29 August 2016

0 debo tells a truth

"you can have an exciting life in britain or you can have responses to your emails-- which do you choose? you cannot have both."

26 August 2016

0 between the books



last night, between books, i cast sad cow eyes upon my bookshelf and realized that the jackie books i read for two decades no longer give me pleasure. once escapist, now they present only a realm full of first person plural interjections, mind-reading, theatrical scene-setting, block quotes, failed metaphors, and concocted telephone conversations.

i have so diligently torn them apart these last few months, and become so technically proficient in how they do what they do that i can no longer enjoy them. it's hard to enjoy a book when you know the page count of it's endnotes and bibliography.

for real, the idea of reading edward klein's just jackie makes me shudder. with the possible exception of reading it aloud to someone. i could read it aloud to someone and we could laugh and then there would be the necessary distance wherein i could enjoy it and not have to think about how perhaps it is ethically unsound.

the great hope is that one day i will be able to read my own book and it will substitute for all these books i've slagged. but then, i'm also harkening back to a time when i was a younger, more naive reader and writer. perhaps now i'm cynical and jaded and will never enjoy anything so simply ever again.

my dad has reached a point in his comfort with dying that he derives great joy from books he feels he is reading for the last time.

given our family's propensity for casting off books and re-buying them, i'm wondering if perhaps he isn't playing a dangerous game in selling all the books he's done with. what if he lives to 80? inevitably, he'll want to read them again.

the books i am talking about are awful. they are brilliant, but they are awful. jackie's grief after dallas is likened to rearranging furniture. grief, it seems, isn't just like a sofa you can move to the other side of the room.

they are awful. i can say that now i've pulled 23,762 words out of thin air over the last three months to convince everyone they are necessary and worthwhile and have value. they can be all of those things and still be awful. that is, actually, precisely why i believe they warrant study.

AV is having all her horrible health things and wanted to get acupuncture. the physio's head nearly exploded when she said so and the physio, appealing to her higher nature as an academic, attempted to deter her from pursing "quack-medicine" by saying, it's not like you would read the daily mail and write a journal article about that!  

to which AV, of course, said, ha! my dear friend oline does just that.

and lo, my muckrakery saves! AV got her massage, if not her acupuncture. and perhaps the daily mail will no longer be this physician's go to for things one would never dream of writing an academic article about.

i am waiting for a book to arrive. a book that may or may not have something to do with the article that i have had accepted for publication in a printed collection which has not been sold to a publisher. an article i have not yet written.

i am about to embark upon the writing of an article for a book that does not yet exist.

it seems i have no trouble with non-existence.

i've been working with extant things for so long and jackie things too. it feels rather delicious to take on something different, something new and not yet done.

like sitting in a confined space for too long, the need to stretch the legs.

25 August 2016

0 the ruling from judge lindear

0 mixed messages

you finally figure it out and you get it and you tell people and they just don't want to hear it, garebear tells me, without even the slightest of trace of irony as he finishes telling me about his recent epiphanies regarding the 1960s.

about all of the things that, a year ago, i continually tried to engage him in conversation and about which he, at that time, said, ah, but that is the past, what does it matter? 

this is to do with stories in general. because you cannot make someone listen to the story you have, the story that you know will help them understand something about themselves, if they are not yet ready for it.

but i think it is also do with families.

there is some ugly, persecuted part of myself- one among many of the least attractive parts of my self- that wonders if one's family can ever appreciate that one is an expert in something.

not just jackie. jackie they'll give me. but even a slight pivot and we move into uncertain territory.

in the strange, scarring series of conversations that unfolded around my birthday there was discussion of chappaquiddick. a word which i am nearly absolutely certain that i alone within my family can accurately spell. and yet, they have opinions.

opinions versus knowledge. perhaps i'm just too easily cowed, but it seems opinions always win.

maybe we do not really want to hear anything beyond that which confirms what we think we already know.

it's far easier if ted kennedy killed some girl whose name we no longer remember.

