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because it sounds like some vague literary term, or a pernicious disease

Even Amidst Fierce Flames The Golden Lotus Can Be Planted

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I have a copy of Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel The Bell Jar that I have been carrying around with me throughout my various moves since grade eleven. The copy of which I speak is a printing that was issued in the 1970’s and has a very simple, green concentric circle design and black and white block lettering. I should also mention that I totally pilfered this copy from my grade eleven English class book stacks.

At the time I didn’t think my of actions as stealing so much as liberating this book from its endlessly dreary shelf-life, sitting on the stacks passed over for brighter, newer paperback books. I devoured the Bell Jar, over and over again. There was quite literally a period of my life that I would read it from start to finish and then start all over again. I read it in this fashion to my count eight times, it was likely more, before I moved onto something else. Undoubtedly however, The Bell Jar is one of the novels that defined the utter cliché of my teenaged ennui and shaped my earliest attempts to be “a writer.” As we know now however, I am not “a writer”, and it’s all Marcel Proust’s fault.

I read The Bell Jar frequently even today, often in the bath, coining my phrase “I’m reading Plath in the bath”, which is ironic with the whole suicide thing. Not to worry though, Sylvia didn’t do herself in by opening her veins in a warm bath, she did it by sticking her head in the oven a month after the first publication of her only novel. The stigma attached to The Bell Jar Aside, it’s actually a funny, personal and rather uplifting tale. At least to me.

Semi-autobiographical, The Bell Jar follows the protagonist Esther Greenwood as she works through her internship at a woman’s magazine, return to her mother’s house, attempted suicide, hospitalization and eventual recovery with some flashbacks recalling her lame boyfriend Buddy and his weird underwear. I expect eventually, since my blog here has become a virtual graveyard for the writers themselves I will write more in another entry about Plath herself, her suicide and the destruction of her last journal after her death by Ted Hughes, but that requires a trip to the library and some pant-free research.

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Written by Lindsey

June 9, 2010 at 9:21 am

I Am Only Blogging About Sexual Proclivities From Now On.

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I was looking through my bookcases earlier this week in search of something new and interesting to share with you here on ikstim. I have noticed a trend with the books that I choose in that the authors are all long dead. I think this is largely subconscious on my part as so often in my pants-free googling and what I often end up writing about is the person who wrote the book rather than the book itself. I am like the Perez Hilton of dead writers. Get your dirty literary gossip here!

So in my search when I pulled out James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first thing I thought of was not the work, nor even various classics that Joyce has contributed to the vast “literary rainbow of books you should read to make people think you are smart” (patent pending).  I did not even think of my grad student friend Pat, who is slavishly devoted enough to Joyce to write a whole bloody dissertation on him. I thought of instead, James Joyce’s dirty letters to his wife. Of course I did, because I am nothing if not obscenely curious as to how great writers conducted themselves in the bedroom.

There are a few things you should know about James Joyce before I drop the whole “I like my wife to fart while I fuck her” bomb on you.

1.) Joyce wrote some of the most interesting and challenging books, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and  Finnegans Wake. His experimental style has given him a reputation as one of the one of the most influential writers in the 20th Century and he is often cited as a key contributor to the development of the Modernist Novel.

2.) He was a bad-ass. A heavy drinker, and completely impious, he refused to kneel and confess at the wish of his dying mother. He was also shot at one night by his room-mate, who may or may not have been aiming for a kettle that hung above Joyce’s bed. That’s some street cred right there.

3.) His wife, Nora Barnacle, was a terrifically supportive and loyal spouse. In 1941 When Joyce died and it was suggested to her that a Mass be held for his immortal soul she responded, “I couldn’t do that to him.”.

4.) His influence and legacy is impacting how people read and write today. In 1999 Joyce was listed as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, and three of his novels appear on the 100 Best English Language Novels according to Modern Library. Ulysses is ranked number one.

So one would think, with all this other interesting, influential and fascinating information and creativity that surrounds him, that I would be able to write a lengthy and lovely entry or a few dedicated to this. Instead I want to tell you about how much he loved his wife’s farts, and it was a lot. James Joyce, wrote letter upon erotic and detailed letter to his wife about how hot and dirty he thought she was. An example written in 1909:

“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.”

If those are not the words of a man who desperately loves the shit (that works on both levels – ha!) out of his wife, then I don’t know what is. There are a whole host of these letters that run the gamut from sweet and romantic, to begging for a caning, to odd masturbatory and scatological references. The shocking nature of these letters aside, they are really rather sweet, and I find it endearing that these two found each other and despite the rather icky and windy nature of their couplings were devoted and desirous of each other right up until Joyce’s death.

It is easy to get caught up in the scandalous nature of Joyce’s private life, easier than making your way through Finnegans Wake for sure, but to me it provides another layer to his writing. A glimpse of the faithful relationship he had with his wife, which putting aside the rather unappetizing things which these two consenting adults did together, inspired his work and nourished his life. Nora was his soul-mate, his muse and perhaps what he valued most, a safe-harbour, a place that he could be himself and be farted on lovingly.

