Archive for the Book Category

Still Socialiting- with Legends

Posted in art, Book, film, People of Color, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, like a lost child I continue to stray from the Brooklyn Socialite path, but never too far my friends. Never too far. All the while as my keyboard fingers have gone limp, my little legs have still run from one cultural event to the next. Indeed, I have much to report.

In adventures in the surreal I have recently found myself in 2 interesting settings. One, a friendly neighborhood book group, with a selection of my peers. We had gathered to discuss A Mercy, by the legendary Toni Morrison. Halfway through some questions arose about characters and the author’s intention, when one of the group said, “Well, I’ll just call her and ask her, hold on a sec.”  “Excuse me?” I stuttered out. “What does she mean she’ll just call her?” “Well Toni Morrison is her grandmother.” Another member offered. Oh, I saw. Morrison was called and I sat dumbfounded. There was so much I wanted to ask her.

To continue on the theme of six degrees of separation, the next day, out of Brooklyn and all the way uptown at the 92 Street Y, I was picking up my ticket to Chinua Achebe from the press representative and he mentioned in passing that all 900 seats of the auditorium were packed. “I haven’t seen the Y this full since Toni Morrison was here.” He said. Of course, Morrison again.

My second brush with legend this past week or so, was a screening that I had the occasion to attend on the rooftop of the Chelsea Hotel. Yes, after seeing Chelsea on the Rocks, Abel Ferrara’s docudrama (it had re-enactments, many) next door at the Chelsea Cinema, I moved considerably closer to that old ghost, new art temple of legend, yes the Hotel in question. I got past the reception who didn’t seem to want to let any of us up to Sam Bassett‘s penthouse apt. We did make it though, the very small crew of myself, 5-6 other journalists, Sam, his girlfriend Erin Featherstone (I was having fashion week flashbacks, I had been to her show, but in person, she was more real life-like and very nice. Bryant Park makes one grand I suppose.) and Stanley Bard himself, with his support team of family and friends. There we sat, with an amazing view of the city, in Basset’s studio/home and watched the work unfold. His documentary, Stanley Bard, was decidedly different from Chelsea on the Rocks, although they were made at similar times, with similar subject matter. The comparison is a whole article in itself, but for now let’s leave it at more, on the gentle, kind and very talented Bassett, to come.

Next stop: Another screening in the series put on by the Royal Flush Festival. This art/music/film festival is a smallish local affair, still they have managed to pack their theaters and involve some amazing contributors. One such element of amazement, was Justin Strawhand’s film, War Against the Weak. Based on the seminal, critical history of  U.S. eugenics by Edwin Black, this film really mines our history in a way that many are not yet ready to own. It tracks how the Rockefeller foundation, along with several other rich American families funded eugenics research in the U.S and Germany from the beginning of the 20th century, all the way up through the Second World War. The startling tenet of the film is that Nazism was directly inspired and to some degree funded by racist American science, and what’s more, many other institutions and policies that remain in place here, to this day, were motivated by eugenics. A sinister origin is revealed for the SAT, the IQ test, and much of the  documentation, which has been kept by government agencies like jails and schools throughout the past century. Again much more can be said on the subject, and in order to verse myself more fully, I purchased, yes with my own limited funds, the last copy of Edwin Black’s book in the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Here once more, I accidentally approached legend, this book happened to be a hardcover, signed by the author.

But let’s take a step back, dedicated readers of this blog may remember that I first met Justin back in the spring at Full Frame. We got into a long discussion about Eugenics outside of a festival party. De ja vu, a couple of weekends back, when I was at the Hamptons Film Festival, lying low as Industry (that means I was on the screening committee, not that I am now an industry bigshot of any kind) who should I find myself hanging out with outside a party again. Yes, of course Justin and here it comes out that I still haven’t seen his film and the plan is made to be at his Royal Flush screening. Wait, what else happened in the Hamptons?

Well, I saw a lot of films and I took a little morning trip to Montauk, my favorite part of that area, where I went to Joni’s my favorite brunch spot in New York state. Oh, it’s charming, has amazing organic food, lots of  which is homemade. I also made a point to go the water everyday and watch the fishermen and walk and relax. Ahh the Brooklyn Socialite will survive Brooklyn only with regular exposure to nature. Yeah, I’m making a rule to get out as much as I can.

