Friday, November 30, 2007


Aelred: Well, so I'm a moron. For some reason I thought, on first reading, that St. Aelred didn't grasp or address the sacrifices necessary for friendship. In fact, he says that friends should endure "crucifixion" for one another (with all that implies).

One, I'm an idiot, and two, you absolutely should read Spiritual Friendship, which I think is the most amazing neo-Platonist document I've read barring The Confessions which is kind of an unfair comparison. Aelred understands Plato's method as well as his conclusions; so if it's the Platonic method you love--which you should, since that's the point--you should read Spiritual Friendship immediately after The Symposium. It's actually more neo-Platonist than The Confessions.

St. Therese: So I had a conversation with the friend who had recommended Maurice and Therese, after I dissed it on the blog. And I figured out that there are different kinds of friendship. The M & T one is... based on mutual love of Christ and trust of one another, without face-to-face contact--almost like internet friendships.

I'd promoted Aelred over M & T, but that misses the point. Aelred lives out a model of philosophical friendship, where mutual pursuit of truth binds people together over distance and time. I think Aelred has a lot of insights that are especially applicable to people whose closest friends aren't Christian. He talks about friendship that isn't explicitly, necessarily, centered on Christ, whereas Maurice and Therese are entirely about their common purpose in Christ.

Morrissey: So yeah, I dissed You Are the Quarry, and I was right. It's frequently awful.

But I didn't realize that some parts of it are addictive. I'd say tracks 2 through 10 or 11 are... the kind of thing I end up listening to a lot, whether or not I like it. It isn't anywhere near the artistic achievement of Ringleader of the Tormentors, much more like the pop interest of Viva Hate and Your Arsenal. But I was wrong to suggest that Southpaw Grammar was better--it's desperately boring, and I can't imagine listening to it for fun--and I'll also say that Vauxhall and I is good enough, though not great. I really like it. The only truly great Morrissey album is Ringleader, though the early ones come close.

I think I will go back to listening to "You Have Killed Me" now.
WORDS, WORDS, WORDS: Arden Forest has a very awesome list of 10 favorite non-Psalms Bible passages, here.
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: BUTTER MAKES IT BETTER. I learned to cook brussels sprouts! It only took two tries.

#1: Trimmed sprouts (=cut off the top and bottom, and discarded whichever leaves came away when I did that) and roasted them at 400 with french-fry sliced small yellow potatoes tossed in olive oil. Stirred after ten minutes and added a sweet onion chopped into quarters. The result: delicious roasted onion, okayish fries, and unhelpful sprouts--blackened and unpleasantly crispy on one side, not cooked enough on the other. It's possible that other people's ovens would do this dish better.

#2: Trimmed sprouts. Boiled salted water, then added sprouts and cooked 10 minutes. Let sprouts cool and halved them. Cooked sprouts in saucepan with a startling amount of butter, some whole milk, Parrano cheese, and (in this order) black pepper, cayenne, and dried basil. (I think they cooked about six minutes, but I could be wrong--basically, cook until pliant and tasty.) Eaten on top of thick, buttered oatmeal toast.

This was delicious. Scarily yummy. A thinner bread wouldn't work; but then, neither would a thick roll.

Parrano is a thickish, melty cheese, dark yellow, with a grainy sharp quality that distinguishes it from various yummy cheddars but puts it roughly in that category. You'd use Parrano for a macaroni and cheese. It's tangy and "cheesy," doesn't disappear into a dish, but doesn't continue to assert itself the way goat cheeses do. Basically, if you eat a sharp white cheddar and think, "Yeah, but it could be deeper, or darker," then this might work for you. So that's the kind of cheese I used--I think a lighter or more obvious cheese would totally work, though. You could probably use my old standby, Sargento's shredded Mexican cheese blend, with no harm done.

