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Posts Tagged ‘quotes’

2. “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Jay Asher

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

A few weeks after Hannah Baker kills herself, Clay Jensen comes home to find a shoebox fill of cassettes on his from porch. It’s addressed to him– with no return address. And when he starts playing them, he hears Hannah’s voice, promising to name the thirteen reasons– and thirteen people– who drove her to suicide.

This book made me so, so angry for the first thirty or so pages. It! is! not! right! to! blame! others! for! your! suicide! Especially not when then things you are naming are so run-of-the-mill. Her tone moves between gloating, goading, and blase (which, as we all know, is not the right tone for a suicidal person to take, and not the right reasons for killing yourself). I figured that she would have to have been raped, because that’s pretty much the only “good” reason I could think of for a suicide in a YA book. And pretty soon the book starts to voice a pretty excellent analysis of rape culture, which was way more than I would have hoped for.

Hannah is extremely explicit about the fact that a kiss is not groping, and that rumors that she was “easy” are a problem not only because she’s not, but because the stigma associated with being easy means that she is not able to give full consent once that rumor starts. (See Yes Means Yes, please!!) She begins with her first kiss, a sweet, beautiful kiss she had been literally dreaming about. But shortly after the kiss, rumors begin to swirl that she took off her shirt (right there in the park) and let him put his hands under her bra which, we all all know, makes her a slut, which makes her disposable.

When Hannah tells one boy that she “just looked over every name– every story– that completes these tapes. And guess what. Every single event documented here may never have happened had you, Alex, not written my name on that list [of the best asses in the grade],” (41), it felt horrifyingly unfair. Because, Hannah, my friend, the world will do so many worse things to you than tell you you have a nice ass. There are so many more battles to fight. Hell, there is precisely that battle to fight. I read this book for my class on ghosts in US literature, and one of the critical articles we read that has really stuck in my craw has been Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock’s “Scare Tactics,” which argues that there is a US American tradition of women writers of ghost stories and that these stories represent an avenue of increased agency for women writers (and, perhaps, the women characters who usually star in their writings).

The problem is, this implies that a woman gains agency in fiction only by being dead. And that was just the problem I had with Hannah Baker. Hannah seems like a strong, insightful, smart, passionate, all-around awesome woman. But she cannot speak her power. She gains power only though haunting people with tapes after her death. And even as a haunting, that is a fairly limited one, for it depends fully on the listener’s doing just that– in other words, Hannah could not speak if people would not listen, if they refused to press play. Asher’s answer to this is to have Hannah explain that there is a second set of tapes and that if the first one is not passed on, that one will be made public. By a man. The man who gave her the tape recorder that she used to record her ghostly missive.

I kept imagining what an amazing world this would be if we did not have to wait until the Hannahs of the world were dead to care what they had to say.

This book was published in 2007, before the recent, well-publicized spate of gay suicides, but it preaches the lesson that we are all responsible to one another, and that our actions have snowball effects. “I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push [the snowball] just the same,” Hannah high schools (156).

I think the message that “it gets better” is condescending at best, and I don’t blame Hannah for not wanting to fight to make it better, but in literature, where anything is possible, it’s so depressing that this is the best we can do.

Realistic, but depressing.

I may have more thoughts after my class talks about this next month.

Pages: 304
Page total: 749

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42. “I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight,” Margaret Cho

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Apparently Margaret Cho is the shit. I don’t really go in for her comedy, as she does a lot of shouting and I do not like shouting, but this book shows a righteous, very cool, very smart person.

I was sort of confused by the format, which is almost like a blog. Even though it’s divided into sections, there’s not much tying the entries together. Not everything in the feminism section is explicitly feminist, not everything in the war on terror section is about how Former VP Chenney is a dangerous, dangerous human being.

“My attitude toward peace does not depend on which war we are discussing. I think that words should do the work of bombs.” (25)

On the ease with which women hate Courtney Love:

“Courtney Love is an incredible artist who has endured public derision and scorn for well over a decade. What man could survive that? Yet in any real way, the feminist majority has yet to come to her defense. No one has come forward with the simple question ‘Why is it that I am hating another woman with such ease?'” (112)

“Strange that there is so much religion in the world, but only enough to make us fight over who is right, not enough to make us love one another.” (182)

“A government that would deny a gay man the right to a bridal registry is a fascist state.” (145)

Page count: 240
Page total: 10,608
LOC Call number: PN 6165.C56 2005

7. “How We Are Hungry,” Dave Eggers

December 23, 2009 2 comments

Dave Eggers is a fucking master of titles. Will you check this shit out?