OK, but what were the filmic highlights? Let’s see, Shadow Billionaire, was intriguing, The Paper Man was great because of the fact that lots of stuffy audience members walked out in the middle including, one former Mayor Giuliani. Yes, this was my brush with not legend, but ignominy. Oh the shame. I wanted to give him an earful, but I was too polite to interrupt the film, unlike some people. Mira Nair’s collection of shorts was intense, also earned several walkouts, but as Guy Maddin (yes legend is the theme today) once shared with me the fact of the very high walk out rates in his films, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad sign.

To conclude with legends, and to reference my less than clever pun (Still Socialiting) yes I’m not just a boob, this is a reference to the film Still Bill. I saw it this week at Stranger than Fiction. The film is about, yes the legend, Bill Whithers, who after all these years is still Bill. He’s kept his roots and remained down to earth, a family man, who hasn’t released a record in 30 years, after such epic songs as Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone and Grandma’s Hands. The film is candid and touching and made me really want to find the last autographed copy of the Bill Whiters CD at Barnes and Noble on 14th street.  Maybe my luck will hold.

MIA and Eileen Myles Reading @ Bluestockings

Posted in art, Book, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

As you may have noticed I have been missing in action over the summer. It started out with Swine Flu, alright alright, it was bronchitis, but whatever. The point is that illness gave way to quietude and multiple trips to the beach, park and ice cream store and now I’m back ready to make comments again! And, what makes this return to the old arrangement even better is that from now on I will expand upon the grime behind the glitter, that’s right it’s time you all know what keeps the Brooklyn Socialite in business, yes the nitty gritty, jobs of all variety that I have to do to get by.

I’m working on a novel, and being a writer is never easy, in fact artistry of all kinds requires a very steel-faced resolve.  And, for me specifically this creative venture is paired with my desire to be about town, drinking in culture and then offering my 2 cents on just about everything.

In other words, if I was more computer-savvy, I would change the small print under the BROOKLYN SOCIALITE line from the green text that you can’t currently read without squinting, to the following words:

I DO ODD JOBS

I’m kind of proud of it, I mostly like it this way, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t prefer to have health insurance when swine flu comes knocking on my door, or the luxury to ever stay in a hotel on vacation (it hasn’t happened yet… I love couchsurfing but there is a time and a place girl.) or you know take a date out to dinner (yes, I would do that if I could.)

So prepare to get a fine selection of ODD JOB posts, peppered in with your Brooklyn Socialite posts, cause we are now going to be real with each other. So continue to bring on the invitations to events, but if you should offer me an odd job, I will most likely not catch pride and take offense.

The truth is that in the dark hours of making this all work I have been known to dogsit, housesit, bake brownies and sell them at parties, assist artists, write grants, write articles, sew bridesmaids dresses from scratch, move boxes, organize offices, care for children, be an extra in art films, be a back up dancer/art in the Whitney Biennial, do research, paint bathrooms, install light fixtures, operate a mail order business, be a remote administrator, fashion blog…yes you can only imagine the odd jobs I do and have done.

Whew! Well now a quick word about Eileen Myles reading last night at Bluestockings, appropriate that this should be my welcome back Brooklyn Socialite post because I was reading her book Chelsea Girls during my bout with Cancer, ok Bronchitis, the point is it was bad and I was bed-ridden.

Any way… these are my notes from last night.

Someone asks for a spare tampon over the loudspeaker and we know this has to be bluestockings. Where else does that sweetly feral brand of feminism rule. The ladies mull around meeting each other, finding their spots on blue plastic chairs and the literary boys pepper the crowd as Myles herself sits in the back row watching it all unfold.

The room is about 95 degrees and packed even in standing room when Myles takes the stage. She is reading from her new book The Importance of Being Iceland, which is a compilation of mainly previously published works. The first piece she reads is one I have already read, which originally appeared in the anthology Live Through This. It’s about flossing and how it’s a metaphor for the self-harming that comes with youth eventually being replaced by self-care. Funny and charming, although subtly so.  The thing I notice most during this piece is her accent, so older Boston. It is so much like the voices you can hear in old films, which I so rarely hear in real life these days. It’s strong and distinct.

She,  then also refers to this growing homogeneity of language in reference to Iceland, sagas and the way that T.V. deafens regional accents. The next piece is about a $25 therapist who she, or the “Eileen Character” as she refers to the protagonists of her fiction (not memoir), saw for a few years during her thirties. This was the 80s, she qualifies, and one day the guy suggested to her that it may be that she is a man, in other words transgendered. Somehow the story renders this a breakthrough, yet not a definite commitment to identity, something just to consider.

