August 17th, 2010 by Arwen
Adventures in Nonfiction
Mimi was in town. It had been three years. We went out for Indian food and then coffee. Her dashing girlfriend Fiona was there too, in a vintage vest and tie. I had forgotten that Mimi was left-handed and that she didn’t drink coffee. She still had asymmetrical hair but now she grew herbs, she said, with a shrug, and did bodywork to take care of her fucked-up shoulders. She and Fiona were working on their respective books. Mimi said she was tired of hers, she wanted to write a different book, a series of essays about NGO-sponsored beauty pageants in which landmine victims were awarded solid-gold prostheses, and the for-profit marketing of women’s-prison-made handicrafts to consumers, and other confusing and/or obscene intersections of fashion and oppression. I told her I wished she would hurry up and finish the first book so she could hurry up and write the second.
We talked about how to get these things done when there’s no one around to tell you to do them. No TV, no video games, we agreed. At one point Mimi said that if she were rich she would probably just stay home and play World of Warcraft. We talked about teaching: Fiona presents key points of feminist thought to her students by showing them slides of cute boys. Seeing Zach Braff or whoever floating on-screen beside important tenets of post-colonial theory made them feel less anxious about taking Women’s Studies classes, she said, especially from someone who looked so queer. We talked about binge drinking, grade inflation, and the Midwestern post-adolescent’s lack of affect.
I told Mimi and Fiona how lately I’ve been tiptoeing into a local grassroots literary circle, a place I might someday like to belong. It’s mutually supportive and DIY and otherwise similar to the punk scene in many ways, but I still feel like a kid at my first show, or writing overconsidered letters to zine editors, all awkward and fumbling around with my wings folded behind me and dragging a little on the floor in front of the stage. It’s a strange place to find myself, after having stuck around long enough in punk publishing to have my name scratched on the walls, and to be accepted by people like they accept the walls. We talked about writing zines and blogs and books. I laughed because I had left MRR to attend a top-tier journalism school and now here I was, back again. I said it felt right, I missed it, I needed a smaller feedback loop than the huge film and book projects provide. They take so long and can be so lonely. Mimi shrugged again and said she needed to keep writing too — why did I think she hung on at Punk Planet until Dan Sinker took her off the masthead without even an explanatory email? And that’s also why she does the wonderful threadbared fashion site that’s of course about so much more. I asked, but what is the compulsion to share about, anyway? Why so first-person all the time? Is it some kind of disease? One we share with everyone on Twitter? We’re not 25 years old anymore, clutching Xacto blades, but we haven’t changed. We still keep courting the dynamic terror of creative self-doubt.
Fiona and I finished our coffee. I bragged about touching the Rosetta Stone. Then we talked about what was hot in YA fiction. Mimi recommended a series called Monster Blood Tattoo.
1. Check out San Francisco’s Doomed this week. Yes. All ages. Yes. Maximum plus Thrillhouse plus bands plus baseball. Yes.
2. Surrender is still on tour. Go see them when they come through. OK, they’re peace punk, but they’re also doing…theater. I don’t mean like high school thespians exchanging lines from “Les Miz” in the cafeteria. I mean that they don’t just play, they perform, and they don’t break character, allowing you to fall under their spell. The blindfold still bothers me, but in a good way.
3. I am interviewed by the rejectionist about my film on Ursula K. Le Guin.