.')"

on Doris Lessing's men-troubles--
"And the very modern 'men-babies' that the age was producing certainly weren't going to give anything--there were now spoken rules about this--even as they pillaged her emotional store and absorbed all the loving and cooking and the nursing and the sex that any sensible Victorian woman would have set at a far higher price."

Pierpont-Roth seems most interested in these women as mother-figures, and as sexual partners to men, using their intellectual work as a lens. She really hates Anais Nin. More soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


When asked by a colleague what brand of eyeliner I wear, I came up short. I had no idea. Our conversation stalled because of my failure to produce this information. I recently saw the Sex and the City movie, and though I don't often feel like a traitor to my sex, my first and only consistent thought was: "I really hope there are no men in this theater, and that no men I know ever watch this movie."

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I promise I will post about something interesting soon. But isn't this weird? I guess movies and TV are cheaper than other forms of entertainment, or so I'll persuade myself. And I have seen some good movies in the past three months: There Will Be Blood, Harold and Maude, Murmur of the Heart. But can the same be said of the hours of Project Runway and The Office? Probably not! At a whopping 37.3%, television is clearly my cultural priority! Something needs amending.

Other notes: Though live music makes up a nice chunk of this pie chart, don't be fooled. Andy Friedman and the Other Failures and Boy Crisis make up a disproportionate amount of my musical agenda. And though that experience might help me someday write some sort of treatise on American Masculinity, I doubt it's enriching my life or elevating my taste.

Well, this is silly. But comments are encouraged! What do you think your pie chart would look like?

*Correction: On the chart, "Reading" means "going to a reading," not "reading books," which I do a lot but didn't think counted.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I went book-shopping for the first time in months today and I thought I would share my purchases here because I'm very enthused about them and because I haven't said word one to the Internet in a long time.

A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Anatomy of Criticism by Northrop Frye
The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt

The Ishiguro I bought because I wanted a contemporary novel by a man. I have never read any of his novels, but most contemporary literature by men, when I'm browsing in bookstores, always gives me the feeling that I'll be plowing through a lot of jokes and wordsmithery that inevitably won't interest me. It just gives me a feeling of disconnect, or distance. But Ishiguro seems like he writes about people, their troubles, and occasionally bizarre supernatural phenomena! This is his first novel.

I am just pleased as punch to have found a purple paperback copy of The Anatomy of Criticism! I became obsessed with Northrop Frye when I was assigned him for a genre theory class. He is really the only academic writer I've read whose theories have illuminated literature for me in the way criticism is supposed to. He is an intensely organizational thinker, a categorizer, and I suppose that appeals to me (hence my interest in genre, I guess), as does his voluminous knowledge of "the canon"! Wow, am I excited.

I bought the Chesnutt because he's been on my mind since they came out with those Black History Month stamps with his mustached face on them. I read him for my favorite Wesleyan professor and thesis advisor, Sean McCann, freshman year of college. I think I liked it.

I knew this post would be a nerdfest, but I decided to risk it. Other things that I might write about soon include: project runway, lesbian porn for straight men, my sister's weekly college radio show (promo!!). Preferences?

Thursday, January 24, 2008


There's this long protracted scene in the book I'm reading, Meyer by Stephen Dixon, where the protagonist lists the circumstances, in block paragraphs, of all the calls he's gotten in his seventy-some years alerting him to the deaths of loved ones. Heath Ledger died two days ago. Back two weekends, I saw a couple making sex across the street, then the woman's silhouette walking into the bathroom while the dude cleaned off his penis with his hand, sitting on the bed. That's kind of just what it's been like lately.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Like most women of my generation, I've seen all 19 episodes of My So-Called Life. I went through an intense fascination with it when I was a senior in high school. Re-reading an old Open Diary (ha) entry the other day, I was struck by the propensity of my high-school self for sincere self-reflection, how free of irony (almost alarmingly so) my dialogue with myself was. It's not surprising, then, that I saw MSCL as revelatory during this period, in the way that I simultaneously loved Joni Mitchell and watched the hours-long Woodstock documentary and "The Last Waltz" with nothing short of open-mouthed LOVE. I'd love to think that these loves had to do with more than just feeding myself morsels of trite girl-wisdom, but who knows. At least I never had to deal with boy-things, then. I barely paid attention when boys talked about anything other than, well, me.

My So-Called Life is out-dated now--so much more than I expected it ever would be. What it observed about high school--normalcy!--has nothing to do with "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "Gossip Girls" or "Rich Girls" or "Laguna Beach." Right? I mean, that's obvious, I guess, but who knew that '90s nostalgia could hit with such force in 2008, and that it would be so much about Innocence? At a concert last night, Nick said that he felt '90s nostalgia was really the "zeitgeist," which is such a hilariously ironic and accurate description of our generation's fixation on the various Cools of the past. Angela Chase, in 1993, represented the last authentic moment of the '90s, for teens. Her zeitgeist just eluded me and my peers, who were in elementary school when the show came out, and when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I mean, I don't even remember knowing who Kurt Cobain was. By the time I was in middle school, big pink seventies flowers and bell-bottoms were "back," and there was nothing creative in the translation of the sixties-and-seventies pop aesthetic to the late nineties--it was literal, and boring, and had little personality of its own. Rayanne Grath and Clarissa Darling, though? They had style--a kind of individual aesthetic that would never be celebrated on television, now.

Last year I saw "Bridge to Teribithia" in the theaters, that terrible film version of the great children's novel, that comes off as both timeless and authentically seventies on the page. I was so annoyed by the way the movie presented Leslie Burke as this Avril Lavigne-esque "alterna-girl," SO pretty and wearing fingerless striped gloves! Leslie is supposed to be independent-minded, exempt from the real world, and Weird. And a Tomboy. When was the last time you saw a female character on television showing anything close to personal style? I miss Blossom, even though I'm too young to miss her. I'm too young to miss a lot of things, and I think that's what we--Generation Whatever--feel so strongly. Nostalgia for something we never inhabited! How depressing! Yup.