The last piece seems to be much more strictly non-fiction, a travel essay, on Iceland. Having spent some time one August hitchhiking around Iceland, I have a pretty loving connection to the place and was listening along from this angle. The essay was academic and experiential, and it seemed to be less rigid, in terms of point of view than some of her other work.

Alright, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more thoughts and rants.

Robyn

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

Joseph O’Neill and James Wood at the Yale Club by Ella Fitzsimmons

Posted in Book with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Here is a warm welcome to another wonderful Citizen of the World, Ella Fitzsimmons

Held at the comically WASPy Yale Club, Cambridge University in New York’s “A conversation with James Wood and Joseph O’Neill” narrowly escaped being a love-fest between the critic and the PEN/Faulkner award winner.

No stranger to controversy, famed critic Wood spoke appreciatively of O’Neill’s novel, while pleasantly but firmly defending his views on literature, notably under fire from the likes of Zadie Smith and literary magazine (n +1).

Wood’s approach to literary criticism has been described as ‘aesthetic’ and ‘unideological’ , a classification appreciatively re-iterated by O’Neill. (Though surely not having an ideology is an ideology??).  Agreeing, Wood seemed bewildered by the fact that he’s seen as the standard bearer for Realism in contemporary fiction.
Netherland has been caught in the crossfire between Wood and Smith. O’Neill was surprised by the appearance of Smith’s piece about Netherland in The New York Review of Books in November, as the magazine had already reviewed the book. “Then someone told me ‘You know she’s only getting at James Wood, right?” O’Neill smiled.

Nevertheless, O’Neill, a former lawyer, claimed to be pleased by the ‘multiple entrances to the book’. (A small part of my cynical heart suspected that he was pleased by the controversy. But he seems like a nice guy, so I’m trying to be good about it.)

Emphasizing that he did not try to re-write The Great Gatsby, O’Neill admitted that halfway through the seven year slog that went in to Netherland, he recognized parallels between it and Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.  A tacit agreement with Wood’s reading of the book as a work of post-colonial fiction, rather than a “post- 9/11” novel, perhaps?

Toward the end of the evening, O’Neill touched on how the internet-created, direct relationships with readers could become potentially problematic for writers, resulting in crippling self-consciousness.  This would have been an interesting point to discuss with Wood – as one of the underlying issues in the conflict between Wood and Smith et al is where the authority to criticize and appreciate literature stems from . Is the “Academy” still in charge, or literary criticism being democratized by the internet?  Sadly, the assorted guests were more interested in asking O’Neill about his inclusion of graphic sex scenes, and whether or not he liked the Costner film “Field of Dreams” – and when I discovered that I was much nerdier than a bunch of septuagenarians, I grabbed my last free drink and ran off.

Bad Habits-Christy C. Road

Posted in Book, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, my staycation is almost over, can you believe it? I have been so busy, listening to the sounds of dogs playing with their toys and icicles slowly dripping, hell I’ve even been reading and catching up on Bad Reality TV. Expect posts to come depicting the utter cuteness of dog gloves and the trashy hellishness of The Real Housewives of (insert geographical location, Atlanta, Orange County, NYC). This is post-post feminism.

Speaking of post-feminism, I will now launch into my review of Cristy C. Road’s Bad Habits. But first, I must establish my own lack of total impartiality. 1. I have a few casual friends, who are friends with her, this certainly doesn’t make her my friend by any stretch of the Will Smith/Kevin Beacon association laws. Nevertheless, I still feel some kind of allegiance for any friend of my friends. Except for the unfortunate situation of number 2. We once met on a couch, waiting for a reading to begin at Bluestockings. I had arrived early to read and she had as well, perhaps because she was on the bill that night. I didn’t recognize her in any way (this was over a year ago, pre-mutual friends), I had just arrived back into the city and was in the Friendly Zone, so as I recall, I tried to strike up a conversation, she gave me a pretty horrified look and proceeded to ignore me.  Do I have visible lice? Or was she on an especially bad trip that day? Who knows. So the point of this very long disclaimer is, I have one reason to look kindly upon her and one to look unkindly, so let’s just say they balance each other out and I am hereby rendered impartial again!

