Last night, I saw New York Times writer William Grimes’ essay in the Critic’s Notebook column on the phenomenon of the memoir pop up in my NYT feed. He writes, “The memoir has been on the march for more than a decade now. … But the genre has become so inclusive that it’s almost impossible to imagine which life experiences do not qualify as memoir material.”
As a blogger, I understand the attraction to writing memoirs. If given the chance, I could wax on about myself, my memories, and my revelations for quite some time. The nice thing about memoirs is that they don’t require much research or imagination. You were there – you know what happened. Of course, this means that it would be very easy to assume that anyone could write a memoir. While this is true, it does not also equate that anyone can write a good memoir, which goes for bloggers, as well. Grimes does not come out and explicitly state this in his essay, but the tone could imply it.
Grimes concludes with the thought that this propensity for penning memoirs might be a part of our humanity. He writes,
“John Eakin, an emeritus professor of English at Indiana University, has argued that human beings continuously engage in a process of self-creation and self-discovery by constructing autobiographical narratives. In a sense, we are the stories – multiple, shifting and constantly evolving – that we weave about ourselves, and this storytelling urge may even be hard-wired.”
Perhaps it is our super-ego and id fighting to dominate that causes us to want to share our life stories in a public setting? Ah, I never cared much for Freud, anyway.
The Butchies – Make Yr Life
Years ago, I fell in love with the music created by queer feminist power pop rockers The Butchies (Kaia Wilson, Melissa York, and Alison Martlew). Their first full album Are We Not Femme? is on rotation in the soundtrack of my post-college music experience. Six years later, a more mature Butchies have put out their third album, Make Yr Life; fourth if you count their work on Amy Ray’s Stag in 2001. This time around it’s on Yep Roc Records, rather than Wilson’s Mr Lady Records, as they have done with previous recordings. This has resulted in a polished production that brings out more of the subtleties of the band’s songcrafting.
As usual, I have trouble reconciling the feminine, emotional vocals with Wilson’s gender-bending personal style. She is a political feminist statement from the moment she opens her mouth and the music flows out sounding like “somewhere between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the suspended time right before your head spins off into orgasm.”
With practiced ease, Wilson and her bandmates are able to shift from quiet intensity to rousing exuberance, often within the same track, without it seeming contrived. In fact, that is one of the style characteristics that have distinguished them from their contemporaries in my internal musical catalog. The song topics have gone from blatantly political to more of the personal-is-political. From the love-struck opening track “Send Me You” (“caught in your eyes / and i’m losing my mind”) to the I’m-over-you “Second Guess” with its repeated refrain, “i don’t need you anymore,” the human experience (or at least the romantic aspect) is played out in hook-filled power pop tunes.
The CD ends with a very satisfying cover of The Outfield‘s “Your Love.” Wilson’s breathy voice and solemn intensity coupled with York and Martlew’s light touch on the drums and bass, respectively (as well as a sprinkle of backing vocals), presents this cover with appropriate reverence. Much like Sixpence None the Richer‘s cover of “There She Goes,” the song takes a 180° shift in perspective. It is paradoxically both a Butchies-type song and not a Butchies-type song. I spent most of the first listen trying to place it, and the countless subsequent listens reveling in the beauty of it.
Take my advice and make room in your CD rotation for Make Yr Life. You won’t be sorry.
Tonight I read a Star Trek novel by Diane Duane called The Wounded Sky. In it, the Enterprise™ makes use of an experimental device to travel outside of the Milky Way to another galaxy. The writing is well done, and like many of the early Star Trek novels, it presents physics that are unique and not restricted to the known Star Trek Universe post-TNG/DS9/Voyager/etc.
What caught my attention the most, however, is the list of reference sources at the end of the book. The two journal citations written before the book’s 1983 publication, I assume to exist in reality. The other four are obviously creations of the author’s imagination. No matter how creative and fantastic are the futures envisioned by science fiction authors, journals still have their place in them. As a serials librarian, I find great comfort in that.
The University of Virginia has an amusing student-created film for library orientation on their website. I visited the Alderman Library and the undergraduate library five or six years ago when I lived in Virginia, and it was neat to see them again. I remember that at the time, the coffee and snack bar in the entrance lobby was quite controversial and innovative. Now it has become so common to see them in major libraries that it is more unusual to find a university library without a coffee bar. [thanks tangognat]
I have been using Feed on Feeds as my RSS agregator for the past month, but I have decided to go back to using Bloglines. I liked the clean lines of Feed on Feeds, as well as the ability to host my feeds on my own website. However, it uses Magpie RSS to parse the feeds, and it can be quite persnickety if the feed does not completely validate. This limited me in the feeds I could track, as well as causing headaches every time I tried to update the feeds. Also, I couldn’t get the silent update feature to work. I tweaked my crontab file until I was blue in the face, but nothing worked. Overall, Bloglines requires less maintenance or headaches on my part. Feed on Feeds has great potential, but for now, I will give it some time to mature.
Wish you could be at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year? If you can’t be there, at least you can experience some of the music (as well as the schedule) on your iPod. (Yes, I know, it’s not really a podcast. But I got your attention, didn’t I?) [thanks jon]
Coolness. I ran across a few creations of these in the flickr tags I track. Here’s my contribution:
I finally read Anne Fadiman’s book Ex Libris this weekend. It has been on my wishlist for a year and on my bookshelf for about six months. It’s a slim paperback of 162 pages, but like most non-fiction, it took me three sittings to make my way through it. Most of the essays come from her column “The Common Reader” in the Library of Congress’ publication Civilization, and they are personal stories about her experiences with books and reading.
Continue reading “ex libris”
Jessamyn asks, “Man, is everyone using WordPress nowadays?”
Nope. I thought about it briefly when MT 3.0D came out and there was a big to-do over the license pricing tiers, but now that MT allows one author with three blogs under the free license, I’m covered for all I need. I have this blog, my blog of playlists from when I did college radio, and a test blog that I hardly use as I find that test index pages for this blog works just as well. Though, if I ever need more than one author or a bunch of blogs, I’ll probably switch to WordPress.