Tuesday, August 31, 2010

womb-tomb of decadent closure

I recently discovered (...err, was forced to read) Emily Dickinson, Kate Chopin and Kathy Acker.
I sort of want to carry on this with "DUUUUUUUUUUDE. DUDE. SO. FREAKING. WONDERFUL." but that's not very classy or articulate.

So. Emily Dickinson. Why haven't I read you before? Why did I dismiss you as some sort of American Jane Austen prim princess when you are a masochistic, sadistic, death dancing, church hating, desirous wonder-babe? I have seen the error of my ways, and boy. I love being wrong about words. Dickinson is fantastic - she packs more into a four line poem than Wordsworth ever did. She's so quietly vicious, so uptight. Her poems are like being laced into a corset, they're like shouting in the middle of the night, they are pinpricks of perfection. She is so incredibly stealthy, you don't even notice the bodily language you're using until you read it back.

Of course, none of the boys in my American Literature class are willing to give her any credit. She was "locked away". She had no "life experience". She was "socially inept". Listen, there's a big difference between "locked away" and choosing to reject the world. There's a whole world, a new language in her work that Dickinson created that I (and you, smelly boy) could never have dreamed up. It's bodily metaphysics. And besides, Allen Ginsberg loved her, so you have her to thank for those three famous lines you know. Talk to me when you've read the rest of Howl.

Ahem. Sorry. The dismissive nature of the boys in some of my classes is beginning to get to me.

So. I am in love with Emily Dickinson's words. I have also been heavily influenced by Camille Paglia's work Sexual Persona which recasts Dickinson as a female Marquis de Sade. I cannot get enough of stuff like that.

The next woman that has recently entered my life is Kate Chopin. Another American, but from the South. We read The Awakening for Women's Lit, and the best way to describe it is the first of the unhappy married women who undergoes sexual awakening novels. Except that doesn't do it justice at all. It's a powerful novel, powerful and beautiful and warm, with New Orleans and Grand Isle so vivid you can taste the sun. Edna Pontellier, the anti-heroine, is amazing. Her politics of refusal, the way she says no and refuses to give reason, is breath taking. This book is the first fin-de-seicle/Decadent book I have ever read by a woman, and I want to know more. I want to devour all her beautiful words again and again, all that lace, all that choked breath, that female Oscar Wilde, the knowing outsider. It's naturalism, you can hear her Darwinian thinking, her Greek Decadence. I feel like I always say this, but The Awakening is one of the most perfect books I have ever read by a woman.

Kathy Acker. The third American. The pickpocket. The whore. The woman who took a look at authorship and told it to fuck off. There are no words to describe Kathy Acker and The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec by Herni Toulouse Lautrec apart from nightmare thievery. Like Dickinson, she's bodily. Like Chopin she's refusing. Like neither of them she's pushing her way into and through desire, to satisfaction and away from it again. It's a mindfuck, complete with Henry Kissinger. My family would all hate it. Acker cheats you, cheats you the way she was cheated. Makes you push your boundaries, says "if you're some stupid boy going through a James Dean phase, I'm going to take James Dean and make you rethink him completely without changing a fucking thing."

C'est Magnifique, these women. With their desire and their anger. I don't think I knew women wrote like that. They are so refreshing, so terrifying, so beautiful, so dangerous.

Nothing else happens in my life except reading at the moment. Oh, and I saw Inception twice. For the explosions.

1 comment:

Kate Olivia said...

I am underway with the dreaded essay! That Camille Paglia article is AMAZING. I am head over heels in love with Dickinson and Acker at the moment it's just nuts.

Big big kudos for this post!