Monthly Archives: December 2014

read the book

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I’ve been to his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford many times. But before last night I’d never read a William Faulkner novel.

I know, I know; I’m already ashamed.

Maybe it’s because I always tried to start out with “The Sound and the Fury.” By the second page I still hadn’t figured out what the heck was going on. So I always copped to rather more soothing reading.

But James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying” was on Netflix. As it was Christmas weekend and I had a scarf to knit, I figured, what the heck: another California actor trying to play a country boy. Let’s see how bad this is. “The Beverly Hillbillies” has persistently informed Hollywood’s iconic Southerner and we’re still trying to live it down.

As a director, Franco excelled. But it was Tim Blake Nelson who knocked my socks off. I have known people like Anse Bundren and am probably related to one or two. So my impressions of the film were visceral.

In the Delta, you go about your business in the rain. It’s not unusual to see someone on the street without a raincoat. But in Faulkner’s narrative, oldest son Cash works in a downpour, as both tribute and grief.

His sister, Dewey Dell, faces her dilemma with a naivete that speaks to a different time. Her situation, unfortunately, threatens today’s young woman under the yoke of regressive legislation.

An obsessive fatalism ruled the Bundren family. Burdened by such a mission, they tromped on the tender shoots of Providence. The message was not lost on me.

I located a PDF of the novel and downloaded it last night. I did not stop until I read the last page. Today my eyeballs feel blistered and my attention wanders from my work because I have downloaded “The Sound and the Fury.” Now that I have a feel for Faulkner’s cadence and convoluted narrative, I feel empowered to try it again. Also, I’m excited to see if I learn more new words. I had never experienced the term “pussel-gutted,” but I plan to use it in a comment soon.

Franco made “Sound/Fury” into a movie this year. I think this time I’ll read the book first.

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coolness

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It is a rainy, chilly Monday morning. I have to drive downtown to see my dentist. I’m killing time before I leave, playing 8 Ball Pool on Facebook.

My opponent is DarkFeelings, and his avatar looks slightly like a Smurf. I’m guessing DarkFeelings is a male, because this game is the realm of mostly young or youngish men, rock star or gangsta wannabes.

I wonder what they think about my avatar: a meme of Gromit with a caption that says, “Knitting: It makes everything better.”

Nevertheless, I sympathize with DarkFeelings. I have some Dark Feelings of my own.

See, I was left off a Cool Girls List.

In times past I have been a Cool Girl, times when I immersed myself in a culture (or subculture) which eventually consumed me.

Right now, I am not a Cool Girl. In fact, I’m practically invisible. Since my dad’s death four months ago, I have been rebuilding social stamina. I’m not there yet.

But being left off this latest list felt a lot like adolescence, when I was always too something. Too outspoken. Too nonconformist. Too alpha female (whatever that is).

The truth is, I like those things about myself. It’s when I’m ashamed of them that there’s a problem.

DarkFeelings scratches the cue ball and I run out the game, leaving him with five on the table. I offer to play again but the Smurfy avatar vanishes.

My next opponent has a name I cannot decipher, because it is in Russian. It could be Kevin but it could also be Katie. (There are a few women on here.) This player’s avatar is a photo of two young boys holding hands. It’s possible I’m playing one of the boys’ parents.

But on Facebook one just never knows.

Between shots I ponder the old, familiar feeling of shame, a straitjacket from my throat to my ribs. While Kevin/Katie lines up the next shot, I Google “cool girl.” One result takes me to an article, which I passive-aggressively publish to my Facebook page. It theorizes that coolness is borne of practice, a kind of covert conformity to a very subtle standard.

I do not try to guess the identity of the next 8 Ball player. Drawing conclusions from the wispiest knowledge set me up to step off Monday’s curb into a funk. Making assumptions about what I am and ought to be is just no way to get rid of Dark Feelings.

Instead I discuss it with my Higher Power. And I recall that Jesus Christ was a Cool Girl — until He wasn’t; that is, when He was too outspoken, too nonconformist, too alpha male (whatever that is).

I recall also that He was always hanging out with people who would never have made the Cool Girls List.

Then I pick up my knitting.