The Blog of Chloë and Pete  

Two characters (that would be Chloë and Pete) looking for love, safety, and Krispy Kremes. A book looking for readers and a publisher. An author (Jessica) looking for an agent, a life, and a region-free DVD player.

email: jessica_lynn -at- watchmail.com

About Me 23.07.02

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Lileks has written before about music from the first half of the 20th century; he does again today, with a few shots at popular music (Christina Aguilera, namely) in the meantime. He's smart enough to recognize some of the World War II-era songs as propaganda; I suspect Natalie will be smart enough to be amused by, rather than worship, the Christinas of 2010. But then again, I listened to Huey Lewis and the Newis and Paula Abdul during my preadolescent years, which may have warped my mind irretrivably. Especially that damn "Cold Hearted Snake" video.

I bought two CDs of wartime songs -- one American, one French -- a couple years ago. The American one I literally cannot listen to without bursting into tears. There's one song titled "I Came Here to Talk For Joe," in which the male singer finds his friend Joe's sweetheart, and reassures her that Joe loves her, he loves her very much, but he can't be there to tell her so because he has to go fly a couple missions, so he asked his friend to deliver the message. Since my late grandfather's name was Joe, and he was in the Air Force during World War II . . . and my grandparents met during the war, and it's possible that my grandmother heard that song on the radio while they were dating . . . I can get through sillier songs like "Dig Down Deep" and even sadder songs like "I'll Never Smile Again" pretty easily, but I can't play the CD all the way through.



  posted by Jessica @ 05:44 |


31.10.02  

 

I swear I didn't read this before I wrote my last post, even though parts of my last post originally included the phrase "gaming the system." The columnist probably didn't read me either, sadly.



  posted by Jessica @ 09:12 |


30.10.02  

 

My inbox yesterday included this:

. . . if it's a searing blog-analysis of world events, so be it, but there's got to be a way for you to communicate your opinions to the rest of the world if not to shape it. And I truly think you owe the world that much.

Judging from my hit counts, the world isn't feeling the debt that badly, but hey.

Same email:

-- Do you think the gas was something Russia had developed as a weapon of mass destruction?
-- Do you think the gas was a good idea as a means of resolving the hostage situation?

On the first: from the evidence, I doubt it. If you've used a weapon of mass destruction on your enemy, you generally don't feel the need to shoot them in the head afterwards. (Which brings up its own set of issues: wouldn't shooting someone in the head cause some sort of spasm in their body, and thus increase the risk of setting off the bodybomb? I suppose it would depend on the range.) They clearly didn't want the world to know they had stocks of The Unidentified Maybe-Opiate on hand, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's lethal.

On the second: define "resolve." Remember when I said the only person who cared less about the hostages' lives than the terrorists themselves was Putin? I think the events proved me right. There were two possible approaches to an early resolution: the goal being to get as many hostages out alive as possible, or the goal being to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. If you choose the former course (which, in this case, carries the risk of a jittery terrorist or hostage blowing up, but so did each of the previous 58 hours), then you take the time to stock the antidote and alert the doctors, seal off the hospitals in preparation, and so on, on the calculation that the hostages lost while you put that into place will be a smaller number than the hostages potentially lost to gas poisoning (now 115 and counting). If you want the situation resolved immediately, hostages be damned, then you skip those steps. Putin is not particularly concerned with looking humane, tears aside; hence, I think, the shooting-incapacitated-terrorists-in-the-head move. An American, British, Australian, Canadian, or Western European force would have been more likely to try and send more troops in and disable as many bodybombs as possible, because the goal would have been to respect the process of the law, even if the idea of keeping potential suicide bombers alive was morally repugnant. But if the goal is to say to Chechnya as a whole, "We will kick your ass, and your mother's, and your child's, and your dog's, and furthermore we might even enjoy it, and the more you fight back the more we'll enjoy it," then gassing your own people and shooting terrorists in the head does the job.

Putin in particular, and the Russian state in general, is ruthless and contemptuous of human life. That, in a nutshell, is what makes the Chechnya situtation different from the Bali attack or the attacks on Americans and American soldiers. Ruthlessness and contempt for life, in the American army, is generally not tolerated when revealed -- and you might hit me of scores of times when it's been perpetrated by American soldiers, American companies, or the Israeli army (depending on your particular worry of choice) and not revealed; but I'd be willing to put money on the table that no invading American force ever behaved like the Russians have in Chechnya. Contempt for life on the American part is a stain to be hidden or revealed, depending on your relation to the stain; on the Russian side, it seems to be a part of the general game plan.

Now, I don't think this is some endemic part of the Russian character; I do think it's one of the nasty aftereffects of the Soviet system, which ended up being largely about contempt for law (as is much of Chinese politics today). In Soviet Russia, and now in post-Soviet Russia -- with the trappings of democracy and capitalism, but with apparently little ability or will to enforce the laws that govern both -- the powerful bully the weak, the weak amorally employ any strategy possible to become powerful, and anyone with any sense of decency, which by and large, I'm guessing, includes the 115 dead, the 300 hospitalized, and their families -- gets caught in the middle.

I was thinking last night: I never had any truck with the "Bush knew about September 11th" idea. My faith in the American government was never so weak that I was willing to consider the possibility that that it would kill me without considering me its enemy. Maybe I'm naïve; still, I wouldn't want to be a Russian living in Russia right now.

My point is -- out of American chauvinism, perhaps, I'm far more willing to accept Putin's (and Boris Yeltsin's, and the Russian army's) responsibility for creating the atmosphere that led to the theater seizing than I am to accept American responsibility for creating September 11th. It doesn't make the Chechen terrorists less hideous in their calculations than the September 11th ones, or the suicide bombers in Israel; but nor does it mean Bush's automatic acceptance of the equivalence between the Russian "war on terror" and the American one. I do think that as long as Chechens believe that their lives, in Russian eyes, are worth nothing, they'll consider the idea of pulling similar stunts. And I don't think Putin's handling of this crisis gave them any evidence to the contrary. To answer the question: was the gas a good idea? In someone else's hands, it could have been.



  posted by Jessica @ 07:19 |



 

On Teresa Nielsen Hayden's excellent blog, which I'm sorry I didn't find until today (via Bookslut -- once again, yay Bookslut), I found the following comments on the 2000 election, from Teresa herself (to this entry:

It was worse when the mob attacked the building where the recounting was happening and forced it to stop. Here are things that are known, not opined nor conjectured, but known, about that attack: Many of the rioters were known Republican aides and campaign workers, some of them of long standing. Many of them had come in from out of state. The "riot" was not spontaneous. It was intended to stop the voting recount, and it did. And the trail of the money that paid for their work and upkeep and other expenses while they were in Florida traces straight back into the Republican organization proper.