Whew, that’s a weight off my shoulders, on to the book. Bad Habits: A Love Story is very post-post indeed. Should we be proud of  the Cristy-resembling-let’s-assume-it-is-her protagonist for being drug crazed and on a manic search for love?  Should we apply a modicum of shame?  Or should we just look-on refusing to judge her in any way whatsoever? I’m not so sure.

The book is undeniably readable, contagious, absorbing, but is it a diary, or literature? When did books stop needing to have a point or to bestow a significant degree of wisdom? Cristy’s “I” character is sex positive, great, bi-sexual, awesome really and truly, and a person of color, who likes punk music and isn’t some trite stereotype, fabulous. Still I feel like I’m peeking at her through some window of outsider vs insider fascination. Is it enough to just be a voyeur after the cool kid at school/ uncool kid at school who decided to grow up and be an asshole to everybody as a means of healing?

Road is a great illustrator and every page that  interrupts the text with image really helps to move the story along. I like reading about this particular slice of life in New York, that wades between the queer/punk/and drug scenes, especially since much of it is based in Brooklyn. As a diary it’s juicy and at times piercingly lost, in a way that many people are and can relate to. However, I wish that it would offer some insights, on her quest for love, forgetting and self-absorbed self-annihilation, does she find anything? Should we follow her, or run in the opposite direction. Perhaps the thing to do is walk by and pretend not to see her.

I love that one constant throughout the book’s journey is Christy’s love for her friends and connection to her familial/cultural roots. The narrative is lacking in direction and there are few moments of deeper truth, but in today’s trash consumption culture, where exuding a generalized sense of disconnection and apathy is the ultimate cool, Bad Habits will allow you to join in by vicariously snorting coke through your nose ring.

Transgender History- Susan Stryker

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I finished reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker during my long post-Thanksgiving public transport journey. It was overall a very informative and straightforward book. It was easy to read and understand, which is a feat for non-fiction, and a contrast to Striker’s recent CUNY lecture, which was considerably more cryptic. I really enjoyed the book, it felt immediate and relevant, engaging the reader with the past 100 years of struggle for transgender rights.

The movement towards visibility has been pretty fascinating. It seems that the first people to challenge the assumption that transpeople are not only mentally ill, but also extremely perverse, were people within the medical establishment, German and Austrian psychologists and doctors. Then it was wealthier white male bodied individuals, who campaigned for the rights to cross-dress, and separately, to be granted sex-change operations. The book moves from that telling, to the history of early FTM agitators for change, who also seem to have started within the upper class, or rather gained initial success there.

Direct action, and quasi-revolutionary groups later emerged in the second half of the 20th century, with Stonewall, and it’s predecessors, such as for example, the staged sit-in that occurred at Compton’s restaurant, inspired and enacted by civil rights activists, who were also queer, many of whom were trans,-rights activists. That intersection between transpeople and LGB folks was a theme that Stryker consistently explored in relation to recent trans history.

It seems that although there was a lot of overlap between struggles during the 60s, that unity was often fractured by both, feminist lesbians, who rejected trans people as impostors of a sort, and gay men who labelled trans individuals somehow not radical enough because they were willing to seek help from the medical establishment. As transgenderism remained a disease in the medical books, certain gay activists, judged the transpeople who sought sex change operations, while some lesbian feminists claimed that by enacting femininity in a stereotypical way, transwomen mocked their struggle towards an androgynously expressed equality, and that anyone not born a woman could never fully understand and experience Women’s Oppression.

With so much fragmentation prior to the late nineteen-nineties when queer emerged as a blanket, inclusive term for a whole wide variety of folks, it is kind of nice to see how much of the old divisiveness has died down. However, recently when transgender people were left out of the new anti-discrimination law, many of those old flames were rekindled. In explanation of this political division the distinctions between homosexuality and transgenderism are offered. As well as the wide ranging differences within the transgender umbrella. People often presume that transgender people are by definition homosexual, when historically and continuously that is often not the case. While for some the distinction between gender and sexuality is obvious, many members of the general public don’t quite get what the difference is. Stryker clarifies this within her large definitions section. For anyone who is still confused please refer to the text!

Sheila Rowbotham on Edward Carpenter

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I went to CUNY this evening to see Sheila Rowbotham talk about her new book and the man that inspired it, Edward Carpenter. This is how the CUNY website pre-described the event:

“Feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham discusses her latest book ‘Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love’. Edward Carpenter (1844 to 1929) challenged both capitalism and the values of Western civilization. He pioneered homosexual, lesbian and women’s liberation along with nudism, recycling, anti-pollution, diet reform and animal rights. He was friendly with such cultural icons as Walt Whitman, E.M.Forster, Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman. He lived his politics, advocating a minimalist simplification to cluttered middle class Victorians and initiating a craze for country cottages, beeswaxed floors and sandals which helped to prod the modern age into being.”

