Monday, December 31, 2007
Beverley Skeggs, in her book, Class, Self, Culture has an interesting chapter in how even the creation of a self is a classed venture. Telling involves power places in both function and subject: "One had to learn to tell in a particular way if one did not have access to the resources and authority to produce a self. This telling has a long history of making some groups public, whist establishing others with the option of being public or private."(134). In this sense, memoirs are privileged things representing access to things like education, leisure, etc. This makes sense, I think. Even those memoirs written under incredible pressure are written by those who can write which is a privilege. Most of these writers are educated...or in an act that creates even more complexity they have someone else write their memoir. They give their telling to one who has the privileges to be able to write it.
Skeggs points to the acquisition of stories by the middle class: "Just as the middle-class have always been able to use and access the bodies of the working-class for labour, not knowledge of and experience of others are used to shore up the composite of the academic reflexive self"(129). Telling becomes a kind of property. It is delegated to those deemed worthy enough to tell their stories and how the interpretation of those stories is often taken from us. In academia this becomes very pronounced in cases where the testimony is the object of observation.
While I don't always agree with Skeggs, I think the considerations she raises are important ones. While reading testimony is a way to give witness, it is nuanced in particularly cultural ways. One has to ask: who gets to set the guidelines for what constitutes as telling? Who gets to decides which stories are worth telling? What are the conventions that form telling? And how what do these things to do the act of witnessing?
Now I think the idea of being witness is a beautiful idea. But until Skeggs I never really considered that there might be political implications to witnessing and to testifying. What is it to bear witness? And what is it to give witness? What happens when those stories and those witnessings become an academic exercise? Is the witnessing the same? By what right do I interpret such stories? Do I diminish the role of witness when I tackle interpretation?
And lastly, what do we think about a culture that thrives on testimony? Isn't there something a tad voyeuristic about this kind of writing and thus our culture through it's fascination with memoirs? I think of the memoir The Kiss which I read many years ago as an undergrad. It was the story of a girl who never knew her father, meets him as a young woman, and proceeded to have an affair with him knowing he was her father. Mostly as I read the novel I felt repulsed. I didn't feel much sympathy, and honestly felt this was not something I wanted to be witness to. And to be honest I'm not sure if her testimony was about having some witness her story. More there was a kind of narcissistic glee in creating the beautiful out of the shocking. And also a kind of pleasure in the shocking. What does it mean to witness these things? Does not the telling itself motivate what kind of witness will be beared?
I think anyone who tackles memoirs has to ask these questions. We have to be aware that our society demands testimony in order to somehow make atrocity, pain real. And we sit not only as witnesses but judges. This is not a position I am entirely comfortable with but it is a position I am not sure how to change.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I've heard a lot of internet buzz around this program that gets you ready to run a 5K. Now I have no desire to actually race (I HATE competition of any kind) but I do love to run. I checked out the website and thought "This is doable." It's nine weeks so long enough to form a habit but not long to make me poke my eyes out in boredom. Plus it eases you into running which means my knees are not likely to go out under me. I will have to buy one of those lovely, ever so fashionable black braces. Sexy. I can hear the cat calls as I'm running down the road...
In addition, I've also decided to shake up my eating a bit. First, I'm going to try core on the WW plan. This is basically eating foods that are not processed. You have some room for processed foods. I am doing this because I really need to detox my body from a couple of weeks of eating too much junk. It really effects how I function physically and emotionally. Next week, I'm going to try to go Vegan. H is having a fit about this one;P But I promised I'd not only make scrambled tofu but I'd actually eat it. It's partly his fault anyway as he bought me the Veganomicon cookbook last night. I just want to see if I could do it. And I want to see if it a, helps my horrible complexion and b, if I really will feel better.
Speaking of horrible complexion….I ventured out to the mall yesterday. Now the thing is I HATE malls. Badly. With great passion. I can spend a lot of time extolling the evils of the mall for anyone who cares to listen. Worst yet, we went to the snobby mall. I hate the snobby mall even more than the two regular malls we go to. And it was horrible. We went to the snobby bookstore which has a very cool children's section (and where H foolishly bought me the book <evil crackle>). There was the obligatory ultra skinny mom (do these women EVER eat?) in her even more obligatory mom's jeans. Now maybe I'm just a bitch (okay there is no maybe about it) but why on earth would you starve yourself to weigh like 80lbs when you're 5'9 and then wear mom's jeans? I mean come on, at least reward your amazing self control with jeans that don't make you look 80. And she was snotty with a horrible laugh. And this trend followed us throughout the mall. Our all time, hand down favorites though were the "twins." A mother/daughter pair both dressed in expensive, ugly beige dress slacks, cream silk blouses, silk scarves, and lots of big gold jewelry.
