31 March, 2009

when i'm in the woods, i know what to call you now

Birthday = great. Thanks to everyone; I felt very, very loved. You are all much kinder to me than I deserve.

Kinda funny story about vomit and God's wrath:

So, Guion took me out to dinner last night in Hillsborough. We ended up going to Tupelo's, an excellent Southern restaurant where we went on our very first date in February 2008. For some background, both Guion and I gave up meat and fish for Lent. This has not been as hard as it sounds, particularly for me, but after I looked at the menu, I really, really wanted that bronzed salmon. Guion had a hankering for the catfish. So we talked, rationalized, and decided that, since it was my birthday, and we now operate under the new covenant of grace, it would not necessarily be "wrong" to eat fish for one night. "I feel like God is going to punish me," I said, laughing, as I ordered the salmon. Little did I know how prophetic those words would be...

Fast forward three hours later. After some green tea, we are sitting on the couch and he is reading me a poem about Spanish roosters when I note that my stomach feels funny. It soon moves from funny to very unfunny. I feel downright sick. Guion tells me all I have to do is lie on my left side and all will be well. This, unfortunately, was not the case. About five minutes after trying this, I spring up and run to the bathroom... and proceed to regurgitate my entire meal, and the contents of my stomach, three times.

So romantic! (I can't believe I'm actually sharing all this...) Yes, I know. But, miraculously, it was only a mild case of food poisoning, for I felt better immediately afterwards. And we sat together (albeit he sat rather distantly from my face. I don't blame him) and watched three episodes of "Summer Heights High" before he dropped me off. So it might have been a mild case of food poisoning. Or it might have been the fist of the Almighty God telling me not to break my promises during Lent. Qui sait?

In other news, yesterday the world remembered the man who invented the pencil eraser on March 30, 1858. His name was Hymen Lipman. Which may or may not be the most unfortunate name I've ever heard.

Emily was composing a kvetch about The Carolina Review this afternoon. She read it out loud and then reflected, "This offends me. If I read this in the paper, I would get angry."

Flower count in our room:
- 1 lovely, well-preserved orchid, still hanging on since February
- 1 branch of a fuschia-flowering tree that Emily stuck in my present
- 1 rose in an Izze bottle
- 5 irises in a Guinness glass
- 5 roses in a glass milk bottle

We have amazing boyfriends.

Song of the day: "Hey, Mama Wolf," Devendra Banhart

27 March, 2009

all i ever wanted was a pony to call my own

Secret confession: aside from all of you, these are three genres that the blogs on my Google Reader fall into: 1) Publishing house blogs, 2) Book blogs from prominent newspapers and magazines, 3) Mom blogs. Yeah. That's right. Blogs by moms. About their kids, grocery store runs, diapers. Because, I'm sorry, I don't care if you judge me, but these women are damn funny.

This rain is really killing my mood.

Carmen and Sarah gave me an early birthday present today. It included fairy dust, water-based wolf tattoos and gum specifically marketed for French kissing. If these gifts are any indication, I just know that this is going to be the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.

I totally want to live here. (I have a disproportionately large amount of envy for that adorably spoilt 4-year-old, Prentiss, for having a flop-eared rabbit named Floppy Pickles, and a pony in her backyard. A PONY. And that playhouse/shed! Basically, I just want to be Prentiss. Her mother, Katie Brown, is apparently a mildly famous PBS celebrity.)

My orchid is still alive! Its color has faded a bit, but it's still full, beautiful, gracious.

I have decided to do an honors thesis on Virginia Woolf. I may or may not regret this decision in the months to come. (But right now, I'm pretty excited.)

Song of the day: "Tables and Chairs," Andrew Bird

23 March, 2009

breaking, entering, poeticizing


Sunday night around 11 p.m., UNC-CH senior Guion Pratt and junior Abby Farson snuck into Phillips Hall, home of the UNC math department, to commit deliberate acts of poetic graffiti. Armed with bits of chalk, Pratt and Farson crept into a dozen different classrooms and wrote random lines of poetry on the blackboards. Their vandalism included selections from T.S. Eliot, Philip Levine, W.H. Auden and William Shakespeare, among others. The pair was almost caught on the third floor, but nimbly flew down the fire escape. Wire reports indicate they also continued their work on the second floor of Hanes Art Center. When asked about the motivation of their premeditated mischief, Farson said, "It was a simple act of kindness, to bring beauty to the dreary lives of math students."

22 March, 2009

journalistic apocalypse

(I'm in a navy blue cranny of Davis Library right now, listening to Alexsandr Raskatov, "Aus Den Leben von W.A.M," having trouble expressing my feelings about how H.D. refigures the Virgin Mary as a goddess of the new world order in "Trilogy."