Repeat: All this is thoroughly known.

When I learned about that, I started thinking about how many laws had been violated: An attack on a government building. An attack specifically intended to stop a voting count so that the true results could not be known. Voting fraud. Election finance abuse. Riot. Denying the basic civil rights of the voters whose votes went uncounted. Conspiracy to commit same. Crossing state lines to commit same. Hell, I'm not sure you couldn't invoke RICO on this one.

Then I looked again at how little they'd done to cover their tracks: Known faces. Known financing, tracing straight back to where it shouldn't oughter. And they weren't worried.

At that point I got scared, as I've never before been scared by or on behalf of my government; and that fear has never gone away.

There are plenty of bloggers who'd argue that with her, point by point; I'm not willing to do it, because frankly I watched the 2000 election more with bewildered amusement than with any sort of fear. I voted for Harry Browne in 2000 -- feel free to point and laugh; me, my boyfriend, and Philip Michaels, we're the three people who voted for Harry Browne -- but I didn't feel particularly afraid; chagrined, admittedly, but not afraid.

I remember election night my boyfriend arguing about Al Gore selling nukes to China. I looked at him, incredulous: "You think China nuking us is a bigger threat to you than my needing an abortion?" I still think that; but, partial-birth and no-stem-cell-research silliness aside, Bush hasn't been nearly as dangerous on the abortion front as he could have been.

Anyway. I bring up Teresa Nielsen Hayden's comments not to pick them apart or Fisk them -- the lady deserves far better, from what I can see; I bring them up because I really hadn't considered the events in that light before. My general reaction to "Bush isn't our president" has generally been an eye-roll and the opinion that he's in the White House, even if it took a stupid court decision to get him there, and anyone who doesn't have the military power to get him out is going to have to learn to live with it. (And it's not like we're going to excise Rutherford Hayes posthumously from the record either.)

But I hadn't considered the possibility that, instead of just another episode of Wacky American Politics, Bush's ascendance to the White House was a sign of something truly rotten in the state of America. And I'm certain she's not the only reasonable person whose reaction to Bush, two years into his term, is still so violent. The question then becomes: how do we get these people back on board? If the 2000 election really did lead to so much alienation from the political process, what do we do to restore the trust and engagement?

I'm 24. Many people my age aren't voting. Those of us who do care (and I'm being a bit hypocritical here, since I won't be voting in November -- long story) and want some answers for the people who will actually be here in 2050, have some work to do, I think. Only I'm not sure what. Or how. I certainly don't know what I could say that could make Teresa Nielsen Hayden feel better.



  posted by Jessica @ 08:12 |


29.10.02  

 

In Which Jessica Stops Getting Political, Since That Wasn't Getting Any Damn Comments, And Starts Getting Personal; If You Want an Analysis of the Resolution of the Moscow Hostage Crisis, You'll Have to Request It

So Mike asked on the forum, "Are there any songs that take you back to a specific place or day in your life?" And the first thing I thought of surprised me: hearing David Gray in a Media Play in Paragould, Arkansas, April before last.

My brother-in-law (which he isn't, but it's easier to say that than "my boyfriend's brother" or "that guy who slept on my couch for three days and went shooting with us") was getting married there, because the bride had grown up there and wanted to get married close to her ailing grandparents. At the time my boyfriend found out about the wedding and his appointment as groomsman we had been together barely six months and I'd moved to New York a month before. He grumbled. He repeated the gossip about the wedding costs in mounting disbelief. He bitched some more. He tried to conceal his affection for his brother (and his concern that he, the older one, wasn't the first to be getting married) and kept failing. "Do you want me at this wedding?" I asked. "It's either you keeping me company or lots of alcohol," he said.

About a month before the wedding my co-worker loaned me White Ladder. Work was stressful without yet being appropriately rewarding; 2001's long, gray winter was simply looking longer and grayer; it was the first time in two years I hadn't been home to participate in my family's annual Final Four contest; and I missed my boyfriend terribly. Such a combination plus David Gray is pretty much guaranteed to bring on floods of sentiment and self-pity. I listened and cried in the office bathroom and wondered if we were doomed anyway -- if I'd been hopelessly naive to think I could have him and New York.

So we got to Paragould, Arkansas -- our first trip together, my first time meeting his family, his brother's wedding, et cetera, et cetera; I think we were both more nervous than we cared to admit. (His mantra over the prior two months had been "Let's get through the wedding, and then I'll worry about . . . ") His father was there. He adores his father, though he's too much of a boy (and too realistic about what to expect -- his parents divorced when he was five) to put it that way. Deep down I was terrified his father wouldn't like me. His father likes me.

The afternoon before the wedding the four of us -- my boyfriend, his dad, his dad's fiancée, and I -- went to the local Media Play, since we'd already hit the local Wal-Mart three times. (There's not much to do in Paragould, Arkansas.) While we browsed the limited book offerings "Babylon" came over the store's speaker system. "That's the CD I was telling you about," I said to my boyfriend, who smiled indulgently. Since then he's noticed I listen to songs -- on the radio turned low, over the PA system at the supermarket -- when he's tuned them out. I stood in the aisle and listened, though I knew the song. It might be the most optimistic song on the album:

Saturday I'm running wild, and all the lights are changing, red to green
Moving through the crowds, I'm pushing
Chemicals are rushing in my bloodstream
And only wish that you were here
You know I'm seeing it so clear, I've been afraid
To show you how I really feel
Admit to some of those bad mistakes I've made.

It's not great poetry, admittedly, but it was the right song for the surge of hope I was feeling then -- and joy; scared, quiet joy, but joy nonetheless, that I could actually become a part of his family.

It's only been a year and a half since that day; it may not work out, still. No relationship between two people with marked occasional depressive tendencies should be counted as a sure thing. A friend of mine told me last week that she feared I was "co-dependent" and that the various signs -- the age difference, the fact that we've been together two years without a proposal and that it'll be at least another two, if he sticks to his game plan of finishing school before making that kind of commitment -- did not point to my actually marrying this man. She fears he'll either prove an egg thief or unfaithful. There is some truth to that why-buy-the-cow cliché, she said; he might leave me high and infertile in three years.

