I’ve known a lot of people unhappy in their jobs. Recently, a friend of mine in academia has been telling me about her own slide into disillusionment (I almost wrote delusionment, ha-ha) then despair as she realized that her true gifts and calling are being wasted. She said at moments like these, when she wondered what she would do, she recalled an aunt’ s advice: “What do you always pick up in the bookstore? What always catches your eye? Pay attention because that probably has something to do with your vocation.”
I like that advice, especially since I’m not certain I’m very good at taking it. I tend to say “yes” to everything and then find myself hunched over my computer, in pain and miserable, because I’m working too hard. But after our conversation, I started thinking about the things that always capture my attention, and I realized that I seem to have a penchant for religious weirdo women.
For example, I’ve written about how Mexican-American gang members respect the Virgin of Guadalupe so much that they’ll refuse to tag a building if her picture is painted on it.
I was curious about the relationship between violence (the gang members) and a religious symbol (the Virgin Mary). Read More
Today, I’m reading Border Visions by Carlos G. Velez-Ibanez. He argues that because Americans have been thinking of Mexicans as “cheap labor” for the last century, we’ve developed what he terms a “commodity identity,” in other words, an identity of Mexicans as a commodity to be bought and sold. He suggests that some Mexicans resist the identity and others absorb it unconsciously, but this identity has also negatively influenced Americans’ views of Mexicans as “lower class” or poor or criminal.
So this morning, I got a kick out of the fact that an administrator at a high school which shall remain nameless is worried to have me come give a reading of The Confessional because there’s a murder in it and kids might become copycat killers. Whoo-hoo. My book is already causing a stir. And I thought it would just offend people because the characters use dirty words the way real kids swear.
I gain a lot of comfort reading other writers’ acknowledgements page, where they admit to thinking that they’re no good and thank their editors and agents and readers who assure us that we’re at least okay writers, that we can string together a few thoughts worth reading, even if we do feel like we’re the worst writers on the planet. Sometimes in those situations, I feel like Sally Fields: “You like me, you really like me.” Except the feeling of reassurance never lasts long. We’re monsters and we need to feed our egos. This morning, I felt the “cold wind” that blows across my soul whenever I find myself in a situation where somebody isn’t 100% enthusiastic about what I’ve produced. (This happens more often than I’d like to admit, but especially when I’m writing papers for my advisers.)
I felt better after reading some of these mixed metaphors. My favorites:
Once you open a can of worms, they always come home to roost.
We’ll be there until the fat lady freezes over. Read More
I just received two copies of Sounds Of This House, an anthology published by The National Book Foundation and edited by Rebecca Keith, one of the NBF’s staffers. It has my poem, “The Fight,” in it. I don’t have a link to the book yet because I don’t think it’s yet for sale. They haven’t updated their website to include it and it’s not on Amazon yet. I’ll add a link when I can. But I’ve reprinted the poem in this post. Read More
So I’m starting this list of “great books for boys” that have been published down through the last hundred years or so. The problem (or perhaps the good thing) with starting such a list is that I then feel an obligation to start reading. But that is sort of the point. I want to know the history of books for boys and young men, to see what’s been considered “good,” to observe the changing ideals of “masculinity” as presented in literature, to discover–well, who knows what. That’s part of the adventure. Read More