“I will do anything to avoid boredom. It is the task of a lifetime. You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.”—Anne Carson (via flippydoodle)
INTERVIEWER:I remember I thought I was reading about you, and your kind of resentment/adoration of the older man who took you on a pilgrimage to Compostela, and then at some point in the essay you suddenly say something that indicates you’re a young man.
CARSON:I see. Yes, that may be true. I haven’t read that for a while. I’m sure it is true. I guess I’ve never felt entirely female, but then probably lots of people don’t. But I think that at different times in my life I located myself in different places on the gender spectrum, and for many years, throughout my thirties which is when I did that pilgrimage, I didn’t have any connection to the female gender. I wouldn’t say I exactly felt like a man, but when you’re talking about yourself you only have these two options. There’s no word for the “floating” gender in which we would all like to rest. The neuter comes up in the unbearable poem, the neuter gender, but that doesn’t really capture it because you don’t feel neuter, you feel just wrong. Wrong vis-à-vis the gender you’re supposed to be in, wrong vis-à-vis the other one, and so what are you?
Historically we use man for people of any gender because men win. So it’s useful to do that when cornered.
INTERVIEWER:You didn’t have much interest in feminism when you first came to Montreal. But then you joined a group of women who got together and read. What shifted?
CARSON:Did I do that? That was brave of me.
INTERVIEWER:At first you were skeptical, even hostile, because the other women were quite feminist. But then something happened and next I knew, you were writing about women in dirt.
CARSON:Oh, yes. Yes, true, there was some kind of a sequence there. Well, let’s see, how does that seem to me now? I think that for a long time, I was just a solipsist. It’s not really that I was not a feminist, or didn’t understand feminism—I didn’t understand masculinism either—but that I just didn’t understand being human. And it’s a problem of extended adolescence: You don’t know how to be yourself as a part of a category, so you just have to be yourself as a completely strange individual and fight off any attempt others make to define you. I think most people go through that by the time they’re seventeen, but for me it extended to about forty. Until recently, I didn’t have friends I could relax around and be just as weird as I wanted to be. Now I do—people who didn’t leave the relationship as a result of me being weird. And my experience with men is that if they don’t like you, they leave.
INTERVIEWER:Is that what you meant when you said you think of yourself as evil?
CARSON:That may be another, more melodramatic way to describe this. “Evil” and “good” are terms I use from time to time, when I’m trying to shock myself into some better thinking. But it’s less about evil or good than about accepting your limitations. When I began to look at my limitations and accept them, I was able to move into being a person of gender, or thinking about it historically. After that came those essays like “The Gender of Sound” and “Dirt and Desire,” which are essentially anthropological investigations of female gender and its limits.
INTERVIEWER:In Autobiography of Red, there’s the sense that Geryon is evil, a monster. This is his own sense of self, it doesn’t come from anybody else. The same seems true of your conception of yourself. I wonder where that comes from. Part of the answer is obviously explored in “Dirt and Desire.” There’s this idea of women as being--
INTERVIEWER:Polluted, uncontainable, they flow all over everything, they have holes, you always have to keep them in or they’ll just flood.
CARSON:Leak all over.
INTERVIEWER:That’s the historical answer, but is there a personal answer, as well?
CARSON:I don’t know. I was drawn to the Geryon story because of his monstrosity, although it’s something of a cliché to say that we all think we’re monsters. But it does have to do with gender, though I don’t know what it is about growing up female that makes one think: monster.
INTERVIEWER:Well, it’s certainly part of growing up gay.
CARSON:Yes. Perhaps that’s why I use the Geryon story rather than a story about a female monster. I could have written a novel about Medusa, but there’s something more narratable—is that a word?—and romantic and graspable about the monstrosity of the gay man, now, for us, in this moment of culture. Maybe the monstrosity of being female is just too huge an issue. It’s been going on for so long.
“Something about me being so fat and ugly your kids probably should commit suicide. I don’t think they knew my son had … I wanted to punch them is what I wanted to do. So that’s why I laid back, tried to ignore it. Because I really wanted to hurt them, you know? You can’t do that!”—Greece, N.Y. bus monitor Karen Klein • Discussing her anger with the students who relentlessly berated her in a hard-to-watch video that went viral yesterday. (Particularly with how they said her kids should kill themselves; her son had committed suicide ten years prior.) Despite her anger, she held off, choosing not to fight back despite the unbelievably mean things they were saying to her. After the video went viral, someone started a charity drive to send her on vacation which also went viral. Klein, a former bus driver, makes roughly $15,000 a year as a bus monitor; the charity drive, thus far, has raised $164,821 (and climbing), which might do more than send her on vacation — it might allow her to quit her job. Which, based on that video, might be a good idea. (via shortformblog)
“Don’t let yourself feel worthless: often through life you will really be at your worst when you seem to think best of yourself; and don’t worry about losing your “personality,” as you persist in calling it: at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4 p.m.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (via larmoyante)