#3: Same as above, except that I chopped the boiled sprouts instead of halving them, used just melty cheese (I forget what kind) instead of milk and cheese, and had them with buttered pasta. This wasn't quite as good as the above, but I think that's mostly because brussels sprouts in butter want to be eaten with toast, not spaghetti. They need something they can stand up to. This was still a wonderful dish, but I did think toast would have been a better match for the delectable creamy vegetables.
That a passion for freedom--chiefly from the bondage of a heartbreaking past--plunges Lucy Nelson into a bondage more gruesome and ultimately insupportable is the pathetic and ugly irony on which the novel turns. I wonder if that might not also describe what befalls the protagonist of Portnoy's Complaint.
--Philip Roth, "Document Dated July 27, 1969," in Reading Myself and Others. I don't think this is the only or best possible reading of either novel (and I suspect Roth would agree), but it's really interesting. My super short post about When She Was Good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

UH... AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING, AND STUFF: Pretty Bird Woman House, a shelter for Native American victims of domestic violence, was vandalized and burnt, and could really use some help. Via Minisinoo, who adds: "This is legit; there's been plenty of talk about it on the native Listservs, and our NAS department is gathering funds. Both the above links tell you how you can donate. If you happen to be in college and it has a Native American Studies department and/or an Inter-Tribal Student Council (ITSC), they may be collecting funds as well. Due to the rural nature of many reservations, assistance for abused native women is hard to come by. Even if you have no money to give, at least go and read the articles, as many people are unaware of the abuse situation facing so many native women."
Thank you very much for the Blogwatch Times,
Thank you very much, thank you very very much...

Dark October 618: More Bible verses!

Hit & Run: A case of conscience?

The Horror Blog: Great horror movie taglines. My favorite is from a postcard advertising 28 Days Later, and turns out to be well-timed: BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING, FOR SOON THERE WILL BE NOTHING.

Via Sean Collins, who adds more here.
The artists of the Middle Ages painted allegories, we say. What really happened was that they saw more clearly than we do, and painted what they saw--angels and devils, beasts, and half-human monsters like me.
--Gene Wolfe, Pirate Freedom, via Claw of the Conciliator; reminds me of my post about genre as realism.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

IRONY AND AGONY, SIDE BY SIDE ON MY PIANO KEYS: Gravity & Waggery (aka Claw of the Conciliator--admit it, the man can pick blog titles!) brings a fun challenge: Pick ten passages from the Bible which are especially meaningful or striking to you. I did this more or less off the top of my head--ask me tomorrow, and the answers might be somewhat different--and included a bonus at the end, plus the post below this one, because the Bible doesn't say I have to work in base 10. If you guys do this, link back to me so I can find you!--I'd love to see other people's.

10. Matthew 1:1-6: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah....
Because all the women mentioned in Jesus' genealogy are foreigners or adulteresses. Women are brought in specifically to link Jesus to the "other." Hegel's "woman as the irony of the community" again....

9. Psalms 22:14: I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is wax, it is melted within my breast....

8. John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

7. Romans 6:4: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from death by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For whatever reason, almost every short story I write (not the novels) turns out to be about death--whether death as an object for philosophy, death as an occasion for guilt-stricken grief, death as an obstacle or death as a doorway. I honestly have no idea why this obsesses me so much. But I know one reason baptism makes sense to me is that it is baptism into the Crucifixion in order to be baptism into the Resurrection.

6. Genesis 8:21: And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done."
Because I think about this a lot. (This is the political entry.)

5. Song of Songs 2:4: He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
[and also 3:1-3: Upon my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
"I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves."
I sought him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me,
as they went about in the city.
"Have you seen him whom my soul loves?"]

4. Luke 24:35: Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
One of the epigraphs for the next novel. (The other one is from Audre Lorde's autobiography--from memory, it's something like, "It is the final dream of children to remain forever untouched.")

3. Psalms 42:1-2: As a hart longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?

2. Psalms 85:10: Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Shorter Cur Deus Homo.

1. Revelation 2:17: To him that overcometh I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it.
The only passage I'm not quoting from the RSV, because the version which first struck me is the version I need in order to make you see what I see here. I found this in CS Lewis's Problem of Pain. It needs the Nietzschean "overcometh" as well as the new name written.

bonus (11): Matthew 5:13: "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men."
For itself; but also because I'm slowly working on a thing about zombies.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
--Luke 14:11

