Writing, reading, watching, listening.

Writing, reading, watching, listening.
Life In : Recommendations, my own creations, and a place for a conversation.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sorry, but this Year Can't End Before I Finish Everything I Wanted to Finish (and Start)

The heavy traffic and the blazing sun of the last days of 2014 keep me in, which could be good for my numerous projects, but instead I entered various social networks and started thinking what I might have missed or left unfinished because of the many  opportunities to unfocus.
I'll be positive first: I finished my MA studies with a thesis about the female body in literature. I presented it in a congress in Durham University in England and had a whole week in London. (This, of course, was just for fun, which is essential.)
I published my book Life In, Life Out with Matter Press and am happy with it.
Lastly, I passed the PhD selection tests with a fine grade that made me feel I am not yet too old, too forgetful, too lazy or too late to accomplish stuff usually done decades earlier.
I haven't finished the revision of my book, Baby Harvest, and I really want to do it before the university year starts and I'll sink deep into other books.
I haven't written even close to enough, since I dedicated my time either to writing my thesis or edit, revise and review stories and books.
I haven't read all the books I wish I'd have.
Now, at the bottom of everything, however, and I'm sorry if I'm sentimental, there are people, real, fictional, real and fictional. REAL. Really.
All in all I'm a lucky fool. The year may come and go, it's only a question of numbers. A few people will read this post, and to those who will I send my love, because this is what matters before during and after the fireworks.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Writing about This Body and the Other: Corporeality in Three Contemporary Novels and a Short Story Collection by Women

I realize there are many questions to deal with once I turn my attention to difference, social fragmentation and multi-ethnicity in regard to the situation of minority, immigrant, exiled, or otherwise underprivileged women. So, my challenge is to investigate how doubly-marginalized women are affected by gender-related concepts referring to the body, and what are the specific issues with which they deal. 
Since I love literature and maybe even understand the world through it, I am going to analyze female characters’ relationships with and through their bodies and their corporeal manifestations of suffering, pleasure, resistance, acceptance or overcoming problems. I want to analyze the characters’ different conflicts and quests -- whether for freedom, self-acceptance, equal rights or peace, among others -- in order to point out any possible social and personal transformations. 
If anyone has anything to discuss and contribute, I'd be happy to open the conversation! 
I am wondering about entering with Jewish immigrants fiction-I feel a connection to it. The books and the stories I'll probably use are these:
Valerie Martin, a white author from the U.S.A., describes the state of women as possessions at the time of slavery in the United States. Martin offers an original slant in her dive into a white female slave-owner’s psyche and situation as she tells her life story, interweaving it with her relationships with her black female slave. While the character tries to release herself from the greedy possession of her husband’s hold, she is unaware of repeating the pattern of ownership and property in her own connection with the black woman. We learn about both women only through her eyes, and the gap between what she tells and what the reader can read out of it is more meaningful than the related facts.
            At the Full and Change of the Moon:
The neo-slave narrative written by the Canadian author Dionne Brand, born in the Caribbean, is the story of a Trinidadian slave and her descendants. This tale of diaspora accompanies the family from Trinidad to Amsterdam in the twentieth century. The novel begins in 1802 when a female slave leads a mass suicide revolt, releasing from it only her daughter, and dies tortured yet realized. The relationships of the daughter with her own children and the way she leads her life involve memory, pain, hope, and unconventional behavior that mark the future of the family. As in Property the author mixes historical data with fiction.
            On Beauty 
 Zadie Smith, an English author, the daughter of a Jamaican mother and an English father, writes about the intertwined lives of two families. The family living in the U.S.A consists of a white Englishman, his African-American wife, and their three children. The other family, husband, wife and two children, are Trinidadians living in England. Both men are academics and rivals. The families end up living in the same town in the USA, and the women become close and change the families’ relationships. Interracial relationships, culture gaps, the academy and its effect on the characters’ lives bring out the difference and the sameness in the characters’ expectations and the way they perceive themselves and the world.
The Interpreter of Maladies
            Jhumpa Lahiri, born in India and living in the United States, introduces relationships involving ethnicity, class, postcolonial issues, and stereotypes. In the story “Sexy” a white woman from Boston has an affair with an Indian man and a friendly relationship with an Indian female co-worker. A parallel line of infidelity stretches between the story of the co-worker’s cousin’s failed marriage and the affair the Bostonian has with the Indian man. In “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar” a young Indian woman, employed and exploited by her wealthy cousin and husband, becomes sick. While the community puts a pressure to marry her, the couple refuses to let her go. When they end-up shunning her, out of fear for their baby, she becomes pregnant from an unknown man and is fully recovered.
I hope to speak about the bodily issue involved in the women's perception of their selves. There is more to say, but I'll do it in another post.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Life In, Life Out, my book, a flash collection published by Matter Press IS OUT!