I didn't argue with her much, because she had long strings of cause-and-effect and I had isolated, idiosyncratic points. Like planning to drive with him from Atlanta to Dallas for Christmas and actually looking forward to it. Like playing board games at two in the morning. Like discussing buying his brother a Vampirella figure, laughing and relaxing before we had to go back to the hotel and change into formal wear, and me saying, "That CD. That song that's playing right now. Every time I listened to it, I thought of you."



  posted by Jessica @ 12:33 |


28.10.02  

 

The New York Times is now saying the terrorists will start shooting at 6 a.m. local time, which is 10 p.m. EDT.



  posted by Jessica @ 16:02 |


25.10.02  

 

Paul Wellstone spoke at my friends' graduation ceremonies at Swarthmore in 1998. Whatever your political feelings, he was a strong and principled figure, and his death is really a blow. My condolences to his sons and grandchildren and the families of the others on the plane.

No news from Moscow in a while, except that four Azerbaijanis have been released. The real question will be what happens at about half past midnight here, 5:30 a.m. London time, which will be sunrise in Moscow -- which is when the terrorists have said they plan to start shooting hostages.



  posted by Jessica @ 15:40 |



 

Reuters has a list of nationalities in the theater: it includes four Americans (which is actually three citizens and one permanent resident, the American ambassador to Russia said yesterday), three Brits (though there were reports of an elderly British man being released yesterday), three from Qatar, two from Australia, one from Canada, and a group from the Ukraine. Several reports have said the terrorists have kept people of different nationalities apart.

It's interesting reading reader responses on the BBC website -- a great deal of the "Russians brought this on themselves and should get out of Chechnya immediately" variety. It's somewhat tempting to smirk at British writers saying they don't know why such a little piece of land is worth all the trouble, and an Irish writer giving the equivalent of one man's terrorism, etc.

I think, if anything, this situation makes Putin even less likely to pull out of Chechnya; to do so would be to reward the terrorists, and thus probably (to his mind) encourage further terrorism. I think it's more likely that he'll try to brave the terrorists out, and if they call his bluff, eradicate Chechnya. Not attack it, not destroy it, not level it, eradicate it. The Russian government's attitude towards the relatives is not a good sign.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:35 |



 

According to the Times of London, both the hostages and the terrorists are able to watch TV and see images of families keeping vigil.

Here's more on the reporter requested by the terrorists, as reported by the Guardian. Apparently her speciality is reporting human rights abuses by the Russian army; the Guardian makes the offhand remark that she's "been the victim of torture," though it doesn't say by whom. Her own report for the Guardian in February 2001 mostly has army men calling her a bitch and threatening various obscene things -- she didn't actually get "the mittens," as one of the women she interviewed described. I'll leave you to find out what "the mittens" are.

So the question becomes: is it fair to discuss human rights abuses by the Russian army in Chechnya when looking at the hostage crisis? It's not the same as questioning whether US policy in the Middle East ended up causing September 11th. A better analogy would probably be if, in 1971, a group of Vietnamese had taken a movie theater hostage and asked to speak to whoever broke the story of My Lai. It's not incredibly hard to imagine the terrorists patting themselves on the back for treating their captives better than Russian soldiers treated Chechen captives: they haven't raped anyone yet, for example. A historical link does exist between the Russian military and mass rape, and I wasn't surprised that the Russian journalist found stories of both Chechen men and women being raped.

The common theme I see is the loss of dignity: what makes the Russian army's crimes in Chechnya so brutal, and the hostage crisis correspondingly brutal, is not murder, or the prospect of murder, but the torture/rape/confinement that precedes any murder. (Note the detail that the woman killed had her fingers -- and, according to some reports, her wrists -- broken, though she died from being shot. It's possible she fell from some sort of ledge and her fingers were broken in the fall; it's also possible she was beaten before being shot.) The race is not how fast you can kill your opponent but how much you can make them suffer, strip them of their dignity and make them sob and wet themselves and crawl at your feet, before you kill them. Which to me is more terrifying than September 11th or the sniper.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:08 |



 

Today's update: Several children were released, but talks to release foreign hostages have broken down. Apparently the hostages are not being allowed food, a burst hot water pipe has flooded the basement, and the orchestra pit is serving as a public toilet. A journalist and doctor, the latter carrying some medicine, were allowed in. The woman killed night before last was two years older than me. Apparently about 15 terrorists strapped with bombs are constantly monitoring the auditorium, ready to blow themselves up at the first sign of an invasion.

The hostage-takers are Wahhabis, according to a former hostage interviewed in the Moscow Times. So is Osama bin Laden (says About.com; more from Beliefnet). The Washington Post says the terrorists issued a new demand: that the relatives of the hostages organize an anti-war rally in Red Square. The New York Times has an analysis of Putin's popularity and what this could mean for him politically. The first offer has come from the FSB: release the hostages and we'll spare you, which seems like an awfully hollow promise to a bunch of people who've already stated they'd rather die than live. The Russian forces apparently don't plan to move until hostages are being killed, anyway, though if the latest threats are true that could happen as early as Saturday morning Moscow time, which is eight hours ahead of New York, three hours ahead of London.

I'll tell you the truth: I don't think the people in that theater are going to come out alive. Jen Taliaferro thinks that if they were going to kill the hostages, they would have done so by now; I think they are quite determined to kill the hostages, but first are going to milk this for all it's worth. Which is probably not going to be a lot -- any other world leader, they would have picked just fine, but in Russia they probably found the one democratically elected man who cares even less about the lives of the hostages than the terrorists themselves do. I'm not pulling a moral-equivalence bit here; I'm saying Putin is ruthless, and if he decides that he cannot rescue the hostages without compromising national security, then not a single relative's plea will induce him to change his mind. In the meantime, the terrorists have their carefully constructed hour upon the world stage, and they're probably enjoying watching their hostages suffer and try to look brave.

The one thing they have done, and I didn't think it was possible, was to make Mohammed Atta and his comrades look positively merciful. The people on those planes suffered for an hour, not a week. A week! Can you imagine wondering, hour after hour, if the next moment is going to be the end of it? You get to think about all the things you'll do if you get out. You hope your loved ones are doing okay. You start picturing how they'll cope without you. You wonder if anyone on the outside cares. You wonder why you're there and the people who saw the musical two nights ago are safe at home . . .

I don't know why more people aren't responding to this. Even the bloggers seem preoccupied with the sniper. People! Part of having a gun culture is that occasionally nutjobs come along to shoot up gas stations and malls and McDonald's and LIRR trains and school playgrounds. Maybe someday I'll get shot. Or someone I love will get shot. It's entirely possible. But there are worse things than getting shot, as 700 people in Moscow are finding out right now -- and the silence everywhere else seems almost deafening.

