On A Recent Sunday


On a recent Sunday, I visited the Holocaust Museum with some friends. It was only my second visit and just as sad and moving as the first time; it’s hard not to feel tears welling up at various junctures.

The Holocaust, as a historical event, is sui generis. It is not there to be our metaphor. It is too singular.

But good God, it is simply impossible to visit that museum and see the history and artifacts leading up to the Holocaust being possible and not think about the terrible act, the bigoted act, the ignorant act, the base act, the racist act undertaken by our president.

And he is our president. He is my president. Whatever good I may do in my life, I will also always be, in some part, complicit in whatever evil my country does, especially when it takes place during my lifetime.

In another tragedy, an acquaintance of my mine is a student, studying here on a student visa. The terms of her visa require her to leave the United States every so often (every six months is a common condition of many visas), but she is from one of Trump’s designated countries. She doesn’t know whether to hurry away now and return by judicial stays can be overturned or to wait and hope that things get better. I don’t know either and all my advice to her tastes likes ashes because I am complicit.

 

‘They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist’


The Michael Derrick Hudson debacle has been embarrassing. I love poetry and advocate for it to my friends and co-workers, but when this sort of garbage is what gets it into the news… well, it ain’t good.

I’ve been reading Jenny Zhang’s poetry collection, Dear Jenny, We Are All Find, so I perked up when I saw she’d responded to the poetry s–tstorm on BuzzFeed in an essay entitled, They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist.

Nicely puts to bed the lie of some kind of supposed advantage that poets of color have in getting published and respected. Shouldn’t need to be said, because it doesn’t take much looking to figure out that published poets in America are largely white and male.

At Stanford, a white girl (well-meaning, of course) wrote a story about a Chinese American woman living in modern-day San Francisco (this was the early 2000s) who wanted to marry a white guy but was forced into an arranged marriage with a Chinese man and it was called The Dim Sum of All Things. (Laugh now, cry later!) I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say the reality of that story was fucked and so was the fantasy. She got into a highly coveted advanced fiction writing class taught by a famous writer and I didn’t. The story I submitted was also about Chinese Americans living in modern-day America, but it didn’t involve arranged marriage or dim sum or sensuous descriptions of chopsticks. This didn’t mean the teacher made a wrong choice. He made a subjective choice.

 

Not Dead Yet – Weekend Reading


A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

Yes, that was a Monty Python reference, but I’m referring to old fashioned bookstores. Unbelievably, there is a book store in DC that I haven’t yet visited. It’s in Petworth and is called Upshur Street Books.

What? No Shakespeare! Inconceivable! And yes, that’s another movie reference.

This just sounds awesome. How can I get myself invited to one of these ‘Little Salons?’

The ‘mind’ of poetry. But, seriously – you used the Laffer Curve to prove your point? I mean, you do know that the Laffer Curve is almost completely bogus?

This is just kind of cool – a collection of short reviews of both books in Ace’s ‘Doubles’ series. I just read one with The Caves of Mars on one side and The Space Mercenaries on the other. However, there is no review of that book(s) on this site. But that’s okay. You are quite literally visiting a site – right now – that reviews both those books. There’s a search feature. Feel free to use it.

I have heard that the Philly poetry scene is pretty cool and happening. It even got mentioned on Gilmore Girls once.

Nothing short of genius will do. Genius… and no sex. Wait… what?

Typewriters I have known.

‘Of Queens’ Gardens’: From John Ruskin’s ‘Sesame And Lilies’


So, we’re continuing to the second lecture in John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies. And this one is… I don’t want to sexist, even though it is, but it’s also rather forward thinking for a nineteenth century Englishman. But it is about the best kind of education – and by education, he mostly means reading material – for women.

At one point, he writes that there are no heroes in Shakespeare’s plays – only heroines. By which he means that all the male characters, except for a few milquetoast men, are deeply flawed, while the Bard’s plays are simultaneously full of nearly perfect women. Furthermore, the plots are set in motion by male folly and either there is no happy resolution or else what happy resolution occurs, occurs through the agency of a woman (of course, today, we might say that this is a sort of flaw in Shakespeare’s characterization of women). I haven’t gone back and read all of Shakespeare’s plays again, but based on a cursory recall from memory, it sounds pretty accurate. Cool, huh?

Women, Ruskin believes, should be able to read and study whatever a man might study, except… wait for it…. wait for it… THEOLOGY! Yes, theology. Apparently, the study of theology is so conducive to soul corroding error that it is entirely too dangerous for women to study. Weird.

You know, we just don’t mint essayists like we used to. Ruskin is amazing and while he is a sterling example of the nineteenth century British essayist, he is hardly the only example (Pater, Carlyle, Mill, Cardinal Newman, etc). Even our best contemporary essayists don’t really compare. Even folks like the late Christopher Hitchens and John McPhee still aren’t as good as that crew from 150 years ago. Sigh.

 

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