Friday, February 16, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of February 16th, 2007)

It's true, Gentle Reader, that I have Read The Week. I've also Written The Week, Gamed The Week, Watched The Week, and, because of the Awful Accident Of Washing Machine Proportions, I've done a fair bit of Washing The Week, as well. It has been, all said and done, a Rather Productive Week, at that.

Writing the Week
Perhaps it's because That Dreaded Chapter has finally (finally!) been turned in to The Director. Or perhaps it's because I'm easing back into fiction writing, after a bit of a hiatus. The Dissertation drains many of the creative juices, I admit, but after quitting smoking 6 months ago (and still finding myself, so many weeks later, occasionally craving), I found all forms of writing more difficult than they used to be. Not that writing is ever easy. But it can be, sometimes, as well as fun, and rewarding, and therapeutic. But you see, all of my writing rituals were caught up, the past 15 (!!!) years, with cigarettes, and while I relearned how to Write Academically without a cigarette, I did not, with great success, relearn how to Write Creatively without one.

Writing is hard, difficult, sometimes painful work. Even further, it's lonely. No, no, Friends, I don't mean in the writing of it, but rather, in the releasing of it. It seems that when I finish a project, whether that be a novel, a short story, or a dissertation chapter, I suffer a bit from Postpartum Depression. That is to say, my baby has gone off in the world, perhaps with snotty nose, or wrinkled clothes, and I have to watch her go, without me. In moments like this, I think back to Anne Bradstreet and her claim in the poem "The Author to Her Book" that her book is a bastard child, smudged and blemished, but still, much loved. That original book of her poetry, taken from her by her brother-in-law and published without her consent, is

"Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view." (lines 1-4)

The exposure of the thing, the publicity of it, embarrasses, brings every flaw, every hole and problem to light. As Mrs. Bradstreet claims to her book, she

"Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call." (lines 5-8)

But even though she "cast thee by as one unfit for light" (line 9) because "The visage was so irksome in my sight" (line 10), she can't help but feel that

"Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw." (line 11-14)

Yet being my own, I, too, find affection for that thing I've created, for that thing-which-is-mine, and I, too, try to spit-polish it to perfection. But sometimes, in the process, we make things worse, rather than better. For the book, certainly, but also, for us. Or sometimes, we cling too long, refuse to let it go off into the world, abroad, and be exposed to public view.

I've quoted Mrs. Bradstreet on this blog before, and not because I have any particular love for Seventeenth-Century American Poetry. Quite the Opposite, in fact. I am, as I have always been, whether personally or academically, firmly entrenched in Nineteenth-Century English Literature. But Mrs. Bradstreet's talents call for much discussion, as her poetry speaks to us, and in particular, to aspiring women writers, even three hundred years after her work was written. Because we can relate to the panic of separation. Because we can see the usefulness of the childbirth metaphor for the act of writing. We can commiserate with the simple fact that Mrs. Bradstreet, in fact, usurps this tradition from male writers; childbirth metaphors, particularly in poetry, were, at the time of her usage, a masculine convention.

Her subversiveness, the very act of writing her maternal body, fascinates us because we see the legacy of it. Irigaray, Cixous, so many women writers urging other women to write. So many women writers urging, nay, supporting the feminine act of writing. We shall write in white ink, shall we not? And we shall revel in the fact that writing is a process of the mind as well as of the body. The body, as well as the mind, writes in unison. One cannot exist without the other, for women, or for men. No Cartesian split here. Not for Bradstreet; not for Cixous; not for us.

Gaming the Week
Strangely—-and believe me, Gentle Reader, I am the first to shake my head over this odd little connection I am making—-this mind/body split, or rather, this mind/body reconnection, actually calls to mind the new Nintendo game system, the Wii. While I have not played much, or played long, I have tried out the Sports game that comes with the system, and I truly understand the appeal of the Nintendo Wii. For gamers, yes. There is more control here, with a controller that can be held in the right or the left hand. As a left-handed person, I truly appreciate the versatility of the system, the ease in which I can settle into a position made for anyone, rather than try to adjust my body, awkwardly and uncomfortably, to a system made for the right-handed majority.

Even further, I see the appeal for parents. The Wii is an interactive system, designed to foster movement from the players. That is to say, as I boxed with the controller, I actually boxed with my arms. I beat my opponent with a knockout, yes, but it was due to how far back I pulled my (left) fist. How fast I drove it forward. As America, in particular, is concerned with the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of its youth, the Wii is a system that is designed to get those same kids up and moving. And, of course, the rather sedentary thirty-something academics.

I've yet to play Marvel Alliance, and I am heartbroken that Justice League Heroes is not yet available for the Wii, but I will keep you updated on my progress, Gentle Reader, as I become intrigued by a gaming system for the first time in my adolescent or adult life.

Well, that is, other the Atari, after all.

Reading the Week
Over the weekend, I read the scariest book I've encountered since Stephen King's The Shining. If you enjoy horror, Gentle Reader, of the psychological and can't-sleep variety, might I recommend Scott Smith's The Ruins, which was recommended to me by Mr. Reads, and to the Reading Public by the Master of Horror Himself, Mr. King? But it's not for the faint of heart, I assure you. I stayed up Quite Late the evening I read it, both finishing it, and waiting for the Fear To Subside afterwards, as well.

And as I take book recommendations seriously, I rushed out on Wednesday to pick up a copy of Heart-Shaped Box by newcomer Joe Hill, all on the word of one Mr. Gaiman. Of course, if Neil Gaiman Himself tells one to read a book, one has no room for refusal. I'm a few chapters in, but had to pause for sleep, and daylight. It seems another book that one shouldn't read in the night, or in the dark (gratitude, Ms. Jackson).

Anticipating the Week
One of the advantages of finishing projects, however, is the beginning of new projects. And what a week, Gentle Reader, for new project beginnings! New fiction, new dissertation chapter, new directions on older fictions, new anticipations and concerns and delights, all waiting to begin. And thus I should, it seems, both presume and begin, right now.

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