Being a journalism major right now has not been very good for my anxiety levels. Because all we talk about in my classes and everything I read just confirms that we are on the brink of the Journalistic APOCALYPSE and all of the print media will soon be DEAD, and this includes BOOKS. Essentially, what I love most--the written word printed on a page of paper--has received, or is receiving, its last death blow from the grim reaper, the World Wide Web. And soon we will begin to forget what pens are supposed to do.

(I left my goat cheese at Guion's house and I wish I had it right now. My diet lately has become increasingly rabbit-like: I eat handfuls of raw spinach with handfuls of dried berries and nuts for lunch. Plain spinach is deeply fulfilling, though. I can taste health between my teeth.)

Chad and Nick were trying to console me about all of these fears on Friday night. Or, perhaps, Chad was trying to console me; Nick was just agreeing with me. "Yes, books; they will soon be no more." Chad kept saying that the economy would correct itself and that there would always be a demand for the written word, but I kept shrieking, "Yes, but WHO WILL PAY THEM? The Internet is MURDERING publishers and authors, not to mention reporters. And don't even get me started about what the 24-hour news cycle has done to copy editing! It's the END, Chad. It's the END."

I feel like a little voice in a room of doomsday prophets. But doesn't anyone believe in the printed word anymore? I am still clinging to this last credo: NO ONE WANTS TO CRAWL IN BED WITH A KINDLE.

Michael Scott: "Why do you keep a diary?"
Dwight Schrute: "To keep secrets from my computer."

Exactly. I'm at least not the only one who still keeps a physical diary.

That's all I have to say about that right now. It would be indecorous to start crying over the keys of my laptop in Davis Library, crying for Gutenberg and the hypocritical irony of the fact that I am publishing this on the Internet...

14 March, 2009

the wide net

Things I like these days:

1. Google Reader

2. The sun, particularly now that it is a rather rare atmospheric phenomenon

3. Slideshows from The New York Times, especially in Travel and Home & Garden

4. Other people's Flickr pages

5. The Book Bench from The New Yorker

6. Reading the electronic edition of the daily paper copy of The Denver Post. It's a really beautiful paper.

7. Getting paid

8. Target

9. Looking at houses while I'm driving

10. Handfuls of raw spinach

11. Writing in my journal every day

12. Admiring Grace's big, charcoal nude sketches

13. Romans

14. Talking about Michael Pollan


16. Thrift shops

17. Cheap jewelry

18. Orchids, lilies, sunflowers, basically anything green and living in my room

19. Dreaming

20. "A Still Moment," by Eudora Welty

21. Driving the Papa John

Today I miss Japan. And today I cannot write very well at all. Any attempts I've made at getting this story to come out have been embarrassingly flat. Now I don't want to go back to Chapel Hill. I feel like I only have six weeks of happiness left.

12 March, 2009

first fig

Every day, I get a little more excited and a little more nervous about being in Denver this summer. I just got access to the electronic edition of the daily paper (different from the Web site; this is like reading the print version on a screen) and received a copy of their 540-page stylebook. (*Tangential anecdote: When I told Grace that The Post's stylebook was this long, she exclaimed, "What! 540 pages of what you have to WEAR! That's crazy!" She wishes.)

I'm reading today's paper right now and it's really beautiful. It makes me jealous; why The Observer can't look like that, I don't know. Or the N&O, for that matter. This evening, I also printed off the "A" and half of the "B" section to the stylebook. My goal is to read through the whole thing before I leave in May. This may or may not be possible.

I also like leafing through the back section of J.Crew's catalog and dreaming about wearing all of their decadent office clothes (mile-high pencil skirts, sleek black suits, cashmere cardigans) to work at The Post. Journalists always look so glamorous in films; I'm sure it's just another Hollywood lie.

There is a 1920s-themed party going on downstairs right now (for G and S's history classes). Everyone has to dress up as a memorable character from the Roaring Twenties. Grace is, appropriately, Zelda Fitzgerald; Maria is Mary Pickford; Sam is some baseball player; there's a Charlie Chaplin and a J.P. Morgan running around somewhere, too. I dressed up as Edna St. Vincent Millay, but no one knew who I was. Not even when I said, "But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light..."

Decidedly not a fan of John Dos Passos. Even when I was standing on the street corner waiting for the bus.

Last night, Kelsey, Grace and I ushered at a George Winston concert. The man is a musical robot. The piano was perhaps too familiar for me, but I get excited everytime he makes that harmonica dance. (Good grief. I've never heard a harmonica sound like that.) His fingers fly, but his eyes do not sparkle. He speaks the same lines over and over. It seems that, after 30 years of performing, he still hasn't gotten used to crowds. But Kelsey and Dad got to meet him afterwards and they said he was just as nice and personable as you could hope. He even gave Kelsey his sheet music with his notes on it, and demonstrated how to play a certain part of his "Variations on the Kanon" on her shoulder (Facebook has photographic proof). I am interested in people like him--the nervous geniuses with flexible personalities.

