I am going to travel back in time to punch T.S. Eliot in the face

I want to travel back in time and punch T.S. Eliot in the face. I’m not much for physical violence, but I think I could take him.

We spent two weeks in my modern poetry class talking about Eliot, and honestly, it made me hate him? I expect this hate will fade with time, but it is still true and hotly felt. Fuck that guy.

I had to devote two and a half hours of my life to discussing “The Wasteland.” Which, first of all, you can’t understand “The Wasteland” in two and a half hours. And even if you could, do you really want to? Before this class I did not hate “The Wasteland,” it has some fascinating language in it, I appreciated that. But picking it apart is honestly, one of the circles of hell. It is all allusions to other things! He likes using lots of different languages and expecting the reader to follow along. He wrote his own notes to the poem, but didn’t bother to include any translations, why would he want to do that, the elitist fuck.

One of my classmates called “The Wasteland” “perfect.” Which is just… baffling. Important, sure, fascinating even. But also, kind of miserable? Like, intentionally miserable? In a very interesting way! But on a lot of levels it’s a deeply unpleasant poem!

I keep on thinking about how it’s made up of so many allusions, this kind of puzzel box of a poem, where everything is also pointing at something else. And often, I like these things. I kept on thinking about Todd Haynes’s film I’m Not There, and Hal Duncan’s Vellum and Ink. Both of these works are so dense with references, but they aren’t dependant on catching all the allusions to be appreciated.

I’m Not There is steeped in the mythology of Bob Dylan. And yeah, it helps if you know a lot about Dylan. It helps to know that the motorcycle is a sign of coming disaster, it helps to know the story about him visiting Woody Guthrie in the hospital, it helps to know about his relationship with Nico. But you don’t need to know all that to access the movies. I’m not particularly fluent in how Dylan played with the story of Billy the Kid, but that thread of the movie still works for me. It’s still compelling, within itself, and within the whole of the film.

The first time I read Vellum and Ink I was a junior in high school, and I understood, maybe a third of the references? I got the punk rock ones, the gay history, and a fair amount of the Shakespeare, but not most of the politics, and none of the Sumerian mythology. (They’re really weird fucking books, and I love them with my WHOLE HEART.) Despite not understanding so many of the underlying levels, I still fell for these books. I still fell for the language, and the characters, and the SPIRIT of the thing.

It’s true, that it may be unfair to compare novels and a film to a poem, but I don’t think so. These are all texts with very fragmented narratives. That’s something they have in common with “The Wasteland” actually. They have longer fragmented narratives, but that’s the difference between a long poem, a feature film, or a thousand pages of weird speculative fiction. There is more narrative, it’s more a matter of scale than ratio.

think my problem is only like, 40% Eliot, and 50% my opinion that we should let texts breath and be confusing? That poems aren’t things to solve. They’re things to speculate over, with the recognition that you might not get anywhere, and that there will be a multiplicity of readings.

Oh god, is this another one of those situations where the real problems is that I internalized way too much Foucault? I hadn’t even thought of that, but it might be. I should remember, if I have a problem with how something is being done, it is probably because of Foucault, aka the “I’m too queer for this” excuse.

I am going to stop writing about Eliot now, and hopefully forever. I want to leave you with something nice, so here is a poem I encountered, in which a very young T.S. Eliot writes about St Sebastian. I am gay enough for that.

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the song “nausea” by jeff rosenstock instead of actually explaining myself

so I haven’t been blogging. idk. it was the election, and then I took the GRE, and then I was busy finishing grad school applications, and the election had still happened, and I didn’t have a lot of energy to tell you all my thoughts about books. it wasn’t just here, I gave up my two fancy pretending to be a real writer guest blog things. not that I was ever very good at those. I guess I missed it.

I think it’s good for me? not telling you about books necessarily, but having a space where I make myself put words out in the world. and telling you about books too. I’ve almost only ready theory or books with spaceships this year. a few exceptions, but mostly spaceships. lots of star wars novels. that’s something I wasn’t expecting.

I might go back and tell you about everything I’ve read and seen since I stopped blogging regularly. I might try to write more about music. I move to Chicago for school in a week and a half, and I start my master’s at the end of the month, so maybe I won’t have any time for anything. but writing here is good for me.

I have this theory about writing, that it’s good, because it’s an output, and it’s a processing device, and even if you’re writing about something totally different than the life stuff you need to be processing, even if you’re writing fan fiction about Wedge Antilles, you’re still doing the work of processing, of turning things into words, and it’s good for you. or at least it’s good for me? the act of writing makes me feel better, and it has very little to do with what it is I’m actually writing.

if I felt up to writing anything coherent, I’d try to explain my feelings about Bomb the Music Industry! which I have been listening to non-stop for days now. I went and saw Jeff Rosenstock play last week. it was the funnest thing, to go to a punk show in the suburbs with my best friend, who doesn’t really like punk shows, or suburbs, or that much noise. it was amazing. I still haven’t figured out what I’m trying to say. something something not carrying how it looks, making a fool of yourself, fugazi, yadda yadda, so hot on a summer nigh, nobody followed the rules on the wall about not crowd surfing.

the important thing is the act of writing, not the words. the important thing is the act of processing, not words. the important thing is the shouting, not the words. I don’t actually believe that, but sometimes it is a good thing to hold onto as a process philosophy, and sometimes the important things is the process, and not the words.

pep talk

I haven’t been blogging at all. I feel like a failure. That isn’t what I want to get out of having a blog. I write things on the internet for validation — look, other people liked the words I put together, they gave it a star. This is also why I tweet. This is why the hockey blog isn’t very satisfying. I should blog more, and then people would have an opportunity to love me. That’s a horrible motivation.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I feel good about that. Sometimes the ratios get thrown off, the amount of energy I spend writing compared to the energy spent reading or working a human being. I feel good about my ratios right now, it’s just that none of the writing has been blogging, it has all been nonsense. I’m proud of that nonsense, but I need to do this too.

I keep track of all the books I read. I used to use Shelfari, but that’s dying, and the export to goodreads was a useless joke.Now I have a spreadsheet with almost everything I’ve read in it. It’s reliable data going back to January 2010, with a lot of what I read before then filled in. It’s pretty impressive. I’ve read thirty-something books already this year, which is nothing to sneeze at. There are ten I haven’t blogged about.

A bunch of movies too, and some albums I think I’d like to write about, and pictures from May Day I kind of want to post. I have all sorts of things to say. But I keep coming back to the books. There are books on that spreadsheet that I have no memory reading. There’s a date read, and a number between 1-5 of how much I liked it, but I don’t actually remember anything about the book. A lot of these cases are comics, which is okay, I read a ton of mediocore comic books in high school, whatever the library had. I’m okay with forgetting some of this. But some of the titles are just? I’d have to google to see what was going on, and maybe I’d find something cool, but it’s sort of sad. I’m too young for these sorts of holes.

So book reviews. I read a lot, and I remember books more if I write about them. There’s a meaning behind the method. A reason. I need to remind myself of that and get writing. Sure, the affirmation of strangers on the internet is fun, but I’m doing this for myself as well, for my own good. Hopefully this pep talk will work.