Archive for Readings

Salmon Rushdie,Irshad Manji, Morality

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite


At the 92 St Y, on Sunday night, I heard Irshad Manji, aka “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare”, interview Salmon Rushdie, aka Padma Lakshmi’s womanizing ex-husband, aaka one of the greatest living writers. The subject of their chat was Moral Courage. In fact, it was the first conversation in a series started by Manji, which aims to tackle the subject of ethical fortitude from several different angles. Manji, a reformist Muslim, questioned Rushdie, an Indian born devout Atheist, about the effects of the Fatwa, which Ayatollah Khomeini passed against him after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.

At the time of the book’s release, Islamic fundamentalists took offense at his descriptions of the prophet Mohamed, and the circumstances of his life. The fatwa called for the death of Rushdie, and when it was issued there were serious attempts to assassinate him, initiated by the government of Iran. As a result of this it was dangerous for Rushdie to travel to the Middle East, imposing a form of exile upon the man, although he was already living in the west. The attacks and threats even spilled over into England and were also used to intimidate his publisher and other colleagues. Rushdie was educated in India, then England and has since lived in Pakistan and here in the United States

A lot of my friends don’t like the man. Rushdie although well-versed in upper-class charm, has often been called sexist and elitist for good reason. However, like that old Woody Allen, it’s too hard to hate him, no matter how much I try. He is a great writer. His brilliant way with words is matched by his lucid mind. It is a rare gift to possess the ability to craft such unique characters and give them appropriate language styles, distinguishing one from the next so effectively that the reader can really get lost in the dreamscape of the novel, without remembering to be cynical. Agreeing to judge the artist, above the man (no matter how much he reminds me of Bridshead Revisited), let us move on to what the Muslim-Canadian-Feminist-Lesbian said to the Indian/British/American- Sexist-Atheist-Booker Prize winning Writer…

Although you could sense a note of resistance between the two, there also seemed to be a significant amount of respect flowing both ways. They both oppose censorship and bemoaned the way that our society has slinked into an Orwellian dystopia. They spoke against the type of moral relativism and political-correctness, which dissuades people from speaking out against things like honor killings, stonings and female genital mutilation. Rushdie said that in the past 20 years people have become more afraid to speak out about things. However, he also called our contemporary culture, “a culture of offense.” He claimed that because of the explosion of identity politics, people now define themselves by what they’re angry about. “Who are you if you’re not pissed off by anything?” Rushdie said.

He seems to want it both ways, and maybe we all do. One should be able to shout at someone else for offending their cultural, religious or gender identity, expecting a degree of “tolerance” or political-correctness. Yet, people should not just accept and respect each other, because their practices fit under the veil of some sort of culture. Now this is tricky terrain. I think the main point is that we can disagree, and even vocalize this, but the danger comes when we back our views with violence, whichever side we’re on. But again, the danger, If the US violently intervenes, for instance, when the Taliban oppress and kill women, this is an example of not tolerating or succumbing to moral relativism. When they attack us as infidels, is it the same example reversed? It is as though they are saying, we are Right, so we can use might, they are wrong, and so they can’t. Maintaining a sense of moral superiority is nice, but somehow not an effective argument against others who believe they are also superior. For all his pretty words, I’m curious as to how Rushdie would respond to this, and for all of her moral courage, how would Manji? I welcome their responses.

The writers from Tongues Afire are about to set Brooklyn a-glow

Posted in Guide to What's Good, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Mr Slate Honey

This year’s members of the creative writing workshop for queer women, trans and gender-non conforming people of color will be presenting new works in two readings.  Common Grounds, the cozy Bed-Stuy cafe at 376 Tompkins Ave, will be hosting the first on Saturday December 6th at 7pm.  Later in the week, The Audre Lorde Project, sponsor to the group, will be hosting the second reading on Thursday December 11th at 85 South Oxford Street at 6:30 pm.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Be sure not to miss these.  Excellent artists pass through this workshop and judging from friends who have been in it or who will be reading, I can assure you that it will not disappoint even the most fine-tuned ear. For more information about Tongues Afire and applying to the workshop, contact tonguesafire@gmail.com

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.

Cave Canem Workshop, Stains Movie,Wild Ginger

Posted in Food, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

My fingers have been itching all day, lets face it I’m an internet junkie, the iphone isn’t enough and I’ve been fiending. In an attempt to deal with my separation anxiety, I did what most junkies do, I cleaned my room. After yesterday’s dust film, I figured it was time. I stole a few moments with my broken old laptop and then I did what all good Socialites do, I went out. The first event of the evening was a truly lovely affair. I was overwhelmed, in a good way, by all the beautiful black people in the room. I felt like I was at Aaron Davis hall or in the old BAM. Beyond just staring at beautiful people, which I’m told I have the habit of doing, I heard some really good poetry. The highlights for me were Devonne Heyward, who offered up a shy avalanche of liquid meaning, Erica Mapp, who cautioned us not to pursue those who don’t give freely(amen!), and Amanda Morgan, whose queer suburban tales resonated for me. Pretty much everyone was great though, and Cave Canem seems to be a cool organization. They offer writing workshops for people of color and organize talented writers on a national scale.

Afterwards I got to check out Wild Ginger, a vegan joint on Broome. Prior to entering, I was feeling a little sceptical of its ability to be veganfabulous, but it was indeed. Nice scallion pancakes, mango salad, excellent steamed dumplings, green tea ice cream…all good. The waitstaff are also really cute and human. It’s not pretentious at all and reasonably priced too!

Then I did manage to make it to the Midnight screening at 92 St Y Tribeca of Ladies and Gentlemen the Stains. The leading role in this film is played by Diane Lane and it was made the same year that I was born. Like Times Square, The Stains has a girl power, feminist, vaguely lesbo theme. It’s cool, really funny somehow. Some of the characters include a spoofy, takes itself seriously British band, and a Bob Marley quoting Jamaican band promoter, called lawnboy. He gives a pretty crazy soliloquy at one point. The basic premise it that Diane, her kid sister and her blonde cousin, want to be loved, be fierce, make money and become famous. They realize that the way to achieve all of these goals is to appear on tv and wear incredibly bright eye shadow and no pants. Maybe they’re on to something.

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!

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.