Life In Life Out
Previous publications of flashes from the book include:

In Print

The Los Angeles Review: The Bison

Prism International (Canada): Once a Month We Play

On Line

“Crystal and Gold” in NOÖ Journal;
“Nature” in 3:AM;
“Running Away Diary” in Portland Magazine
& Dragons with Cancer Anthology ;
“String Theory” in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts;
“Get DownTo It” in NANO Fiction;
“Soap” in The Salt River Review;“
“Somewhere Station” in Eclectica;
“The Spirit of His Will” in Absinthe Review;
“Wings” in Pindeldyboz;
“Sudden Changes” in Happy and Pig Iron Malt, Web Del Sol;
“Tiny Love Stories” in Dispatch;
“Unless” in Corium Magazine;
“A Narrow Bridge” in EveryWriter Resource; 
 “About My Life Length” in Quick Fiction.

Photography and cover design byVered Navon.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity By Judith Butler

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble has been one of the most cited and influential texts in gender studies since its publication in 1990. Butler introduces problems resulting from the identification of gender with the biological difference between men and women, analyses the power relations in the basis of the concept of gender, describes methods of controls and suggests that deconstruction can lead to change.
According to the scholar, gender-based classification is constructed by discourse with the objective of recreating hegemonic paradigms and perpetuating current power relations. Former feminists have noted the importance of exposing the interests behind conventions. Butler goes further: defining Women and Men as universal categories disguises the interest it serves.
She writes, “Signification is not a founding act, but rather a regulated process of repetition that both  conceals  itself  and  enforces  its  rules  precisely  through  the  production  of substantializing effects” (185). She states that analysis (or deconstruction) provides tools for the socially oppressed to fight against the existing social order.
 In the author’s view, the category of Women from which the feminist struggle arises is different from the political, hierarchical myth based on biology. The assumption that there is a pre-discursive body with a pre-determined sexuality and gender sustains oppression against subjugated and marginalized subjects. Disconnected from the body, she suggests, gender can include more than two versions.

            In the first chapter, titled “Subjects of Sex, Gender, Desire”, Butler introduces woman as a subject of feminism and distinguishes between sex and gender. In the second she discusses heterosexuality within psychoanalytical and structuralist theories. Lastly, “Subversive bodily acts” deals with the category of biological sex and ends with Butler’s theory of gender-related performance and performativity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The body is intriguing

            The body is intriguing because it is material and it isn’t. It appears to be us, but only in part. People have distinguished between body and mind ever since the times of Plato if not earlier. The split is convincing, even tempting, because there are huge conflicts between our urges and our rational, disciplined self. We could divide them neatly:  the urges belong with the body and the rational self with the mind. But things are never that tidy. For instance: so much is going on in the brain, commands, actions and reactions as it absorbs messages, makes assumptions and adjusts and adapts and alters, making the world a comprehensive place and fitting us into it as  much as possible, it doesn't seem physical.
            And yet, as any brain surgeon will testify, the brain is a part of the body.  With its cerebral processes, it also has a concept of the body, influenced by all the messages it has ever absorbed and assimilated, accepted and resisted. 
            It is not easy to live with our bodies, because the concept of the body in closely weaved into it. Women, for instance, strive to be attractive, because otherwise, the media tells us, we become invisible. We also struggle to appear young, as most famous, aging women, our role models, set an example when they go through plastic surgeries and look eternally fresh. Else, we need to seem strong since the women who are not attractive or young, and/or those who want to make a difference, have to be steeled to face a world of preconceived feminine characteristics. Beyond that, even fun and pleasure suffer. Our sexuality needs to be of a certain kind, repressed into a mold that is hard to change.
            When I went through preemptive surgeries to prevent ovarian and breast cancer, I became aware of the contradictory feelings related to the body: guilt and shame, pleasure and pain, and changing body image. Things were set in motion as I started thinking about them. I went on and wrote an MA thesis about the female body in literature written by women.
            I admire the action of brave women who expose their body with its mastectomy scars, like  Tig Notaro or stand naked in performances like Amanda Palmer to live their vulnerability and seek provocation and change. We read about them because they are the exception, which is a shame.  The times are a changing as Bob Dylan says since 1964 in this great song, but maybe they don't change enough. However, change is constant, and the body is never dull. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" by Judith Butler


Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" by Judith Butler

In Bodies that Matter Judith Butler replies to the criticism of her earlier book Gender Trouble. She argues with the feminist thinkers who see the body as matter--a material body with a sexual specification. According to her the body does not exist beyond a cultural construction. It serves as a site for the feminist theory independently of such a pre-discursive definition. In her introduction she explains:
For surely bodies live and die; eat and sleep; feel pain, pleasure; endure illness and violence; and these “facts,” one might skeptically proclaim, cannot be dismissed as mere construction. […] But their irrefutability in no way implies what it might mean to affirm them and through what discursive means. Moreover, why is it that what is constructed is understood as an artificial and dispensable character? (xi).

The construction of bodies is a constitutive constraint, and bodies are understood through it. She states again that both body and gender are parts of discourse. The only way to reach the matter beyond discourse is through discourse itself. After all, it is the discourse that defines the body as a matter existing beyond it. Inspired by Foucault, she contends that discourse is based on power relations and manipulated by those who control the sources of knowledge. The definition of what is natural is manipulated as well. Henceforth, the materiality of the body is discursive. The material body, its boundaries and its sexuality, materialize through the repetition of policing norms. The norms attribute meaning to it. Even the body limits are the product of social codes according to which certain practices are allowed and others are not.Butler goes back to the concept of performativity and confirms that repeatedly performed acts normalize an attributed gender, as well as marks of race, class and sexuality. Discourse defines certain bodies as natural, thus marginalizing others. This alludes to the fact that the accepted body does not owe it to its biological characteristics but to cultural signs. Based on Luce Iragaray’s Lacanian analysis, Butler also investigates the political coherence for which certain bodies are not legitimized. Through her own and Iragaray’s analysis of Platos’ work Timaeus, she reaches the conclusion that the marginalized bodies are related to homosexuality. She concludes that deconstruction cannot be based on already constituted references. Only a truly open debate can bring change.
Bodies that Matter at Powell`s
At Amazon

Friday, November 7, 2014

Books I've Read:Property by Valerie Martin

In Property, a book by the excellent writer Valerie Martin (The Confessions of Edward Day, Italian Fever), the author describes the state of women as possessions at the time of slavery in the United States. She offers an original slant in her dive into a white female slave-owner’s psyche and situation as this woman, Manon, tells her life story, interweaving it with her relationships with her black female slave, Sarah. While Manon tries to release herself from the greedy possession of her husband’s hold, she is unaware of repeating the pattern of ownership and property in her own connection with Sarah. She goes as far as seeing Sarah as her enemy due to the abusive sexual behavior of her own husband, although neither she nor the slave have any power to confront and resist him. The author doesn't give us any easy solutions, only a view of the meaning of human property and how it destroys lives. We learn about both women only through her eyes, and the gap between what she tells and what the reader can read out of it is more meaningful than the related facts.
The book is slim, well-written and fast going. 
Property on Amazon

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My blog's birthday

This is my blog's birthday, and now we start counting the days...
I am also counting the days until the copies of my book will arrive in Brazil. It's a long travel from the US. I'll let you know when they are here and the link to the book goes live.
I am going to ask my cinema savvy friends if they agree to appear here for a conversation about the movies. I am also going to ask my writer friends if they'd like me to feature their books. I may post here about the female body in literature written by women, and probably, the female body as written by/in the world, an interest I hope to share with many others.