Monday, October 27, 2008

Jenny Saville at BU

This evening I saw Jenny Saville speak at BU. She spoke of flesh and bodies, of meat, carcasses, of cadavers, cosmetic surgeons' fists in women's breasts, torture, burn victims, blindness, disease.

In the end, during questions and answers, a young woman lost it. She said she had been traumatized by the images in the lecture, and Saville, as an artist, had some responsibility to warn people (even though there was a sign outside this free voluntary lecture briefing its content) and to paint and speak with some freaking empathy, for the love of god. The images, Saville's voice and expression, they were all just so cold. This girl was really upset. "I'm significantly more traumatized now than when I walked in here," she kept saying, voice trembling, even after Saville answered her over and over by essentially saying, "I'm an artist, my job is to make art from the world around us, not babysit your fragile little mind."

Now that's art.

I loved to hear about her influences. I totally called Rembrandt, Freud, Velasquez, Bacon. She showed us specifically where she had been influenced by whom, down to ways to combine reds and whites (actually, she used the word, "steal," instead of "influenced"). The way she talked about light and the paint itself, you could tell how obsessed she had always been with the medium and the process. Also interesting, she showed a lot of paintings from various periods in her career, and ended the comments on them with, "I actually think I totally failed here. No, I don't like this painting at all."

She lives in a large piazza in Florence with her two children, three nannies, and twenty-two paintings-in-progress at any given time. A young art student who came up all the way from Miami asked her what her painting schedule was like, to which she answered, "Well, I wake up and paint from eight to six, then spend a couple of hours with the kids. Feed them. Put them to bed. Then I'm back in the studio from about eight till one am." Slight British stuttering pause. "I used to paint all night, actually, but since I've had the kids, I've had to paint, um, slightly less."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I have 26 projects which is 20 too many and about two too many emotional trusty feelingsy conversations a week and too many people to trust and one birdlike girl whispering there is no trust not if you want to be safe and that makes sense. I think I used to be a good person. I think I used to be able to sit by the ocean for a moment in grey fall and know that ocean and that grey and that fall. What you want to remember is never how things were. But I can romanticize the coldest truth. My one gift -- I can make a story of anything.

I remember holding the hands of so many people I do not speak to anymore. I remember once my arms moving without my telling them to in time with some foreign chanting. I remember an early music trio in a stone cathedral in Paris, playing in echoing silence to a packed funeral. I remember the ocean bending like a marble and vast. I remember hairy armpits and meatless plates. I remember fighting with the Pacific ocean in a borrowed bathing suit with boyshort hair-- it won. I remember coming up to my parents' house during college, how safe and warm that first inhale through their door always smelled. I remember wanting to be beautiful. I remember wanting to be ugly. I remember so much sadness and rain in Ireland. I remember not wanting to forget. I remember my dog Shadow, in the end, with three legs. I remember being in high school and wanting to be touched. I remember laughing when my Grandma died, because I was a stupid, scared teenager. I remember so many people telling me I was too sensitive. I am still too sensitive. Now I just know how to throw it.

So me being like this I figure I only have a few options. Be an abusive twat, be a boring depressive, be an addict, or just work a lot and fervently. I don't much like making the people I love unhappy, think being boring is worse than dying, can't even get addicted to cigarettes no matter how hard I try, and swear to mom I haven't been drunk in weeks, so I guess that just leaves the stupid work and going and going and trying to remember how to love everyone.

There is a long fat closeknit scarf in a bag that I hope to finish by Christmas. A year ago right now my life was just about to change. I am so much better in so many ways, but I used to want it all inside of me. Now I am trying to learn how to love without hurting. I have goals now, and self-sufficiency, and thick skin, but I used to know how to listen to words and waves and the flapping of crows and the singing of sand.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm thinking of printing a chapbook of poetry myself on Lulu and just touring locally on it. I have a decent amount of poems I'm proud of, and I'm wicked impatient.

If anyone is reading this and has any advice, now would be the time to come out of the woodwork.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm sick. I was taking a nap, and for a second in the final haze before waking up fully I forgot how old I was. I had two great ideas today. One for a limerick sticker I got reading bathroom graffiti, and another for a short story (which I never write) based on a folk song that I originally had a few years ago in Indiana. Hopefully I'll be able to pull off at least one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I discovered New England has mountains. The Boy and I jaunted up to the Berkshires and Vermont this weekend to remind ourselves we exist outside of the swirl of poppycock (I'm bringing poppycock back, I just decided) that is life in Boston.