far easier to arrive at the story when you're finally ready for it.

but then aren't we all being dragged against our will into the whatever is becoming in ways we do not understand?

i am pained by joygerale's exclamation in memphis that the one thing she's sick of seeing in recent literature is the use of the present tense.

and here i thought i'd been so unique when, really, i am a part of some literary trend to which i'm too close to see. the librarian sees a fuller picture while the writer sits here stubbornly glaring at the computer screen trying to will a book into being, trying to be innovative, trying to do something everyone else isn't doing when, really, everyone else who is trying to do something innovative in this same moment may wind up doing that same innovative thing and we are none of us innovating because our innovations will appear replications, copies.

my father wants someone to tell him what it all means. i think what he actually wants is for someone who shares his perspective to assemble the story in a way that differs from his and yet aligns just enough so that he can see his own within it.

perhaps this is all any of us want.

i've been thinking about voice and perspective and ventriloquism and silence and stories and experience.

about how much my reading, maybe even unbeknownst to me, is about recognizing pieces of my own experience within what i read. glimpsing some bit of myself or some version of myself in someone else's story or voice.

and how much my writing is about leveraging a voice of my own out of that.

in the first grade, i was told to stop asking questions in class because it was more important that the boys should learn.

a date once told me that i sounded so different in writing. more confident, more interesting. and that he preferred me there.

after the viva, one of the examiners took issue with the fact that i use multiple voices, one for critical writing and another for creative. she said, you have to learn to merge them.

there is a part of me that thinks that may be true.

there is a significantly larger part of me that believes it is not. that you have to use whatever voice you have, whichever voice will get the job done and to which people will listen. all of the voices.

i'm just realizing that it may appear to this examiner incredibly spiteful that my corrections are all about polyphony. she encouraged unity. i seem to wind up always with fragmentation.

a protest of sorts, perhaps. but it feels necessary. and, though it sounds exhausting, it occurs naturally.

the pieces, the voices are necessary. because getting away with it, with writing, means hiding in plain sight.

0 the morning kanye






23 August 2016

0 you guys, they are not giving up


0 when this is all over, we'll do something

some days ago, i was talking to debo about when this is all over and how i want to wind up somewhere that i can wear a bathing suit. solely due to the realization that i've not worn one since april 2012, which seems an unreasonably long time to have gone for a girl who wore a bathing suit the entire year she was three.

debo says, go to reykjavik.

debo has been saying we could go to reykjavik for years. ever since the one night, in buying airline tickets, she got curious as to whether it would be cheaper for us to meet in iceland than for her to fly here. (it was not.)

this morning, upon awaking early to work (awaking from a dream wherein i awoke early to work, going on to live a day wherein i lived in paris and discovered a bookshop with a secret back room devoted entirely to volumes of nancy drew and sweet valley high), i was greeted by an email about a panel on life-writing and the internet at a conference next summer. a conference which, in contrast to a dream-life in paris and a bookshop with a secret back room of late 20th century YA, struck me as meh.

but then, there it was.

reykjavik. 

a magical word that kept clanging about my head in the disorder of an early morning wherein i accidentally spent hours working in the wrong file and, at one point, was reduced to googling my PhD title because i can no longer recall it.

reykjavik. 

i could wear a bathing suit there. or so debo says.

and so i broke down and googled this conference. and there, under the keynotes, at the very bottom, just beneath karl ove knausgård: lo!

my literary spirit animal.

reykjavik: it sounds evermore magical now. 

22 August 2016

0 my initial thought: what a strange place to forget an apostrophe

but, no. really. they meant it.

a sad lack of caroline's, non?

18 August 2016

0 are we there yet?