"Ain't shit you can do about it," my boyfriend said on the phone last night. I know. I still have this childish desire to beat my fists against the sky, call down God and tell Him to quit it. My view of the universe is still that egocentric. But there really is nothing I can do; so I sit and read, and read some more. Which was exactly what I did the week after September 11th.

CNN now has stills from video taken inside the theater.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:31 |



 

The FSB wants to know who might have financed the hostage-takers, considering they seem to have plenty of weaponry. A "terrorism expert" I've never heard of also thinks the terrorists might be being paid.

A possible negotiator, who the hostage-takers requested, has arrived. About 700 people are still in the theater (though there's some dispute of that; the BBC is reporting only 500). There have been several cases of gunfire heard in the theater. According to the New York Times, the terrorists have said they will not free any more hostages.

The body of the woman who was killed has been retrieved, though she hasn't yet been identified.

Here's Google News's page of stories about the crisis. Most of them are out of date. The best source at this point may be Interfax, the Russian news service.



  posted by Jessica @ 16:11 |


24.10.02  

 

The National Review's take on the Moscow hostage crisis. There's an undercurrent of, "Perhaps when Putin used 9/11 as a reason to crack down on Chechnya, he wasn't that far off base," though they don't say that explicitly. The Economist has a little more background on Putin and Chechnya. Interestingly enough, the BBC calls the hostage takers "rebels" and not "terrorists," and say a woman reported shot was a Russian security officer; ITAR-TASS, for what it's worth, says the woman killed was a hostage.

The Moscow Times has the odd report that "40 Chechen widows are participating," which is about 30 more women than anyone else is reporting. CNN Europe reports that they may have attached explosives to hostages. Classy.

It makes me wonder if the timing of the sniper shootings might have been deliberately planned. Put it this way: the two biggest terrorist events since September 11th, the Bali bombing and now this, both come at the same time the sniper is striking to get the maximum amount of American attention. If he had shot a dozen people in Albequerque, Carson City, Montpelier, or Kansas City, would it have been front-page news so quickly and so often for so long? Because we ought to care far more about the Bali explosions or the Moscow crisis, which sounds horrible, than about some prick who can aim and get around the Beltway. Once he's been officially caught and sentenced, the next question after "Why did he do it?" will be "How did he get from Rockville to Seven Corners? Does that work? No traffic?"

But no. All those editorials that came out after 9/11 about how the American worldview has changed -- bullshit. We're all as single-minded and unimaginative as ever; we can imagine getting shot while standing at a gas station, but not standing outside a theater and wondering if the person we love is going to make it out, because that would mean we wouldn't be speaking English.

Pray for the people at that theater, outside and inside. That is, if you can be bothered.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:42 |



 

Note to Wyeth, the South Carolina Blogger: please tell your guy Hodges to vary his gestures a little bit. And that "you live on a plantation!" ruckus was very silly. But then again, Roy Barnes has gotten away with far sillier.

Anyway. W the SCB, continuing his earlier theme of Blogger Disillusion, compares blogspeak to Newspeak (where "blogspeak" is words like "fisking," "idiotarian," "Islamofascist," etc.). I think it's less dangerous than that -- it's little different from the kids on the MATH+1 forum using "jag" and "trash" (preferably italicized) and "NOKD"; in other words, it's all about the in-jokes; every social group has them. You, too, can Fisk and be one of the cool kids, and bask in your glow -- at least until you meet somebody who's cooler than you.

It's one of my own personal weaknesses that got its start in fifth grade, when I was most definitely not one of the cool kids, and was reminded of such fact on a near-daily basis. (Finding kids who were bitter and rebellious and off to the side listening to My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult would have helped, but I didn't meet them until tenth grade.) Since then it's been one quest for cool-kid-ness after another, all of them ending in disappointment -- most recently, my desire to be a cool sexy blogger girl, only to realize that after Sasha and Dawn and Brooke and Megan and so on and so forth, there isn't much room left for another sexy blogger girl, except in the boundlessness that is Pejman's heart -- but the point is, in the tradition of the best pulp racist well-dressed Southern heroines, I keep chasing after something I'm not going to find, won't recognize it when I do find it, and if I do recognize it, won't necessarily want it any longer.

And I'm never going to be one of the cool kids. There will always be parties I'm not invited to and in-jokes I don't get. In seventh grade I remember developing the feeling that people were talking about my back, even though I couldn't prove it, and it's led to every non-link, non-invitation and non-reply leading me to the conclusion that the person on the other end must think I'm obnoxious and weird and probably booger-prone. Particularly this year, when -- it's a long story -- both old and new friendships have been tested and not really survived.

So that's where my current disenchantment with the blogosphere comes from. Having a blog hasn't solved any of the existing problems -- hasn't gained the book much publicity, hasn't helped me actually write the book, hasn't given me a good idea of what bits of writing work and what don't, hasn't solved my ongoing procrastination problems -- and could possibly create new ones (i.e., if any of my co-workers evere were to strike gold on the Google search). I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Step back, take a deep breath, and look hard at what I want from this blog, is my first guess.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:18 |


23.10.02  

 

Sorry for the lack of updates: have been working. No, really.

I could say more, but it would be too self-deprecating to be interesting. Suffice to say that after ten years online, on and off, it is just now hitting me that the world has no need to read my every thought.

To keep y'all busy, another poll:

Favorite Asian male film star:

(a) Jackie Chan, who can be forgiven anything, even appearing opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt.
(b) Sammo Hung, who has never felt the need to appear opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt.
(c) Yuen Biao, who has avoided appearing opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt or Arsenio Hall.
(d) Chow Yun-fat, but only in movies where he dies at the end.
(e) Andy Lau, on the grounds that As Tears Go By and Fulltime Killer cancel each other out.
(f) "Beat" Takeshi Kitano.
(g) Jacky Cheung (who'll be appearing in Atlantic City in December, and you can bet L already has tickets).
(h) Lee Jung-jae, Bad-Ass Cop in a Leather Coat.
(i) Jet Li before anyone in Hollywood had heard of him.
(j) That guy . . . you know. That guy. In that movie. Where they beat up the bad guys, and there's this big fight at the end? Yeah.
(k) Jimmy Wang Yu, the One-Armed Swordsman now and forever.
(l) Stephen Chiau, that really crappy New York Times Magazine profile notwithstanding.
(m) Yu Oh-sung. Preferably muscled. And shirtless. Or at least with his vest unzipped.
(n) Jessica, how could you get to (n) without Donnie Yen?
(o) Or to (o) without Song Kang-ho? Christ.
(p) Takeshi Kaneshiro, because he's just so cute.
(q) Yu Ji-tae, because he's cuter than Takeshi Kaneshiro.
(r) Ekin Cheng, even though most of the MHVF posters, for some reason, can't stand him.
(s) Lee Sung-jae, for that scene on the beach in Kick the Moon alone.
(t) Leslie Cheung. (Who doesn't do it for me, personally. I don't know why not. It's not the androgyny that turns me off; it's just . . . hmm. I found him a little bland in Chinese Ghost Story 2. Let me get back to you once I've seen He's a Woman, She's a Man.)
(u) Tony Leung Chiu-wai, otherwise known as the In the Mood For Love Tony Leung.
(v) Tony Leung Ka-fai, otherwise known as the Bullet in the Head Tony Leung.
(w) Chiu Man-cheuk or whatever his Mandarin name is. Has he seriously done nothing since The Blade and the Once Upon a Time in China series? Sigh.
(x) Bruce fuckin' Lee, man.
(y) Somebody else not mentioned yet.
(z) Cris.



