Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I've never been much for Joyce Carol Oates one way or the other - at most, she's existed on the periphery of my semi-consciousness as one of those writers I really "should" read, but am not all that interested in reading, but who doesn't make me want to stab myself in the face with a nail file. Then my friend Sacha brought to my attention this story from the June 2008 issue of Harper's - and brought it to my attention as a piece of shit, I might add - and the next thing I knew, I was huddled on the futon, basted in blood, my old pal Mack the Knife lodged in my grip. Okay, that last part isn't strictly true, but check out this excerpt from "Suicide By Fitness Center" and watch if you don't see that selfsame dagger before you, the handle toward your hand.
"In these rapidly waning days of the year when the sun sets at ever earlier hours and shadows dart upward from the snow-caramelized earth like malevolent elves, it is a mystery why each day is in fact longer than the preceding day by as many as forty unbearable minutes; and why, since we are not idiots, we continue to endure."
I'm sorry - you want plot? Okay, Comrades, here is plot. Unnamed, depressed housewife joins the Halcyon Mills Fitness Center (ooh, looks like someone's been ripping off Armistead Maupin!), which appears to be somewhere in Westchester County, and whilst working her repressed nerves on the treadmill, ruminates on her fellow fitness center denizens, all of whom have such names as Eggplant Man and Carrot Top and Big Gus (how quirky!)and luxuriates in her seasonal affective disorder, much to the reader's considerable agony (well, this reader, at any rate, and I feel compelled to point out that despite/because of/exacerbated by an MFA in fiction writing earned back in the mid-Triassic period, I nurture a deep hatred for fictional accounts of passionless marriages in Westchester, and that MFA, in my case, appears to stand for Master's in Fucking Around). And let us not forget the ham-handed symbolism of the black cat ("The gym cat appears to those who will die.This thought came to me a few weeks ago. I shared it with no one, of course."). How dark and disturbing! I wonder what will happen...oh, that's right. I don't. Because I don't give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about this insufferable narrator. I don't know who she is, and more to the point, I could not possibly care less why she's all mopey in a fitness center in the NYC suburbs (seasonal affective disorder, passionless marriage, blah blah suck my left tit). I mean, what the frig was Harper's thinking, running this piece of tripe? And is JCO so untouchable that she can shit in a plastic bucket and the literati or its personal assistants will follow her around with a bronzing kit? Isn't "Have the character love something outside of him/herself" one of the immutable rules of good writing? And I thought I was a craptacular writer! Oh, wait, I am, and not just because I use non-words like "craptacular," either. I think it has something to do with my disdain for writing about raw-boned, delicate victims who suffer silently and elegiacally. My disdain for reading about them apparently means I'm stupid. See what grad school will teach you?
Oh, as for the "Joyce Carol Oatmeal" epithet - I stole that from Sacha, who stole it from someone else. I'm too lazy to look it up. But you know, JCO is too lazy to write a decent story, so I reckon that's all right. Oh, wait, it's totally not, because I've never won the National Book Award, and I likely never will, as long as I keep refusing to read/write about elegiac victims.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Thank the Great Gourd in Halvah (of which I keep swearing I'm going to draw a picture, but, you know, stuff and things, things and stuff) for Heartless Bitches International, my dear and kick-ass friend Auntie Poontang for hipping me to the site via this awesome rant (PS. It's called "Just because I'm fat...", and if you know any Cro-Magnons who think fat women shouldn't have romantic standards, forward them a copy of this article posthaste, and buy me a pair of steel-toed shitkickers while you're at it), and our mutual friend DJP for introducing us in the first place. And through MySpace, no less! As my cousin put it, "Who cares if it's mostly torture porn?" Yes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. (MySpace, that is--not my cousin. Or DJP, or Auntie Poontang, or HBI. Or you. Or me!)
Anyhooligans, I've been lapping up the articles on HBI for nigh onto a month now--the Nice Guys? BLEAH! section is especially ambrosial, and should be required reading in every secondary school sex ed class, abstinence only or not--but I could never quite muster the clitoral strength necessary to apply for membership until Sunday night, when I finally said what the frig; I'm gonna do this. I'm sick and tired of trying to make sense out of nonsense; I'm sick and tired of having to defend myself to myself and others, and maybe, perhaps, if I type this shit up and sing a few choruses of "We're Not Gonna Take It" (the Twisted Sister version, although I reckon the one from The Who's Tommy will work just as well, if that is your preferred bag) and send it in, I might regain something resembling a sense of hope. So I typed, I sang, and I sent. (But not before reading my list of "What Makes Me a Heartless Bitch" to Auntie Poontang, whose resounding fight-the-power encouragement further egged me on.)
