The semester is coming to a close–just 47 essays to read and grade, and then it’s over! YAAAAAYYYY! But what this really means is that I’m reading again, and I have a little more head space to actually think about what I’ve read. Here’s a round-up and some very impressionistic thoughts about three books and one tv show:
Last week, I finished the last chapter of Alison Bechdel’s new graphic memoir/essay, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, on the F train and then promptly burst into tears of gratitude and amazement. I cry a lot of the F train, so that’s not such a big deal. But this book got to me on so many levels. It made me think about my own relationship with my mother, it made me wonder how I’m doing as a mother, and it helped me wrap my head around a lot of stuff I sometimes don’t have the language to talk about, like mom-guilt, D.W. Winnicott (the genius god of child therapy who coined the term, the “good-enough mother”) and therapy, like what is the deal with transference anyway?? Are You My Mother? borrows its title from the Dr. Suess book of the same name about a little bird who loses his mother and walks around asking all kinds of animals and machines if she is his mother (Malka and I read this almost every night–it’s a poignant and slightly terrifying tale stripped down to its Freudian core (Where the hell is my mother!) that, mercifully ends with baby and mother reunited in the nest. In her book, Bechdel tries to figure out why she negates herself in the presence of her mother and what kind of mothering her mother was able to provide her, in spite of her closeted bisexual father, who she wrote about in her first book, Fun Home. She also explores her own guilt around exposing her family for her art, and wonders if her homosexuality is her truest act of rebellion against being her mother’s mirror. Much of the book is set in various therapists’ offices. As in Fun Home, she pairs her beautiful drawings and watercolor washes with layers of text (her own writing, Adrienne Rich’s, Virginia Woolf’s, and D.W. Winnicott’s). Lastly, the book is a seedbed of inspiration. Reading it, gave me an idea for an entire collection of poems, new language that I excitedly brought to my own therapist, and several dreams I still need to figure out.
I also just finished Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus. Marcus does an amazing job piecing together the history of a subculture through interviews, zines, and gossip. Best of all, she captures the excitement of the movement, the ways in which it got commodified for mass consumption, and the many young women who worked alone and together to make music, writing, and conferences. I went to a Bikini Kill concert in London with a straight male friend while I was studying abroad in Spain during my junior year, and I’ll never forgot how pissed off he was that only girls could stand in the front of the venue and the fight we had about it afterwards.
Right now I’m reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a young adult novel by Emily Danforth, which is about a girl who loses her parents in a car crash and falls in love with another girl during one sticky Montana summer. I read with Emily at the NYC Teen Author Festival, and I was impressed by her voice and confidence. I’m only about fifty pages in, but so far, it’s great.
I’m also watching Girls, Lena Dunham’s new show on HBO. I actually broke my cheapskate vow to never pay for HBO, so that I could watch it. I know everyone is complaining about it (too white, too rich, too entitled), but it’s a truly funny show. Have you ever seen a half an hour show devoted to an HPV diagnosis? I mean, that shit was hilarious, and really that’s kind of a miracle because there’s nothing funny about HPV. Also, who else sets part of an episode in a Planned Parenthood waiting room, and makes that a joke too? I like Lena Dunham’s characters. I liked them in Tiny Furniture and I like them in Girls. She writes embarrassment, screw-ups, and humiliation so well. She is intelligent and ambitious, but she’s stupid for the wrong guy, one with an amazing body who lies to her and texts her sporadically, but who is irresistible to be around. And don’t even get me started on the truly cosmic joy I feel at watching her beautiful, normal body move across the screen! But if you’re still mad about the too white, too rich, too entitled situation, check out what Hilton Als had to say in The New Yorker–he’s way smarter than me. Be mad at HBO and television in general, but not Dunham.
And now to catch up on old HBO shows on demand. I still can’t really handle Eric with amnesia. Fangless, right? Too sweet. I’m bored.