  posted by Jessica @ 20:49 |


22.10.02  

 

Man, why don't I watch televised debates on C-SPAN more often? God bless C-SPAN.

Ten minutes into the South Carolina senators on Meet the Press and I have to say -- I like Alex Sanders. I don't necessarily agree with him, but his speech rhythms remind me of my father's. When I was younger, Lindsey Graham would have pissed me off to no end; now he stumbles -- a very human thing -- and says he'd allow abortion "in cases of rape or incense," and I start giggling. Because I'm so mature.

Does anyone know where I can find online the ad described here, where Saxby Chambliss accuses Max Cleland of having a yellow belly?



  posted by Jessica @ 12:56 |


17.10.02  

 

Ask, and ye shall receive: Greg Greene found me a South Carolina politics blog, written by a Hodges supporter who claims to have fallen out of favor with Instapundit. My question is: who hasn't fallen out of favor with Instapundit? He last linked to me about, oh, six months ago.

Really, I don't think the blogging momentum -- if there is such a thing -- lies with the right wing. It got its start there because libertarianism dominates the techno-geeks, but liberal blogs are popping up rapidly now, and I suspect if America does go to war the number of left-wing blogs will skyrocket. (And those of us who get 30 hits a day in the right-wing blogosphere will see that number sink even further. Which I don't think is a bad thing -- not everyone needs a blog. God forbid.)

Anyway, Wyeth has compiled fifty reasons to vote for Jim Hodges. We could probably get into a big debate over whether state lotteries to benefit education is a good idea -- having seen some statistics on Georgia's lottery while waiting for my boyfriend to get himself a HOPE scholarship, I'm decidedly ambivalent -- but at least Hodges actually got the thing to pass; Don Siegelman, in Alabama, can't say even that.



  posted by Jessica @ 13:44 |


16.10.02  

 

But a comment on Islam being a religion that encourages violence (made sarcastically by Rod Dreher here, for example): Judging Islam as a religion by the current terrorists is like judging Christianity by the Crusades. Any religion has to be judged in the political context in which its doctrines are being taught -- someone who read the Old Testament and looked at Israel since the Seven-Day War, with no knowledge of the time in between, might well judge Judaism to be a pretty militarist religion. Islam, like any religion, is a tool; in the Middle Ages it happened to be a tool that led to some essential scholarship and infighting (at the same time that Christianity led to lots of infighting, some very strange cults, backward medical practices, and a schizophrenic social view of sexual relations -- try Montaillou; it's definitely worth a read). Now Islam is a tool in the hands of dictators, tyrants, small-minded misogynists, impatient unemployed teenagers, and power-addled bureaucrats. If Islam hadn't existed they would have found other tools. You can argue that Islam shaped the social forces that allowed this amoral mass to come to power, but so did colonialism, the Cold War, and geography, to name three. I don't know enough about Islam to know whether it is a "religion of peace" or not, but I don't think the terrorist activities is any real evidence one way or the other towards how the vast majority of Muslims believe or act.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:34 |



 

Contrary to what I said yesterday, this is neither silly nor cryptic. An old friend had published a bunch of open-ended questions in her journal, and, apparently needing a distraction, I answered all of them; but then it occurred to me that posting them here would be passive-agressive at best, melodramatic at worst, and certainly not productive -- in other words, file it under Shit I'm Too Old For.

I'm still trying to figure out what this blog is for. I stopped writing in my online journal, which was under a not-terribly-secret pseudonym, because the temptation was too much to just run off at the mouth at whatever petty thing or internal insecurity was giving me trouble at the moment. Then I switched to a blog, full of political opinions, only to realize that there are thousands of other blogs full of other people's political opinions, and no one has time to read them all, or a reason to put any particular stock in mine.

So, there's the book. By now I think I expected that the revisions would be done and I'd be entertaining you with merry stories culled from agents' rejection letters. When I started this blog I was still in the euphoria of finishing the second draft; it later became clear that it was not a matter of cutting a scene here and restoring some backstory there, but creating an entire third draft, and between moving and work and my usual procrastinating tendencies, said third draft is coming along very, very slowly.

But I think this will be the last one, and I can finally move from the revising-and-editing-and-redrafting stage to the agents'-rejection-letters stage. Meanwhile, I have a day job. Thank goodness.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:26 |



 

Or not. (In the "feeling better today" category.) There are always things I read when I'm feeling down -- Sars, for example, and her JournalCon saga made me laugh out loud; but I've got the beginnings of a cold, to exacerbate the existing afflications: procrastination, paranoia, and Martyr's Complex (treatment: two doses of get-the-fuck-over-yourself with each meal). Moreover, I have finally reached a point in my life where not knowing anything about South Carolina politics is a severe handicap. No, really. Those of you who never have, and never will, needed to know anything about South Carolina politics can chuckle indulgently; if there is a blog out there that discourses at great length on South Carolina politics -- or Alabama politics, for that matter -- point the URL my way? You'd be doing a girl good.

It's been raining all day. I'm looking at a pile of work and the deadline just shrank. I miss Alastair; I wish I'd been in Boston last weekend. I wish I could enter NaNoWriMo and start afresh, but it's called "third draft" for a reason: third draft, third year, third try at making Chloë sound like less of a drip and Pete like less of a twelve-year-old, as my boyfriend once characterized him. I don't know how all the other writers find the time to worry about structure and symbol and meaning if their characters are half as bratty as mine.

