Sunday, January 02, 2005

Susan Sontag, Neko Case, typed-out blog sound effects, Matisse's Jazz Icarus

Listening to David Gray's Babylon (from one of my dad's Starbucks mixes--I love those).

I should have mentioned this a few days ago, but. Susan Sontag died. I'm really sad, and I oughtn't be, because I didn't even know who Sontag was until reading the copious obituaries for and retrospectives about her in the past few days. Lots of times I read obits and find the person interesting--even compelling--while still feeling rather detached from the loss of this person. Not to seem apathetic, but it seems like fiction to read about the death of yet another rich and successful New Yorker in the Times. So I was interested in reading about Sontag, but my expectations extended no further than the usual sadness that the world had lost another mind (that's how I think about it).

You know where this is going. I feel sadder that she's gone than I felt about Reagan or Christopher Reeve or even Cartier-Bresson, whose work I love. It's odd--I would think that I would be rather put off by the idea of a woman famous for being an intellectual, one who walked in the New York social circles of the literary elite. I hate that kind of exclusivity, the highfalutin ideas and essays that alienate and generalize the masses of America. I would expect myself to feel the appropriate amount of detached sadness that such an inventive person had died, and then leave a slightly contemptuous footnote in my brain that she-was-too-pretentious-anyway. That's what I would expect.

But what I found is that she had a mindset quite like my own and that she accomplished everything I hope that I might. I was especially moved by this article about her in todays NY Times. What struck the strongest chord with me was this passage from something she wrote in 1996:

"I had come to New York at the start of the 1960's, eager to put to work the writer I had, since adolescence, pledged myself to become. My idea of a writer: someone interested in "everything." I had always had interests of many kinds, so it was natural for me to conceive of the vocation of a writer in this way. And reasonable to suppose that such fervency would find more scope in a great metropolis than in any variant of provincial life, including the excellent universities I had attended. The only surprise was that there weren't more people like me."

"I am like you!" I wanted to shout. She was imaginative, audacious, faulted, quixotic, prolific, talented, and strong-willed. She was ambitious and successful. I hope that when I'm 71, I can say I lived with some of those traits. Even faulted, as long as I, as she, am willing to admit my faults.

I feel oddly as though I've lost a friend--why didn't I learn of her earlier? I wonder. We could have begun a correspondence, she could have shed some of her genius on me. It feels like deciding to take up a great opportunity, only to find that the chance has passed. I don't know how to articulate it; I'm not wallowing in depression--of course I'm not, I've only "known" her for a few days--but I do feel strongly as though someone great is gone from the world forever.

Perhaps I will carry on her legacy. I will dedicate my first book to her.

And in that way her legacy will live on.

Whew, *shakes head to clear thoughts*, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to launch into such an extended eulogy about Susan Sontag, though of course she deserves it.

Now I'm listening to Neko Case's Guided by Wire (still the Starbucks mix). I love Neko Case's voice--she's especially great when she sings with the New Pornographers; one of my favorite NP songs is track 6 (Letter from an Occupant? I don't remember) on Mass Romantic, a song that really showcases her singing. On a sidenote, I sometimes (embarrassingly) mix Neko Case up with Nico. Whoops.

Anyway. I've decided that, with the new year rolling 'round, I've got to broaden my vocabulary on this blog. By which I mean, of course, the typed-out sound effects I often employ. What's that you say?--you want me to expound further upon this? Well, alright. I currently depend heavily on a select few sound effects to convey a great range of emotions and expressions. Ach or argh/eurgh, for instance, demonstrate an affectionate sort of disapproval or frustration (e.g. My dog always climbs on me and covers my clothes with excessive amounts of dog hair--ach!). Ach especially seems very cranky-old-man-slang, ah well.

Other not-quite-words I use far too often are heh or hah to indicate (often reluctant) amusement. Ah well is also in heavy circulation.

Some new words that I hope to break out in 2005: meh (to show disinterest, easygoing-ness, or vague incredulity), pfft (discounting a thought based on its silliness or unimportance), and bleurgh (just for some variety from the old favorites). But don't worry, I promise NOT to veer into emoticons :>(; annoying abbreviations like lol, btw, wtf, omhg; or idiotic combo-words and short-cuts like "C u b4 2nite." Argh, I hate those. Oops, I mean bleurgh (that took me three tries to type--too many letters, may have to disband after only two uses). However, I think I will probably not be able to move away from my excessive and sometimes-irritating use of hyphens, m-dashes, and semi-colons. I can't help it, I just love them.

My, this is a long post. Before I go, I just want to mention that I chose my instant messenger icon (is there a difference between an icon and an avatar?--I like the name avatar better) and I want to share it with you all. Drum roll... I chose the picture Jazz Icarus from Matisse's Jazz paintings; it's lovely. Although it isn't square and none of my friends will recognize it, I'm still rather excited about have Matisse appear next to my name whenever I chat. I wish I could post it here but to the best of my knowledge I can't insert pictures into Blogger. I suppose I could use Flickr, though... If you have any ideas for how to put pics into posts, let me know.

Bye. Go read something by Susan Sontag!


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