This short trip involved many key entries of the Big List of Stuff I Love, including (but in no way limited to):

autumnal scenery,


good bourbon,

really good apple pie,

baths and terrycloth robes,

microbrewed beer,

and, of course, Mr. W, himself.

It's easy to forget, when all I see is human-sized rooms and bright lights in dusk darkness, how stupidly fortunate I am, after all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

we gotta get out while we're young: on dfw

I haven't written about this yet because I have been so bothered by it and am also aware of how ridiculous and self-absorbed it is to be bothered so personally about it, so instead I've been reprimanding myself and telling myself I must not be so bothered by it, or at least must not tell anyone else about it. But well, to quote my young buddy Carlos Williams of Emerson College, shit.

A few days after my birthday, David Foster Wallace hanged himself. His wife found him. He was forty-six.

I discovered DFW late, really upon moving to Boston. I started reading Infinite Jest this past summer. I savored it, lingering over parts that made me squirm, taking breaks to let it all sink in. I could read other things during these breaks. Infinite Jest was not jealous by nature, rightfully secure in its literary place in my heart.

I became positively giddy reading this book. I would read entire passages out loud to friends who possessed varying degrees of context and interest. "Can you believe how crazy he must be to write something like this?" I would squeal. This was a triumphant squeal of admiration and camaraderie. I had never read a biography on this man, but I could recognize easily in the obsessive incisiveness and impeccably desolate sense of humor. He was obviously obsessive-compulsive, and probably quite depressed. He was, for lack of a better way to put it, someone like me, and he did things I wanted to do, and was wildly successful at them. He was fast becoming an inchoate hero of mine, and he wasn't even that old! Maybe one day, I thought, I'll get to meet him, and tell him how much his work influenced my own.

Talent like that takes its toll. They used to call it making a deal at the crossroads. Selling your soul. Before that in Greece it was the Melancholia. The Black Bile. The broodingest of Temperaments.

When I found out, I was barely past the halfway mark in Infinite Jest. For days, I'd try to read it and get a choking lump in my throat, no matter how much I tried to convince it away. Finally, I had to put it down and take a break.

It's not that I don't understand. That's the worst part. He wrote one of the Great American Novels, made his living off his craft, was married, had a great job, and was widely renowned and adored. And it didn't matter.

I believe it's impossible to do work like he did, like I want to do, without these drives, whether you call them OCD, Depression, Melancholia, or whatever. When aimed directly, they can be that driving force in the face of futility or rejection or indifference or passions necessary to create whole worlds in your head and spend years writing them down (which is not and never going to be a 'sane' practice, no matter how you slice it). But I also know that just a millimeter to the left or right and they can sink a person, despite talent and even desire, into despondency, terror, paralysis, and worse.

General thought cross-section:

*I never want anyone I love to find me hanged, bled, OD'd, suffocated, shotgun-beheaded, or however they're doing it these days in the movies.

*I wonder how many fleet-fingered nerds raced directly to Wikipedia to be the one to edit his entry into the past-tense.

*At least his mind is quiet now.

Friday, October 3, 2008

In a shocking turn of events...

...I am not the center of the Universe.

I think I'm all grown up and then I watch myself act like a spoiled child and hurt the most important person in my life. I am my own worst Judas, the coldest betrayer's touch is the curl of my own fist.

I don't like who I've been lately. I won't let this continue.

I barely remember the last time I felt this heart-nausea. Bastard grey-hairs working the Frappuccino blenders told me it gets easier when you get older. They were liars.

I learned to love all wrong. They always say these days, "Baby, it's me and not you," but that is so backwards. How can you love interiorly? You have to love outward, not inward. Love is light and wants to expand. Try to suck it in and it mashes into a black hole, swallowing everything around. These stupid mistakes I've made.

Don't you see? It's you and not me. Everything. Why I'm here. Why I love. You are the important one. You.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Interview on The Sound of Ink

Michael Quigg was recently kind enough to have me on his show. My interview's toward the end.