What’s your slightly painful short-term goal? Do you have one, even?

Hayez,_Fracesco_-_La_Meditazione_-_1851I’m trying to read and write more. Sparrow and Zorro Smitty are always talking about new writers, and I’m all out of the loop. Granted, I’m very well-read on the American and British Romantics, and I’ve read my Milton, and the Harlem Renaissance writers, and the prose works of e.e. cummings (you really ought to get down with The Enormous Room if you haven’t. It’s about his time in prison during the First World War, and it’s fantastic), but nobody cares about that stuff anymore. I open my mouth and it’s as if a pile of dustbunnies and cobwebs has fallen out. Musty old books–who cares? Nobody! On, on, on and on, on–I must move on to the new stuff the kids are reading. I mean, if I’m going to go to writers’ school, I’ll be laughed out the door if they find out I’ve never really read any Franzen (only a short piece or two), or David Foster Wallace! I haven’t, you know. And I’ve only read one book by Junot Diaz. I got tired of him when he was on the New Yorker welfare dole, along with Updike and V.S. Naipaul, who could write any bullshit they wanted and it would get published in the late 1990s, early 2000s, no matter how bad it was. There’s only so much Nabakov you can lean on, Seer, only so much Delillo you can have under your belt and say you’re well-read.

So I’m reading again. Lots of my friends have great suggestions for modern (or are we post-modern? Like I give a shit) writers to read, including Quink and  Calliope Ducks. The problem is, for every book of pleasure reading, I feel I need to pick up something that’s really, really good for me. Some wheatgrass reading. I have all this Derrida and Foucault and shit I feel I should read. Not because I enjoy it at all! No siree. Because I feel I should make my brains stronger, and because I want to know what it is when other people talk about it. I don’t want to be out of the loop. I want to be educated. But so often, it’s like eating chalk. It’s so unpleasant. It tastes terrible, and it’s hell to get down, and it takes forever to read, and I have to reread paragraphs over and over again to make sure I get what it says. Or I don’t and I feel stupid.

Knowing I have this ahead of me keeps me from reading the fun stuff sometimes. (I don’t know; is Infinite Jest fun? It doesn’t look fun from the heft of it. It looks like literary broccoli.) Why, why do I put myself through this? Why am I still hung up on who I should be? When will I let myself be who I am?

I know I’m not the only one with painful goals for self-actualization. Most people’s just seem to be around exercise. Well, I haven’t been to yoga in months! Not since I went on the Kayoed. It killed my appetite for exercise. So. Well, okay. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.

What’s your conflict today? Ah.

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6 comments

  1. subWOW

    Your mentioning Foucault and Derrida brings back nightmares. Nightmares of when I lied to myself that I knew what I was talking about so I could pretend what I was talking about when in fact I had no idea what I was talking about while at the same time suspecting that nobody else knew what they were talking about, including the professor. How about Walter Benjamin? (whose name you HAVE to pronounce not with a “j” but a “y” to show that you are in the know ugh) Theories du jour do change every decade or so. I was hoping by now Foucault is no longer a required reading…

  2. subWOW

    By the way, all these theorists struck me, when I was in my rah rah women of color unite and empower rage, as ALL white, male and Western. Looking back, I don’t think I was wrong in making that kind of judgement and preserving my skepticism.

    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      We can love Foucault’s complete queerness, though. But yeah, it’s so old, white, and male–and stale.

      And I feel like such a fucking traitor! Because I have a dirty secret: I really relate more to middle age, white, paranoid men than I do to any other demographic of writers. It’s terrible. I have such a hard time with most Black women, especially, and they’re supposed to be my people! Except bell hooks and Nztoke Shange and Audre Lorde. Most of them, I just feel they’re so mediocre.

      Ugh. I feel like I’m perpetrating the patriarchal power structure. Or maybe I’m just a creature of my environment. I don’t know. I just relate more to Kafka, and Delillo, and Beckett, and Will Self than I do to Walker and Angelou.

      And I will not persist in always calling Black and women writers by their full names! If they are well-known, we can call them by their last names like real fucking writers. We know who Wright and Woolf are. Jesus. So derogatory. I mean, if I was talking about someone like Joe Wright or Penelope Woolf okay then, but let’s be serious about serious writers who have vaginas and different colored penises.

  3. subWOW

    Me too. I feel like a traitor too. As skeptical as I am towards the attempt by the white male “theorists” to theorize the world away and dissect the world and see something universal in everything, I too am more gravitated towards the dead white male canon when it comes to literary works. I am not even Christian, and yet, for example, I find Paradise Lost particularly resonating. I cannot tell you one single female author if you ask my who my favorites are. I was obsessed with Steppenwolf, Damian and Notes from the Underground in my youth and I will admit I haven’t read anything contemporary that came close to haunt me as much as any of these. I feel guilty when I couldn’t force myself to go gaga over Beloved (please forgive me if this sounds blasphemous…) yet I remember the feelings I had when I was reading Invisible Man (I may have forgotten most of the story, but the impact still feels vivid, does that make any sense?) I cannot force myself to like something or be moved by something simply because of some sort of arbitrarily forced perception of shared identities or background. I used to pretend to myself. But I think I have reached the age (and also being far away from the academia) where I can say, FUCK IT. I like what I like.

    p.s. Morrison is known by her last name now, right? She’s won a Nobel for goodness sake. LOL. So that’s a start, eh?

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