Friday, November 09, 2007

IN THE AFTERMATH OF A KIDNAPPING. Via the Christian Persecution blog.
"With these on your feets, every day is the fox hunt, with you as the quarry!"
"COP TALK": I'm at Reason Online, talking about cops who spew e-vitriol.... "Many police departments across the country have experienced similar bulletin board crises over the last few years, putting police officers' freedom of speech in conflict with the public's need to be protected from, well, cops who get off on using Tasers."
MORE OF OTHER PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT AELRED (come to the spiritual-friendship discussion this Sunday!)--this time from the best chapter in the best thing Andrew Sullivan's written, "If Love Were All" from Love Undetectable: Reflections on friendship, sex and survival:
Such a conviction about the essential congruity between virtue and friendship was central to the work of Aelred of Rievaulx. For Aelred, true friendship seems at times a kind of mystical delirium, an essential step toward knowledge of and acquiescence to God's love. For Aelred, "nothing more sacred is
striven for, nothing more useful is sought after, nothing more difficult is discovered, nothing more sweet experienced, and nothing more profitable possessed." Reading him is to be aware of a world where asexual and unromantic friendship nevertheless reaches an intensity that can only be called ecstatic. He describes the union of friendship as a kind of "spiritual kiss"....

It would be easy to see this as a form of erotic sublimation--from a celibate monk at that. But that, I think, would be to condescend to Aelred's spiritual sincerity. For Aelred, the spiritual union is, indeed, like an erotic union in its bliss, but not sexual in the corporeal sense. He expresses the old truth about spiritual ecstasy--that such ecstasy is not a sublimation of sex,
but rather than sex is an intimation of such ecstasy. And such ecstasy, by definition, cannot obliterate the demands of virtue, since it is impossible without it: "For what more sublime can be said of friendship, what more true, what more profitable, than that it ought to, and is proved to, begin in Christ, continue in Christ, and be perfected in Christ?"...

This, of course, is a demanding standard, perhaps too demanding. Most friendships, after all, do not rise to the level of complete virtue. They require a constant capacity for forgiveness and flexibility, and the complicity of friends in each other's faults need not amount to a capitulation to evil. Both Aelred and Cicero concede this at other times. They understand that, even
in the best of friends, there will be many moments of failure, even vice, and although a good friend will not want to encourage a friend in such weakness, he will inevitably tolerate it at times, listen to it, even provide a form of human solidarity with it....

But this leads to a paradox. How can one completely trust another imperfect human being, whose faults are all too obvious and who could therefore betray you at any time?
TWO COMICS LINKS via Journalista: Ooooohhh, gangsterous.

And I'm going to try to make it to this
November 9 (Washington DC): Join Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware for a discussion on the graphic novel moderated by Daniel Raeburn, at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater at 16th and Q, beginning at 8PM.

so let me know if you think of anything for me to ask esp. Alison Bechdel!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

PUTTING THE "MORE" IN MEMENTO MORI: November is the month Catholics dedicate to remembrance and prayer for the dead. Daniel Mitsui honors it in his inimitable way--scroll, O man, while your time remains!
You know who was nuts about Aelred?

Cardinal Newman.

The best secondary source book I've found in The Great Senior Essay Hunt has been "Same-Sex Desire in Victorian Religious Culture" by Frederick Roden. (What a title! Available on Googlebooks!) He has a ten page discussion of Aelred & Newman that struck me in two ways.

1. I LOST MY METAPHOR -- CAN I HAVE YOURS? Aelred of Simon: "The rule of the order forbade our speaking, but his countenance spoke to me, his gait spoke, his very silence spoke." Are certain kinds of self-denial also like silence speaking?

2. These two quotes get filed together in my mind: John Dalgairns, talking about Aelred: "The very object of Monasticism is to give a proper outlet to devotional feelings, which are stifled in the world, because it would be fanatical to indulge them; it must therefore be made up to a great extent of
external actions. To throw oneself at the feet of another, and call oneself a miserable sinner, in a convent is part of the rule."

No prizes for guessing which one comes next... "For my part, I think the only difference between them is that if you are a Catholic and have this intensity of belief you join the convent and are heard from no more; whereas if you are a Protestant and have it, there is no convent for you to join and you go about in the world getting into all sorts of trouble and drawing the wrath of people who don't believe anything much at all down on your head." (Flannery O'Connor)

Good luck with your talk!

