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Showing posts from September 3, 2017

Salut, Kate Millett

We owe a lot to Kate Millett. She was, in a sense, "all over" the seventies, and she burned the notion of "patriarchy" into feminism, and via the national press's fascination with "women's lib", into the national consciousness. But there, I feel, it faded. What was a call to overturn patriarchy and its values became a call to find places in patriarchy. Instead of a critique of the whole value system around the "strong" and the "tough" - these blind, violent impulses - the cri tique softened to a search for "Strong, tough" women. Understandably - the patriarchy didn't after all fall, but strengthened in the seventies. And it wasn't clear how the politics of sexual politics would actually proceed. Still, the goal set by Millett early on seems to me ultimately the more worthy one: in the 47 years from 1970, the degradation of the environment and the incredible stress that is now normal for most working lives has

The American "something"

Hemingway wrote a short story called The End of Something in the fine beginning of his career, when the stylized silences were new, impressive, and deep, and a terrible story, fossicked from his remains by his posthumous exploiters, entitled Everything Reminds you Of Something, at the end of his career, when the simplicity had turned simpleminded and the hardboiled silences had gone soft and squishy – the kind of thing that make Old Man and the Sea so unreadable. The end of something is all about the masculine refusal to speak its pain, while everything reminds you of something is all about the masculine refusal to shut up, even when it had nothing to say. And maybe there’s a story there. “Something” in its American splendor is not considered in Mencken’s book on the American Language. Nor is it in Brewer’s phrase and fable, which disappointingly lists only one something-headed item, viz., something is rotten in the state of Denmark. It is as if the American something were so perv

On Ashbery and a certain tone of poetry bullshittery

I like Paul Muldoon,  mostly. But this paragraph in the obit for John Ashbery in the New Yorker pulled me up short – or rather, while it scrutinized me, I squinted at it: “He managed this by developing a poetry that was absolutely equal to our later-twentieth-century/early-twenty-first-century predicament. It’s a simple argument: a world that is complex requires a poetry that is complex; a world that is somewhat incoherent may actually demand a poetry that is itself incoherent; a world in which no conclusions apply may even revel in its inconclusiveness. To read a John Ashbery poem is to be scrutinized by it. It is less a recording than a recording device, a CCTV screen taking us in. ” Start with the last line, and ask yourself when you considered all poetry a recording – like, never? And the addition of CCTV screen, which I suppose is supposed to be techno-hip, sort of poses the question – is it a recording device or a CCTV screen – or perhaps a hidden microphone, or maybe – I

notes on santa monica

Notes on Santa Monica Beautiful days. If you live in Santa Monica, you face an iron curtain of beautiful days. Granted, there are worse iron curtains. Still, if you want to write, the days, in the monotonous self-affirmation, can give you the frustrating feeling that there’s nothing here to grip, nothing to fight with. True, there is June gloom, there are a few days in what is laughingly called winter where you keep the heat on almost all day, and days of summer where we tickle close to Dixie. But basically you walk out, the sky is blue, the sun is up, the flowers (all immigrants here) are springing with exotic colors and designer stamens, the cars are expensive, the yoga places and gyms are doing a roaring business, and the ladies in the numerous nails and hair spas are all kneeling before obviously well to do women, helpfully rounding nails and, well, aroma pedicuring, whatever that is. Win/win, obviously, up and down the block and all the way out to the Pacific, which is we know