Warning: the next entry is going to be cryptic and silly.



  posted by Jessica @ 16:54 |


15.10.02  

 

Feeling better today, in part thanks to the Internet: there's something comforting about being able to sip tea, listen to classical radio out of Latvia, and learn about university politics in Indiana.



  posted by Jessica @ 15:16 |



 

Growing up, of all Atlanta's malls, I lived closest to Perimeter Mall. When I was about eight or so -- I don't remember exactly when, and Google isn't helping -- a guy walked into the crowded food court and started shooting, killing several; it just happened to be on a day when neither I nor any of my friends was there. A few years later some friends of mine left Centennial Park about an hour before it was bombed, and a few years after that Mark Barton opened fire on his fellow day-traders across the street from my father's then-office. I'm never worried for myself; it's the fear of losing someone close to me that gets to me.



  posted by Jessica @ 23:59 |


14.10.02  

 

The latest shooting was at a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia.

Logically I know there's little chance of my friend J or of Mike getting hurt, but . . .



  posted by Jessica @ 23:09 |



 

Finally, some good news to come out of today: Dot.Minion is back. It's the personal website of the very smart and perpetually interesting Lisa Schmeiser, who also writes for Teevee and recaps C.S.I. and C.S.I. Miami for Television Without Pity. Go read -- it'll be worth it.



  posted by Jessica @ 22:36 |



 

By the way, Rod Dreher has posted a follow-up to that "crunchy conservative" piece he wrote earlier for National Review. I definitely think he's on to something; I'm just not all that sympathetic to the conservatives he describes; they sound too much like Virginia Postrel's "stasists" to me.

The debate continues in The Corner, which is much livelier and more informal than I expected. People actually sound like they're having fun . . . I wish my place of employment were as blog-friendly. Oh, well. Finally, Jonah Goldberg has a rambling piece on how the personal shouldn't be political, which I hope he revisits once the baby is born.



  posted by Jessica @ 18:21 |



 

Here's James Fallows's Atlantic piece (or at least some of it) on what America would face if it went to war in Iraq and won. Late in it he points out one point I wanted to make to those who would hope we could remake post-Saddam Iraq as we did post-Tojo Japan: Japan's neighbors were all its soon-to-be-ex-colonies (Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong) or its enemies (China), whereas Iraq's neighbors would probably not be much happier with an American-controlled Iraq than they would with Saddam.

My ex-girlfriend (before she found out about my gun-shooting excursion) wrote me to ask: "You're not seriously in favor of war with Iraq, are you?" Less so than I was this morning, oddly enough. Which isn't to say that Saddam isn't a threat -- he is, and a genuinely nasty one; or that he isn't encouraging al-Qaeda -- there's no doubt in my mind there.

But the Bali bombing, carried out as it was thousands of miles from Iraq and presumably with the help of local terrorists, leaves me wondering if the obvious bogeyman of Saddam isn't a distraction. The worst-case scenario, which Fallows doesn't cover, is that Saddam takes the current interval to smuggle what he can out to al-Qaeda operatives or anyone they choose to work with, then turns his attention to fighting us while al-Qaeda disperses and regroups. They may decide that the best time to strike is the day after the United States announces Saddam in its custody or dead. And unless the US had specifically prepared in advance to recognize that taking out Saddam might result in the strengthening, not the crippling, of al-Qaeda, and acted accordingly, the short-term consequences of invading Iraq might be bad indeed.

Pejman was led to a different conclusion: clean up Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, and then tackle the problems in Indonesia. I don't think we have the luxury of taking them on one at a time: it's too easy for al-Qaeda to set up camp wherever we happen not to be. The news report that scared me the most last fall after September 11th was that of IRA bombers training Columbian guerrillas. It raised the possibility of what other strange cooperations we might see -- al-Qaeda cutting a deal with the Russian mafia, or finding a hideout in North Korea or Burma. Saddam is one of the bigger players in the Let's-Kill-Westerners game -- but he's only one player, and we don't know exactly how many there are, or who the next contestants will be. Would anyone, yesterday, have predicted that the next attack would come against mostly-Australian tourists in Indonesia? Not likely.

If we do get into war with Iraq, it'll be too easy -- especially since Saddam survived the 1991 invasion and since Osama bin Laden is still at large -- to eagerly anticipate the rush of capturing the sonofabitch and making him pay. And while capturing Saddam and creating a safer, more democratic Iraq (if we have the resources, the moxie, and the luck to do such a thing) will benefit us in terms of that particular threat -- which is not small -- it shouldn't be confused with the threat of al-Qaeda or anti-Western terrorism in general, both of which are much more diffuse and dangerous.



  posted by Jessica @ 18:09 |



 

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Mr Salvatori had been there before - searching amid hundreds of maimed bodies for his wife, a Qantas worker.

An hour earlier he had put his two daughters, Olivia, 9, and Eliza, 6, on a flight home to Sydney, telling reporters: "They don't understand. I've told them we're still looking for mummy."

On Saturday night the family had joined about 30 friends for dinner, and afterwards the women went out dancing while the men babysat.

And to think that this would have been inconceivable in my grandparents' time -- the women go out and dance; the men (Australian rugby players, no less!) stay home and babysit. And the women should have staggered home, in various degrees of drunkenness, rejoicing in the company of their friends, knowing their kids were safe and the worst their husbands would do was tease them at breakfast the next morning.

And you can't even say that that was exactly what the terrorists were trying to strike at, this happy, unrepentant, oh-so-Western egalitarian hedonism -- as if they got on their radios and said, "Okay, we see women of all ages dancing provocatively. We're good to go." It wasn't even so specific as to be an antifeminist statement; it was simply a question of causing the maximum amount of aunguish to the maximum number of people.

In Dante's vision of Hell, murderers are in the seventh circle, submerged in hot blood and shot by centaurs any time they try to escape. I hope Dante is willing to accept revisions, because right now even that doesn't seem like punishment enough.



  posted by Jessica @ 13:46 |



 

As for Jimmy Carter's getting the Nobel Peace Prize: I'm glad. Glad, glad, glad, glad, glad.

I know, I know: this is Not What the Blogosphere Thinks. I ought to be condemning the man for cozying up to Castro, letting the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan and Iran become a theocracy, et cetera. It's not really worth condeming the Nobel, anyway -- it's a big vanity project that gets far more publicity than it should, and its winners include the likes of Henry Kissinger and Rigoberta Menchu. About the only thing the Nobel is occasionally good for is giving a boost to worthwhile causes, such as Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, or East Timor in the mid-1990s; retrospective awards like this one are a waste of time.