Guess who passed her generals exam, and is now ABD? *throws confetti*

Go congratulate her!
TWO LINKS: Via Ratty, Gangsters Anonymous (with interesting stuff about "weakness"); and, via E-Pression, Johnny Marr is a visiting music professor at Salford University.
Most nothing is not nothing at all: it is usually a determined nothing, as Hegel says--nothing in relation to something that it is not but that delimits it, fixes its terms, gives it a margin.
--Cigarettes Are Sublime

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

D.C. AREA PEOPLE: This Sunday, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., I'llbe leading a discussion at St. Matthew's Cathedral of spiritual friendship--how our friendships with others can be modeled on and strengthen friendship with Christ. The discussion will be based on St. Aelred's book SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP, but you do NOT have to have read the book to come and participate!

The discussion is sponsored by Always Our Children, the cathedral's gay & lesbian ministry. St. Matthew's is at 17th and Rhode Island, a short walk from the Dupont Circle metro:

We'll be in the West Conference Room, in the basement. I will also be making chocolate-covered strawberries (MMM), so let me know if you're definitely coming so that I know about how many to make. If you want to get a head start, this is the handout I'll be using:
but again, you don't need to have read anything to come and participate in the discussion.

I hope to see lots of you there! Please email me if you have any questions--and definitely forward this to anyone you think might be interested!
"GRACE IS THE HARDEST PILLOW": I review Kathy Shaidle's poetry collection, Lobotomy Magnificat.
Filling a lack hollows out an even greater lack that demands even more urgently to be filled.
--Cigarettes Are Sublime

Monday, November 05, 2007

ADDICTIVE AND HELPFUL GAME: Rice for vocab sk1llz. It took me 180 grains of rice before I was confronted with a word I genuinely didn't recognize. ("Secern"?? Is that a thing?)
THE RAT IS SMARTER THAN YOU. I recently learned that the working title of Brazil was 1984 1/2--which is hilarious, yes, but focuses on the way the movie is derivative of past dystopias (paleo-futilism?), rather than on the dream that gives the movie its poignance.

Also, if you scroll down, there's a really funny thing about pumpkins.
ZOMBIE VOODOO PIRATES!: So, Tim Powers's On Stranger Tides.

The good: zombie voodoo pirates! Plus lots of action scenes, which aren't my thing really, but Powers does them incredibly well--action-adventure revealing character and possessing pathos.

Two great characters, the puppeteer John Chandagnac and the pirate Phil Davies. And maybe Blackbeard, although he's more a... character-shaped horror, than a character.

As usual, Powers just punishes his characters; you can't have fantasy of salvage without wrecking everything first. I love how he does that.

The bad: There are two women in this novel. One is a shrieking adulteress, and the other is completely passive for 95% of the book. LOL NO. I totally understand why the second character is passive; but it doesn't work, because again: only two women. I know this is a pirate book, thus mostly full of men, but see, that's why you don't make your one major woman basically a pawn or prize.

This is also the first Powers novel where I've ever found him tendentious or moralizing. (On a very related note, this book also includes the only Powers character I thought was just misconceived from start to finish, the utterly OTT Freudian curdle Leo Friend.) If I were to speculate wildly (and apparently here I go!), that might be because Powers thought he was writing a voodoo novel, when in fact he wrote a very Catholic novel about voodoo, and that disjunction between authorial intent and execution might have caused a lack of self-overhearing. I felt the author leaning on me during some of the moralizing passages. Which was totally unnecessary, since Powers can get all his moral effects just through heartbreaking horror scenes, which he writes wonderfully. (On Stranger Tides is almost as much horror novel as action-adventure, I think; Powers crosses genre a lot, and horror is usually the secondary one.)

So... look, it's zombie voodoo pirates! If that makes you want to read it, you probably should. If you're ambivalent, read other stuff by him first--Declare is still the standout among the Powers books I've read, but Last Call is also really, really good, and I think most people would like The Stress of Her Regard much more than I did.
Like writing, smoking belongs to that category of action that falls in between the states of activity and passivity--a somewhat embarrassed, embarrassing condition, unclean, unproductive, a mere gesture.
--Cigarettes Are Sublime

Saturday, November 03, 2007

THE MAN-MARY: Some thoughts on a possible feminist reading of the all-male priesthood.

