Editor’s Note, ms. aligned 3

There’s still almost an hour before the game begins, so self can squeeze in a few more things. Self’s quote of the day is from Rebecca Thomas, Editor of ms. aligned 3: women writing about men. (Published by El Leon Literary Arts of Berkeley and Manoa Books)

For the past nine years, I have been teaching composition at West Virginia University. I primarily teach freshmen, and one of their first papers is a narrative. In so many of the narratives, students — of all genders — explore issues connected to masculinity, in particular the effects of toxic masculinity. I receive papers about abusive relationships in high school, peer pressure to act a certain way, loneliness in emotionally connecting with peers, and the very real risk and fallout from coming out. My students are young, so it’s natural that they write about their childhood, the childhood moments where they begin to construct their identity. In our class discussions and in their reflections, I see so many grappling with the concept of masculinity. How did it shape their life? How will it shape their life as they journey into adulthood?

In this Me Too era, it’s hard not to think about masculinity and how it can be toxic. Working on a college campus, I know that many of my students have been assaulted. I know that many of them are trying to find the space to talk about it, and I know that many of them are starting to test the waters of self-acceptance, to see if it’s safe to be who they are. Since I am the mother of two young boys, toxic masculinity is something that I have to consider constantly: how do we raise our children in this environment? What conversations do I need to have with my kids?

Contributors to ms. aligned 3, and series editor Pat Matsueda, will be on-hand at an online event hosted by Redwood City Library. Register here.

Rosario Ferré: The Writer’s Kitchen

“I have a sneaking suspicion that this interest in the biographical facts about women writers comes from the hidden belief that women have less imagination than men, and that their works rely more heavily on the unscrupulous plundering of reality than do those by male writers.”

Wednesday Backreading: The Haunted Room, Essay by Carole de Santi (Women’s Review of Books, vol. 26)

  • “Give her another hundred years . . . a room of her own and five hundred a year,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1929, of the woman novelist. “Let her speak her mind . . . and she will write a better book one of these days . . .” — Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own

  • Woolf “knew very well that creative and intellectual freedom depend on material resources, and that women have always been poor . . . Despite bestseller rankings and lifestyle features, big advances, and superstardom, many women writers seem to be living hardscrabble creative lives. Even those whose ‘rooms’ are more like palaces are nailing down the floorboards, putting buckets under leaky roofs, and wondering how to keep the lights on, particularly those of the incandescent mind.” — Carole DeSanti, The Haunted Room

“Beyond the Waters of Death,” Joan Acocella’s New Yorker piece on the making of GILGAMESH (14 October 2019)

  • “A young Londoner, George Smith, who had left school at the age of fourteen and was employed as an engraver of bank notes,” was fascinated by artifacts. He spent lunch breaks at the British Museum and “studied the shards for around ten years . . . it was he who found the most famous passage inscribed on them, an account of a great flood wiping out almost all of humanity, with one man’s family surviving. When he read this, we are told, he became so excited that he jumped out of his chair and ran around the room, tearing off his clothes.”

George Smith died of dysentery in Aleppo, where he’d gone to do research, age 36. But not before he discovered the oldest long poem in the world, Gilgamesh.

Everywhere in the world has an ancient flood story. Even Mexico. Even the Philippines. Self thinks this means there must have been an actual climactic event whose effects were felt worldwide.

Stay safe dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

The Legacy of George Floyd (The Economist, 13 June 2020)

George Floyd was not famous. He was killed not in the capital of the United States, but on a street corner in its 46th-largest city. Yet in death he has suddenly become the keystone of a movement that has seized all of America. Still more remarkably, he has inspired protests abroad, from Brazil to Indonesia, and France to Australia. His legacy is the rich promise of social reform. It is too precious to waste.

Lexington in The Economist, 18 April 2020

Self will summarize the finer points:

  • The corona virus has killed 31,000 Americans (This number is significantly higher now)
  • Trump is “a human wedge.”
  • The 2000 presidential election was “a watershed moment … the last decided by persuadable voters.”
  • “Even before Trump made factionalism a governing strategy . . . ” (lol)
  • “Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s effort to give it a Chinese face (he reverted this week to calling it ‘the Wuhan virus’) . . . ” (smh)
  • “Infectious diseases like density, which is one of the most reliable predictors of Democratic support there is . . . This makes Republicans more receptive than Democrats to Mr. Trump’s call for a reopening of the economy: an issue that — by pitting the certain tragedy of 17 million unemployed workers against the likelihood of additional infections — could scarcely be more polarising.”
  • The differences between the Democrat and Republican response to the pandemic could not be more stark: Democrats are demanding “better, cheaper health care” while “Republican states including Texas and Ohio have meanwhile used the lockdown to try to ban abortions . . . “

On the last point, a political party that cares only about banning abortions when a virus is killing 10x as many Americans as the number of fetuses aborted annually is surely loco.

The article mentions William Barr and describes him as a “cultural warrior,” self hopes in jest. And refers to Ron DeSantis of Florida as “a Trump proxy with ratings to match.”

Stay tuned.

 

 

The New Yorker, 6 April 2020: Unscientific Method

From The Talk of the Town:

  • Trump’s quackery was at once eccentric and terrifying — a reminder, if one was needed, of his scorn for rigorous science, even amid the worst pandemic to strike the country in a century. Yet his conduct typified his leadership as the crisis has identified: his dependency on Fox News for ideas and message amplification, his unshakable belief in his own genius, and his understandable concern that his re-election may be in danger if he does not soon discover a way to vanquish COVID-19 and reverse its devastation of the economy.

Sentence of the Day: Hilary Mantel in NYRB, 11 January 2007

She had not been encouraged to consider physical decay; when she had made her triumphal entry into France, and crowds turned out to see her, ugly people had been warned to stay away.

— from The Perils of Antoinette, a review by Hilary Mantel

That is such a Hilary Mantel sentence. The tone is so calmly authoritative that one doesn’t even pause to ask: WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR ‘UGLY.’ (Missing teeth? Pox-scarred skin? So many possibilities!)

The NYRB is making the entire piece available, through April 2020.

 

Recommended Reading: Kate Evans in Hakai Magazine, 6 January 2020

Six men set out from Iceland in a small rowboat. Their destination: Eldey, the nesting ground for the rare great auks.

Jumping ashore, they spotted a pair of the birds guarding an egg. In the ensuing chase, the two auks were killed and their egg was accidentally crushed. The men didn’t know it, but they had just killed the last great auks ever seen alive.

Read the article here.

 

Sentence of the Day: Penelope V. Flores

“Lately, my preoccupation with names has become an obsession.”

— Penelope V. Flores, Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State University

Read the rest of her interesting article, How Filipinos Got Their Surnames, in Filipinas Magazine, here.

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