A video posted by Ohlighn (@ohlighn) on


0 insecurities in the UK

an austrian colleague is reviewing the draft of my corrections before i send it to the examiner to discover whether it is wildly off-base. in his reply regarding how quickly he planned to respond with edits, this colleague noted that what i have written looked "exciting."

i'm prone to exaggeration for story-telling purposes but it is actually an accurate statement to say that this is the most effusive praise regarding my work in the last three years and eight months.

i'm trying to savor it. trying to allay the anxiety that, if what i have produced this summer is not what the examiners wanted, then i've absolutely no words left to give.

since may, i have written laughably, ludicrously many words. which is saying a lot for someone with a tendency to over-write and then pare.

in being a better editor than a writer, things tend to billow and contract, as huge chunks of text are tossed aside, sloughing the detritus produced when i was writing my way to a point and saying the same thing in ten different ways in an effort to find the most efficient approach. that is par for the course.

producing 20,000 new, useable words in a three month span, that is not.

while i thrive on impossibility and operate best in a realm where i'm doing things people have repeatedly told me cannot be done, i also realize the ways in which this approach is neither awesome nor particularly kind.

when i went back to therapy last summer, with all of my "narrative problems," i used the word "blistering."

and the therapist reeled back. a vivid word, she called it. an accurate one, i said.

i once had a professor who was obsessed with how we lived in an age where everyone expects to be "spoon-fed." perhaps it was williams. it sounds like williams. the man responsible for all the scholarships i won as an undergrad and yet who never once gave me an A on a paper. a man who, in some cruel twist of fate, the mississippi state english department repeatedly assigned to the class i was required to take for graduation in the year that i was required to take it, ensuring that he and i were stuck together for the full four years.

i remember, when applying for graduate school, very deliberately asking for recommendation letters from him only for the lesser tier schools- the ones i didn't really want- for fear that he'd hold forth with an indictment of my dangling participles and i'd be denied entry.

as i write this, his words clang about my mind. but it is not that i want to be spoon-fed. my out-sized ego regarding my ability to write and debo's constant assurances that i am a genius are adequately sustaining. what i doubt is my ability to convey thought.

the most consistent feedback within my writing life has, since college, been that my work is beautifully written. i am a beautiful writer. i accept and believe this. (my father would warn here: don't go and get the big head! he needn't worry: the steady drip of rejection and the short-livedness of all victories in a writing life renders ridiculous this concern.)

i've a sneaking suspicion that being a beautiful writer is like being a pretty girl.

in college, my papers in every class except williams' received As, and they nearly all also carried the criticism that they were "vague."

this criticism, in and of itself, was vague and i use this as an example in teaching now, telling students to ask for clarification of feedback they do not understand. because there's a chance i could have avoided an undergraduate career of vague papers had i just once asked what that meant in the context of my work. as i didn't, it remains a worry.

last march, an agent replied that my work, as presented, was "unconvincing."

there is a tendency to focus on the negative, even on just the single most negative word, and to let it reverberate ad infinitum.

the last feedback i received on the corrections was that it was "readable and seems thorough." immediately, my field of vision narrowed in on that seems. the expanse between something seeming thorough and actually being thorough is vast and treacherous. they difference between well done, and hey now, go do it again. an expanse in which all of my insecurity has, inevitably, set up camp.

AV and i've joked that when this is all over, we're going to write a daily mail exposé on the critical/creative PhD. we won't. because one cannot burn that bridge, but oh my god. there comes a point when one would like to set fire to something, if only pages and words, to take the edge off the seeming endlessness of the ongoing ordeal.

how many of the things we do would we still do if we knew their full difficulty at the outset?

still, even as i complain, i know. given the chance, i'd do nothing differently. this is the way it needed to be. this is the way shit gets done.

and that is, in the end, life. if it wasn't this, it'd be something else. i'd be doing something else somewhere else and likely still whining that, with each passing morning, noon, and night, i never manage to get so far as i'd like or do so well as i'd want. it is what it is.

i am reminded that women's shoes fit so poorly that an entire industry has arisen around blister relief.