I should begin this discussion by saying I'm not convinced this is the right approach, at all. Its sharp divergence from the usual (and, to me, thoroughly unpersuasive) "in persona Christi" explanations may indicate a fundamental problem in my approach. I am presenting this solely as what someone like me sees when she looks at the priesthood. It is entirely possible that the set of "people like me" is 1; or that I'm wrongheaded from the start!

Still, my New Haven visit made me think hard about the priesthood and women. This is not a question that had ever exercised me. I frankly find it hard to care. I know that sucks and is unhelpful; if you care, I guess all I can do is say that St. Therese of Lisieux also considered that she had a calling to the priesthood, and ended up understanding that calling in a very different and analogical way.

I can also, though, say that I don't know that opening the priesthood to women would be a feminist act. This gets into a lot of tangled questions of "What is feminism?", so let me be totally clear: The following discussion assumes that motherhood is a thing, a real thing in the world, and that no theory should overcome it (though I think we all know, after the 20th century, that theory can overcome all human loyalties).

Assuming that motherhood is a thing--I think it's a thing of being radically available to your children. Maybe radically disposible to them. Certainly radically open to their needs.

And this is precisely what priests are to the faithful. I'm getting this from a thing by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, I think in The Public Square vol. 1, where he defends priestly celibacy by saying that priests are "radically disposible." Like Kleenex. Or... like David's self-as-libation, poured out for God.

I think a feminist Catholic could legitimately say that women are already treated as available, as disposible, even as Kleenex. A woman priest, therefore, would just be a cliche. Of course a chick is here to serve you! That's not radical at all. A male priest is new and different and needed--a radically disposible male, not a female. A man-Mary, whose only word can be, "Fiat voluntas tua."

Again, I don't know that this is the defense I'd make. I welcome all y'all's comments on this (and on my other posts today, of course). But I do think this idea of priestly vocation gets fairly close to what actual priests I've known have said about what their lives are like; and it overturns the standard gender roles in a way that might be instructive, even if this ultimately isn't the best way to think about priests and women and Christ.
THE PASSION OF NEW EVE (Or, I Am the Last of the Famous International Playboys): I also ended up thinking about the story of Eve's creation. We have two creation narratives: God creates all humankind in His image; and God creates male and female. And female comes second. That sucks, right?

Like it did for Jacob and David.

Second children, last children--these are the ones God fixes upon, again and again. Is Eve yet another youngest son? Is His whole point that family placement is overturned, because the humble will be exalted and the exalted humbled?

I think this is likely more valid than the priest=Mary thing I'm about to post, in part because this fits in with Mary as second Eve. All the weight of the Incarnation is placed on Mary--not on Joseph; he's called to accept the fait accompli. Mary's choice has weight, I believe, at least in part because Eve's did. The littlest one's voice can save the world or throw it down. God does this again and again. It's almost as if He were making a point....
HOLD MY HAND A LITTLE LESS: The above posts were all provoked by two things: 1) I'm writing a novel about a transgendered (FTM) Yale student from a Catholic family, and that student's feminist friends; and 2) because of that novel, I went to a discussion at the Yale Women's Center: "I Agree with Eve: Women and God."

(The title is due to some kind of creepy evangelical thing, where people wore t-shirts with some dude's face and the logo, "I Agree with Adam," where Adam is an evangelical dude, so when people ask you about your t-shirt you can, I guess, share the Gospel. Because that will totally work.)

Anyway--I have all kinds of minor observations of the Women's Center (IT IS OKAY TO DISAGREE, OMG--you don't have to act like disagreement is nuclear warfare!)--but the main thing this meeting made clear to me is that feminist analysis can't understand Christianity from within because feminist analysis is power analysis, and Christianity makes power at best a contested and conflicted category. Power isn't what a Christian seeks. So you can say what you want about Christian history; but Christian theology just doesn't lend itself to feminist analysis, because receptivity, docility, servanthood, all of these aren't negative categories for Christians.

