fear

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Fear
Andrei Codrescu

fear is my way
of not being here although
i am afraid of falling asleep for fear
of a frightening thing taking place in my absence.
i am also
afraid of the axe i keep behind the bed hoping
that no one will come in or rather
that someone will
and there will be blood.
sitting there in the dark seeing myself kill
over and over
is not fear,
it is pleasure
though when the awareness of pleasure floats up
and i learn that it is pleasure
i become very afraid.
this new house is fear
of the unknown neighbors stretching for miles
in each direction with only
space for houses with no one in them
space for dark windows over basements filled with fear.
the long stone walk from the door
to the top of the stairs
has three major checkpoints of fear:
the cottage on the right where the spooks sit
on the bicycle chains,
the old jew’s apartment with the curtains drawn
over the candle light
and finally the stairs themselves going up
through minor and major stations of fear
which at the age of six are like the days themselves,
long, inexorable.
and now the fear of even writing about fear
the fear of awareness

Photo by Elmarie van Rooyen on Unsplash

books

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Books
Andrei Codrescu

death covers me with fine dust.
i love used fat books. they are
like used fat bodies coming out of sleep
covered with fingerprints and shiny
snail trails.
i wish to read the way i love:
jumping from mirror to mirror like a drop of oil
farther and farther from my death.
but god gives us fat books and fat bodies
to use for different reasons
and less a metaphor i cannot say
what haunts me

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

grammar

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Grammar
Andrei Codrescu

[[1]] by mistake, one day, i unplugged grammar, the refrigerator of
language, and all the meats of prejudice began to rot

[[2]] grammar is plugged into the wall of our minds and if i concentrate
long enough i can still feel my mother’s deft fingers inserting the
prongs

[[3]] i can, for that matter, also remember trying to put my cock
through a noun and ending up fucked by a mysterious “it”

[[4]] there was a man who spoke in complete sentences and one day he
was run over by a train

[[5]] translation can make what comes “after” come “before” and
thanks to this i am capable of filling in endless forms with a smile

[[6]] i have a dim view of commas when i walk

[[7]] the cannibal group i belong to is presently engaged in wiping its
many mouths of dripping pieces of syntax with the long towel of
my mother’s skirt

Photo by Latrach Med Jamil on Unsplash

election

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Election
Andrei Codrescu

Luminosity is an issue
perhaps a platform.
This is my love song
to the owl.
I enter the closet at dawn
to follow the funeral of a century.
It is a question of going back
to the house without doors

Photo by Dominik VO on Unsplash

drowning another

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Drowning Another Peasant Inquisition
Andrei Codrescu

Jealousy runs only skin deep.
Underneath lies the joy of not possessing.
Thus spoke the sage caressing
his one and only claim to love

as all were seated, thinking.

Between friends silence is your best bet,
he continued.
O oneness of bodies firmly planted breasts
and proudly set cocks

as on the streets, the rest
are pulled along by long streaks of bad luck

of which we know the reason.
The many windows framed in yellow light
are pulled together making
mind structures, more mind chains
around the masses, falling through the season.

One day to see
One day you will be free

That day you come and see me
That day you see me, hear

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

biographical notes

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Biographical Notes
Andrei Codrescu

my biography

in the absence of facts,

rests on shaky ground

every day
i add thousands of new entries
to my biography

without me
my biography
is your story

when made into a play
my biography
speaks with an accent

when alone
with my biography
i give up life

you
are
in my biography

the pictures that go with my biography
haven’t yet been taken

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

orbital complexion

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Orbital Complexion
Andrei Codrescu

The technology of soul restoration

is a clever dose of miracles, insomnia, drugs,
poetry and cannibalism

How do you put an old newspaper back
on the stand? Without losing
your grasp on the technology? Without
blunting the tools, and easily,
like a warm wind?