Carpenter seems like an interesting man, who expressed his gay-ness fairly openly at the end of the 19th cetury. During this time, sodomy was considered criminal and Oscar Wilde was on trial for that very act. Sheila herself is a pretty fascinating lady. Earlier this year I read her 1973 book, Women’s Consciousness: Men’s World. It is a highly readable analysis of British socialist feminism. She tells the story of women who chose to trade eye liner for revolutionary politics, back in the day when it had to be one or the other. I especially like her likening of marriage to feudalism. While I categorically believe that queer people deserve equal rights and protection under the law, in all areas, including marriage. Like Sheila, I personally don’t think that marriage is a goal that any of us need aspire towards. Let’s focus on legalizing free thought instead shall we? It was cool to see Rowbotham, British accent and all, in a small room at CUNY. She is a thinker that holds a vital place in the history of second wave feminism.

Quick Note

Posted in Book, day off with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, so its 2:30 am and I’m exhausetd again. I’ll tell you why exactly this is, tomorrow. For now all I can note quikly is that I spent the better half of the day organizing my bookcase. This was a truly healing expierience and I recommend it highly. There is something quasi-spiritual about communing with books. I’m thinking of starting a lending library, so holler if your looking for something to read. Goodnight and speak soon!

Agent Angie on Relationship Therapy, Courtesy of Evelyn Waugh

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Faitful to her book club duties, Agent Angie provides astute observations on Brideshead Revisited.

The relationship in Brideshead Revisited, between the narrator Charles Ryder and the Flyte family is of interest to me. I’m about halfway through, and after reading how the Flytes romance Ryder and take him in, before setting out to use him for their own selfish purposes, I find myself disturbed by the level of dysfunction that exists, and greatly respect Evelyn Waugh for his talent at portraying the destruction of codependancy on relationships.

Lady Marchmain’s destructive, Catholic guilt tripping has a profound effect on the text. She holds Charles responsible for her son Sebastian’s well-being. At first Charles submits to the weight the Flytes place on his shoulders, allowing himself to be pulled in two directions by Lady Marchmain’s pressure to keep Sebastian out of trouble and Sebastion’s fear of begin eclipsed by his family. It would be impossible for Charles to fulfill both roles of informant to Lady Marchmain and true friend to Sebastian. After Sebastian begs for Charles’s money for liquor, and Lady Marchmain’s discovery of Charles’s betrayal, she says:

I don’t understand it. […] I simply don’t understand how anyone could be so callously wicked […]. I’m not going to reproach you. […] God knows it’s not for me to reproach anyone. Any failure in my children is my failure. But […] I don’t understand how you can have been so nice in so many ways, and then do something so wantonly cruel.

I doubt I need to pick apart the method to Lady Marchmain’s guilt-ridden madness and her efforts to exercise them upon Charles for you all. What is interesting to me is the moment in which Charles’s response to her shifts from compliance to rebellion and complete lack of concern. Charles can only participate in this emotional abuse for so long before he attempts to extricate himself from the relationship:

I was unmoved; there was no part of me remotely touched by her distress. […] But as I drove away and turned back in the car to take what promised to be my last view of the house, I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, […] ‘I shall never go back,’ I said to myself.

Charles’s knowledge that he’s left some part of himself behind is a foreshadowing of the corruption of his concern for others. The impossible position that Lady Marchmain forces him into motivates him to turn aside the part of him that cared about Sebastian and the rest of the Flyte family. In order to survive the guilt that was being put on his shoulders he had to care more for himself and stop caring for them.

A few pages on is Charles’s dinner with Rex Mottram in Paris, which validates the perception of foreshadowing. Charles feels so inconvenienced and frustrated at the prospect of dinner with Rex and the inevitable conversation about the Flytes, that he proceeds to use Rex for his money, thus making the situation more palatable to himself:

If I had to spend an evening with [Rex], it should, at any rate, be in my own way. I remember the dinner well–soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white wine sauce, a caneton a la presse, a lemon souffle. At the last minute, fearing that the whole things was too simple for Rex, I added caviare aux blinis. And for wine I let him give me a bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then at its prime, and, with the duck, a Clos de Bere of 1904.

