Now reading: The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
Yesterday I was looking forward to reading my book after work. I’d missed out on my usual bus reading time, because on Tuesday I drove to work for the first time since I started my job in 2008, so that Sang and I could go to the suburban Powell’s in the evening and see Atul Gawande. And yesterday we drove across town for breakfast with Sang’s parents, who were on their way home from a reunion, and then parked on campus again. Such decadence. Actually, driving to work was completely tedious, even with the radio. I am relieved that I’d actually much rather ride the bus (since it’s way cheaper and greener).
But yesterday I walked through the pouring rain to the Stott Center before six p.m. to get seats for Sang and me for Winona LaDuke’s talk at seven. Sang was tutoring until 6:45, so it was just me and my book and my notebook on our two little white plastic folding chairs.
The Eighth Day is about a boy who turns twelve and suddenly starts experiencing a day between Wednesday and Thursday. No one else is there, the first time this happens. AWESOME, right? I love extra-time tropes! Except, they are always ruined. Nicholson Baker’s Fermata, so icky. I remember liking Jane Louise Curry’s Parsley Sage, Rosemary, and Time, but it turns out it’s a time travel book. Where is the book about a character stopping time and catching up on studying, getting a little extra rest and tidying up the house? It’s like that wouldn’t make a good story or something, sheesh.
Anyway, this one turns into an Arthurian thing, with descendants of Merlin and the Pendragon and others in various factions, and for some reason it’s a bit of a trudge. It felt weird to be reading a Merlin story in a hall full of Indigenous Studies and Sustainability people. I overheard greetings in Chinuk Wawa nearby!
I’m glad I went to hear Winona LaDuke. I look up to her for finding a way to live as an activist and a leader without giving up on doing the cool stuff that’s important to her, her way. Growing corn and teaching the kids at her grandkids’ school how to braid it, and also running for vice president. Last year she and other Anishinaabe and Lakota riders traced the routes of three proposed oil pipelines, on horseback. Sometimes I feel like being an activist consists of going to a lot more meetings, ugh, and it’s good to see that it can be much more. Sang said on the way home that she’d been worried it would be like two hours of listening to Mo from Dykes to Watch Out For… but it wasn’t at all.
Celebrity dinner party: Winona LaDuke, Eileen Myles, Sarah Schulman.
Yesterday I went to see Eileen Myles at Reed.
(This photo was taken by Tom Orange in 2008, but it’s very much what she looked like.)
One of the lines that’s always in her bio and was repeated in her introduction is that she moved to New York City in 1974 to become a poet. She did become one, and everyone is still curious about it. The students were trying to figure it out: what does that mean, what does she do exactly, how does she decide what to write down and what to make public.
I don’t go to many poetry readings. I find them really awkward. When the poems are short, do you clap after each one? What I really hate is when there’s no applause afterward but a few people feel compelled to go “mm,” or “hnh,” to show how thoughtful and appreciative they are. (Okay, maybe they are doing it completely unconsciously, but IT SURE DOESN’T FEEL THAT WAY.) Eileen Myles couldn’t erase all the awkwardness, but she acknowledged it in a poem, and also did not read in Poetry Voice. She said she feels distrust when poets read like every word is important. “I go to a lot of poetry readings,” she said. “I love them. But part of what I do is not listen. So I read as if a lot of loss will occur.”
I’m going to read more of her work. Maybe even the novel with a main character named Eileen Myles, the sort of thing that usually makes me run screaming!
Just finished: Sorry, Tree, poems by Eileen Myles. Most have short lines and are from one to three pages long. I like how their associations reach farther than my logical mind, but somehow I don’t feel lost. The endings feel like endings, but not overly tidy.
Here’s a bit from “Fifty-Three” that reminded me of my own desire to just look at trees and hang out with them:
I desire a big book about
this not better than them but
Who doesn’t love the text?
a book about trees
it’s like a park
except that all its windows
you look up at the world &
a book is
a web I suppose
saying you come
here to go
which a tree
my best friend
By happy coincidence, Myles will be reading at Reed! On Thursday, April 4, 6:30 PM in the chapel.
And also, though non-thematic: Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine and The Talented Clementine. I picked up Clementine because someone said it was reminiscent of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. Well. Clementine doesn’t name her doll Chevrolet, she names her cats after things in the bathroom. She isn’t told to “sit here for the present,” but she notes that being in gifted class has not resulted in getting any gifts yet. She gets in trouble for messing with the hair of the overachiever girl. And there’s a definite Henry-Huggins/Ramona dynamic between her and that girl’s older brother. It wasn’t reminiscent, it was downright distracting in its parallels.
I got past it, though. It is a little strange how the Clementine books are written in first person, but have more knowing smiles over the main character’s head than the Ramona books do in third person. But there are funny moments and Clementine has a great set of parents. I’m going to keep going with the series.
Reading now: the draft of a friend’s novel. I like the main character’s heartfelt voice, which reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle’s Vicky or Poly a bit. And I’m getting a glimpse of a cultural moment I missed but not by much– a decade, a degree or two of church immersion. Such a luxury to read an editor’s draft, too…hardly any typos or grammatical clunks!
About to read: A Simple Revolution: The Making of an Activist Poet, by Judy Grahn. I read a little, not much, of Grahn’s work when I was in college. I dunno, I’m having a fling with the old-skool. Lesbiate and Smash the State!
The reason I know I’m about to read A Simple Revolution (and also What If All the Kids Are White?), or at least give them a try, is that I got them through interlibrary loan and therefore can’t renew them. Which brings us to
Sadly must return mostly unread: Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, by Heather Love. More academic than my usual reads, but I was intrigued by its focus on the shadow side of queer identity. Pride is compulsory, but what about the feelings it demands we get rid of, like shame, loneliness, and regret? Not that those are my favorite things to feel, but they’re key to our collective history, (see The Well of Loneliness and so on) and certainly part of most (?) of our individual and family coming-out histories.
What really made me take this book home was that I opened it to a quote from another book, José Esteban Muñoz’ Disidentifications, that I found fascinating and spooky in equal measures. Disidentifications is probably also too much theory for me, but here. “Recounting a joke that he shares with a friend, Muñoz describes plans for a ‘gay shame day parade’:
This parade, unlike the sunny gay pride march, would be held in February…Loud colors would be discouraged; gay men and lesbians would instead be asked to wear drab browns and grays. Shame marchers would be asked to carry signs no bigger than a business card. Chanting would be prohibited. Parade participants would be asked to parade single file. Finally, the parade would not be held on a central city street but on some backstreet, preferably by the river.
So now that’s here, and I can go to the book return tomorrow with a light heart.