The great surprise is in having revealed
an exact prior knowledge,

so that each one, rooted like a smiling cheese
in a storm of knives, could lift
his or her snails from the cabbage leaves
and eat the world

Photo by C Drying on Unsplash

Said and read – September 2020

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I must have waded through about 2,500 pages of academic journals, theory and method books, law cases and so many things that I didn’t keep close track of and can’t quantify. But it consumed me in the latter half of September as I completed a paper for university that got completely out of hand.

Among the materials here that I did keep track of – all of which I found enjoyable, informative and thought-provoking, are the following, which I’d expect most people to find a bit dry:

Realistic Socio-Legal Theory: Pragmatism and a Social Theory of LawBrian Z. Tamanaha

Unspeakable Subjects: Feminist Essays in Legal and Social TheoryNicola Lacey, ed.

Media, Religion and Gender: Key Issues and New ChallengesMia Lövheim, ed.

The Sociological ImaginationC. Wright Mills

Challenging the Public/Private Divide: Feminism, Law and Public PolicySusan B. Boyd, ed.

Previous book reports: 2020 – August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January. 2019 – December, November, October, September, May, April, March, February, January. 2018 – NovemberOctober, SeptemberAugust, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

Thoughts on reading for September:

Highly recommended

*Breasts and EggsMieko Kawakami

I knew these women were only venting their frustration and their anguish, but so long as they had someone, they were blessed. Technology was on their side. They had options. There was a way. They were accepted. That’s even true for same-sex couples who wanted kids. They were couples, sharing a dream with someone who could share the load. They had community, and people who would lend a helping hand. But what if sex was out of the equation? What if you were alone? All the books and blogs catered to couples. What about the rest of us, who were alone and planned to stay that way? Who has the right to have a child? Does not having a partner or not wanting to have sex nullify this right?

My favorite book for September. It just flowed, and I felt immersed in it. The protagonist is a writer who is considering having a child, and her reflections dive into the losses and consequences of having versus not having.

It’s really simple, I promise. Why is it that people think this is okay? Why do people see no harm in having children? They do it with smiles on their faces, as if it’s not an act of violence. You force this other being into the world, this other being that never asked to be born.”

Once you have children, you can’t unhave them,” she laughed. “I know how this sounds. You think I sound extreme, or detached from reality. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is real life. That’s what I’m talking about—the pain that comes with reality. Not that anyone ever sees it.”

Another passage that really caught my attention was one that made me feel such powerful familiarity… that sense of meeting the “right” someone when it’s too late, when you’re too damaged…

I know that might sound totally out of line,” he said, “but it’s the way I’ve felt for quite a while now.” I took a deep breath, holding it, and closed my eyes. And then I let everything go. What Aizawa had said was like a dream. Just like a dream, I told myself. Only it made me feel hopelessly depressed. I ran through what he had said a bunch of times and shook my head. It made me even more depressed. What if . . . what if I’d met him years ago, when I was younger. Why couldn’t we have met back then? The thought tore through my heart. If we had only met back then. But when, exactly? What would have been the right time? How many years ago? Ten? What if we met before I even met Naruse? What would have worked? Hard to say. All I knew I wished we could have met before I got this way. That’s for sure. But there was nothing I could do about that now.

*The Chronology of WaterLidia Yuknavitch

My last bout of Yuknavitch was during a snowy winter traveling the north south Oslo-Göteborg corridor, remembering reading one book during the three+ hour long ride between the two cities.

This time I just loved how she described things in her own memoir.

I have also learned that we share a birthday, albeit a few years apart. It signifies nothing, but somehow shared birthdays seem comforting.

*Alien Candor: Selected Poems, 1970 – 1995Andrei Codrescu

Strange and unique voice – poetry of course.

*Hiding in Plain SightSarah Kendzior

I reread this. I found more new things to be angry about. Wow. Absolutely must recommend again.

Also read her previous book, The View from Flyover Country.

Also listen to her podcast, Gaslit Nation.

Good – or better than expected

*The Lying Life of AdultsElena Ferrante

Like all Ferrante, it reads effortlessly, and you are drawn into the story. I didn’t find this as immersive as previous work, but it still shone a light on how some things seem so black and white when young, when you don’t see the whole picture, but become so complicated.