Charles’s description of the extravagant meal, purchased on Rex’s pocketbook, and his sense of entitlement to the meal, is indicative of his retreat to the self with less concern for the Flytes. Throughout the conversation between Rex and Charles, Waugh interrupts dialogue with Charles’s further descriptions of the meal and his and Rex’s appreciation of it. This narrative technique cements Charles’s new-found selfishness and propensity to use others.

Waugh’s explication of this type of relationship elevates Brideshead Revisited to a novel not merely of manners and post-WWI British society and snobbery, but to a psychological one; embroiled in thoughtful and constructive studies of non-familial relationships that, I imagine, most can relate to. The novel inspires me to be more aware of not expecting too much of others, and not allowing others to expect unfair things of me. As Waugh points out, these kinds of expectations ruin relationships.

-Angie Venezia

Susan Stryker lecture, La Zarza

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good, Party, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture that Susan Stryker gave at the the CUNY Grad center. It was a nice moment for different cool folks in the trans and queer community to gather, talk back and primarily to listen. I really respect the history gathering, voice planting work that Stryker does, she is a leading force in the movement for trans civil rights. This was evidenced during the introductions she received from Paisley Currah and Joanne Meyerowitz, two other academics who work in the field of trans studies. In terms of the lecture itself, I have to say she lost me at times. The part about Foucault and Hobbes, a lot of theoretical words that can’t yet be found in the dictionary, and several ‘this is not cultural appropriation’ disclaimers had me at the point of putting my pen down. The trouble was I really came to the lecture prepared to learn and left feeling befuddled and not quite there yet. The parts which I did find to be insightful, centered around the concept of a trans person sensing a need to transform outside appearance in order to fully realize an inner potential. I could really relate to this concept, even when applied to writing. When I am unable or unwilling to create something that really resonates for me, I walk around feeling un-realized, incomplete. This is a very spiritual concept, the idea of reaching self-realization. Thus the larger premise of the lecture, which was something like, “Ghost Dance: transperson as spiritual leader” sort of followed along the same avenue, implying that the trans person, innately experiencing transformation towards self-realization, is naturally qualified to be a spiritual leader. Interesting. Have I got it all wrong? Or was that the argument? Afterwards I spoke with Stryker, her partner, and a lot of other good folks about the beauty of dialogue, so comment away!

Just a quick note on La Zarza … This loungue space underneath a sort of swanky Nouvau Italian place, is a sweet spot, when the Grey-Goose promotions are flooding and you are somehow on the doorlist. It is still free if you get there early, but otherwise $100 bills may get thrown around. Last night there was a good pop-hip-hop dj and lots of guys in suits and girls in drag. No wait, that wasn’t drag, straight girls really dress like that!

Lit Death Match, Don’t Despair Poetry Conquers all

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I went to the Literary Death Match at Housing works this evening, and I’m pleased to report that all of the readers were quite good. The event was bizarrely being televised and it ended with some money throwing shenanigans, but apart from that it was fun. I was feeling alarmingly anti-social ( I know, quite taboo, coming from the Brooklyn Socialite, but cold weather is a strong and scary force), so I don’t think I spoke to anyone, except for a quick exchange with Ben Greenman on my way to the door. I was hungry, and eating pretzels ( my hungry food) wasn’t quite cutting it. They did manage to tide me over long enough to observe the following: the first round was a stand off between Tao Lin and Alex Rose. Alex was unremarkable, but Tao on the other hand was hysterical and shy, which I always find to be a great combination. He was sarcastic and dead pan and read a poem from the perspective of a salmon killing, yet lovable bear. The second round was for the ladies, Amy Sohn went up against Mishna Wolff. Mishna read pre-teen diary excerpts about a longstanding Jim Morrison obsession, while Amy created this sappy chick-flick character who gives a guy a blow job and then gets not so subtly dissed. They were both funny, and engaging, but please tell me why women have to sexually or psychologically demean themselves in public, in order to be approved of by the boys club of Literati. I’m noticing a trend that sexualized-self mocking in women, makes others feel comfortable somehow. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m just going to respond to that with my own poem!

I have resuscitated my old literary blog, so read the rest of this piece there!

Permission

to request

attention

Smack down

for tall poppies

Christmas with your family

drunk Englishmen

in summer

wildly good-mannered

still, kind.

