Jul 26, 2015

Come Back, Summer: Life and Links

Come Back, Summer: Life and Links

Just after I wrote about the delights of sunny days two Sundays ago, the weather took a turn for the terrible; at the moment, I’m harbouring the suspicion that this is it for summer 2015. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t doing much for my mood. We did have one final nice day last weekend: I took advantage of it to go on my longest bike ride to date (17 miles or 27 kms, which is a lot for me) and got slightly sunburned because I forgot the English sun was actually a thing.

Some photos from my day out:


Slightly scary goose
I managed to get away in time.

Greek salad and bread
Also, look who now lives on my bookshelf:

Cosima from Orphan Black Pop figurine
She cheers me up whenever I glance her way.

Other than feeling mopey about the rain, I’ve been counting down the weeks to my upcoming travels, plus reading and writing and working and doing my best to get by. Here’s one last photo of a fun day at work. Summer children’s events are still my favourite.

Cat Duplo at the library

Links and thoughts for this week:

  • Sarah McCarry’s For All the Girls Who are Part Monster is (unsurprisingly) brilliant and moving. I need to mull for a little longer before I attempt to write about her new novel, About a Girl, but the short version is that I loved it like whoa.

  • I have somewhat complicated feelings about this Naomi Klein piece for The Nation, but it touches on something that’s become increasingly important to me:
    But the weight of the world is not on any one person’s shoulders—not yours. Not Zoe’s. Not mine. It rests in the strength of the project of transformation that millions are already a part of.

    That means we are free to follow our passions. To do the kind of work that will sustain us for the long run. It even means we can take breaks—in fact, we have a duty to take them. And to make sure our friends do too.
    There isn’t of course a sharp divide between individual and collective action — seemingly small individual choices are the drops that form the ocean of change — but I do appreciate the reminder to see our choices in proportion and not run ourselves to the ground by buying into the idea that every small misstep or failure is a sign that everything is hopelessly doomed.

  • Another one that left me with complicated feelings (which, by the way, is not a criticism, as I find working through them useful): How ‘Privilege’ Became a Provocation.
    ‘‘Privilege saturates’’ — and privilege stains. Which might explain why this word pricks and ‘‘opportunity’’ and ‘‘advantage’’ don’t. ‘‘I can choose to not act racist, but I can’t choose to not be privileged,’’ a friend once told me with alarm. Most of us already occupy some kind of visible social identity, but for those who have imagined themselves to be free agents, the notion of possessing privilege calls them back to their bodies in a way that feels new and unpleasant. It conflicts with a number of cherished American ideals of self-­invention and self-­reliance, meritocracy and quick fixes — and lends itself to no obvious action, which is perhaps why the ritual of ‘‘confessing’’ to your privilege, or getting someone else to, has accumulated the meaning it has. It’s the fumbling hope that acknowledging privilege could offer some temporary absolution for having it.

    It’s easier to find a word wanting, rather than ourselves. It’s easy to point out how a word buckles and breaks; it’s harder to notice how we do. ‘‘Privilege’’ was a ladder of a word that wanted to allow us to see a bit further, past our experiences. It’s still the most powerful shorthand we have to explain the grotesque contrast between the brutal police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and the treatment extended to Dylann Roof, charged with murdering nine black people last month in a church in Charleston, S.C. — captured alive, treated to a meal by the arresting officers, assigned a judge who expressed concern for his family. ‘‘Privilege’’ was intended to be an enticement to action, and it is still hopeful, if depleted and a little lost. It is emblematic of the kinds of pressures we put on language, our stubborn belief that the right word can be both diagnosis and cure.
  • Aw, Clueless is twenty. Here’s why it continues to be great. I feel lucky that this movie and Ten Things I Hate About You were so central to my teen years.

  • I really liked Jessica’s post for Book Riot about why she’s not ready to read Go Set a Watchman.

  • A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification.

  • A useful post on Orientalism and how it is also racism:
    So, in the end, one must ask whether Orientalism is racism. The answer to this question demands not only a definition of Orientalism — as I have provided here — but also a redefinition of racism, itself. Racism is not merely overt hatred or abuse of people based on race: it is not casual instances of race-based “mockery”. Racism is, more fundamentally, the institutions that perpetuate and allow acts of racial oppression to take place.
  • Vanity Fair interviews Noelle Stevenson. Why is she so perfect?

  • ...And Portland Monthly profiles Ursula Le Guin.

  • Maureen’s recent thoughtful tweets touched on something I often think about. I’ve mostly made my peace with the fact that I am and will always be stereotypically “girly” in my communication style — non-confrontational, conciliatory whenever possible, often tentative rather than authoritative. There is, of course, nothing essentially feminine about any of these traits, but the fact remains that historically they have been associated with women, are imposed on us via gendered socialisation, and are low in prestige for that very reason, as Deborah Cameron points out. Over the years I’ve also discovered that my mild demeanour is not incompatible with being assertive or speaking out, and that’s been really important to me. However, as Maureen says, I’m keenly aware that this particular gender-appropriate space I occupy has been used as a weapon against other women. I don’t have any solutions and have genuinely moved beyond feeling inadequate for being me, but I do know I want to help carve out the space for women to be people and behave in the infinite range of ways that implies. At the same time, I believe we all stand to gain from trying not to lose sight of one another’s humanity, even if I can’t always say what that translates into concretely.