Fast-forward to Monday morning. I get to work, I open my eight million and one programs/browser windows/envelopes stuffed with receipts, and I check my email. And--what the fuuuuck? Holy painted cats! "Welcome to Heartless Bitches International!" Hot damn! And not only did they accept me as a member in a hot minute, they also singled me out for Exemplary Heartless Bitchitude! Now THAT is just ten thousand degrees of awesome.
And you know what else? I do feel hopeful, thank you. As I said in my application, I derive great spiritual solace from logic and reason, and it's a heady relief to find a refuge offering both in the middle of a shit lagoon of eHarmony, Zwinky and MyPureLuv.com. America is fast returning to its pre-Spanish/American war status, the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and in forty more years, all the phytoplankton will be dead and gone, giving us about fifty more years before we die out or escape en masse to Mars. But as long as there are Heartless Bitches among us, fighting the good fight, those of us who are incapable of not giving a shit can put away the cyanide.
Ah, yes: my entry. You can read it here. Click on the link your own damn self. I ain't your momma. As my Aries bosom friend/wife Ruth would scream, "Stop being such a goddamned LIBRA!"
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Admit it; you totally sat there with your badass older cousin and watched "The Electric Company" and substituted profanities and racist slurs when this segment came on. Y'all don't even gimme that "Eee! That's MEEEAN and disreSPECTFALLLLLL!" bullshit. I'm a thousand times smarter than you are, and I can and will annihilate you verbally and deconstruct your simplistic ass back to the Stone Age.
Monday, March 17, 2008
In my day, we didn't have "emo." We were "clinically depressed" and, as such, put through the Grand Guignol farce known as "suicide awareness." That just made me want to take the gas pipe even more, which probably got me diagnosed as borderline schizotypal. I'm sure it's on my permanent record somewhere. (A friend of mine was diagnosed schizotypal because she told a shrink she believed in ghosts. Her response? "Cool!" Ah, savoir faire. Wish I had more of it. I guess if you believe that Jesus literally died on the cross for your sins, you're normal...?)
If the kids can declare emo a lifestyle choice, then I guess I can damn well claim PMS one too, albeit one my uterus and its conspirators have seen fit to foist upon me.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
I've loved the play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds since my seventh grade drama teacher assigned the opening scene of Act II to a couple of my classmates. (My friend Mandy and I did a scene from Mister Roberts, which meant we were playing guys, and this being seventh grade...well, I got a lot of "ugly fat fucking lesbian" remarks from the real guys, who I hope are all living miserable lives of gray-collar drudgery in the office parks of Central PA. But of course.) The plot centers around Tillie, a gentle, socially inept, and brilliant 15-year-old girl who lives with her slutty, abusive mother Beatrice, aspiring slut/tease, epileptic, chain-smoking sister Ruth, and a senile boarder called Nanny in a ramshackle tenement (is there any other kind?). Tillie is preparing to enter her school's science fair with her titular project. Just as they're all about to leave for the fair, Ruth cruelly whips out a Big, Terrible Secret about Beatrice (who is dressed in a moth-eaten, and probably rabbit urine-soaked mink stole--but of course), who has a nervous breakdown, leaving Tillie and Ruth to go to the science fair without her, and...well, assuming it's on DVD, stick the movie version in your Netflix queue and find out what happens for yourself. I haven't seen it, but it's got Joanne Woodward, so you can't miss there. (God, I hate plot descriptions.)
So the play's kind of fucked up, and maybe teachers shouldn't be giving it to impressionable young women, at least by today's bumper pool standards. On the other hand, the kids having the rainbow parties today are the same ones who were smarmed by the banality of a purple pederast dinosaur in their toddlerhoods. Maybe if they'd had more of an opportunity to find out that life's a bitch, then you die in the safer haven of, you know, books...? I ain't saying; I'm just saying. Except I'm totally saying. So.
This is a, um, graphic depiction of the play's last line, but it's pretty opaque, so I figured it was safe to post. I mean, it doesn't give away the ending or anything.
And this is Paul Zindel, the author. Remember The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger? Same guy.
And this is the incomparable Joanne Woodward with her daughter, Nell Newman, in the motion picture version:
Photos of Paul Zindel and Joanne Woodward courtesy of The Official Paul Zindel Website.