As for Jimmy Carter himself, I'm more sympathetic to him than most, I think. Back in my old journal I spent one long entry explaining that I suspected people like Carter and Kim Dae-jung, in their dealings with the likes of Castro and Kim Jong-il, suffered less from a failure of nerve than of a willful Pollyanna-ing: they genuinely want to believe that they can talk their way into opening the bad guys' hearts. In the right context such faith in the goodness of human nature can be a wonderful thing; in foreign policy it's not very useful, to say the least.

But Carter is a hometown boy. And the Carter Center has done more to combat diseases such as river blindness than anyone I know of in the blogosphere. Besides, my father had an invitation to Carter's 1977 inauguration -- and didn't go. Even winning a Nobel Peace Prize does not make you cool enough to hang with my dad -- which I knew already, but Friday just provided the proof.



  posted by Jessica @ 13:25 |



 

Well, fuck. Time differences being what they are, I'm probably the last person to hear about the bombings in Bali that make us look pathetically unheroic for spending so much time worrying about one pathetic little sniper. (I spoke to J, who lives in northern Virginia, on Thursday afternoon and the first things he said to me was that he's bought a new car. Oh, lovely, I thought. Fill 'er up.) There's globalization for you: the best way to kill a bunch of Australians is to attack Indonesia. Tim Blair has all the links.

Of course, there's very little we (as bloggers, as Americans, as civilians) can do, other than look on sadly -- maybe leave some flowers at the Australian embassy, if you're in the D.C. area. This is one of those days when I look at other websites and wonder, "Why don't they have anything? Haven't they heard yet?"

This shouldn't have happened -- we should have caught the fuckers by now.



  posted by Jessica @ 09:27 |



 

Perhaps my lone French reader can help me (peut-être mon seul lecteur français peut m'aider): I'm looking to get a copy of an animated film called Le Secret des Sélénites -- literally translated, "The Secret of the Moon People"; it played (once, apparently) on American TV as "Moon Madness." There's information about it here (in French); apparently it was released in February 1984, which squares with my memory of seeing the English version as a child in 1985 or '86. It was the second of two animated features starring Baron von Munchausen directed by Jean Image, who is apparently one of top French animators of the post-World War II era.

The tape my grandparents made all that time ago has long since been lost, but I remember that movie fondly and want to see it again. It may have come out on VHS in the early '90s, and probably has never been on DVD. It's not listed on Amazon.fr. I know any tape I might find would be PAL and would require converting, but at this point I don't especially care. Merci pour tout . . .



  posted by Jessica @ 17:17 |


12.10.02  

 

Here's Jeff Cooper's reason for rooting for the Minnesota Twins, and here's mine. That, and Worst-to-First '91 solidarity.



  posted by Jessica @ 17:59 |


10.10.02  

 

In high school I wrote a couple short stories in which one character, a black woman, smoked like a fiend and reveled in shocking people by revealing she was a conservative. So when I started reading Rod Dreher's National Review essay on "crunchy conservatives," at first I thought, "Interesting basis for a character." (Link via Arts & Letters Daily II: Screw the Lingua We've Got the Franca.)

Then I got to this part:

The crunchy-con bookshelf — and because they eschew television, they have lots of bookshelves — sags with works by conservatives like G. K. Chesterton, Richard Weaver, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, the Southern Agrarians, and Michael Oakeshott. They also read books by more contemporary thinkers like the agrarian essayist Wendell Berry; Jane Jacobs, who championed particularity and diversity in urban planning over the dominant trend toward mass abstraction; media critic Neil Postman; and James Howard Kunstler, whose choleric jeremiads against America's strip-mall Babylon have made him a left-leaning prophet with honor among crunchy cons.

I cannot see Rod Dreher typing this with a straight face. Either that, or he himself has never read any James Howard Kunstler. I read parts of The City in Mind -- namely, the chapter on Atlanta -- earlier this year, and when I wasn't counting the number of typos I was busy laughing at the man's overripe, unsubstantiated, completely clueless prose. Here's the excerpt, if you can stand it. Warning: not for residents of Cherokee County.

I think if you put Kunstler's book and Virginia Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies in the same place, they would stick together the way magnets do, being so diametrically opposed. Postrel didn't talk much about Atlanta in her book -- I really wish she had, because there's a case to be made (and maybe Kunstler makes it for her) that Atlanta is the closest thing to a dynamist city in the South, if not the entire United States. I am, admittedly, a Postrelian (which sounds as if I was the sole survivor of some noble but doomed alien race on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but let's go with it), and it's a lot more fun to look at Atlanta through a dynamist prism than it is to bemoan traffic for the three hundred thousandth time.

My ex-girlfriend, the former Teacher For America, told me this week she was in shock after reading about my playing with guns. I think she might write me off entirely once she learns I've started reading the National Review. Man, I hope not. Next to Larry, she's been my best beta reader so far.



  posted by Jessica @ 11:18 |



 

I'm sure all the conservative horny bloggers out there already knew about this.



  posted by Jessica @ 19:13 |


9.10.02  

 

It turns out B. R. Myers is in Korea and speaks Korean. So he was probably able to go down to the theater and watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and The Turning Gate and Champion and maybe even got to see Too Young to Die somehow. I'm jealous.

(Again, Booksluts had the link, even though they don't seem to be B. R. Myers's biggest fans.)



  posted by Jessica @ 11:11 |


8.10.02  

 

Two things to celebrate today: the appearance of a new site to take the place of the already-missed Arts & Letters Daily, and the happy news of Hannah in LA and The Jeff.

These are welcome counterbalances to mild under-the-weather feelings and the indignity of being a Braves fan. No more baseball for me this year. And really, this year's exit was about as bad as it could get -- losing in the first round after being up 2-1 going into Game 4, my longtime secret boyfriend Tom Glavine getting shelled both times out, Sheffield going 1-for-16, et cetera, et cetera. No, I don't know why this happens every year. I could've gone down to Turner Field and seen a game, but I figured that I'd wait until the NLCS rather than participate in a bastard round of playoffs. And now? No more baseball for me. Sigh.

Zadie Smith is apparently not in a good mood, either. Clearly she needs to come talk about weddings with Hannah and Allison and Jessamyn and all us non-engaged girly girls begging for pictures of the dress. Weddings are almost as much fun as sports -- especially since I don't have to worry about Hannah blowing a lead at the rehearsal dinner.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:58 |



 

Right now I'm listening to the Gin Blossoms. You can be forgiven for blinking and saying, "The who?" but my last couple years of high school, they were huge. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing "Hey Jealousy" for the eight thousandth time. Certain songs, or albums, get branded and converted into exercises in nostalgia: so I can't listen to "'Til I Hear It From You" without thinking of graduating from high school, or the Dave Matthews Band album Under the Table and Dreaming without thinking of warm spring afternoons in the dorm room of the guy I'd just started dating, six years ago.

