Friday Fiesta: “Small Window” by Luluc

TREND ALERT: My musical tastes this summer have tended towards the moody, the gloomy, and the Australian. Case in point: Luluc, whose haunting melody “Small Window” stopped my incessant typing/proofing/translating/social-media-posting in its tracks, and forced me to sit back and listen. Just the fact that it starts off with the lyric “Flying over Chicago”–an experience that has shaped my very identity–already makes me want to curl up in a fetus position and feel feelings. Yes, it is quite slow and melodic for a seasonal jam. I know you’re all bopping to “Turn Down the What” or some other atrocious club hit, but I have had the great pleasure of spending these past few months working my butt off. That might not sound remotely appealing, unless you’re also one of the millions who have been crushed by the economic downturn. I’ll take working every day until 9pm to the horrific tediousness of underemployment. So, since my summer seems to have morphed into an early fall, Luluc-type music is highly appropriate. My chances of catching any rays this summer is slim; I might as well pretend snow is drifting outside my window.

 

Monday Think Piece: “Why the Best Kid Books Are Written in Blood”

For those of you who like YA, I’m sure you’ve seen that click-baitish article over on Salon. No, I will not provide the link for it. Suffice to say that it reiterated one of the most common misconceptions about the genre: YA as trite, easy, and lacking any nuance. That idea is one of my biggest literary pet peeves. My other literary pet peeve is on the opposite side of the spectrum: That YA should only be trite, easy, and lacking any nuance because our little snowflakes are way too precious to be exposed to the evils of the world.

To which I say: Your little snowflake has definitely been exposed to some of the evil in the world. You might as well give them a great book to help them sort out their feelings.

There is a lot I have to say on the subject, and I don’t have time to expand on it all right now. This piece by Sherman Alexie sums up a lot of my feelings about the practice of trying to ban books for children. In the end, the only thing it’s doing is giving misguided adults the illusion of protection.

When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.

No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.

Monday Think Piece: “An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate”

In the age of #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #YesAllWomen, we are witness to the awesomeness of people rallying together for a worthy cause. We are also witness to those who use the opportunity to exercise their rhetorical skills not in service of true understanding or support, but as a way to be “edgy.” Over on Feministing, Juliana Britto explains the frustration many of us feel:

Some might challenge that I am shutting myself off to new ideas and censoring important opportunities for growth. But these ideas you are forcing me to consider are not new. They stem from centuries of inequality and your desperate desire to keep them relevant is based in the fact that you benefit from their existence. Let it go. You did NOT come up with these racist, misogynistic theories. We’ve heard them before and we are f*cking tired of being asked to consider them, just one. more. time.

 

Friday Fiesta: “I Go Humble” by Bjork

I’ve been so immersed in work lately that I haven’t had the pleasure of discovering any new music. So for this week’s Friday Fiesta, I decided to leave the song selection up to fate. I pressed shuffle and Bjork’s “I Go Humble” came up, which is undeniable proof that my iPod is sentient and loves me enough to safeguard my reputation. It could have easily stopped on Heavy D.s “Now That We Found Love” or Fey’s “Azúcar Amargo” or any other musical crimes that I have indulged in. But, Bjork! Bjork! Her sound is still so forward-thinking that listening to a twenty-year old song–yup, the song is that close to being of legal drinking age–still sounds futuristic. In an interview, she once described her artistic process as that of a scientific experiment. She could have been tripping on whatever fairy dust propels her to wear a swan to the Oscars. Still, I like that idea of approaching a creative project because it implies trial and error, method and experimentation, and certain degree of logic and intuition.

Happy Friday!

The Synopsis I Want to Write

Bellina

Untitled, though it’s been called “Rock n’ Roll” “Work-in-Progress” “What-the-hell-am-I-doing” and a series of expletives which would look unprofessional in this very important document.

LAYLA SPINETTA is a seventeen-year-old Chicago high-school student who’s a little too smart, a little too cynical, and a little too worried about breaking the rules. Yes, people who have once met the author INES BELLINA, might agree that the protagonist sounds a lot like the creator and the writer would not necessarily disagree. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that INES is a thirty-two year old, underemployed, graduate-school drop-out who is not as smart as she thinks she is, is way more cynical than she should be and is still a little too worried about breaking the rules. INES does live in Chicago, she has since 2011, and unlike her character LAYLA, she still can’t seem to call it home. It’s been a rough couple of years for INES in the Windy City, and about the only thing that has worked out for her, in a truly miraculous and giddy way, is the fact that she has in two computers, one hard drive and one Dropbox account a complete manuscript of said novel.

It’s not that the novel is perfect, no! Dear lord, INES is terribly aware that her work is a raw mash-up of inconsistencies and imagination, clichés and polished wordsmith, that needs to go under the old knife, like a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills getting ready for sweeps. But to INES, this novel is tangible proof that turning her back on the “prestige” (ha) of an Ivy League PhD and its questionable path to glory was the right choice. Because, you see, though INES spent a good five years pondering the effects of late stage capitalism on Latin American pop culture or the globalization of post-revolution masculinity in cultural production, none of that felt real. She can truly attest that she hid her voice behind words like “subaltern” and “post-colonial heternormativity” and therefore did nothing but hide truths through the illusion of vapid intelligentsia. This novel does contain the word “skank-arrific,” and yet that appears to the author to be a more powerful lexical choice than anything she did in her previous academic life.

It does pain INES that, despite all her progress, she is still trudging along in jobs, gigs, and assignments that  are part of this Lets-Screw-Millenials-While-We-Wait-for-Retirement economy, but she realizes that what her day job(s) lack in fulfillment they more than make up for in freedom. Freedom to do what, you say? To write long scenes about the harrowing moment you realize a life-long friendship has ended, for example, or the excitement you get when you first hear a song that totally gets you. Being immersed in this fictional world does leave INES wondering sometimes if that’s why her social life in this new city consists of a handful of people, her bulldog, and outings with her mother-in-law. It’s been solitary, dear agent/editor/publisher, which is why she feels at times that all the people who have sprung out of her head-LAYLA, JACK, PEDRO, LARA, MANNY,-are actual living creatures, specters that follow her when she makes her way around Chicago. After all, she can recognize parts of herself in all of them and she has thought about them for more hours than she has thought about her childhood friends in the past decade.

If they are, as she suspects, friendly ghosts that accompany her many waking hours, then you can thank them for her love of this city. This novel takes place in Chicago, a place she came to kicking and screaming and which, therefore, has kicked and screamed back at her. But, they’ve learned to set aside their differences. With every page, she learned to forgive the city for its bruised history, she learned to love the city for its overlooked wonder, and she learned to live in a city that reveals its secret once it feels it can trust you. To INES this makes total sense, because she is kind of like that herself.

This is where she tells you the three twists that will keep the reader engaged in this story. Don’t worry, they’re there and they exist. But INES wants you to know that there was no real twist in writing her novel. She sat down, typed, went to sleep, and did the same thing the next day. Her research-inclined mind has reached the following conclusion: In theory, writing is about the most tedious process you can come up with. In practice, it’s nothing but an excruciating exercise in delayed gratification, horrific but rarely boring. What does she have to show for? A word document with too many words. Yes, she will edit it so it has some chance of selling. Yet, before she does, she wanted to take a moment to honor that twenty-nine chapter mess. Because for the past three years, it has been her closest companion, confidante, and friend.