– “Another”
– “What it means when a crowd in a faraway nation takes a soldier representing your own nation, shoots him, drags him from his vehicle and then mutilates him in the dust”
– “The only meaning of the oil-wet water”
– “On wanting to have three walls up before she gets home”
– “Climbing to the window, pretending to dance”
– “She waits, seething, blooming”
– “Quiet”
– “Your mother and I”
– “Naveed ”
– “Notes for a story of a man who will not die alone”
– “About the man who began flying after meeting her”
– “Up the mountain coming down slowly”
– “There are some things he should keep to himself”
– “When they learned to yelp”
– “After I was thrown in the river and before I drowned”

He barely needs to write the story after that. And, in fact, in “There Are Some Things He Should Keep to Himself,” he doesn’t. The story is six blank pages. The clever bastard.

I thought about how to say this next bit the whole time I was brushing my teeth– and I brush my teeth for the full two minutes, which is, you may not realize, a long time when all you are doing is moving a toothbrush in small circles and trying (and in my case, failing) to dribble toothpaste foam on yourself. Eggers’ stories never really feel finished. Not in a bad way (like can be said of many of Raymond Carvers’ exercises in oddly-paced, ennui-soaked frustration), but instead they just seem to understand that real people’s stories go on even after their part in them is done. So of course these little character sketches would never seem done. Though all of his characters seem to have the same sort of flat affect, I liked it because I am at the same crappy point in my life when nothing is wrong, and I’m too apathetic to even call this depression, and also too apathetic to panic that this universal suckitude is just the way life is sometimes. Oh wait. Found some panic.

I’ll also add that the proceeds from this book go to 826 Valencia, which is a writing workshop Eggers co-founded. Which just makes me think he is a stand-up, though emotionally manipulative guy.

Page count: 224
Page total: 1,409

Quotes follow! Read more…

6. “Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America,” Scott Poulson-Bryant

December 21, 2009 1 comment

I started reading this in October, mostly via eBrary, which is a pretty cool site. It lets you highlight the text and, the really cool part, copy it. I was making such slow progress with it, though, that I had to give up and order it through the BPL.

This book pretty much what the title says, a meditation on (US American) discourse constructing the black man as hung. It’s written in the first person, which I think required, to use the metaphor Poulson-Bryant expands upon in the past third of the book, a pretty big dick. He peppers his writing with anecdotes about his own dick and the dicks of guys he knows. Drawing on his career writing for magazines, he’s able to reference a lot of Black NFL and NBA stars, as well as hip-hop and rap artists and draw common links between their sexualization and the sexualization of old movies like “Mandingo,” right through Lexington Steele’s porn.

The writing is pretty good, too, though occasionally self-consciously so. There’s a chapter where he quotes liberally from an old journal, which always kind of bothers me, and the book begins with some references to his college journalism career. Overall, I think I was expecting something a little more academic (more citations, less ancedata), but it was pretty good for what it was: one man’s personal attempts to understand the myth of the big black penis and all it means for him and America.

Here are a few quotes:
A (white) woman, upon seeing his penis, remarks that she thought he’d have a bigger one. “I thought I’d have a bigger dick, too. There was shame in that response but also a nagging question, as in: Why the shame?” (12)

James Baldwin in “Just Above My Head”: “It was more a matter of its color than its size… its color was its size.” (quoted on 14)

Gunnar Myrdal study: White Southerners were asked what Blacks most wanted. They rated intermarriage and sex with whites #1 of 6 options (20)

“The white men who invented America weren’t trying to create a monster to subjugate. They needed a monster against which to measure their own monstrous actions. […] It’s a measuring stick of self-worth, capabilities and fallablities.” (22)

“It’s the men’s magazines that run articles about dick size […] because for so many men, it’s the very definition of who they are.” (23)

“I could cite position papers and speeches and documents detailing the African-American male’s continued status as less than endowed on the economic, social, and political totem poles. But it almost seems to defeat the point because pop-culture-wise, black men are the cream of the crop, the definers of image, and the valued sites of desire and cultural anointment, endowed, as it were, like myths. And maybe, eventually, that’s all we have. Maybe, eventually, that will be our salvation, as America, and not just hiphop, makes its mad dash to the finish line of high capitalism. Maybe, eventually, it is the Michael Jordans and Puff Daddys of our world who will signify what it means to be a black man, who will be the sole signposts to follow along the road to true endowment. Perhaps the myth will hold because there are men like our pop-culture and sports icons who put a face on the American dream of bigness, whether it’s the real financial thing or the big-dicked-ness everyone surmises them to have. Not that Jordan and his crew are immune to adhering to some of the same mythic qualities in the American obsession. “(198)

