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Author Updates

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tradition of going to long, boring, and basically awful movies on holidays--sitting in a dark movie theatre for 3 hours watching something fundamentally unwatchable being preferable to gorging and arguing in overly bright dining room for 3 hours. “Australia” seemed like perfect choice for Thanksgiving. Alas, plans derailed by friend who revolted against idea at the last minute. Bad reviews, too long, Nicole Kidman. As if all that wasn’t the point? Saw “Milk” instead. Not nearly long enough and much too good. Performance by Sean Penn amazingly understating and appealing. Winsome smile, small, subtle hand gestures. All conveying perfect blend of insecurity and confidence, seductiveness and self-effacement. Unless I missed something, James Franco’s much-publicized prosthetic penis left on cutting room floor.

Rereading Valley of the Dolls to discuss in comic novel class as article of pop culture camp. Having read it six months earlier, surprised at how alternately boring and compelling it remains. Equally surprised at own decision to use it as part of class. Will need major justification for having assigned it. Trying to reconstruct thinking behind decision, but too much water over the dam since last April. Bad summer, bad fall. Just might forgo lecture and, in spirit of book, take Xanax and wing it.

Showed clips of Yma Sumac to class on Monday to illustrate Sontag’s “Notes on Camp”. The Sarah Bernhardt gestures, the eye makeup, the chiffon sleeves, the whole “Incan Princess” bio. And yet, ended up downloading all of “Mambo” album from iTunes and have been listening obsessively since. Sumac’s life perfect subject for biopic. Preferably long, boring, basically awful, and released in time for Thanksgiving next year.

Posted by Stephen @ 10:16 PM EST

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Read Do the Windows Open by Julie Hecht in Comic Novel class. Students commented on narrator's willingness to wear clip-on shades over sunglasses to disguise signs of aging, even at risk of appearing crazy. Commented that "crazy is preferable to old" which was, fortunately, taken as if intended to be a joke.

In despair over global economic collapse. Savings kaput, and value of assorted retirement funds diminished. Received little empathy from A in discussing the matter. “You,” he reminded, “don’t have to put children through college.” True. Did not, however, bring up fact that I do have a carefully nourished “college education fund.” This account intended to help pay for the educational needs (grad school? massage therapy training? Blaine Beauty School?) of the young “assistants” one will undoubtedly need to hire at a certain stage of physical decrepitude. (Number of young assistants willing, even eager, to assist “daddy” for free is considerably higher than number interested in unpaid services for “grandpa.”) Since fund may not come back for a decade or more, will have to put more time into fitness routine and reconsider decision to stop coloring hair.

Posted by Stephen @ 01:22 PM EST

Friday, November 21, 2008

Had been having issues with pillows for years. Too hard, too soft, entire Goldilocks routine. Stiff neck, headaches, back problems. But could not justify expense of new pillows since insomnia had prevented meaningful sleep since 1986. Sea change with recent discovery of sleeping pills. 5 sometimes 6 hours of sleep a night. Finally had justification for new pillows. Went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and spiraled down into near catatonic state over number of options. Ended up with 85$ lump made out of Swedish foam with the weight of a corpse. Had to up pill dosage to cope with self-loathing related to cost of pillow.

At least weather has been good. Entire week of unseasonable cold and brisk winds howling through naked trees. Had been miserable with balmy temps of late October. Possibility of snow this weekend. More good news.

In state of muddled confusion trying to write topics for students’ final papers. Course is 20th Century American Comic Novel. 46 students. 10 novels. Trying to tamp down raging intellect of graduate-student teaching assistants without betraying my innate stupidity. “I’m not sure the students are up to this level,” is convenient euphemism for “What the fuck?” Got up at 5:30 am to ponder paper topics and Susan Sontag, both easier to take before effects of sleeping pills wear off.

Posted by Stephen @ 11:42 PM EST

Monday, November 17, 2008

Have nearly stopped weeping with amazement and gratitude when Mr. And Mrs O appear on television screen. A good thing since they are on every third minute. And yet not enough. Watched interview on 60 Minutes last night with astonishment. But had to put down cake unfinished because of crying jag as they described Mrs. O's mother's quiet reaction to early election returns. Having bought into theories of stolen elections and machine-made fraud, had given up hope of ever having a person of intelligence and principle back in that office. Even love the happy-couple patter and the yapping about the kids and dog, things that usually provoke whatever you call road rage when it happens sitting in living room watching TV eating cake.

Spent part of October working with writer/director on film adaptation of The Easy Way Out. Amazed at how much of book I'd forgotten and more amazed at how much I remembered. Adaptation in French, so had handy excuse of language barrier as cover for vague memory. Filming supposedly starts in March in Paris. Not holding breath on that. Investing in independent movies low priority during collapse of global economy. Though maybe as safe as anything else these days.

Counting down days until end of semester. Six class meetings and two more books. Have nearly run out of Post-It notes and highlighters, not to mention clean shirts. Dropped teaching schedule for spring term to finish novel. Eager to get back to it to see how characters' lives turn out. Happily, I hope, although given the characters' ages, a little hard to know exacty what that term means. Resignation? Contentment? Cake in living room watching TV?

Posted by Stephen @ 08:53 AM EST

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