Thoughts & Comments

On The Love of the Game

It didn’t help that we stayed out until 8am that morning and only got two hours of sleep, but how many times were we going to be in Berlin to watch Germany play for a World Cup title? We made a bedraggled little quartet, a bit damp from the afternoon downpour, wedged into a nook of the bar as much by exhaustion as by determination. We ordered beers and waited for the game to begin.

I love the World Cup, though I don’t follow any football leagues during the rest of the four-year cycle. I owe this partially to my English father and childhood summers in Europe, but I think also to my fascination with sports fandom. I grew up in the heart of North Carolina, a region in which you are often defined by your college basketball allegiance (mine is Duke, the only acceptable option). Basketball agnosticism is not an option when you live in the eight mile stretch between Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and UNC’s Dean Dome, even if you don’t actually like basketball. I remember being astounded when I went to college and met people who had never been a sports fan of any sort and did not seem to find their lives emotionally deficient. (more…)

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Looking through Lenses

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I’ve been in Paris for two and a half months now, and I am ashamed to admit that I have already felt the force of habit creeping into and obscuring my vision. The first two weeks I was here, every moment I spent outside was full of amazing things to see. Even something as mundane as the grocery store was packed with interesting details; I wanted to look at every single product and label. I was never afraid of whipping my camera out to photograph something I found beautiful or fascinating or funny, which covered pretty much everything I saw.

But of course, this doesn’t last. Even the flakiest people have habits, and the force of habit is a strong one: “We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them” (Proust, 235). I have a Paris routine now, full of places I like to go, foods I like to buy, restaurants I like to frequent, and so on. Slowly the details that charmed me at the beginning are becoming invisible to me. Somewhat symbolically, I don’t take my camera with me as much anymore because it’s heavy and bulky; I no longer look at Paris through the same lens. (more…)

Object Affinity

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Sometimes I mentally group some of my things together. I don’t know why; they just seem to have a natural affinity for each other. I saw these sitting together on my couch the other day and felt like they were going somewhere, and that they were going to take me with them.

1 // Foca Sport III love shooting on film. I’m horrible at it, make no mistake, but I love it anyway. When I have a film camera on me, I view everything differently, even when I don’t have the viewfinder to my eye. With a finite number of frames to shoot, I start looking more carefully for the beautiful or interesting moments around me, rather than indiscriminately clicking away on my digital camera. This particular model is a French camera from the 1960s with a rangefinder (i.e. there’s a second “ghost” image when you look through the viewfinder that you must match up with the first “real” image by turning the focus ring, ensuring that your subject is in focus — it’s quite fun to use). I’m on my first roll, but I’ll let you know how the photos turn out. (more…)

Desire and Endeavour

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Many of you area already aware that I’m an avid David Foster Wallace fan. This is a fairly recent development. I read Brief Interviews with Hideous Men in high school, but that was a mistake. I don’t think I was mature enough to understand it and the book made almost no impression on me; I only remember coming away with an association between Wallace and footnotes.

The real addiction didn’t begin until last year when an ex-boyfriend made me read “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage,” an essay from April, 2001 in which Wallace reviews the latest edition of a dictionary of modern American usage. The essay is excellent (it will introduce you to a troubled world of lexicographical politics, juicier than you could possibly imagine), but its contents and the rest of my relationship with Wallace are stories for a different post. This event was significant for another reason: it began my love affair with usage dictionaries. (more…)

Part of the Mental Furniture

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One of the short stories I’m working on right now involves a supercomputer. When some of my writing friends workshopped a draft of the piece, the issue of technology came up: will the extensive references to various forms of technology tie the story to the current time period too strongly and prevent it from being accessible to future generations (you know, should any of us be lucky enough to be read by future generations)?

The same thing applies to pop culture references and I started thinking about the use of both topics in fiction when I stumbled upon the following David Foster Wallace quote in Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself:

“[…] the professors’d say, Don’t use pop references (a) because they’re banal and stupid, and (b) because they date your piece. And it’s just sort of like, I mean I think, I don’t know about you, what kind of stuff you do. Me and a lot of the other young writers I know, we use these references sort of the way the romantic poets use lakes and trees. I mean, they’re just part of the mental furniture. That you carry around.” (75) (more…)

Found Objects & Books

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It does not take a lot persuasion to make me buy a book. I love books and pile them all over my apartment like I’m preparing for an apocalypse in which printed matter will provide us with the only literal, rather than merely metaphoric, means of survival. However, there is one attribute of a book that categorically forces me to buy it. Very occasionally when browsing through the shelves of a bookstore, I will find that a volume contains an extra part that neither the author nor publisher put there. It could be a dedication or some thoughtful marginalia (notes clearly taken for a class do not count, according to the completely arbitrary rules in my head) or, as it was last night, a photograph. (more…)

The Last Bookshop

In what I truly hope remains fictional forever, here’s a short film about the world’s last bookshop. Bookstores are my personal equivalent of record stores in Penny Lane’s famous line from Almost Famous: “…and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Books have always been faithful friends to me, and bookstores are their cozy homes (prior to my bookshelf). As a writer, I obviously hope that books never die, but I think that I feel even more strongly as a reader. It’s hard for me to articulate why because I have loved books since before I could read (see below), but I can’t imagine a world where people don’t read books. Can you?

“It gives you memories of things you’ll never experience.”

via Swissmiss

that is the author of this post

that is the author of this post

Excess vs Essentials

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I’ve always felt divided between excess and essentials. Since I was a kid, I’ve been a collector: rocks, stamps, a strange attempt to collect baseball cards even though I knew nothing about the sport or any of the players. Collections seemed to imply vast knowledge, connoisseurship, and an ability to appreciate the one feature that made an otherwise average object special. On the other hand, I also liked the idea of having streamlined essentials. It seemed practical, flexible, and indicative of a certain level of self-awareness.

Now I could be said to collect three things: books, makeup/skincare, and clothes. The books are non-negotiable; I love them and will never stop accumulating them. Plus I have an easy time justifying the books because they improve my brain, at least in theory. The other things though? Am I just being vain and obsessive? Do I really need all the makeup pictured on the left, when I could probably make do with just the stuff on the right?

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DFW, Ambition, Perfectionism

Hello all, I promise I haven’t disappeared; I’m just busy working on other things (including a photo project! Pictures to come soon, I promise). In the mean time, here’s some audio from 1996 of David Foster Wallace talking to Leonard Lopate about things like perfectionism, tennis, teaching/learning, and being known as a grammar Nazi. The animation is nice too.

via Esquire

Self Portraits

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I have a vision of myself in my head. It is from my point of view, looking down a bathtub at my legs rising out of the water, covered in suds, my feet propped on the bath faucet. It is the cover of a chick lit book or a stock photo in Seventeen Magazine, but for the present moment, this image is me.

What you cannot see in this vision is the bottle of wine reassuringly half full next to the bathtub, or the book I’m reading, or the pen I use to take notes in the margins, or the ruler that I use to underline because even in the bath I can’t bear the idea of a wobbly line. These are the the off-stage props, the creative directors to my mental self-portrait, but the image itself is really just soapy legs and badly chipped toenail polish, my feet squirming about a bit, if the image can move. It’s because this is the context in which I am closest to just being myself.

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