17 August 2016

0 this picture

from a 1986 barbie convention is my new favorite thing. 


because the sullen astro barbie with her big-ass ring, obviously. but also... my sweet lord, for real, what is her friend wearing?!?!

multicolored sequin skirt over silver sequin leggings.

dare we even imagine the top?! sequins, right? but of what variety? or, am i wrong, and it's a black leather top to match those crazy platform shoes?

when we were in college i didn't really know joygerale but, from afar, i thought she was the coolest person ever because i once overheard her telling someone how she dressed up to write her papers for english class. like, she'd devise an outfit simply to sit down and write about the use of tableaux in the house of mirth.

hearing her say that in 2001 or whenever, i thought to myself, this is who i want to be.

this is now who i am. someone who lolls about in a dollhouse flat wearing sequined hotpants to write about feminine silences and nuclear fear.  this seems equal parts extravagant, ridiculous, perfect, and like something i maybe would not do if i did not live alone. 

but now i'm wondering if i've been too minimal with my sequins. perhaps i should be wearing them all at once?

0 seriously

this is the wackiest looking cat. 

16 August 2016

0 dead day

speaking of katies... 4 years ago today, i received notification i'd gotten into kings and then the katies and i stood in the loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogest line of all time.


0 parking

k.smartt was in town. we refer to all of our rendezvous as "dates" now.

because, when we met in london in february, we went on a proper date, segueing from coffee to dinner. and because, in the midst of that date, we talked a lot about dating and also because our date was so clearly superior to the actual date of the couple next to us who spent their whole meal on their phones.

this date was planned entirely through me texting k.smartt's sister.

we met in notting hill and lunched at a restaurant dedicated to princess diana then sat in kensington park gardens finishing the last six of the 36 questions we began on the ride down to mantachie back in june.

these meetings are such a luxury. an afternoon here and an evening there, it makes it seem like we almost still live in the same city, though neither of us do.

i'm in her phone as "Caroline In London Eaton."

at one point, we rang k.lo. solely so k.smartt could see how fun it is when, in ringing k.lo, "k.lo (hopeless romantic enchanted by the power of dressing hair)" sloooooooowly scrolls across the screen.

in doing this, i knew k.smartt would find this amazing and, though k.lo would not pick up, she would totally understand and appreciate why we crank called her when it was later explained.

languor. that's the word.

there's a languor in these moments that pleases me to no end. a languor in these friendships, and also an ease. where, for months, you communicate purely through texted links or book recommendations and then, when you're in the same city, you just sit on a blanket in a park somewhere and pick up the same conversation you've been having for years.

15 August 2016

10 August 2016

0 hillz

in telling me he'd found this photo, garebear said, in it, she almost looks normal.

to which i replied, wait. you're saying that in a photo where she's holding an alien baby, she only looks almost normal?


09 August 2016

0 the middle-ending

debo has coined it "the middle-ending." like middle-earth, she says, in case i didn't get the joke.

debo has resorted to lord of the rings metaphors in order to describe my corrections.

this is not a new thing. sensei has described the whole jackie project as "taking the ring to mordor" for a solid five years. but here we are and now it is my mother.

she is referring to the fact that i have a beginning, a middle, and an end. but there is, between the beginning of the ending and its end, a gap of what i approximate to be 2-3 pages which i have not yet written.

2-3 pages which i have not yet imagined but am nearly certain must exist.

it is what will come after this...

translation: i am going to analyze my own decisions in light of this impossibility. 

because there is maybe nothing i want to do less. and across the years of writing, i have found, that the space i least want to occupy is usually the space in which i end up pitching camp. the point of least comfort in the community of all of the things i absolutely do not want to say. 

a circumstance likely tied to the essential role of impossibility in my writing process. 

to work, i must feel the work is impossible. this is why i have wound up in therapy after every major development in my PhD. because in time, that impossibility in and of itself becomes impossible. one can sustain possibility within a context of impossibility for only so long. 

it gets to you, diminishes you, productively i'd say, because it benefits the writing, but eventually it pervades and you begin to believe it and then you wind up in therapy with "narrative problems" from which you must claw your way out.  

