Jun. 1st, 2008

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This would be even scantier if I hadn't decided a while ago to include short story collections on occasions where I read them straight through, keeping them in that same "book I'm reading" conceptual space that novels go in. I'll probably start letting in narrative nonfiction on the same provisions, too, if I haven't already without noticing it.

Elizabeth Bear, New Amsterdam
Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock (reread)*
Nancy Lee, Dead Girls
(* I almost understood it this time.)

The short fiction we're reading for Women in Literature (represented here despite my predictions due to the above) is mostly good but predominantly very bleak; it's wearing me down a little. (I don't think the somewhat wonder-minimizing genre conventions of "mainstream literary" fiction are helping.) Working to counteract this are the in-class discussion, which is awesome; the new group of friends I've acquired from it, one of those tight-knit and ephemeral sudden pockets of intimacy that college sometimes fosters among people taking a course together, which I don't dare expect to be durable very long in its present form (though I do hope to keep hold of at least some of the individuals), but which I'm rather pleased and amazed by while it's here; and the nonfiction we're assigned, which tends to be much more invigorating. Today I was reading a translated copy of Luisa Valenzuela's "Writing with the Body", and I read,

"...I don't believe in the ineffable. The struggle of every person who writes, of every true writer, is primarily against the demon of that which resists being put into words. It is a struggle which spreads like an oil stain. Often, to surrender to the difficulty is to triumph, because the best text can sometimes be the one that allows words to have their own liberty."

And then I read it again, three or four times. "It is a struggle which spreads like an oil stain." Writing it out here, it becomes a quotation, and it is the sort of thing one says in quotations, at least in form, so one is ready for something like it and I don't think I've captured what it was like in that moment. To come upon these words, not set apart but flowing from and in the context of other words before and after, for me was like unexpectedly being kissed.

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Andy H.

February 2013

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