Thursday, February 07, 2019

I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem

Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them, I like the movies too.
And then,
Personism has nothing to do with philosophy, it's all art. It does not have to do with personality or intimacy, far from it! But to give you a vague idea, one of its minimal aspects is to address itself to one person (other than the poet himself), thus evoking overtones of love without destroying love's life-giving vulgarity, and sustaining the poet's feelings towards the poem while preventing love from distracting him into feeling about the person. That's part of personism. It was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It's a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages.
— from "Personism: A Manifesto," by Frank O'Hara.

Lucky poem.

Be gratified. Be the poem.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Mistress of my own text

Am I doing the right thing by telling stories? Wouldn't it be better to fasten the mind with a clip, tighten the reins and express myself not by means of stories and histories, but with the simplicity of a lecture, where in sentence after sentence a single thought gets clarified, and then others are tacked onto it in the succeeding paragraphs? I could use quotes and footnotes, I could in the order of points or chapters reap the consequences of demonstrating step by step what it is I mean; I would verify an aforementioned hypothesis and ultimately be able to carry off my arguments like sheets after a wedding night, in view of the public. I would be the mistress of my own text, I could take an honest per-word payment for it.

As it is I'm taking on the role of midwife, or of the tender of a garden whose only merit is at best sowing seeds and later to fight tediously against weeds.

Tales have a kind of inherent inertia that is never possible to fully control. They require people like me — insecure, indecisive, easily led astray. Naive.
— from Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk.

I am too naive. Weeds thrive in my garden, as do insects and vermin and fungi. What kind of mistress am I?

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Normality — however messy — is far more comprehensible

"Furukura, you're lucky, you know. Thanks to me, you can go from being triply handicapped as a single, virgin convenience store worker to being a married member of society. Everyone will assume you're a sexually active, respectable human being. That's the image of you that pleases them most. Isn't it wonderful?"
It's the image the characters of this novel strive for. It's what most humans aspire to (or is it?).

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata, is a quirky little book that I wish I'd liked more. I found it difficult to connect with — it's the wrong book for my headspace right now, despite it having interesting things to say. However, the novel's emotionlessness may very well be the point — the narrator is a 36-year-old convenience story worker for whom being human and acting naturally doesn't come naturally at all.

Furukura has spent most of her life trying to fit in, playing the role of a normal person, with varying degrees of success. Her job as convenience store woman, which she's held for 18 years, thrills her because it came with a manual. The training included facial expressions and tone of voice to use. She watches her coworkers, what clothing brands they wear, learns where they shop.

She's not stupid — she's perceptive and adaptable; simply, she can't rely on her own instincts regarding acceptable behaviour — this is something she studies closely.

The tone of some reviews is quite condescending toward the main character, and this bothers me. We need people to work in convenience stores. Some people are perfectly suited to working in convenience stores. Clearly such ambitionlessness is frowned upon in Japan and elsewhere. I wonder to what extent some reviews are coloured by this prejudice, therefore misunderstanding Furukura's drive and courage.
I find the shape of people's eyes particularly interesting when they're being condescending. I see a wariness or a fear of being contradicted or sometimes a belligerent spark ready to jump on any attack. And if they're unaware of being condescending, their glazed-over eyeballs are steeped in a fluid mix of ecstasy and sense of superiority.
The twist is that she meets someone, someone unlikable, even despicable. But it suits them both to be perceived as being in a relationship. They are establishing a "marriage" of convenience. They are relative equals in laying the groundwork of the relationship. Furukura initially treats him as a pet. Even though he's a jerk, part of me almost wants to this relationship work, to pull one over on Japanese societal expectations.

In theory, this is the kind of book I should be all over, so I am somewhat puzzled by my response to it. I question my own abilities at work, motherhood, etc. But for the most part, I have stopped caring about what people think. This is clearly not the case for Furukura, whose efforts are all aimed at acceptance. Also, I am fascinated by Japan's asexual generation, but I cannot relate to it in the least. So I found the novel quirky, but not funny, and a little bit off-putting. It sits uncomfortably with me, and I don't know if it's me, the book, or Japan, and I don't know if I'll ever get around to resolving it.
She's far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has lot of problems, then she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For here, normality — however messy — is far more comprehensible.
See also the review in the New Yorker.