i operate like a raiding party now. allowing a day or two down the rabbit-hole, refusing to set up permanently. i will stay the day but not the night. because it is almost pleasurable at this point. an imaginative strut that involves the type of writing during which, because one is pursuing madcap (impossible!) lines of inquiry and, to do so, one's inhibitions must be lowered, one is at liberty to sip wine. 

there is an ease to writing like this. a horror as well because, my god, what if there is nothing? what if, at the end of it all, there is nothing further to say. 

but even then the stakes are low: the paragraph above is deleted, the point of my dissertation becomes that i have done something weird and only moderately defensible.

and, in reality, i accept the fact that, actually, there is nothing more to say. i wrote the book i wrote. it is what it is because this is the way i found to tell the story. i am, in writing about what i have done, imposing an intellectual rationale upon something which was done instinctively. the whole enterprise is, in a huge, unignorable way, completely false. 

the falseness of this is both absurd and amusing and a huge part of why i loathe academia. because, in academia, this is what one must do. 

and yet, there is another part of me that sees the value in the imposition and the falseness and the whole silly ordeal. a part of me that allows for the possibility that in doing things in a given way, i may have been responding to something i'd not yet considered and which- if i write enough words and meander through enough sentences i'll discard later- i may actually, gradually, in some small way, come to understand.

i once wrote that writing is a dark hallway down which we blindly strut. a statement i would stand by. a statement that, five years later, mired in even more incomplete projects and even more convinced of my inability to communicate my own genius, i have quite possibly never considered so true. 

because even as i resent it, hate it even, all this flailing about, expending so much energy on a handful of words over which i will, ultimately, lose control. still, i thrive in the dark, on the drama and the ordeal.  

how you put the words on the page and they come off the page and you arrange them and they rearrange themselves and you strike them and they humble you and then you set the whole lot to the side, in a file you don't open for ages but you eventually come back to, in ten months or two years or twelve and, though it is still there and it has not changed, it looks different. and you think my god, what genius wrote this, because it was a prior you. a you to which you are now less attached. a you you are no longer.

all of these things we have written, they diminish us, and yet there we are, in them. a trace of something, someone we were once. like a photograph or baby teeth or an old lover, all those words with which we were once so intimate, which were once a part of us, now distant. 

there's beauty in the distance, in their endurance. penned in the dark, it's only later we see them in the light. 

(chatoyant! i imagine garebear would exclaim here. chatoyant.)

05 August 2016

0 bachelorhood

debo has been away. when she is away, garebear calls himself a "bachelor."

in his bachelor life, he says, he is artsy.

he has read five books and watched seven movies. he is disappointed that it was not more. i remind him debo has been gone for a grand total of four days, but he swears this is not up to his usual standards.

i also question his definition of artsy given the fact that 50% of the films he watched were directed by m. night shyamalan. but garebear is adamant. he has been artsy.

garebear has discovered a new word.

chatoyant.

like an opal, he tells me. it shines into itself

as opposed to a diamond, i say, which sparkles out? 

YES!!!!! garebear exclaims, with an enthusiasm greater than his typical enthusiasm because it is an enthusiasm built up over the course of four days spent alone. 

evidently he's a member of a pen group on facebook and posts pictures of his pens there (learning this makes me question whether the secret life of garebear is a book i would actually want to read). and someone responded to one of those pictures to celebrate the pen's chatoyancy. 

chatoyancy has been word of the day for three days now, so dear whoever that was: thanks for that. 


04 August 2016

0 ryan lochte

there's something almost george w bush about him.

actual words i wrote k.clen about ryan lochte in april 2013.

of course you remember ryan lochte... the american swimmer who isn't michael phelps. 

waaaaaaaay back in 2012, k.clen was team phelps so, of course- to be contrary and so she would have reason to frequently evoke the phrase "we're fighting!"- i was team lochte. 

fortunately, four years later, we're still friends and these dudes are still swimming and all our allegiances still stand. 

let the games begin.