Or a twisted

Broadway musical

scene

with my family

an obligation

served by proximity

Read more!

Valencia, Cafe Lafayette

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

I just finished reading Michele Tea’s Valencia, this is the second book that I’ve read by her, not including Baby Remember My Name an anthology that she edited. The first was Rent Girl, which I found to be really interesting and would require a whole other post to discuss properly. About Valencia, what I can say is this: Tea is something of a hero in the world of lesbian lit, one of the more successful writers in this heavily marginalized genre. Like watering a dry garden, her words effectively begin to fill the void of queer stories. It is good to hear something relatable, depictions of characters that I can recognize and landscapes that I have at least partially inhabited. However, it all feels like one long spit session, perhaps thus originated the tittle of her Sister Spit literary tour. The chapters all inhabit one novel/memoir/autobiography, but they don’t seem to flow together and it feels like she hasn’t completed any of her stories. It reminds me of commentary, would make for excellent blog posts, but I don’t think it functions as well as a consecutive, ideally complete book. Tea talks a lot about drinking, smoking, drugs and sex, a little bit about prostitution and love and self-loathing, but a sense of emptiness is transferred more than anything else. It’s strange to talk about love, yet express vacancy more than depth. I did enjoy it though, it had that addictive quality and really made me consider moving to San Franscisco. In a way I like Tea’s voice, but kept wishing she might write slower and consider craft over expressive explosion. But what do I know? I ‘m not the Queen of queer lit, not yet anyway! I know crossing Michelle Tea could be like crossing Oprah, but the Brooklyn Socialite is nothing if not honest.

A quick mention goes out to Cafe Lafayette. If your in Ft Greene, check out the amazing Lafayette burger, French bistro style, chill with the Mexican waiter, drink Corona’s after closing, or come on the weekend for yum crepes and good coffee. I love this place (G L)

Acousitic Cash, Impermanence, The Rubin Museum, San Fransisco-Michelle Tea

Posted in art, Book, Guide to What's Good, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Acoustic Cash last night was quite beautiful. It was held in this warm small theater inside the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art. Roseanne was classy and sardonic, saying things like, “I liked the Rubin better when it was a Barneys.” Tongue in cheek of course, because the Rubin really is a cool space, forever in reference to Buddhist thought, the floors spiral upwards towards a stunning glass dome.The theme of Roseanne Cash’s musical interview with Joe Henry was Impermanence. They played songs which related to the Buddhist concept that nothing is permanent except for the self. Clinging to that which is fleeting, (almost everything) is what causes human suffering. Roseanne played some of her father’s songs and Joe managed to charm the audience with his twinkly smile, constant tuning, and that confidence that comes with knowing you are really good at something. Most of the people there were middle aged straight women, with husbands in tow. He sang a song called Flag and talked about how Americans resist letting go of dead ideas, such as bankrupt nationalism. Quickly, he added something about how in the new Obama-America maybe some of those beliefs can be rekindled.

America sees itself as a constant-a self, so to speak. Can it be permanent?

roseand-joe

The night ended with a Tupelo Honey/ People Get Ready duet and then, yes, a sing-along to The Times They are a Changing! (ha ha)

Just a quick note about Michelle Tea and San Fransisco: I am reading Valencia and although it takes place in the 90s, I can’t help but wonder if San Fran is really that cool? What do you think, how does it stand up against Brooklyn (ok NYC)?

I’m off to see Dr Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera, will report back later today.

A.M. Holmes, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This, Ben Greenman

Posted in art, Book, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

Yesterday evening, after pulling up with difficulty and enjoying a coffee and croissant at Choice, I managed to get a lot of actual work done, including the business of editing and writing. By 6:30, still somehow awake, I stumbled uptown to the Guggenheim to catch a reading by A.M. Holmes.

Who is A.M. Holmes you ask? Let’s start with our meeting. It was in the basement of the Guggenheim. After the reading inside one of the Catherine Opie galleries, which was very intimate and populated primarily by curators and other museum staff. Holmes read from her ‘fiction to accompany art’. This is a genre of her writing, which in this case was related to Catherine Opie, and which in the past has been applied to Ghada Amer, Cecily Brown, Rachel Whiteread and several other artists. After she read from the Opie story, there was a quick shy Q& A. My favorite quote from her was: “Contemporary life to me is kind of surreal, reality seems less and less applicable to me lately.” Next, we few remaining members of the public were ushered down to the basement for a wine and cheese reception. Out of the maybe 10 people who were now huddled in the basement, A.M. was surrounded by 4 of the head curators, in other words not easily accessible. Brazen with exhaustion, I decided to approach her for a quick Hi anyway. She shook my hand and thanked me for coming, “No, thank you I responded.” The conversation was quite simply, over… (!)

