Sunday, August 31, 2008


"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-tah: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
"She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."
Nabokov's Lolita did not do much for me the first time I read it. I was focused on the plot --middle-aged man! prepubescent girl!-- but I don't know how I could have been so wrapped up in the details of pedophilic seduction that I could have missed the extreme beauty of the writing. Unfortunately, I bet a lot of people start, if not finish, this book because they are titillated by the plot; I can only hope some of those readers come to see the beauty as well.
The plot is, at this point in history, old news. Humbert Humbert, a European gentleman with a taste for eroticizing certain young girls (who he refers to as "nymphets," magical creatures half-human half-other that are out to drive him mad with desire) that was supposedly imbedded in him by a thwarted romance with a girl of twelve or thirteen when he was the same age, comes into custodianship of twelve-year-old Lolita (Dolores, Dolly, et al.) and makes her his mistress (or slave, or abused child). Which is obviously deplorable, of course. The disconnect comes between the sordid plot and the absolute fragile feverish beauty of Nabakov's writing. I literally felt like I was hallucinating while I was reading; even though Humbert thinks (and does) the most awful things, things I would never in my worst nightmares actually think or believe, I did in fact almost believe them when he wrote. It was one of those reading experiences where reality simply ceased to function normally for me while I was in the book. (This was exceedingly disturbing, needless to say, but quite the feat on Nabokov's part.) Oddly, I'm having a hard time finding a quote that in any way shows what I mean. But for me, this book was so lovely as a whole that that's okay; I'm fine with leaving it as is. I don't think I could capture what I felt anyway.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

all is well

I'm kitten-sitting this week, and I spend a lot of time just watching this small cat run in circles around my small apartment. It's amazing (and entertaining) how much energy she has. Comparitively, my cat looks like a grumpy old man.

But that wasn't actually my purpose for this, just an aside. I've been wanting to write about this and had been putting off, partially because I had no conclusive results until today and partially because I was somehow nervous. A few weeks ago, I went in for a pap smear (exciting as always) and they found a lump in my breast and swollen lymph nodes on both sides. I had to make an appointment for an ultrasound a week and a half later (this past Tuesday), and then I had to wait until today for the results. Which were negative, so I don't have cancer or anything else that they could tell me, which is a huge relief.
It's just so odd to think that you might actually have something hugely wrong with you. I've always been pretty healthy, I hardly ever even get colds and the only time I've ever been in an emergency room for myself was in high school when I got an eye infection from using someone else's contact lens case. But as soon as she said "breast lump" I automatically started making plans. Who would I call first? How would I pay for chemo or surgery? Who should I talk to now, and what should I say? Could I actually have cancer? I'm only twenty-six, for god's sake. Why hadn't I been getting check-ups or doing my self-exams? I've heard that queer women tend to go to the doctor less, especially for gyno stuff, partially because we don't need birth control and pregnancy doesn't happen accidentally. Why did I follow that trend?
Anyway, it all ended up being fine, but I do have a renewed desire to actually take care of myself, phase out bad habits and eat better and excercise. When I was debating what to do if I was ill, I spent some time doing the agnostic's version of prayer; I wasn't trying to talk to anybody or anything really except blind fate, but I told myself things like I would do yoga every day and try not to throw away food if I could just not have cancer. I would pet my cat more. I would not gossip and I would swear less. Will I do these things? Some of them, hopefully. The important ones.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


For the three of you who don't read Jesse's blog, check out this picture of famous old-time burlesque dancer Zorita:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