The only highlights of this horrible experience (which included a twenty minute wait in a Starbucks line cause mama needed coffee) were The Body Shop and Urban Outfitters. The Body Shop was a highlight because, well, I've never been in one. A certain friend (you know who you are) blogged about their tea tree oil facial cleanser so in a desperate attempt to find something to clear up my acne I decided to try it. As an added bonus none of these products are tested on animals. They have everything: make up, shampoo, soap, lotions. It was very exciting but I got quick before I dropped money we did not have. Urban Outfitters is not always a place I enjoy. It's a tad too trendy for me (although they did have a coat to die for). But I realized this time that the clerks just accept us as belonging there (even with all three kids). We get the nods reserved for those who "get it." And scarier I realized that I knew the music they were playing (Interpol). We have become, as I told Horacio, cool old people. But at least we were treated like the freaks of the universe (which is how everyone else in snobby mall treated us).
In other mundane news, we have watched a lot of movies. We watched the whole second season of "Big Love" in two weeks. We saw Hairspray. A good remake although there is this disturbing scene between Christopher Walken and John Travolta that has traumatized me for life. It made me put a bunch of John Waters' movies on my Netflix queue. I didn't know he made Cry Baby which is one of my favorite Depp films. We have "The Fountain" here which we need to watch soon. I also Stardust last night with U's homeschooling coop. I had a good time with my friend's sarcastic husband. It was a good movie. Lots of dark humor. We were all a tad disturbed when our kids cheered during a particularly gruesome part involving animals.
Well that's my mundane life for you…
Oh...my application to Chapel Hill is completed. Now for the four month wait from hell. Please keep your fingers crossed, light some candles, pray, whatever it is you do for H and I.
Friday, December 28, 2007
What does it mean to generate a politics around telling experience when experience is precisely what the person may want to forget? Beverley Skeggs
Last night, my exercise in memoir writing became complicated. These stories that you have been reading here came from my exploration of the memoir format. I wanted to know what conventions come through the writing even when the writer is self conscious about those conventions. The experience defintely took a narcissitc quality of enjoyment as I relished in just story writing. But last night something went wrong. No not wrong. Perhaps amiss is a better word.
In the other tellings, I have been able to imagine a distance between the self typing and the self in the memoirs. The told self was very much a ficitional creation, and this enabled me to while expessing pain to not really feel it. There was an ability to concentrate on the writing itself. I focused on not just the story but the crafting of the story. Last night that all feel apart.
You see, I think I told something that I didn't want to tell. Each sentence I wrote just sunk me deeper into a kind of darkness of memory. I could still, 26 years later remember all belief I had in anything good disappearing. I remembered being so afraid as my mother wailed and moaned in that dark room. She didn't seem human to me at that point. We were already damaged people, and the damage my father inflicted that night broke us, I think. I don't think any of us ever recovered. We carry fresh scars from that morning. There are different ways to be broken.
But the story I wrote last night was not pretty nor even good. As a work of art it sucked. And I think it is because I told a story that I could not tell. A story that is not a story to me. It is a moment in my history that is like a nuclear explosion. I don't know why I told it. Why I even tried. I think perhaps it is because I thought that this is how one heals. You tell these painful things. You string them into pretty baubles for others to devour. Once you can write them, I thought, they no longer have potency on you. You turn their poison onto others.
Of course this raises some questions for me in terms of my academic work. I found myself laying in my bed last night nearly paralyzed in misery. All the feelings of my dad's leaving, the events that occured afterwards, all of it just pressed me down. And I looked at the bedstand where Palmer's book was and thought "Shit, her life was by far worst than mine. How did she do it?" Why do we tell these stories? What motivated her to put this work out? To create these stories (for that is what they are...memory is an unreliable thing) out of her pain, anger, and sorrow? What are the politics that moitivate us to make our emotional world into
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Right now H is reading "Knuffle Bunny" to the girls. Well Piper fell asleep...somethign I need to do. Defintely a nap day. I was up until about 2:30 and then was waken by Piper at 6:30 who had to come out and get her stocking (U and H were already up). I did go back to bed until 9:30 but all the interuptions have taken their toll...
He so has the style to pull this off...
Later we might head out to a movie. We have a huge supper to eat sometime and a big bottle of wine to drink!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Here's the recipe:
¼ tsp. thyme
¼ cup Parmesan
Saute the onion and garlic with the olive oil in a small skillet. Add the pinto beans, leeks thyme, rosemary and let simmer. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Boil the potatoes in water for a few minutes to soften.
Now layer everything up. The beans & leek mixture goes on top of the quinoa. Then drain the potatoes and layer them on top. Then cover everything with a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs/parmesan. These will toast and give it a crunchy texture.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Serve up hot.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Perfect except for Camille who is looking at her fav. peron on earth....H.
Nearly there but Umberto has what H refered to last night as a "duck face." Plus there's something wrong with Camille looking demur.
Okay not demur now. This is defintely typical of our kids but Piper's look of adoration for U. kind of ruins it for an xmas card picture.
PERFECT! But umm...we're missing a kid....
This is the one we used. They're all looking at the camera, and they look like themselves. I do try to avoid the GAP picture.