Wednesday, 15 October, 2014

There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.

But I want to tell my stories and, more than that, I have to in order to stay sane: stories about waking up to my adult female body and being disgusted and terrified. About getting my butt touched at an internship, having to prove myself in a meeting full of fifty-year-old men, and going to a black-tie even with the crustiest red nose you ever saw. About allowing myself to be treated by men in ways I knew were wrong. Stories about my mother, my grandmother, the first guy I loved who turned semi-gay, and the first girl I loved who turned into my enemy. And if I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or thinking that it was your fault when the person you are dating suddenly backs away, intimidated by the clarity of your personal mission here on earth. No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietitian. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.

— Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”
Friday, 10 October, 2014

Childhood innocence has long been a euphemism for childhood ignorance, and both are wishful thinking. The eighteenth-century Romantics concocted the ideal of the innocent child uncorrupted by knowledge of money, politics, and other mean adult concerns. In the nineteenth century, the Victorians figured childhood innocence/ignorance in more specifically sexual terms. The ideal is versatile. It can mask children’s economic or sexual exploitation, mobilize reform to better children’s lives, rationalize censorship or the denial of sex education, and much more.

[…] In the 1930s, Kasson argues, the child became both commodity and consumer. And Shirley [Temple] was the ultimate product, her managers capitalizing on the mania for cuteness. Combining “the pert and the powerless,” Kasson says, cuteness “invited the beholder’s responses on various levels: aesthetic delight, moral protection, and possessive desire.”

[…] Eros is a principal element of consumer desire, even—Kincaid would say especially—when the commodity is the body of a child. Might we wish, at least unconsciously, not to know this, just as we would rather not know that children are picking our tomatoes and sewing our blue jeans?

— Judith Levine, “Baby, Take a Bow: Shirley Temple and the Myth of Childhood Innocence,” review of John F. Kasson’s The Little Girl Who Fought the Depression, Boston Review
Thursday, 9 October, 2014

unˈhappy, adj.

I. Objectionable, miserable. (To some extent passing into sense II…)

  1. Of persons (or animals): causing misfortune or trouble (to oneself or others); objectionable or miserable on this account
    1828   Scott Fair Maid of Perth x, in Chron. Canongate 2nd Ser. I. 262   These unhappy Highland clans are again breaking into general commotion.
  2. Ill-natured; bad-tempered. Obsolescent. 

II. Unfortunate, unlucky, ill-fated

  1. Miserable in lot or circumstances. Also, wretched in mind.
    1849   T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. iv. 432   In the midst of this splendour,..the unhappy woman gave herself up to an agony of grief.
  2. Unhappy in…
  3. Unsuccessful; apt to make mistakes; fallen
  4. Of places: subject to, suffering from misfortunes or evils

III. Of things: bringing about or causing misfortunate or mishap

  1. Disastrous
    1837   J. G. Lockhart Mem. Life Scott III. iii. 110   His friend was aware that he had an unhappy propensity to drinking.
  2. Foreboding evil
  3. Infelicitous; unsuccessful

IV. Of conditions: marked by misfortune, miserable, wretched

V. Causing trouble or mischief; naughty. Unfavourable, poor. Obsolescent. 

Comb., as unhappy-faced, unhappy-happy, unhappy-looking, unhappy-witted adjs.

happy, adj. and n.

I. Cf. blessed adj.

  1. Favoured by good fortune: lucky, fortunate, successful. Now somewhat rare – the word usage, not your good fortune.
  2. Blessed and beatified: of happy memory.
  3. Marked by good fortune, auspicious, propitious! A happy accident, a happy coincidence (so don’t be too happy about it, in other words).
  4. Happy homes of their own

II. Senses relating to pleasing appropriateness or aptness

e.g. 2004  L. Hadzihalilovic Innocence  Obedience is the only path to happiness

III. Senses relating to contentment

  1. Feeling pleasure, contentment, especially arising with satisfaction with one’s circumstances, and (also) marked by or expressive of such a feeling: I’m everso happy; #blessed; You’re not happy so no one else can be?
  2. Expressions of good wishes: Happy new year!
  3. Willing, ready, eager: Happy to do it; I’d be happy to
    e.g. 1816   J. Austen Emma I. xv. 276   Any message to Miss Smith I shall be happy to deliver.
  4. Of a plant: flourishing, growing well
    - Are you happy, Julia?
    - Wonderfully happy.


colloq. Slightly intoxicated, esp. so as to feel mildly elated.