Ah well, now that she is on my radar, when next we speak, perhaps the discussion can extend to matters such as, her stint as an L-word writer, the several acclaimed novels she has written and her most recent work, a memoir entitled, The Mistresses Daughter. I might ask her about her rumored bisexuality (leave Brittney alone! I mean Lindsay), or how she makes the transition back and forth between writing fiction and art and literary criticism. I’d ask her for some advice probably.

One liners aren’t that terrible though, or so says Stop Me If You’ve Heard This. My review of that book recently came out in Boldtype. Here is a snippet:

“Stop Me If You’ve Heard This reads like a tall tale. In fact, it’s what Jim Holt might call a “long joke,” which, unlike a one-liner, could take an hour to tell. Holt strings the reader along, extending incredulity and curiosity, as he offers unlikely tidbits about the history and philosophy of jokes through detail-rich, well-delivered narration. No matter how preposterous some of it may seem, it is safe to assume this veteran reporter of both the BBC and the New Yorker is faithful to the facts. Holt discusses joke collectors and humor philosophers including such characters as G. Legman, the man who invented the vibrating dildo and coined the Phrase “Make Love, Not War.”” More

Finally, again on the lit tip, today I went to the launch of Ben Greenman’s new book at the Tenement Museum (GL). Decidedly more approachable, Greenman remembered me from the last time we met. I also got to see Fly, who was fascinating as always, and spoke to a few new and interesting writer/editor/publisher types. I would love to delve into the content of Greenman’s new book, oh and I will, but now I must sleep. Suffice it to say that it is a Luddite limited edition letter writing book project…more to come.

Angela Davis Recap, AnySpacewhatever Pictures, Halloween

Posted in Book, Guide to What's Good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

The crowd at Angela Davis’ talk last night was pretty spectacular, v. Dyke March NYC meets Critical Resistance, Oakland plus a large helping of Eugene Lang Students and free Mumia activists. The vibe was very serious though, not to many accidental lover pick-ups or new friendships made, the main focus was on the star of the show: Angela Davis. (Definitely on the Good List)

She spoke about another iconic figure who is regarded in a sometimes similar light, our next president, Barak Obama. As a socialist, Davis was not so much advocating for Obama on the merits of his democratic policy proposals or his moderate-left record in office. Instead, she spoke of his power as a real milestone of progress and a symbol of it. The election of the first Black President has a collective significance on our society, which actually overpowers his personal significance as an individual, she asserted.

My favorite moment in this discourse was when she offered her analysis of McCain’s run in with the woman from Minnesota who said, “I can’t trust Obama, he’s an Arab.” Mccain responded, “No mam he is not an Arab. He is a decent family man and a U.S. citizen. This is the very exceptionism which so perfectly defines modern racism. It is as if to say, ‘Well Obama may be black, but he went to Harvard, he’s one of us.’ Or, ‘I am fine with gay people, as long as they don’t try anything on me, I have plenty of gay friends.’ McCain did not address that there was a problem with her anti-Arab racism. The way he attempted to clear Obama’s name was by justifying that he is “decent” and ‘one of us’ because he is a “family man.” Thereby not being Arab, being heterosexual, and being committed to “family values” acquits Obama, and anoints him as a good, normal American.

That was the highlight for me, but she touched on so many good points, essentially, 1. racism is not over, we must know our history, celebrate the milestones, but focus on how much further there is to go. 2. prisons must be abolished and they are systemically racist- dating all the way back to slavery, she also talked a lot about the role that surveillance plays in coloring the prison population. 3 Davis, kind of mocked the internet a bit, hey I resemble that! Other than the quips that implied that google and youtube were sort of un-cool, I have to say Angela Davis has earned the attention of her supporters. I bought her book afterwards, so look forward to a review!

Now for a couple of overdue AnySpaceWhatever pictures.

Liam Gillick

Liam Gillick

a Robyn's eye view

a Robyn's eys view

Are We Evil

Are We Evil

And finally, happy Halloween. I am hiding out at home with a bag of candy, prepared for trick or treaters, so if you know where I live, ring my bell!