“Maybe everything would be less complicated if you told the truth.” She said haltingly: “The truth is difficult, growing up you’ll understand that, novels aren’t sufficient for it. So will you do me that favor?” Lies, lies, adults forbid them and yet they tell so many.

*When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of AfricaPeter Godwin

In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With most Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain…”

A surprisingly engaging book.

IT IS SOMETIMES SAID that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the white man. And the second worst was his departure. Colonialism lasted just long enough to destroy much of Africa’s indigenous cultures and traditions, but not long enough to leave behind a durable replacement.

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in AmericaRobert Whitaker

A different take on the “epidemic” of mental illness diagnoses in the last 40 or so years and the exceptional level of prescriptions issued, which, according to the case studies presented in this book, often appear to be doled out without great consideration for the patient’s well-being. Much of this is predicated on the question:

If we have treatments that effectively address these disorders, why has mental illness become an ever-greater health problem in the United States?

Is the heralding of miracle drugs for psychiatric disorders really miraculous? Are they doing more harm than good? How much can clinical trials and evidence presented by pharmaceutical companies be trusted? This book dives into some of these questions but is imperfect in its answers … at least it does raise the questions, though, which feels like an important counterbalance to the typical narratives about mental health and medication.

*Women of Valor: Orthodox Jewish Troll Fighters, Crime Writers, and Rock Stars in Contemporary Literature and CultureKaren E.H. Skinazi

Read as part of my aforementioned university paper, much of this book didn’t do much for me but did offer important insights into divisions between groups of Orthodox Jews. Most stories in the mainstream, like the popular memoir, Unorthodox, and the even more popular Netflix adaptation of it, paint a picture of tightly knit, aggressively oppressive communities, particularly for women. And how some of these people choose to “escape”. But not every community is the same, and this book uses a number of cases to highlight this. Quite informative and enjoyable.

*Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic RootsDeborah Feldman

As mentioned above, I read the memoir, and perhaps because I saw the Netflix adaptation first, the book didn’t affect me very much. Maybe it is because as Feldman describes her life, it came across as controlled by family, community, husband, and a set of arbitrary and constantly changing rules ostensibly set by “innovation as tradition”, a term Skinazi writes about the aforementioned book, Women of Valor:

When innovations like these are rendered as traditions, they are justified within the sects as age-old and unchangeable. And for mainstream, secular readers, Orthodox women’s modest dress and behavior, seen to be dictated by these long-standing, immutable “traditions” of the religion, render the whole practice of Orthodoxy outdated and oppressive and thus “completely unacceptable.” That Orthodox communities construct their own modernities is hard to see. But they are indeed modernities, ones that embrace ideals distinct from those of mainstream culture and have, in fact, arisen in direct opposition to mainstream culture. “Haredization” is, in large part, a response to liberalization.

Feldman’s rebellion read as though she forged a lot of freedom and latitude for herself, however hidden and “second life” it had to be. I cannot imagine trying to break away from a life that had been the norm or the kind of consciousness development one would need to undertake to free him/herself from a life and community they felt had oppressed them. Many people never reach the stage of self-awareness to realize that they are not fulfilled by the life they lead, particularly when boxed in as Feldman was.

I read an interview with Feldman discussing the TV version of Unorthodox in which Feldman expressed a fascinating point of view on women’s roles in the community she came from (italics mine):

“Interviewer: In episode four, during the Passover scene, the grandfather leads the prayers and tells the story of Exodus. No women participate. Yet, if you look at the actions that move Unorthodox forward, almost all are taken by the female characters.
Feldman: Men tell the story and women make the story real. You have the table where the man dictates prayer, belief and narrative, but if you look at the story of Esty, it’s women who are making the decisions. It’s the women she’s interacting with who are basically the driving force behind community life, the engine behind the story.”

Biggest disappointment (or disliked)

*The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. Salinger

I don’t think I need to describe this. I never read this when I was young, and thought I should. But I hated every second of it.