The Sound and The Fury

Today, I began reading The Sound and the Fury.

Most Americans have read this novel in high school or college, but I can safely say most Dutch have not. Our education on English literature was extremely English, meaning: it focused on writing from Great Britain and Ireland (Steinbeck and Dickinson being the exceptions). Apart from Woolf, Orwell, and Joyce, it also cared little about the 20th century.

Although I was happy to learn Shakespeare sonnets by heart, and could never get enough of Jane Austen, I felt retrospectively sad that I didn’t discover American masters such as Hemingway, Salinger, and Bellow until long after my graduation. 

So today: Faulkner. The dialect is less difficult to understand than I had thought, and the style is far less complicated, too. It’s the perspective that’s troubling and intriguing all the same. I’m sticking with it!

Atmospheric Personalities

They’ve named a hurricane after me, my husband says and he sounds proud. It was only a tropical storm this morning, he adds, but I’m sure it’s a hurricane now.

We Google his atmospheric namesake and learn that tropical storm Erica has already stolen his thunder. Danny is nothing but a “weak and disorganized cyclone with minimal impact.”

Looking disappointed, he suggests we search for my name. We do and meet tropical storm Claire from 1969, a depression.

Weak and disorganized, my husband says. That’s me.

A depression, I say.

We turn the computer off and let the evening wind down.

Legs

According to certain people in my life, I don’t exploit my feminine charm as much as I should. I guess I’m just one of these women who prefer being appreciated for other qualities, etcetera. But I must admit that on rare occasions, I draw satisfaction from recognizing my physical potential.

Today, jogging in the Luxembourg gardens, I passed a group of firemen in training in front of the Medici fountain. They were placidly listening to their coach until they caught sight of me. Over twenty heads turned. I couldn’t help but flash the young men a smile. Even the coach looked at me as though he’d never seen a woman with bare legs like mine before. Perhaps he hadn’t.

Back home, I made a note to myself: your legs may be of use some day.

Underworld

I’m re-reading Don Delillo’s Underworld.

The first time I read it, I was twenty-two. I liked it yet thought it was overabundantly American.

I still think that, but now I also think it’s a masterpiece I can never live without.

The difference between these two responses makes me worried about who I was at the age of twenty-two.

I soothe myself with the explanation that I probably missed half of Delillo’s brilliance because of my poorer comprehension of English at the time.

Unsubtle Dream

I dreamed I was living in a dystopian world in which culture had become suspicious and men were not allowed to read anything unless it was written by a woman.

I recently re-devoured Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Often, my dreams are not very subtle.

The Mindreader

hobart

The always amazing Hobart published my short short “The Mindreader” as their web feature today.

“I am a woman of discipline, which is to say: I don’t act at random. But I once slept with a mindreader on a whim.”

>> continue reading >>

Diversion

The landscape will shift here for a while: I’m updating the site. Making it more simple and accessible. Getting it ready for an audience that doesn’t speak Dutch. The thing is, I’m almost finished with my novel and I need something to keep me from finishing it. Diversion is what that’s called, I think.

Hoe de muur onder mijn handen verkruimelde

Short story in the anthology: 25 onder de 35, verhalen van jonge, veelbelovende Nederlandse en Vlaamse schrijvers. (25 under 35, stories by young, promising Dutch and Flemish authors.)

Editors: Said El Haji and Annelies Verbeke
Publisher: Uitgeverij Prometheus
Prose by (among others): Abdelkader Benali, Saskia de Coster, Esther Gerritsen, and Ernest van de Kwast

The Era of TV series

We arrived by elevator on a moon-shy night. Two pretty boys in ripped and burned-out T-shirts led us into an anteroom where a doctor was sliding on medical mittens. She was tugging at the latex with her teeth. We were told to strip, leave our scarves, hats and umbrellas on a steaming pile of abandoned garments. The soaked up rain in wool ponchos and trench coats was evaporating; there were high levels of human-radiated heat.

“I’d like to order a hamburger,” a broad man said. He wore a motorcycle jacket and mirrored sunglasses. His hair was black and shiny, shaped into a monstrous crest.
“Just because I’m wearing my uniform, doesn’t mean I’m on duty,” I said, softening the blow with a smile. “Besides, I haven’t seen Lafayette yet. Perhaps he’s not coming.”

We eased into a bustling salon, sealed up in plastic. Faces were stamped with excitement, suspense, kaleidoscopic paints. A zombie offered us a cocktail. Our hands reached out, but we were bushwhacked, bear-hugged from behind by Spartacus.
“Don’t let this corpse bleed you dry,” he warned me, pointing to the dapper vampire at my side.
“Happy Birthday, Spartacus,” the vampire said.

We traded small talk for gifts, eyeing the characters around us. Near the bar, a full-breasted redhead showed off her shapely behind in a tight scarlet over-knee dress. Three guys in bulky sneakers were semi-loafing on canes, debating whether to pop another pseudo-pill; transvestites dotted the dance floor, some allured in low-cut attire, others in checkered tweed suits. I spied a car mechanic, one fat grizzly bear, a state trooper. They weren’t talking.

“Hey Alice, what’s up?” an orange-suited prisoner asked.
“Alice is in Wonderland,” I replied. “I’m her evil twin—packing fairy blood.”

Lady Gaga was turned-up. A man sporting tighty-whities waltzed in, otherwise well-dressed from the waist up. The vampire and I started prancing. Occasionally, I offered him my throat. In between highballs and chitchat, the champagne flowed. When the green surgeon arrived, we knew it was time to quit the joint.

After the age of Almodovar came the year of Disney, and now, the era of TV series. We wondered what Spartacus would opt for next. At least we learned one thing: being mutilated, dead or inhuman doesn’t stop you from having a good time.

Blog: Diary of a Bad Year by Coetzee

In Diary of a Bad Year, Coetzee narrates the story of an elderly writer who meets a young woman in the communal laundry room and asks her to type out his essays. The book itself is interlaced with these essays and the young woman comments on them.

The first series of essays is mostly political. The second series deals with topics like writing, birds and Bach –  often with a personal undertone. The young woman prefers the second series and when I first read the book I disagreed with her: the political essays are far more urgent. After reading the book for the second time, I must agree with her: the humanist essays are far more memorable.

Coetzee about ageing:
“My hip gave such pain that today I could not walk and could barely sit. Inexorably, day by day, the physical mechanism deteriorates. As for the mental apparatus, I am continually on the qui vive for broken cogs, blown fuses, hoping against hope that it will outlast its corporeal host. All old folk become Cartesians.”