let's talk about sex

Recently, I got my deposit check back from my last apartment (only two months after moving out!), so I decided to use the extra money to buy myself (gasp) a new book. The book I chose was one I'd seen at Women and Children First and been intrigued by. Also, I very much doubted I'd ever find it at my trusty public library.
Fucking Daphne: Mostly true stories and fictions is a collection of short stories and essays edited by Daphne Gottlieb, a poet and writer from San Francisco. Each story involves its author having sex (literally or occasionally more figuratively) with Daphne. The backstory is that Gottlieb started finding herself in her friend's stories and began wondering what impact her sexually explicit fictional self had on her real self and what that meant all around.
It's an interesting idea, not to mention a good conversation starter sitting right there on my bookshelf, and I was not entirely disappointed. The collection starts slow, with a number of stories that seemed to feature meeting Daphne in high school and having sex (not described) and then pining after her for a long time. (I was not enamored with that particular story line, which came up multiple times.) There was also a genre of story that featured Daphne having very dirty, very explicit sex with the person involved, which I certainly didn't complain about but seemed more like straight-up (so to speak) erotica than something more subversive than that. Then was a large genre that involved Daphne being a huge drug addict, which kind of weirded me out. Is she in real life, or was she upset by how many of the stories showed her that way? I was also a little disappointed with the arrangement of stories, as it seemed like they were in fact loosely grouped by genre, which just wasn't that interesting. Id rather have the different genres dispersed, rather than having to read a bunch of high-school-Daphne or drugged-out-Daphne stories in a row.
But there were a few gems, stories that really did something, made me think about it somewhat differently. For instance, The Subject was Sex by Delphine Gothleab (who maybe is Daphne? I wasn't sure) featured text from online erotic stories with all of the names and pronouns crossed out and replaced with "she" and "Daphne," placed side-by-side on the page with text about masturbation addiction re-written to be about art. (Sounds complicated, but it was cool.) There was a story told from the perspective of Daphne's cat (they did NOT have sex, thank god), one about becoming Daphne's literal doppleganger, and a hysterical story in the form of a letter to the author's girlfriend about how he didn't have sex with Daphne (sample: "I'm getting away from the point, but I want to illustrate that we were totally fucked up. We did go back to Daphne's place to chill out, but nothing happened."). There were some better-than average sex scenes. But my favorite story was definitely Dancing for Daphne by Sarah Katherine Lewis. This story involved Daphne showing up at the crappy strip club where the author works and asking for a lap dance. Which sounds silly and porn-like, but ended up being this really gritty look at working in low-level strip clubs. It made me more uncomfortable than anything else I read, and I also thought it was one of the more interesting Daphne portrayals.
Because that was interesting too. I don't know Daphne Gottlieb, but I guess now I know a little more about how people think about her in terms of sex and general presence. The Daphne characters were almost never illuminated except for their sexual activity (or at least not very much). From the stories I read, I'd say that Daphne is intimidating (people made much of the fact that she's six feet tall with dreads, lots of tattoos and crazily dressed), sexually aggressive, and a sometimes sympathetic person. But what else? The stories were all written by friends of hers, so I would think that they would try to give somewhat realistic accounts, but a story and a person are necessarily different. I felt almost like the Daphne from the book was like a shadow of the real Daphne, with the vague outlines filled in but a lot of personal details left out. It was interesting to read so many different stories about the same person, to get that composite Daphne but still understand clearly that she was a fictional character.
Anyway, I feel like I should have something smarter to say right now, but it's not coming to me. Ah well. Worth reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the real thing

Okay, I'm back for real now. The internet got fixed after a week and a half, and then my computer broke two minutes later. And then the internet didn't work again. But now (two and a half weeks and about two hundred dollars later), I am finally connected. Soon I'll post about all the fascinating things I did in the last three weeks or so (actually, I mostly read Lolita, practiced for an upcoming audition, had a medical scare, and felt very isolated), but right now I'm going to go put together a pesto lasagna instead.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


So with even the slightest bit of luck my internet will be back tomorrow, at which point I will make several longer posts that have been floating around in my head. For now, I'm just happily anticipatory that I can have mostly unnecessary internet service again. Hopefully I'll be able to quell my addiction and keep reading, cooking, etc., as much as I have been in the interim.
I went to a party last night where we spent a great deal of time discussing a poem by e e cummings. I love that kind of party.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


So my internet is broken again and the person who's wireless I was filching has moved or something, so don't expect a ton of posts for the next week or so.

