Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Happy days are here again...

Disclaimer: this post was written in parts, so it isn't as cohesive as it would've been had I not been lazy.

It's the day after my birthday, and I'm sitting on my parent's couch--smiling. I forget sometimes how good it is to be alive, how comforting it is to be around people who love you. With all of the deadlines, the unspoken expectations and the drama of intellectual performance, the real things--the things that matter--often get overlooked. For the moment though, my eyes are wide open, and I am immensely grateful.

* * *
I've been reading a book for the last couple of days (research, for pleasure!) and soaking in the happiness that comes with minor victories. I made it through my first year. It may not seem like much to many, but to me, it proves that I might be capable of something--even if that something is (frustratingly) veiled by time. Even in the midst of the reverie, I can't help but wonder how things will turn out in the years to come. But I'll get back to that in a minute.

* * *

The book I've been reading is Walter Mosley's Blue Light. Now I've only read half of it (some books, like foods, are meant to be savored), but the half I have read has been devastating in the most interesting ways. The book is a serious one. There are moments in the narrative that I have to laugh to keep from falling into a pit of despair; at those times I find my self thinking that there has to be some core connective system that keeps us (humanity) afloat. I mean, can we be so intrinsically "flawed" that we're always teetering on the edge of self destruction? The answers that Mosley provides to this one, fundamental, question hurts at times; turning the page is often like pulling the trigger in a game of Russian Roulette.

I've always heard that a good read causes you to question things, inspires you to re-consider things, pushes you to set aside the accepted (in whatever form it takes) in order to perceive the possibility of an alternative place or space. In some works the place is fantastic; in others, the space is all too real. Either way, the "actual" is only as legitimate as the dots the reader connects in his/her head. Blue Light is so disturbing because the dots are located in some pretty tender places. The more I read the book, the more I realize that the type of fiction it represents (which is difficult to pin down) is about as close to "real" as anything gets. It foregrounds a sort of intellectual and experiential symbiosis that we seem to be careening toward, and, at the same time, presents a pervasive propensity for self-sabotage. It seems to be senseless, but I'm wondering if its not purposeful--which leads me to what I said I'd get back to.

Reading, thinking, and writing about this stuff makes me happy, despite its obviously depressing aspects. I know that none of it is new and that it is essentially the same fundamental struggle that has kept us going through the ages, but sometimes, I think the move toward specialization (I'm speaking about my field, though I'm sure it's a pretty common trend) does nothing more than obfuscate the crap that's as plain as day--the reality that inspires fiction and the fantasy that seeks to change reality. This is why I'm always preoccupied with how things will turn out and why, like Andrea, I'm at a loss as to what I'm going to become; I doubt very seriously that I'll be able to contribute to the incestuous body of bulleted references and regurgitated "original" ideas. At the same time, I love talking about foundational issues that rear their respective heads in every utterance and through every system of social ordering, so I'm sure what I present is bound to fall into the trap of intellectual inbreeding that I've just pointed out. But I guess my way around this is to work on the periphery. You see, I too like to talk about the tangents because they belie connections that a central "focus" is often too busy to acknowledge; they serve as examples of how certain issues create a web of association in seemingly disparate elements that coalesce and counter "centrality." Maybe this post is an example. It's definitely unfocused enough...

What I'm getting at is that the picture of humanity that Blue Light and other such works presents is one that needs to be more than observed. It's one thing to recognize the overarching motifs in a work (the focused, specialized, detachment is safe and not without its interests), but it's something else entirely to understand that the ordered chaos that a work presents is as much a charge as it is a portrayal. I'll stop here, because I now recognize that I've entered into rant mode. But I look forward to reading the rest of the book as much as I look forward to seeing if my attitude will get me anywhere. At this rate I'm looking forward to a cardboard box next to a recycle bin (at least I'll be environmentally conscious) and a nicely framed diploma.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flying saucers, unicorns and top down delusion ...

