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3 posts from August 2011

August 29, 2011

Reading Update: Just Disembodied Kids

I was explaining Just Kids to a friend today and she asked me if Patti Smith was a feminist. I immediately said no, although Smith might perhaps espouse feminism if you asked her directly. There's none of it in her work, though, and none of it in this book. Instead, there's her patent desire for boys, and to be a boy, both.

Until the book came out, I was a Patti Smith fan, but I had never delved into her life and wasn't aware of her association with Robert Mapplethorpe. But reading the book made the connection between Johnny in the hallway and Mapplethorpe's delicious hustlers. It all made sense. I'm not a connoisseur of her work, but I'm noticing now that she only becomes physical in the world when she's embodying a boy figure, like in "Birdland," or "Land." Her girl-bodies are all abortive, like in "Kimberly," or "Redondo Beach."

Her physicality is borrowed. And in the book, she has to be herself, so she's not physically present. She expresses no desire, no press or pressure, no sex, no gender. She's a mind wandering through a very physically enacted world, full of drag queens and drug addicts and street hustlers -- all of whom perform and live through their bodies. For most of the book she doesn't drink or do drugs, doesn't seem to experience the sex she has, goes for long periods without sex, goes for long periods without food, fails to describe the hunger she claims she felt, and finally admits to prudishness and alienation around the transgressive physicality of Mapplethorpe's photographs.

All the men she describes have physical descriptions and auras. The women only have resumes. Although she mentions many women who affected her life, reading the book is like reading a life led by a floating mind in an all-male camp.

So it meant something completely different to me than she likely intended when I saw her disclaim a "female artist" or "woman artist" identity in an interview on Youtube from 1998. Aside from my contemptuous "Way to throw all other women artists under the bus" response, I also thought: of course you don't see yourself as a woman artist. In the arts, do you see yourself as a woman at all?

August 26, 2011

Reading Update

Carrie Vaughan Steel
Scott Lynch The Lies of Locke Lamora
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
a friend's novel MS
Tess Gerritsen The Silent Girl

 I think I might be missing a few books in there, but I'm not sure. I've started reading physical books again, not just stuff on my kindle, so it's easy to lose track.

I went through the Harry Potter series again after I saw the last movie, and it's still really good. Rowling was able to maintain the goodies of the first three (nearly identical) books, while allowing the characters to grow up, and the overall atmosphere to grow more complex and dark. Great writing.

Carrie Vaughan's Steel was fun, but since I'm not a big pirate fan, I didn't enjoy it as much as pirate fans probably will. Loved The Lies of Locke Lamora, but got stuck on its sequel. Will be reviewing the Gerritsen for Hyphen.

August 25, 2011

Not My Fault

Today is a Bad Day. I woke up with my alarm and knew instantly that I wouldn't get up. It took me two hours of dozing off and lazing around and cuddling with my cat. At times it felt a little luxurious, but mostly I just felt the fatigue: the mild exhaustion I knew wouldn't go away with more sleep; the minor fatigue that doesn't actually prevent me from doing anything in particular; that is like fog, that retreats in a vague diameter around you as you drive forward, but doesn't dissipate, and closes in behind you as you go.

It's taken me three years, but I'm finally learning to recognize the Good Days from the Bad, on a granular level. And I'm slowly learning to recognize that Bad Days are Not My Fault. When I started to really slow down three years ago, getting these waves of energy loss and occasional fatigue, I thought it was my fault. Of course, I was still drinking then, so I could blame them on the occasional hangover (although I was becoming surprised at how aging can cause you to get a hangover from one glass of wine.) I was also still drinking caffeine at that point, so I could treat the "hangover" with caffeine.

Three years and a myriad symptoms later, I'm through with the medical concept of blame. Being a lifelong chronic illness sufferer, I actually get blamed by my doctors for new symptoms less than most women. It's not the who's to blame game that I'm over, it's the what's to blame: which illness? Which condition? Which system? What can we blame this on? What is the single, root cause of your current suffering, and which drug can take care of it?

I've been seeing the evidence for thirty years, but it finally all came together for me earlier this year when I got dizzy again. I had started having dizzy spells in 2007 and was told by the ENT that it was most likely a virus that infected my inner ear and there was nothing I could do about it, only wait for it to go away. It did and I didn't think about it again until last year when I started getting dizzy spells again. The next ENT diagnosed it as BPPV, an easily treatable condition that you treat with exercises. I did the exercises, it went away. When I ask the doctor if maybe the previous bout was also BPPV, he laughed and said probably; they just diagnose the virus first because that's the protocol.

This was disturbing, but I didn't think about it until earlier this summer when I was hit with the worst allergies I've ever had ... accompanied by a return of the dizzyness. This time, the exercises didn't work right away, and it didn't matter anyway because I was so fatigued and sick-feeling from the allergies that the dizziness was the least of my problems. When the allergies cleared up -- lo and behold -- so did the dizziness. Then I remembered that the "BPPV" had also appeared around allergy time and disappeared as allergy season died down.

I didn't consult an ENT this time. Instead, I thought about it: what if it never was a virus or BPPV at all, but was always allergies? What if allergies had affected me the way a virus did, so it was essentially a "virus" after all? What if it was both a virus and BPPV? What if there were other factors? What if he only diagnosed BPPV because that's second on the protocol? Etc.

Upshot: the dizziness went away, but I still don't know for sure what the problem was and may never do so. The main point is that the dizziness went away, and if and when it comes back, I know it will most likely go away again, and I just have to manage it until then.

And the same thoughts can be applied to all my problems. There's probably more than just one cause for everything that's wrong with me -- given how many things are wrong with me. I can't wait for the savior diagnosis. I have to just live with what's going on now, and still have a life, even if things don't get better.

Sounds depressing, but it's actually heartening. It makes me feel stronger.

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