The problem with these pop-music connections is that while "Lover Lay Down" (or, depending on the relationship and the time period you're talking about, Moxy Fruvous's "My Baby Likes a Bunch of Authors" or the Specials' "Pressure Drop") has very specific connotations for me, any one song's place in the collective cultural memory is fairly limited at best, and thus I can't depend on any of those songs to tell my readers anything about those characters. Nick Hornby can pull it off, but I'm not particularly optimistic about my own abilities to communicate character traits via pop-culture references. And yet I find it hard to believe that my characters wouldn't form such attachments to songs or similarly ephemeral things. One of them is an animé fan, after all.

Sigh. Anyone out there know of a good Utena fan site?



  posted by Jessica @ 19:19 |


7.10.02  

 






Which incarnation of Kylie are you?

You know it.

Actually, I am Shooting Kylie. Has Kylie ever handled guns? In that case I am Can't-Aim-a-.45-To-Save-My-Life Kylie. Or Holy-Crap-That-Smith-and-Wesson-Has-a-Kick Kylie. Or So-That's-How-You-Reload-a-9-Millimeter Kylie. I would say I'm in the running for Wuss Kylie, only there is no such thing as Wuss Kylie.

Explanation: my boyfriend's brother was in town last week, and no sooner had he taken his bags off the appropriate carousel at Hartsfield than he asked, "When are we going shooting?" So on Saturday I got to load my boyfriend, his brother, ten guns, and an appropriately obscene amount of ammunition into Gus (and Gus, being a good liberal little Swede, was not very happy about this turn of events) and drive to an indoor range near Stone Mountain.

The first time my boyfriend put a gun into my hands -- a .22 -- I started crying. I'd expected to feel powerful and scary, all kicking target ass and taking target names, but the noise from the other guns frightened me -- I must have, at some point as a little kid, been very frightened by a loud noise, because upon hearing my boyfriend's brother happily discharge a Glock a partition away, I felt as if I was retreating to some place where I'd been much smaller and more helpless. I began hyperventilating. My boyfriend sent me outside.

After several rounds of this -- put on the earphones, go in, fire the smallest gun my boyfriend was willing to hand me, freak out, run back out -- the manager on duty took pity on me and let me fire in a separate section, with the noise from other shooters more muffled. And I was finally able to concentrate on just shooting the guns put before me and not jumping at every other person's shot.

It took a long time before I was able to shoot the larger pistol successfully. Shooting a gun with recoil (which is to say, almost any gun, with the exception of those tiny .22s) takes almost as much of a mental as a physical effort: I had to consciously tell myself to let my body take the recoil and not remain rigid. By the time we ran out of ammo and energy I'd more or less learned to shoot the Glock 9-millimeter my boyfriend had turned over to me, but the .45 was another level of recoil entirely.

Afterwards the store manager and my boyfriend's brother both complimented me on going back in and shooting despite my earlier essential wussiness ("wussiness" not being the word used, not by my boyfriend's brother at least, but this is a family blog). There is nothing particularly brave about shooting a paper target in a contained area with earphones on, but I was grateful for the reassurances. Mainly I went along just to look different -- to win points with my boyfriend's brother, to distinguish myself from dozens of other hypothetical attractive girls who would squeal and run at the sight of a .45. It's hard to feel like a strong, powerful, armed woman when my insecurities are so nakedly on display.

But hell -- I did something I've never done before, and now I can say I have, even if I am still Wuss Kylie-Wannabe at heart.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:46 |



 

No, we can't dance together
No, we can't talk at all
Please take me along when you slide on down . . .

I've been playing that song a lot lately, and I'm not quite sure why. There's something slippery about it. Those little bursts of keyboard ought to place it firmly in 1981 and make it stick there, but the song feels bigger than a That-Was-Then moment; it gets past 1981 in a way that, say, the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" doesn't get past 1979. But I can't put my finger on how, exactly.



  posted by Jessica @ 00:26 |


3.10.02  

 

An earlier work-related post was deleted. The good A. C. Douglas has advised me, in the future, to send final drafts, not first drafts, to editors. Good advice for everyone.

And now, today's volley in the hyperstylism debate comes from James Wood, who usually scourges the hyperstylists in the New Republic, but has moved to the London Review of Books to review The Autograph Man, the latest book by Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth. (If you don't get text, do a Google search for "fundamentally goyish wood." And then giggle. Thanks to Bookslut for finding the article first.)

What's interesting is that Wood's White Teeth review is still available, so you can compare the two. Wood's chief complaint seems to be that Smith has gone so far into hyperstylism that The Autograph Man isn't worth reading. (He does a mighty fine parody of hyperstylism to illustrate the point.) Thomas Mallon, in The Atlantic, was much gentler, but his criticism is similar to Wood's.

I've been paying some attention to this because Zadie Smith is only three years older than I am (but clearly better at getting off her ass and publishing books) and because White Teeth was a better book than I expected. I'm not passing judgment on The Autograph Man yet; the excerpt published here belongs to a much better book than either Wood or Mallon suggests. Enjoy these literary skirmishes, but take them with the appropriate amount of salt.



  posted by Jessica @ 12:41 |


2.10.02  

 

Back in mid-June, Larry sent me 48K worth of comments on the book.

It's the first of October, and I just opened the attached document for the first time. And it's not because I've changed my mind about Larry as a reader; hell no.

I've been stalling, and stalling, and stalling some more. A month ago I went to a writers' panel at DragonCon on writers' block, and confessed that I don't usually suffer from writers' block -- I suffer from revisers' block. Meaning, I write it, and then I step away from it, and the further away I get the more likely I am to dismiss it completely as crap. Because it's easier for me to write it off and start again than to force myself to look at the existing work closely.

"You're awfully thin-skinned, for a writer," my boyfriend told me last week. And it's true -- oh, it's so sad, it's utterly ridiculous, but it's true.

Larry dear, thank you for the extensive work and thought; most writers should be so lucky. And I'm sorry I've been so neglectful and cowardly. What would Tess Slesinger do in this situation? Or Dawn Powell, or Jean Stafford, or Dorothy Parker? Besides drink, I mean.



  posted by Jessica @ 10:48 |


1.10.02  
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