Monday, February 06, 2006

This is gruesome and non-book-related

(except that I bet at least a dozen people are writing novels somewhere inspired by it, no?) but compelling: French Woman Shows Off Her New Face. I can't believe they actually have a picture!


  1. I had a prepared a much much longer question for you but as I was nervous about your reception of it, previewed it, and when I pressed back, the post was lost. In any event, my abridged version goes as follows: You seem to write so extensively and so voluably on so many subjects. I'm wondering where this indefatiable energy comes from, this compulsive need to exhaustively document your reading habits. I know you're a professor and writer, but I've known quite a few like that, and none have been so feverishly tasked at creating an archive of their daily thoughts as you. I've glanced at a few journals, a few computer kept dairies, and made my inspection of Jack Kerouac's journal released not to long ago(he made an entry every day) and none of it, compares, in even the palest way, to the prolificness you exhibit here. I'm sure even the writers you admire don't write as much as you! Is it out of a need to keep in shape, your mental muscles primed? Is it a challenge? The off-hand, reckless style of your prose would seem to suggest the opposite: that these profusions, these effusions, this glut of ideas seems to balloon out and over quite unstoppably. There are no self-imposed motivations. I'm just really curious. I've noticed sometimes you post multiple times a day, some of them loaded with extended quotations, but if so, filled with your countless challenges and interjections and interrogations or laudings or dispraisings or qualified respect. You never make simple pronouncements, there is always a slant, a parenthetical modification or amplification. I admire that, and wonder about it.

  2. It's a very interesting set of questions, one that perhaps deserves a post of its own in response. The short version? I just really like blogging--I find it suits me--I have always been this kind of a reader and thinker-about-things and now instead of having it all buzzing around in my head I can get it down here and move on to the next thing I want to think about. I really love writing, I write a lot of 'real' stuff other than here, but like most other writers (I imagine) I end up spending a lot more time revising and polishing than writing the things in the first place. I like editing, but the real kick for me comes when I write something for the first time, getting thoughts into language and making something new. So what I get here is a bit of that fix on a small and insignificant scale, with high proportion of gratification and low proportion of trouble.

    I think reckless is a good word for the mode I work in here (I was greatly complimented once when a writer I admire called my academic writing style "dashing"!), and there's surely some element of keeping mentally in shape (and a significant dose of "now I've written down what I think I don't have to keep thinking about it any more"--that is the thing writing is really good for, it's not really a good metaphor because it's too close to the literal truth but blog-as-jump-drive so you can clear stuff out as needed). It's definitely not a challenge, it's more for myself than anything else & a good way of keeping myself sane when I'm not having enough conversations with other people.

    All that said, I still don't think I've answered your fundamental question. (I don't know that I have an answer myself, I have wondered the same thing.) Another try: I think we all have a kind of internal thermostat that regulates our activity; mine happens to be set very high; I go a little crazy if I am not reading a lot and writing a lot and generally working as hard as possible. (You can have a Weber-protestant-ethic explanation or a psychoanalytic one or whatever, but there's a common-sense element to it too; I remember one grad-school friend of mine--a really good friend--saying to me once "It's SCARY how much you get done when you're really working hard." There is certainly something extremely compulsive about the way I approach regular work, I am a bit notorious for the coming-in-on-a-Sunday-and-reading-100-admissions-folders-and-making-a-huge-spreadsheet-of-everything type behavior. Useful but extreme.) I'm on sabbatical this year, by the way, so it's big-deal recharging time and not surprising I should have a lot of time for this sort of thing; next year when I'm teaching again I'll be more immersed in day-to-day school stuff and blogging a lot less I expect...

  3. Well yes, that all seems to make sense to me. I have been amateur writer for years. I am only a college student, and I don't profess to have much talent, but always in high school I was singled out, my essays anyway, to be read aloud, and the awed reactions from students, the astonishment form teachers at the suppposed preciousness of my insights, the obvious glorying in language I displayed, in expressiveness, all of it formed a very integral and invigorating part of my high school life, without which, would've been a dreary, humdrum day-to-day affair of physics classes, history classes, interpersed only with teasings, torments, and the typical ridicule I was subjected to for my eccentricities or divergences from the norm. I've somewhat lost this zeal though, whatever I had, it was almost preacher like, a fervor. When I read my essays in class, I could feel myself mounting in oratory, raising from my chair, my voice quivering or fluctating, my face flushed, I really felt on top of the world, invincible, seeing things nobody else was, a sage, soothsayer, a speaker of truths, a seer, all these self-aggrandizing oracular self-perceptions. I could understand intimately the one line of emily dickens most famous poem, or one of hers -- I could understand the "white heat." You do feel gripped with an ungodly fount of cascading energies that you have to disperse, get it out of you, expell. When it was done, you really do feel like you've excorcised a demon, or given birth. It's an amazing high and from my experience the only truest esctacy there is, or the purest, the most unalloyed with other things, and the most unequivically satisfying. When I hear and see jazz musicians improvising on stage, the manic energy, the organicness of it all, the way all the listeners are enthralled or pitched on their seats, wild-eyed and completely rapt, at the mercy of these few men, who are rampaging, playing herbee hankcock imitations, doing rag-time, blues, zigzagging every form, violating every canon, every rule, every convention, trangessing, retreating, reining it in, going overboard, the kind of subservice, anarchic glee that you see, the verve and the brio of the players, that same divine, devouring energy is the kind I feel possessed of when on a roll on the page. That same tingle, that same frisson, the same sort of luxurious decadence in a reckless heedless style, tumbling all out, all so gorgeously uninhibited. You feel powerful. It's incredible. It's why I think anyone should write, and when I see that energy disciplined, harnessed, and put to something other than wild sputterings, I truly wish to learn, to annoint myself a follower and submit every vanity I have to the service of learning from them as self-effacingly as would a devotee.

  4. Though this has nothing to do with what I just wrote, I just got a call from my ex. He was raving, esctatic, asking me to guess the great news. He had just been in New York for fashion week and upon returning to LA met his current boyfriend at the airport. His boyfriend somehow, someway, managed to get a hold of tickets to guess what? THE GRAMMIES!!! A 20 year old, and a 19 year old, students at USC, going to the grammy awards, decked out in the 9's. No wonder I was dumped. I could never give him that.

    Totally random and personal, but it's too good of a story to not tell.

    Life is so strange --- and remarkably, almost pathetically, unfair. Isn't it?