Written by Lindsey

June 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Mustache Dude Will Ruin Your Hot Lesbian Sex Every Time

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Bram Stroker wrote Dracula in 1897. But before Dracula there was Carmilla. Carmilla was written in 1872 by J. Sheridan Le Fanu and serves to prove the point there really no originality in writer’s craft.

Touted as a ‘substantial contribution to the vampire legend in supernatural fiction’ Carmilla is little known and certainly not referenced in the legends and sparkling vampiric romances that we have so readily available today. Which is a shame because Carmilla was way ahead of her time. Today we get to read about Edward and Bella saving it for marriage, although I personally believe that the Twilight series is really about the hard choice between necrophilia and bestiality that every 18-year-old girl in Washington state must face, I digress. Carmilla however gets right down to the gritty truth of vampire lore: hot girl on girl blood sucking action.

Carmilla is a vampire love story that is centered around the relationship between two young women, Laura and Carmilla. Laura has a dream about Carmilla when she is a child and tells her father that a beautiful woman entered her bedroom and bit her on the chest. Years later when Laura is eighteen, she and Carmilla meet in real life and instantly recognize each other. Guess what happens next? Carmilla enters Laura’s bedroom and bites her on the chest, kinky bitch. Carmilla is found out to be a vampire and instead of letting these two have their torrid love affair, Carmilla is destroyed. Which is of course all cloaked in moral lessons which are just as true today as they were in 1872, a.) sex before marriage is bad b.) women are evil and c.) girl on girl will make more money than anything else you can possibly put out there.

Mustache dude does not approve.

The reason that I know this is intended to be a love story, rather than some titillating tale of how evil women are when they are unmarried and without the influence of men, is because even after Carmilla is killed, Laura still longs for her, thinking that she hears her footsteps on the stairs. This perhaps was a literary device intended to scare the reader that OMG THE LESBIAN VAMPIRE ISN’T DEAD!!! Really it just serves to underline the point that had Carmilla and Laura just been left alone, they likely would have lived happily together in some little country house and collected cats.

Written by Lindsey

June 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Cookies You Can Believe In, In Bed.

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I was Marcel Proust in another life.  I have proof.  See, I am never going to be a great writer, I will never, and not through lack of trying, write a great novel and I will never see myself published. How’s that for positive thought? You can take your quantum physics and shove them up your ass.

The reason that none of these things will ever happen for me is because when I was Marcel Proust I used up all my writerly mojo and will never be able to write again. Being Marcel Proust has sucked my creative juices dry, so now you are left with pants-free googling anecdotes and semi-coherant rambling in my attempt to emulate having talent.

Looking at pictures of myself and Marcel Proust, you can see the resemblance, he looks all pasty and thoughtful, see? I am also pasty, and while not terribly thoughtful any more, I do like cookies.

And boy-howdy here comes more proof, when I was Marcel Proust in my former life, I also liked cookies. I liked cookies enough that I was able to write a novel in seven volumes about cookies. I wonder how many more times I can write cookies into this paragraph? Cookies.

Also, guess what I am reading? That’s right! The novel in seven parts that I wrote in French between 1913 and 1927, In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, depending on the translation. Except, now I am reading it in English, because the ability to read this in French did not reincarnate with the rest of me.

The Lover

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I picked up Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawerence on a whim. I was at City Lights Book Shop here in London and I was gathering up various titles and leaving an increasing pile of books on the counter awaiting me to take them home. Lady Chatterley was one of the last titles that I picked, and I held the yellowing, tattered paperback in my hand and I looked at the picture on the cover. A woman stands with her naked back exposed and flowers twined in her long hair. I recall thinking vaguely that it was a classic, that it had a bit of a reputation and at the very least, I could read the dirty bits and snicker to myself about the puritanical censorship that prohibited the story from being published openly until 1960.

Then I read it, and it was wonderful. Not in the way that it’s a fantastic story, or that it imparts some lingering effect, in fact in that arena it misses the mark. The characters of the cold husband and the noble, savage lover become allegorical archetypes, and seem to merely illustrate the struggle between the mind and the body. The lesson, after all the “crises” (apparently the acceptable and literary term for orgasm in 1928) is that one cannot not be all mind, nor all body, but that one needs to exist in sensual harmony, is less a revelation then a big, fat “well, duh” moment.

I found myself bored until the seventh chapter, because it was reading much like one would expect: lovely young aristocratic woman, gets married, takes lover, is unsatisfied by lover, suffers ennui, finds herself getting curious (if it was really pornographic, it would become “Lady Chatterley’s Lesbian Lover” right about here, alas.) becomes attracted to the very unknowable groundskeeper and so on. Then it hits you like a sack of potatoes, when D.H. Lawerence writes so poignantly about the nature of the heart, and you just weren’t expecting it because of all that other emotional chow-chow that you had to slog through first.