Page count: 224
Page total: 11,85

62. “The Cancer Journals,” Audre Lorde

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This was a really short book, but powerful and contains two of my favorite quotes of all time. I want them tattooed on my arm, my forehead, my chest:

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in th service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether or not I am unafraid.” (I often hear this as “whether or not I am afraid.”) page 13

“Your silence will not protect you.” page 20

What can you even say after that?

Page count: 79
Page total: 24,188

57. “The Lost City of Z,” David Grann

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Too sleepy to say much now. I learned some cool, and some horrifying things. Fawcett was the guy upon whom the explorer in “Up” was based! I figured that one out myself.

This was the first book I did Twitter updates for, since it was an e-book and I was, obviously, on my computer while reading it. Fleshing out my Twitterings…

I’m reading “The Lost City of Z” and, damn, I have absolutely no interest in hiking into a rainforest.

“If a member of the party fell overboard, he could not grab onto the raft without capsizing it. The only honorable course was to drown” (97). Fuck honor, yo.

Are you kidding?: When being shot at with seven-foot arrows, Fawcett and his team PLAYED THE ACCORDION to show they had no violent intent (128). (You know, besides the colonial imperialism.)

UH. It’s apparently really common for maggots to burrow into wounds, or for them to be injected when you are bitten by the bottle fly. This is what lead me to intitially say that I would never go into the fucking rain forest. But the Ecojas, a native group in the Amazon, make a high-pitched sound that makes the maggots in their wounds raise heads out of their skin so they can pluck ’em out (133). That is really cool, but so horrifying that I can’t even think about it any more.

If I were so weak from malnutrition and exhaustion that I had to crawl? No way anyone would convince me to crawl /into/ the jungle. (148). Ornella, a Spanish explorer, somehow convinced them to do so. And when he died, he was buried on the banks of the Amazon so “the brown waters that had so long possessed his mind…possessed his body” (149).

Fawcett came out of the rain forest to discover WWI was underway. He went to fight, where a fellow soldier remarked to him that cannibalism “at least provides a reasonable motive for killing, which is more than you can say for civilized warfare.” I’m right with him.

I’ll be honest, I don’t understand how to can use carbon dating to figure out when a rock structure was built. It is made out of old rocks?

One of Grann’s guides on Fawcett: “This colonel goes to many lengths to hide something that no one has ever found” (191). Cracked me up.

Explorer John Whitehead was on Dyott’s search for Fawcett’s remains. Their search ended when they were surrounded by a native group and had to slip away down the river, throwing food and equipment overboard. Whitehead milked his fame in an ad for Nujol laxative: “No matter what important equipment I have to discard… I will take plenty of Nujol (229).” If nothing else shows how exploration and mapping changed, that’s it.

Page count: 277 (it’s 325 with the full notes, which I didn’t read)
Page total: 23,429

36. “Galapagos,” Kurt Vonnegut

May 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Told by Leon Trotsky Trout, a million-odd year-old-ghost, this is the story about the near-end of humanity, evolution, and the danger of our great big brains (which always seem to be up to no good). This is standard Vonnegut fare: a first person omniscient narrator, jumbled timeline, paranoia about technical advances, and a loving critique of humanity.

A couple quotes:

And I pity him, because I can still remember what I was like when I was sixteen. It was hell to be that excited. Then as now, orgasms give no relief. Ten minutes after an orgasm, guess what? Nothing would do but that you have another one. And there was homework besides!

Which reminds me of an “Arrested Development” quote:

GOB: I’d give anything to be eight.
GEORGE MICHAEL: I’m thirteen.
GOB: No, I wasn’t crazy about thirteen: the acne. The self-conciousness. The erections.

Back to “Galapagos”:

That was another thing people used to be able to do, which they can’t do anymore: enjoy in their heads events which hadn’t happened yet and which might never occur. My mother was good at that. Someday my father [Kilgore Trout] would stop writing science fiction, and write something a whole lot of people wanted to read instead. And we would get a new house in a beautiful city, and nice clothes, and so on. She used to make me wonder why G-d had ever gone to the trouble of creating reality.

Page count: 295
Page total: 17,211