  • Relatedly and via Sarah McCarry, here’s an essay that made me cry:
    But there’s a difference between nice and kind. That’s semantics I guess, but it’s how I feel: Nice is the thing that won’t hold up against meanness and coldness and cruelty; kind is the thing that does. It’s not always proportionate to the effort a person puts in either, though sometimes it is. Apply that however you like.
  • In turn this led me to these two pieces by Katherine Cross — whose writing I really need to start following more closely, because whenever I come across it she unfailingly does an amazing job of articulating things I’ve been grappling with but haven’t quite found the word for yet. Take this, for example, on how neoliberalism invisibly informs what we imagine as the only effective path to a better world:
    I have long argued (privately) that our current phase of online activism is very much hobbled by the logic of neoliberalism and its emphasis on the individual, in ways that many of us are completely unaware of. Much online activism exalts the particular at the expense of the collective, rewarding individual episodes of catharsis and valuing them with considerably higher esteem than the more hard-nosed and less histrionic work that sustains a community.
    And this, which is pretty much exactly why E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars hit me so hard:
    This is where we return to Said and his argument that nativism operated under colonialist logic; in addition to the emphasis on individual catharsis, the culture of unchecked rage that sometimes wracks us is also an artefact of patriarchy itself and its lust for competitive, often violent contest. Much ink has been spilled on the masculinism that infects activist discourse, leading to delightfully snarky epithets like “Manarchism,” but we ignore the fact that white cis men are not the only people perpetuating this; it’s a culture, it does not dwell only in those with a perceived “essence.” We often unthinkingly accept and venerate the modalities and methods that patriarchy most favours; rage fuelled, unempathetic, us-versus-them politics is an ideal fit with the political hellscape of modern, neo-liberal patriarchy. It is a world that prizes the atomised particular over the powerful but compromising collective.
    There’s a post brewing in my head that might never see the light of day, but it’s to do with this, too, and with how I don’t always (or often, or perhaps even ever) want to write from a place of authority. About myself, I mean, and the stuff of my mind and my life — I believe in listening and I’m not trying to claim the right to write ignorantly about other people’s experiences. But even when it comes to what touches me, very often I don’t know, and I want to find out collaboratively without fear or shame. I am searching, I am trying, I am wondering out loud.

    1. The weather is so miserable here (Ireland) today, and for all of July really, very un-summer like.

      That was a really interesting post about the DDC, I remember looking at some of the problems re religion when I did my library course, and today I'm always tempted to put !I died and came back" books into fiction, but usually I manage to catalogue them properly, or just throw them into the biography section.
      We don't have a huge LGBT collection so that isn't something that has come up a whole lot where I work, but it is something I'll have to bear in mind.

      1. Ugh, today was THE WORST here weather-wise. I got home from work completely soaked >:(

        Wasn't that a really interesting read? We don't do much (if any) cataloguing and classification in-house, but I'm happy to say we do have our LGBT collection in the 306.76s.

    2. Lovely photos! I'm going to go through your links now (especially that one on Noelle Stevenson, as I have NIMONA out from the library right now). Thanks for sharing!

      1. yay, enjoy Nimona :D I want the whole world to read it.

    3. Oh my God I cannot believe you didn't tell me that you met Lil Sebastian! :p

      My favorite thing Maureen Eichner says in that series of tweets is "BASICALLY my goal in life is to be a weird mix of Harriet Vane and Tiffany Aching." I support this life goal. I want to be a combination of Harriet Vane and -- I haven't decided on the second part yet. Give me time. Kate Barton maybe, as she's ferociously good at what she does and that is awesome.

      1. Tiffany, though! I think Harriet and Tiffany is a particularly good combination :P

    4. Thanks for the link to the homophobia in Dewey Decimal Classification. As someone who often scratches her head over my own library's sometimes confusing classification system (and ends up putting anything to do with LGBT and music into the Music and Sociology or Politics section!) this was thought provoking.

      I do hope Summer is going to make a return!

      1. Fingers crossed! It's looking a bit more hopeful now. And you're most welcome :)

    5. That Orientalist piece is so important. Sometimes, I think, it's easy for me to think "No, I've got this" instead of looking at 101 material in order to refine whatever "this" is, and I'm glad that jolted me out of that.

    6. You take the loveliest photos, Ana.

      And I, too, want to know why you didn't tell the ENTIRE WORLD you met Lil Sebastian. Was he as great in person as he is on TV? Did you manage not to faint? We need details.

      1. Hahaha, I should have e-mailed you and Jenny that photo asap. Duly noted for next time :P

        And awww, thanks <3

    7. It seems that summer has come to an end here too. Oh well, at least it started early this year. That goose is terrifying, but the pics are very cute. :)

      Once again, thanks for the interesting links. That piece about homosexuality in the DDS was hard to stomach.

      1. It had murder in its eyes, for real :P

        Glad you enjoyed them!

    8. You always give me far more links than I can possibly comment on, so I end up saving them all for later! Especially excited to sit down with that Portland Monthly profile on Le Guin.


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.