"Ardent sweetness" isn't an oxymoron for us.
IN MY OPTIMISTIC MOMENTS, I THINK THIS IS THE MOST INTELLIGENT COMMENT ON POLITICS I'VE HEARD IN MONTHS: "I'm really convinced that the future will be a struggle between anarchy and chaos."
ABJECTION, YOUR HONOR!: Thoughts on two books I skimmed, and one I actually read.

first volume of James Agee's film criticism: I can't remember the title of this. It's... hrm. It's easier to read a lot of Agee at once than to read a lot of James Wood at once, at least for me; but there's still that same sense that he's straining to fit his prose to his persona. I don't know--it's entirely possible that I'm just insufficiently sympathetic to that persona. I mean, Wilde probably does the same thing, it's just that when he does it I don't care. ...And on a lower level, Agee's less enamored of stylization than I am, I think. I suspect he'd deny that, though.

Rargh, why am I approaching this book the wrong way around?? What I should say is that his phrases are so much fun, so often; that when he dispraises something I liked (I can't think of a good example here--maybe Double Indemnity?) he always picks up on real flaws, not made-up ones; that he has a sentimental rigorousness that makes up for his... you know... sentimentality; and that he watches movies through a theological lens, always.

This line, for example, more or less summarizes one big reason I'm a Catholic: "As the audience watches from a hill, with the eyes at once of a helpless outsider, a masked invader, and a still innocent defender, a mere crossroads imparts qualities of pity and terror which, to be sure, it always has, but which it seldom shows us except under tilted circumstances."

Julia Kristeva and Catherine Clement, The Feminine and the Sacred: Why can't these women follow a thought from beginning to end?? A desperately frustrating book. There are some terrific anecdotes ("Louisa of the Nothingness" is alone worth the price of admission), but nothing is ever pursued with ardent need to know the truth. Please do not let your belief that pursuit of wisdom is phallocentric damage your actual ability to hold up your end of an argument!

Oh, and both authors tend to treat race in a way I think you can treat sex, but not race: as if culture, especially racially-linked culture, is a poetic concept, an image available to philosophical and poetic thought, rather than a purely and cruelly culturally-constructed category. And actually, I wonder if this book might be a helpful corrective to people who think sex and race are both purely and cruelly culturally-constructed: Do you really think black women's blackness can be discussed the way all women's womanhood can be discussed?

There's also a creepy discussion of the difference between biological life and "biographical" life, life with meaning, which I think suggests that women can rightly withhold meaning from their biological children. (Which I think becomes a defense of abortion, although that act is certainly never explicitly discussed.)

I really liked Hegel's thing, which I only know about because of Clement, of woman as "the irony of the community."

Richard Klein, Cigarettes Are Sublime. This is the one I read all the way through. You'll be seeing several quotations from it in the days to come. It's Klein's attempt to delineate exactly what he got from smoking cigarettes, possibly in the hope of quitting.

I'm not sure what to say about it. I love its passion for the sublime, over and against the beautiful. I love its brassiness and bitchiness.

It is very scattershot. The chapters--especially the one on Casablanca, and maybe the one on Carmen--tend to waver off into vaporous clouds of association, rather than coherent thoughts. Klein unwittingly makes clear one of the ways his cigarette-sublime differs from the more obvious sublimity of alcohol: Cigarettes are a way to swing out of the ordinary for a moment, have a little ekstasis on the cheap, and then generally swing right back in. Even if The Symposium had been written in the modern age, for example, I can't imagine cigarettes having the same effect on the company that drinking did. Alcohol tends to go places--whether or not they're places you want to go, or should go (Thirteen Steps Lead Down, and all that)--rather than returning you to status quo ante.

Still, Klein's very much worth reading if you're interested in cigarettes, or sublimity, or both. I got a lot out of it. It won't tell you about facing the Big Light; but its little fire is also intriguing.
GAUDI COUNTS TWICE: So I was organizing my art bookshelf the other day (yes, only one shelf, I haven't been doing this whole "visual art! who knew?" thing for very long...), and I realized that all my art books have one of two themes: Spain vs. God, and The Twentieth Century: Could It Have Been Prevented?
I read your book, The Madwoman and the Saint, with Sudhir Kakar, and I like the way you show that one cannot bypass desire by confining it within pathology.
--Julia Kristeva, in Kristeva and Clement, The Feminine and the Sacred