So, I was listening to the jazz station on Comcast's Music Choice (because being a graduate student in English apparently requires one to "listen to" at least a modicum of the "good" stuff in order to check off yet another box in the "certified elitist" list) and hardcore Reggaeton started playing. I was reading at the time, and it took me a while to realize the switch, since most music, when reading, is really just nicely ordered background noise. When I did notice, I couldn't help but laugh.

Here I was, up to my eyeballs in education debt and trying to figure out how I could budget enough money for food for the next couple of weeks as I read Joyce's Dubliners and listened to a random assortment of sophisticated, energetic, clamor. I love (most) music, especially jazz, but sometimes, in specific situations, it's just sounding brass and tinkling symbols; when the Reggaeton started playing, I realized that this was such a situation.

* * *

I've already made the post(s) about the despair and utter loneliness that this path provides, about languishing under the weight of oppressive expectations, and sipping from the cup of vitriolic recompense--a cup distributed to those who thirst after a spot of recognition for their expended time and energy. I've sung the song, participated in the dance and listened to the tiny violin playing the soundtrack to sorrows of my new life. This isn't about that.

This is about the utter lunacy of it all. Seriously. In the span of a week, I read hundreds of pages of educated people talking about the whole of humanity, a whole to which they pride themselves on having no direct connection. From their ivory towers of, truth, art and love they regurgitate discriminatory axioms coined by enlightened minds of old--hoping that this time, after going through (partial) (re)digestion, the incongruous "axiomatic" bile will, unlike the time before, come out as a well-ordered testament of progress.

I sit (on my room-mates couch) reading books (bought with borrowed money) that go from talking about the importance of "civilization" to pontificating on how arbitrary and meaningless life is. All the while, I become more and more pissed off at how I've let my (apparently meaningless and arbitrary) life revolve around questions and concepts that "say" both everything and nothing. Why is it so hard for people to see that the higher they are above the daily grind of existence, the easier it is for them to be sucked into the illusion of beating the system?

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination a Marxist, but why do we put a premium on an angle of vision that privileges the elevation of a select few individuals at the expense of a vast majority of others? This is an old, old, question, I know. But it seems that we gasp collectively every time something horrible happens as a consequence of us not fully coming to terms with what keeps the wheel of human history turning. Before I fall into the cycle of doom-saying and crazy-talk, I'll stop there.

Just know that now you have the reason for why I study science-fiction and fantasy. In the house of time where running from room to room, through this door and that, only leads you right back where you started, speculative fiction (at least for me) is a doorway in which you are afforded a view of what lies between; it is not a door that you go through, but one you stand in and observe how all of the rooms, at the end of the day, when the various decorations fall to ruin, and the illusion of distinctions disappears, are all the same.

At any rate, I guess I'll get back to reading...

Monday, February 09, 2009

And the Madness Continues...

It's starting back up again. After almost two months of break, of wasted time and pages of pleasure reading, I'm getting back to business.

I had a nightmare last night. How funny the brain works sometimes. The day before the official start of the semester, I have a dream in which I'm incapacitated, stuck, trapped, with only my eyes and mind left wondering free. Go figure.

On a lighter note, the more I read, the more I realize why I'm doing this, and why--possibly for shamefully misguided reasons--I feel as though I have something to contribute. We'll see how the dust settles after my first class.

I'm honestly not quite sure where I'm going to take this blog. I started it my freshman year of college, and am now in my "freshman" year of graduate school. I feel like it's changed, as anything meant to chart one's growth over time should. Still, whether or not its present feel adequately portrays where I am now as a person is still up for debate. After reading through old posts, I've been amazing to see how much my focus has shifted--how much my writing has shed the form of a loose fitting parka and taken on that of a well tailored jacket.

Despite all of this, my voice is still foreign to me. I need more practice, as I haven't written much. I don't know if the fine tuning will ever be finished; but I'm hoping that in its progress, it's at least structurally sound. We'll see where this goes. And maybe, for once, I can keep the blasted "books i'm reading" section up to date. I feel like anyone reading those same tombs for as long as this blog purports would probably be a very sad soul. Of course I have a short attention span, so I would most likely feel that way about anything. But I digress, and the madness continues...