Exhibiting harmony or cooperation, sense of mutual goodwill: happy ship

Happy people as a class. 
e.g. 1814   M. Edgeworth Patronage IV. xxxix. 184   The happy are not fastidious as to their accommodations, they never miss the painted ceiling, or the long arcade, and their slumbers require no bed of down.


euphemism. Restoration to all of the above: fortune, contentment, appropriateness; esp. for unhappy women with unhappy tempers
e.g. 1846  Charles Dickens to Angela Burdett Coutts, 26 May  The means of Return to Happiness are about to be put into her own hands

- Are you happy, Julia?
- Wonderfully happy.

Monday, 6 October, 2014 Friday, 3 October, 2014
I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes. — Maxine Hong Kingston, “White Tigers” (via uutpoetry)
Thursday, 2 October, 2014

Probably there are few women who have not had some first friendship, as delicious and almost as passionate as first love. It may not last…but at the same time it is one of the purest, most self-forgetful and self-denying attachments that the human heart can experience: with many, the nearest approximation to that feeling called love – I mean love in its highest form, apart from the selfishness and sensuousness – which in all their after-life they will ever know. This girlish friendship, however fleeting in its character, and romantic, even silly, in its manifestiations, let us take heed how make light of, lest we be mocking at things more sacred than we are aware.

And yet it is not the real thing – not friendship, but rather a kind of foreshadowing of love; as jealous, as exacting, as unreasoning – as wildly happy and supremely miserable; ridiculously so to a looker-on, but to the parties concerned, as vivid and sincere as any after-passion into which the girl may fall; for the time being, perhaps long after, colouring all her world. Yet it is but a dream, to melt away like a dream when love appears…

— Dinah Craik, A Woman’s Thoughts About Women, 1857
Wednesday, 1 October, 2014

From the index of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Pig, Guinea .. .. .. ..
    How roast pig was discovered
    „ to silence a.. .. ..
    Novel way of recovering a stolen
   Suckling, to carve a .. ..
    „ roast .. .. ..
    „ to scald.. .. ..
    The learned .. .. ..
Pig’s cheeks, to dry .. .. ..
    Face, collared .. .. ..
    Fry, to dress .. .. ..
    Liver .. .. .. ..
    Pettitoes .. .. .. ..
Pigs, Austrian mode of herding ..
    English mode of hunting and
      Indian sticking .. ..
    How pastured and fed formerly 

Tuesday, 16 September, 2014 Friday, 5 September, 2014
For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of—to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless…. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless.

From To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

(via Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful essay, “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable,” New Yorker)

Thursday, 4 September, 2014 Thursday, 28 August, 2014

No story is like a wheeled vehicle whose contact with the road is continuous. Stories walk, like animals or men. And their steps are not only between narrated events but between each sentence, sometimes each word. Every step is a stride over something not said.

The suspense story is a modern invention…and consequently today one may tend to overestimate the role of suspense, the waiting-for-the-end, in story-telling. The essential tension in a story lies elsewhere. Not so much in the mystery of its destination as in the mystery of the spaces between its steps towards that destination.

All stories are discontinuous and are based on a tacit agreement about what is not said, about what connects the discontinuities. The question then arises: Who makes this agreement with whom? One is tempted to reply: The teller and the listener. Yet neither teller nor listener is at the centre of the story: they are at its periphery. Those whom the story is about are at the centre. It is between their actions and attributes and reactions that the unstated connections are being made.

— From Another Way of Telling, by John Berger and Jean Mohr
Thursday, 17 July, 2014
Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

Wednesday, 16 July, 2014
Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You Construct Intricate Rituals), 1981

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You Construct Intricate Rituals), 1981

Tuesday, 15 July, 2014
Woolf’s sense of privacy still feels relevant; when I keep it in mind, I see it everywhere. Adelle Waldman’s novel “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” is, among many other things, a gender-reversed retelling of the love story at the center of “Mrs. Dalloway”: like Clarissa, Nate chooses the lover who can’t know him over the lover who’s determined to. (He does this, in part, so that he can continue to surprise himself—that is, continue to create.) Meanwhile, on Tumblr and Facebook, we seek out the same private sociality that Woolf described. Usually, we think of social media as a forum for exhibitionism. But, inevitably, the extroverted cataloguing of everyday minutiae—meals, workouts, thoughts about politics, books, and music—reaches its own limits; it ends up emphasizing what can’t be shared. Talking so freely about your life helps you to know the weight of those feelings which are too vague, or too spiritual, to express—left unspoken and unexplored, they throw your own private existence into relief. “Sharing” is, in fact, the opposite of what we do: like one of Woolf’s hostesses, we rehearse a limited openness so that we can feel the solidity of our own private selves. — Joshua Rothman, “Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy,” The New Yorker