#2 in a series… the best of the mary’zine that never made it to print…

sodden thawts

Would it be weird to start a collection of blank books and never write in them? I’m close to doing this very thing, as I stare at my “cart” page on MoMAstore.org where I have taken the first step toward purchasing three small (6″ × 4.25″) blank books with gorgeous reproductions from Eduardo Paolozzi’s Moonstrips Empire News on the covers, in an attractive slipcase yet!, for $18.95 plus shipping. Could there be anything less justifiable in this time of 40% less nest egg and 50% fewer editing jobs? Yes, the heart wants what it wants, but how to know when it’s OK to let yourself go and throw good money after something completely inessential? I have bought some really interesting and beautiful art in my day, and seeing it on my walls along with my own crazy-cool paintings doesn’t seem gratuitous at all. But to buy and display a bound book that has no excuse for being, or at least no excuse that I plan to use…?

I love blank books, especially now that there is a plethora to the nth power of beautiful, bizarre and unique ones available. For some reason, I wouldn’t think it strange to collect crosses, or anything else that has aesthetic or mysteriously subjective value, but these books are meant to be written in. Yet their practicality is often beside the point of their design, the look and the feel of them, the glossy, colorful (or leather or marbled) cover, the ribbon or elastic place marker, the gridded or lined or virgin white paper, etc.

I used to write in a journal daily and voluminously—with coffee, it was by far the best part of my day. Inspired hugely by The New Diary by Tristine Rainer, I had no rules, no expectation of sharing or even reading it again, just riffing about everything and nothing, drawing, making lists, sticking in or taping notes written elsewhere or articles I cut out of the newspaper, exploring my feelings, writing FUCK FUCK FUCK over and over again for several pages if that’s what it took. My favorite journals back then had black hard covers with red corners and opened flat with roomy, lined pages and came straight from the People’s Republic of China via Modern Times bookstore in San Francisco, until the Chinese stopped producing them or at least stopped selling them to us.

Occasionally I have succumbed to buying a blank book that I just can’t resist and have written in it for a well-intentioned page or two and then abandoned it on the bedside table or under a pile of papers on my desk because I just don’t enjoy that way of writing anymore. Now I funnel all my stray thoughts into the ‘zine (lucky you) or at least into the multitude of potential story files that will never see the light of day unless I get really, really desperate for material. Here are a few cases in point:

•    How My Body’s Production of Oxytocin after Intimate Surgical Procedures Made Me Want to Surrender Myself Utterly to Two Different—Both Extremely Unappealing—Male Gyno Doctors

•    How a Teenage Girl Held Me Hostage by Using a Hidden Phone Jack in Her Room a Block Away That Was Inexplicably Hooked into My Phone Line, Making It Impossible for Me To Dial Up {shudder} the Internet When She Talked on the Phone All Night to Her Boyfriend

•    Snowing and Blowing: Episodes 237-251

•    Reading a Year Ago That Scientists Have Discovered the Secret of Stonehenge—It Was a Burial Ground, Duh—But People Act Like It’s Still a Big Mystery

•    All the Ambiguous, Urgent Sounds Created by Electrical and Electronic Devices in the Home (“Is that the doorbell, or is my laundry done? Do I have mail, or is an ambulance pulling into my driveway?”)

•    The Millennial Generation’s Contribution to the Language by Changing the Spelling of “The” to “Teh” Because It’s Just Too Much of a Hassle To Keep Correcting the Typo

•    And a Corollary: Captioning Cute Pix and Videos of Animals with a “New Language” Called Lolspeak That Far Surpasses English in Conveying katz (& other aminals) thawts (“Wutebber u do, doan mesz wid teh kitteh”)

•    How My Long Career of Reading About Some Pretty Creepy Diseases Did Not Prepare Me for the Term “Cancer Cell Nests”—picture interlocking spiders or writhing snakes. How did such a nice word become the go-to metaphor to describe disgusting things in tight groups? And how does that change one’s mental picture of “nest egg”? When it comes to cancer cells, I prefer an empty nest.