Monday, August 04, 2008

go away

It's my day off today, so it's raining. It's weirdly hard to tell when it's actually raining up here on the fifth floor, but the lightning was a tip-off when I woke up at 7:30.That means I can't do very many of the things I had planned today, so I have to clean the apartment instead. Grrr.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


I just finished reading Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride for the third time. I have a thing about re-reading books: if I liked it, I've probably read it more than once. (For a while a few years ago I even tried reading things twice in a row to see if it saved me any time, but mainly it was just kind of boring.) In fact, even if I didn't like it the first time around, I frequently find myself reading it again later. Sometimes (fairly often) I hate something initially and like it the second, which is exactly what happened with this book. The first time I read it, I think I was still gushing over Atwood's The Blind Assassin, which is still by far my favorite of her books, and I think it made me unable to appreciate this perhaps less showy novel.
The Blind Assassin has a complicated structure, mixing present-day narrative with omniscient history, science fiction, and personal history. The Robber Bride doesn't go to such lengths, but it does have a very structured format which I've come to appreciate. The novel follows three friends who have all been hurt in personal ways by Zenia, a mysterious woman with no definable past. Each of the three friends serves as a narrator, and each goes through her present-day life, her past relationship with Zenia, her childhood, and then back to the present for the conclusion of the events started in the first part of the book. I didn't much care for it initially, as I said; I couldn't understand why the women were friends, why none of them could get over the damage Zenia had done them, what the point was. It gave me a headache. But now, after a few more readings, I've come to see the interest that lies beyond those things. I love each narrator's distinct voice: Tony, a diminutive historian obsessed with war and too academic for her own good (it's a very Tony book to me, so I'm inclined to see her as the main narrator); Charis, a haphazard spiritualist incapable of expressing a concrete thought in a way that her friends can understand; Roz, a boisterously cheery businesswoman who wears her heart on her sleeve but also hides behind her clown facade. There's very little dialogue, and the majority of the text is dealing directly with the characters' inner narration. Atwood doesn't shy away from the flaws in her characters, but those flaws are mostly visible from the viewpoint of others. Tony is fascinating when I'm in her head, but scary and hard to relate to when I'm listening to Charis or Roz, and so on.
So while this book doesn't pack the punch of some of Atwood's more narratively-driven works, I think it's worth it for the details. There are so many lovely phrases: the "aromatic, painful dark" of childhood summer camps, an ugly and "heavily artistic" flower pot, "You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman" to describe our self-policing of beauty. I don't know how many more times I'll have to read this book over the course of my life; this time it seemed oddly involuntary and I tried to resist and failed, so maybe a few more readings will happen. But hopefully I'll keep finding small reasons to enjoy it more.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

nothing to do but dream

Isn't there something really nice about getting up moderately early on a Saturday (or any day, really) and drinking coffee by yourself and listening to music and reading for an hour or two? It's one of my favorite things to do, and one of the times I most like living by myself. I'm listening to Jolie Holland and about to read some Margaret Atwood and then meet an old-but-mostly-absent friend for crepes to discuss the states of our lives. Of course, then I have to go to work, but I still think it's going to be a good day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

those boom times went bust

Yesterday, I had an arrangement I was trying to make figuratively explode all over me. I was trying to use a technique that I'd never actually done before, only watched (it involves making a grid of clear tape over the mouth of the vase and then arranging things inside the grid), but it was still clear that I hadn't even made wise flower choices. I had to call in a more-experienced co-worker to save my centerpiece and spare me the wrath of the soon-to-be-returning customer. (She was, thankfully, very kind about doing this.)
In and of itself, this isn't that important. Everybody fucks up sometimes, and I was trying to do something that I really had no idea how to do, so it's not that surprising that it didn't work well. But it was definitely a moment of reflection for me; it reminded me that I'm twenty-six and working in a flower shop, and that even in this (my one really marketable skill) I still have a lot of holes. I basically had one of those pathetic self-reflexive moments where you think, "My god, two college degrees and I'm sweeping a floor for $x an hour!" All of my co-workers are younger than me, and this just isn't where I was expecting to end up.
But I know I'm not "ending up" here, just kind of here for now, and mostly I enjoy it. I like working with flowers and plants, and I get a sleazy capitalist thrill from subtly getting people to buy candles or green cleaning products. Lately, I even have ideas about what I'm going to do next, which I haven't for a while, so that's exciting. It could definitely be worse in a million different ways. I'm just on the downswing of last week's emotional high, or I'm realizing I'm going to have less time off from now on, or I'm stressed out about something. It could be any of those, really.