I am not going to tell you about the sex, although parts were sexy, and I was glad I got to that part at home, and not in the lounge at work. I am not going to get into the narratives of post World War I England’s class systems, or even the major theme of mind over body, you can go to Wikipedia and look that junk up yourself.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is not D.H. Lawerence’s best work, but it is certainly the most controversial. He himself called it “a very pure and tender novel, but also the most improper novel in the world”. While at times it veered into a sweaty meandering through a garden of phallic symbols and the occasional “fuck” tossed in there for good measure, beneath that lies a deeper truth, the earnestness of the human heart, the true nature of love. For that D.H. Lawerence changed forever how we write and read about love, sex, and men and women, and for that Lady Chatterley’s Lover is wonderful.

And Then is Heard No More

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Phronk left an interesting comment on my first post about The Sound and The Fury. He introduced me to the idea of cognitive dissonance, and the theory that we enjoy something that much more if it was a challenge to attain it. This interested me very much, and true to my nerd-cred, I took off my pants and googled.

I was intrigued, was my general dislike of the book because I felt like an outsider to the smart kids club due to my not fully understanding the structure of the story? In Aesop’s fable of the Fox and Grapes, the fox is unable to get at a certain bunch of grapes because they are too high for her snotty little fox nose to poke at. As a way of soothing her frustration, she tells herself that the grapes are probably not all that great to begin with and therefore why should she even bother wanting them? Is The Sound and The Fury my bunch of unattainable grapes? Am I the fox? Did I desire something and then criticize it because it seemed unattainable?

See, I wanted to like The Sound and The Fury, I wanted it to be the best bunch of grapes that I have ever eaten, so to speak. I wanted it to live up to the expectations I had of it, I knew it would be a challenge to read, and boy-howdy was it ever, but I wanted to come out the other side feeling as though I was some how wiser, or as though it had imparted some great lesson to me.

Instead I felt as though I had missed something, that I wasn’t as prepared for the puzzle of the literature as I thought I was. And to a certain extent, that yes, it wasn’t that great to begin with, so why should I feel so terrible about not loving it, about not moving Faulkner up the list of my favourite authors ever?

Phronk stated in his comment that it’s uncomfortable to know that we wasted effort on something that sucked. He’s right, it’s terribly uncomfortable, it sent me right into a Faulkner-esque spiral of reflection and self doubt, one that I still haven’t fathomed myself out of yet. Logically, I think that it’s alright that I was disappointed by the book, that I didn’t like it, and that you can’t win them all. Then my romantic, literature loving brain is pitching a right tantrum hollering at me about “BEST BOOK EVER!!! TOP 100!!! CLASSIC!!! MAYBE YOU’RE JUST TOO STUPID TO GET IT!!! UGH I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO LIVE WITH YOU, YOU UNCULTURED CRETIN!!!”

I have to talk that bitch down all the time.

Written by Lindsey

March 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

His Hour Upon The Stage

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I like to know things about people who write the books I read. I like to know things about people in general, but I particularly like to know things about writers. I like to picture the writer at his desk, hunched over and hunting and pecking at a typewriter, clicking out lovely things. So, I google. I used to go old school and visit the library, then I discovered this thing called the internet, now I research from bed, often without pants on.

Even though I can’t say that I especially enjoyed The Sound and The Fury, I found my curiosity piqued about the man who wrote it.

For the sake of not blogging about things that are boring and can easily found elsewhere, I thought it best to focus on the parts of William Faulkner’s life that most interested me. Mainly, his love life.  I often wonder if what authors write about is largely shaped by what happens in their own lives. I like to entertain thoughts of loves lost and roads not taken being explored in their craft and played out on the printed page. Writing stories with endings that are happy or tragic, depending on how the writer reflects on those very individuals or defining moments.

William Faulkner lived, for all intents and purposes as the leading man in his own soap opera. In love with a woman who had married someone else first, Faulkner waited ten years for his chance with his teenaged sweetheart. They were married when her first marriage fell apart. A true romantic, that didn’t stop him from conducting several extra-marital affairs, many which lasted several years.

There are some imaginative types that will tell you that to be able to create something, to write, or to paint,or to act, that you have to be able to fall in love with anything that crosses your path, be it for ten minutes or for ten years. Faulkner strikes me as the sort that worked like that, photos of him even now carry a certain weight, the portrait of the artist as an amorous poet. Despite his extra curricular activities outside the marriage bed and a heavy dependancy on alcohol, his relationship with his wife endured until the time of his death.

Faulkner, in addition to his dalliances had a generous tendency towards alcoholism. He claimed to not be able to face the blank page without a bottle of Jack Daniels. He felt, and stated several times that the drink helped him fuel his process. Others, upon speculation would suggest that it was a method of escape from the doldrums of daily life. Faulkner faced several financial woes up until his commercial success and subsequent Noble Peace Prize, and may have found some deliverance at the bottom of a bottle.

There is a picture of William Faulkner where he is seen lounging in the sun, smoking a pipe. Both elbows are casually propped on the arms of his beach chair, his typewriter before him. Here he looks very much a man not at all aware of the way his works would shape others, here he looks like a man that wrote for himself, for the joy of seeing the words spread out on the page before him.

Written by Lindsey

March 2, 2010 at 10:22 am