Musical anthology of the week: "Dark Was the Night," a collection by various great artists (Justin Vernon, Feist, Arcade Fire, Sufjan, Jose Gonzalez, etc.) to benefit the Red Hot Organization, an HIV/AIDS charity.

Song of the day: "I'm An Animal," Neko Case. From her new album, "Middle Cyclone."

ALSO, I'm not the only one dissing Twitter: Lev Grossman quit it and The Book Bench from the New Yorker would like you to hear its fittingly high-brow rejection of "Generation Twit."

09 March, 2009

not in our time

Home for spring break. I was wrong to think that I wanted to go somewhere for break. Visiting Southern Pines and then coming home was all I needed. This morning, once Kelsey woke up, all six of us gathered in our bathroom (sometimes we do irrational things) and laughed and talked about the growth on Sam's heel, how we have to be more ladylike (it was indecorous of Grace to tackle Sam in front of his bros; Kelsey needs to cross her legs when she sits down; I have to stop saying "damn"), what we're going to do this week, how we are going to fatten me up, whether Grace has more clothes than God. It felt whole, healthy to be a family unit.

I am simultaneously perplexed and disgusted with Twitter. I know it can be easily classed as a hypocritical observation, but I can't help but feel that Twitter is the icing on the cake of this generation's unhealthy obsession with broadcasting every minute of our lives. 8:43 a.m. I am eating shredded wheat; it's a little soggy and that makes me unhappy. 8:50 a.m. I am now pulling on my socks. I wonder where my gray pair is... 8:56 a.m. Time to leave for work. There are fliers under my windshield wipers. No one should care or need to know these things. No one. (Angela knows what I'm talking about.) If someone can give me a compelling reason for Twitter to exist, I might hear it.

Everyone has been writing such great blogs lately; I feel like I'm falling behind.

I want to go to Target and buy things I don't need.

Not in our time, O Lord,
the plowshare for the sword,

not in our time, the knife,
sated with life-blood and life,

to trim the barren vine;
no grape-leaf for the thorn,

no vine-flower for the crown;
not in our time, O King,

the voice to quell the re-gathering,
thundering storm.

- H.D., "Tribute to the Angels," no. 4, Trilogy

01 March, 2009

she was a fountain pen

Such miserable weather has never been seen before! (But at least I had an excellent lunch, courtesy of the Bolin Heights women.)

I'm playing Joanna Newsom now, just for Emily. "This is horrible," she moans from upstairs, "all of my muscles are tensed up." She lies; she actually likes her, but has been pretending for so long now that it's impossible to admit it. While I'm trying to get her to like crazybeautifulgenius harpists, she's trying to convert me to the likes of Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and the Dixie Chicks. I'm sorry. But that's never going to happen.

Finished reading The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (by Tolstoy) last night. Tolstoy is a master, absolutely unparalleled. "The Kreutzer Sonata" is flooring. You have to read it. It's the narrative of one man on a train telling another why he murdered his wife. And it is chilling and pitch-perfect.

Tolstoy's intuition and translation of women is outstanding to me. In my experience, male authors who try to write narratives from a woman's perspective rarely succeed, at least in a persuasive way. If they are unusually talented, they are able to write from a woman's mind in a slightly believable way, like Per Petterson in To Siberia. But Sistermine is an especially masculine girl; she is a tomboy, she is aggressive, she does not consider her body in a way that a woman would. But that is forgivable, because Petterson is a man. Yet when you read Tolstoy, and Tolstoy writing in a woman's voice, it's almost impossible to believe that he isn't a woman. His women are so true and real and consistent, avoiding any pat stereotypes or molds that female characters can be fit into. In "Family Happiness," one of the novellas included in this edition, the narrator is a young girl whom we follow throughout her love and eventual marriage to an old family friend. Throughout the story, Tolstoy maintains an absolutely consistent grasp on Masha's character and growth.

"The Kreutzer Sonata" is not narrated by a woman, but his insight into the plight of women in society is remarkable, particularly when you consider that he wrote it in 1889. Think on this, which is just as true today as it was then:

“Woman’s lack of rights arises not from the fact that she must not vote or be a judge—to be occupied with such affairs is no privilege—but from the fact that she is not man’s equal in sexual intercourse and had not the right to use a main or abstain from him as she likes—is not allowed to choose a man at her pleasure instead of being chosen by him.”

In short, I am perpetually amazed by him. Next books on the stand: Manhattan Transfer, by John Dos Passos, and Zen and the Birds of Appetite, by Thomas Merton.

Truth be told, I'm actually not looking forward to spring break. I'm going to be sitting at home, working a few days and studying for exams. I do want to see my family, though.

Beautiful: "Songs of Levi," Sam Amidon.