Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Chicks with Bics

Most of my time lately has been devoted to literature: reading it, thinking about it, wondering if I'll get a job editing it, discussing it to no avail with drunk Gap workers, writing my own version of it (if blogging can be considered literature, a debate slugged out every week in the NY Times book review), wondering if it's possible to get rich off of, mentally spending Dan Brown's ill-gotten literary gains, etc.

I just finished Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, a book I loved so much I may begin sending copies to friends a la The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I may photocopy passages and tack them to telephone poles. I was reduced to reading sentences (off pages I'd dogeared the corners of--for what? Fast reference? Some kinda literary quick-draw duel?) I especially loved to Kai in the middle of a coffee shop, cobb salad particles enthusiastically (and totally disgustingly) flying out of my mouth.

I'll admit that I have kind of a fascination with boarding school, although, to my credit, this doesn't usually influence my taste in books. I hate A Separate Peace as much as if John Knowles had killed my parents. Prep did indeed have my boarding school, kilted, school-tied fascination in its favor, but it's a fantastic book apart from that.

I found out Curtis Sittenfeld wrote a backpage essay a couple of weeks ago in the Times Book Review and tracked it down today at work (needless to say, the boss is still in Milan).

You Can't Get A Man With A Pen

She's unwittingly become my blunt sitcom-style guidance counselor. Not only is her book the most uncomfortably accurate portrayal of teenage self-consciousness (which, if we're being honest here, is not at all restricted to the span between ages 13 and 19), she's managed to pin down the neurosis of every girlwithglasses who seriously hopes against all hope that boys actually (once we're out of high school/once we're out of college/once we're out of...this German publishing house) get a boner for brains.

And not in that Jeffrey Dahmer kind of way.

Though I'm not a novelist and (despite encouragement in the comments section, thank you very much) it's unlikely I will be, I did just have a really short piece accepted by McSweeney's. Just the website, not the journal. And I must say, a very little piece of my creative-writing-workshop-crush-on-any-boy-who-reads-poetry heart entertained a few notions of getting boxer shorts (along with a letter of well worded prose, of course) in the mail. Or, at the very least, an amorous IM or two.

You can't help but think these thoughts when from the age of nine you consistently talk to your crushes in your lockable diary instead of in the flesh. Even when you're technically an adult. Paraphrasing one of my favorite sections in Prep, the nerdy girl (or boy, I'd assume, though boys to me are still somewhat of an alien species whose diaries and inner thoughts I believe to be so foreign as to be written in a completely different langage) can't help but believe the intensity she extracts from her heart and infuses into her diary is, on some level, palpable and magnetic to the opposite sex. Despite the obvious reality that to everyone else, she just writes a lot and turns really red when you talk to her.

However, the product of the thirteen years difference between ages of nine and twenty-two has been the discovery that even if my adolescent angst (and all chronicles thereof) hasn't proved the boy tractor-beam I previously concieved it to be, it's worth something to me. Whoever it was who said "the unexamined life is not worth living" was wrong; the unexamined life is bearable. The examined life, especially when you're examining your pimples, your wardrobe, the math class target of your passion, is unforgiving.

Having survived a nerdy girlhood to grow into the nerdy person I am now (with a written record to tell the tale, lest I ever attempt to leave the pangs and throes of adolescence completely in the past), I appreciate the Curtis Sittenfelds more than they could ever know. Literary ladies may not receive the romantic adulation the Great American Male Novelists get, but I'd still sling my underwear at them during a reading.

The difference between them is that being a brainy male writer is admirable and mysterious, qualites that--when coupled with the idea that Writers are Male, generally held by whomever is in charge of the literary canon --take on a rock star kind of appeal. Being a brainy female writer is admirable and mysterious as well, but also a little bit brave.

10 Comments:

Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Addendum: In the end there, I'm not talking about myself.

Also, I think there's a much greater bravery to being a gay writer, or a writer who's a person of color, too. But that didn't really have to do with your groupies wanting to have sex with you, which is what I was actually talking about.

Just to clarify.

12:04 PM  
Blogger joslik said...

Regardless if it was you that you were describing at the end there or not - Smart women = Super Hot.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous mombi said...

congrats on the mcsweeney thing... do they not know you're female?

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that article you linked was great! Im definitely going to read Prep now. Can you please write a book too so that I can have something else worthwhile to read?

~kessler

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm slingin my groupie panties at you now!

~ Ms. Texas

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm slingin my groupie panties at you now!

~ Ms. Texas

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Knowles-bashing! Like Lisa Simpson and her grandmother, one would hardly consider a Seperate Peace seventh grade level. More like pre-school. One can, if one chooses not to dumb it down, establish a real rapport over such topics.

It's still not as good as the whole pelican on the head, fish down the trousers thing though.

Nathan

4:50 AM  
Blogger Buckley said...

Nathan indirectly hits on the thoughts that your though-provoking post thought-provoked for me: "Raport," yes; "You, me, cloakroom, no underwear, Now!" Not so much.

Don't think that's the encounter most writers are looking for anyway - if it was they wouldn't use their brains so much.

It's not that intelligent witty writers are unattractive (in my early romantic adventures it was the unifying feature among my love-interests); it's that to be attractive on a raw sexual level requires frivolity and flirtation. Writers are more often intense and/or aloof and more likely to be interested in a cerebral connection.

So while you may well fancy these writers rotten and Kathy, it actually has been known to happen that a boner is the result of the pure literary genius of a piece of writing (devoid of any overt sexual content) by a female author, it's still pretty inappropriate to try to seduce them through any means less than trying to rise to their standard of brilliance and to try to impress them similarly.

Largely though, I think the issue only arises because a writer feels that they put so much of themselves into their work. But surely, say, the writer of an instruction booklet for a cupboard comprehensible by (inter alia) the avoidance of the term 'flange' has the right to think that people should find them devastatingly attractive because they're just so damn talented.

But I digress.

Congrats on the McSweeney's article. I'll go check it out

10:55 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

I see what you're saying, especially about the whole issue being tied to how much of the writer "is in" their work. When virtually every other book published is a memoir, there's a lot more invested in a writer's audience finding their book interesting, attractive, etc., because the book actually IS them.

However, I still think that male writers get an indisputably greater amount of booty from female fans just by virtue of their being writers. Man + Writer = Hotter Guy. Female + Writer = Same female, maybe slightly cooler.

Though I'm willing to revisit the whole discussion should I ever find myself making out in a coatroom with a boy who's whispering "God, your alliteration TOTALLY TURNS ME ON" in my ear.

I think I just drank a bug. Seriously. Gross.

11:14 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

P.S. My McSweeney's piece isn't up yet, but I'll let everyone know when it is.

P.P.S. I'm not saying that all men don't find literary women attractive. I feel like I'm venturing too far into gross generalization. I'm just saying that the generally held conception, at least in America, holds true that men who are writers are considered hotter than the would be if they drove trucks, or managed banks.

11:19 AM  

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