•    Writing a New Alphabet Book in Which the Letters Aren’t A, B, and C, but A-word, B-word, C-word, etc. My thesis is that it won’t be long before our entire language (if it doesn’t succumb to Lolspeak first) will consist of nothing but euphemisms such as the ubiquitous N-word, and anyone who says the real word for N-word will be summarily arrested even if she’s talking about the word and not the people, and answering the question “Have you ever said the N-word?” will be as self-incriminating as “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

•    Finding a Beefcake Calendar That Was Hung (so to speak) in the Stall of a Women’s Bathroom at Work and Creating a Storm of Controversy by Taking It Down as a Mild Protest Against Heterogemony (hey! I thought I just made that word up, but someone beat me to it: “Heterogemony: A term that defines the hegemonic nature of heterosexuality, which, as the basic assumption of the dominant sexual group, invisibilises alternatives” [wow, “invisibilises”—I wonder how a kitteh would say that])

•    Radio DJs Talking About a Webcast They’re Watching on a Computer and Taking Calls from Listeners Who Are Also Watching and Who Are Writing Comments on the Website, and What They Are Watching Is a Guy Sleeping (so 99% of the comments are “When is he going to wake up?”), So I—Sheep, Lemming, Pick Your Metaphor—Go to the Website and Watch the Guy Sleeping, Too—Oh Wait, He Just Woke Up and Is Talking on the Phone with a Reporter About His Webcam! Ain’t This Internet Thing Grand?

I once read an article by someone who wondered why literate people—your writers, your editors—often use all lowercase letters, irregular punctuation and bizarre wordplay in their e-mails. It’s because we love playing around with words! also Punctuation?! and cAps. A very literate friend of mine and I like to chat by e-mail about certain TV shows (“Damages,” “The Shield”)—questioning each other about confusing storylines and making up idiosyncratic descriptions of the characters, such as NEM (Name Escapes Me) or BeardedGlassesGuy, FBIguy, BitchLawyer or, say, Sheriff Bullock or Ted Danson. What this tells you, obviously, besides our joy in neologizing, is that we keep forgetting minor details like major plot points. And both of us being d’un certain age, we’re this close to losing our minds anyway.

I would love to write an issue of the ‘zine half in my version of Lolspeak (“Isch schnowin agin!”) and half completely off-the-cuff/off-the-wall abbreviations and made-up words, fanciful stream-of-consciousness, full steam ahead, don’t give a damn if anyone can follow it—and, oh yeah, it all rhymes, at least intermittently. But no one would be able to decipher it and wouldn’t enjoy it if they could (like absinthe, these things are better taken in small doses). I’ve already had complaints about my few attempted raps. Maybe it’s time to make up my own damlanguage. I mean, if JimJoyce could do it….

[Interesting side note: On Merriam-Webster Online, the first definition of “neologism” is “a new word, usage, or expression”; the second is “a meaningless word coined by a psychotic.” I’m not sure how to take that. Et tu, Merriam-Webster?]

I once read a book called Anguish Languish (I just googled it, and the first result was the complete text!) published in 1956 and read on “The Arthur Godfrey Show” (“Hawaii, Hawaii” [“How are ya, how are ya”])—you kidz have sure missed a lot of great entertainment by being born so late. Anyway, the author, Howard S. Chace, wrote this book in which he took fairy tales and folk songs and substituted words that sound like the real words. “Anguish Languish” is, of course, “English Language.” Here are some lyrics to a song called “Hormone Derange.”

Harm, hormone derange,
Warder dare enter envelopes ply,
Ware soiled’em assured adage cur-itching ward
An disguise earn it clotty oil die.

I once spent a good 15 minutes raving about this fun book and reading humorous passages from it to someone I thought was a fellow language lover, and she just stared at me as if to say, “How do I get away from this person without alerting her to my utter disdain and confusion regarding this retarded book and her bizarre interest in it?”

That’s it for laffs. Here’s a more serious (though equally improbable) topic from the story files:

•    Compiling a Poetry Anthology That Would Constitute a Cryptic Autobiography of Yours Truly. Here Are Two Examples from Louise Glück.

Age 7:

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was—
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

Age 10:

I’m tense, like a child approaching adolescence.
Soon it will be decided for certain what you are,
one thing, a boy or girl. Not both any longer.
And the child thinks: I want to have a say in what happens.
But the child has no say whatsoever.

I still haven’t decided whether to order the beautiful blank books. But you’ve helped me take my mind off it for a while. Kthx.

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2 Responses to “#2 in a series… the best of the mary’zine that never made it to print…”

  1. AJ Says:

    Don’t you believe it – it was only the site on which Stonehenge was to be built that was used for burying a few cremated bones each year- and not even the centre of the site at that….

    ‘Reading a Year Ago That Scientists Have Discovered the Secret of Stonehenge—It Was a Burial Ground, Duh—But People Act Like It’s Still a Big Mystery’


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