Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brawlin’ in the Mornin’

Have you ever wanted to punch somebody? I know I have - the tourists near my old flat in Galata, the annoying chick on her cell phone in the library bathroom, people who are clueless and think the world revolves around them. Yep, pow! Right in the kisser. No, I haven’t punched anyone in a long, long time (and it’s a funny story because I actually knocked out half his front tooth, but it all ended ok because years later he wanted to date me.)

I have to say I like the pretense of civilization (and civility) adulthood brings. I say pretense because I used to teach first grade and can tell you that loads of adults still haven’t truly become mature. I like actual civility and civilization best, but will settle for the pretense. I really don’t want to punch you, but don’t tempt me.

But there’s something cathartic about a big, old brawl. I was thinking about the fight scene in The Quiet Man and how Barry Fitzgerald announces it’s a private fight at 3:16 (taking his cue from the famous old question, Is this a private fight or can anyone get in?)

A brawl was the last thing I expected when I got an email from my friend Jess (no, we weren’t the ones brawling.) Jess and I were thick as thieves in graduate school. We both had the same concentration (Women’s Studies) and pretty much the same sensibility. Our friendship was solidified in our now-infamous Feminist Theory class, team-taught by our department chair (now nicknamed ‘The Closer’ for her ability to get you to complete your M.A. even though you have only days before the statute of academic limitations runs out) and a feminist geographer (I am not making this up, there is such a thing.) No amount of coffee, muffins or candy bars could make this class any fun. Although I do recall liking the Luce Irigaray readings, I will never get back the 4 hours of my life spent on Gayatari Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Geez, please, no. Although we did not study any Camille Paglia, she was just coming onto the scene with her motor-mouth, New-York-accented philosophizing, she was a celeb, but not one who crossed our syllabus. And that was some time ago.

Then Jess sends me an email, subject line: thought you'd enjoy this as much as I did :)‏ Nothing more but the link. And oh, boy, did I. This is a slug fest (though if you are offended by words termed the f-bomb and the c-bomb, don’t click on this link.) Otherwise what you get is a perfectly orchestrated, blow-for-blow literary brawl. All the better because they’re two broads (not chicks, not gals, not dames) – most definitely, women, but here they go at it like men – and with an eye toward what this might do to help their careers. It’s a satisfying fight that anyone can get in.

(And check out Letters of Note’s entry on the late Helen Gurley Brown’s letter to the editor of Cosmo Turkey - it's a masterful use of tone.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Page-Turner and I

My friend Claire from college was traveling in Turkey last month and we met up here in İstanbul for drinks in Galata. She had asked me if I wanted anything from N.Y. – yes, I did. I wanted a brick of Café Bustelo (my favorite!) and she brought me that and a whole bunch of other things that she knew I wouldn’t find here – salt-water taffy(!), jelly beans (!!), and cherry-lime gum (!!!), but the biggest surprise was four copies of The New Yorker. She put everything in a plastic shopping bag and when she handed it to me, I could feel the magazines.

“I have some other surprises for you,” she said.

“Ah,” I whispered without opening up the bag, “The New Yorker.”

“How did you know?” Claire asked.

“It’s not the first time I’ve felt up The New Yorker – I know what it feels like,” I said and we both laughed.

The truth is I didn’t know how much I missed good writing – in long- and short-form, until I opened one of the magazines when I got home. I started with a short theater review (for the play, “Cock” – no kidding) and then I read half the magazine, completely forgetting that it was late and I was tired.

Since then I have been reading a lot of The New Yorker – both online and off – especially, Page-Turner, because I love short-form pieces (a history of erasers, why everything is fiction and - oh, just go have a look, you’ll like it, I promise.)

I also like New York magazine. I subscribe to their daily emails for fashion and arts and culture. The writing is just as good as The New Yorker (especially in the long form), but there is a lot less national politics and a lot more pop culture (plus they have tons of pretty photos), so it feels lighter and bubblier than The New Yorker, whose own style brings to mind more of a very beautiful schoolteacher in a classic grey suit. Maybe because I have been reading a lot of articles about Alfred Hitchcock, I keep thinking the parallel is someone who looks like Tippi Hedren in Marnie. But maybe that’s just me.

So I have been reading a lot and thinking about writing. And I do realize that I enjoy thinking about writing a whole lot more than I do writing. I’ve also been pretending to write for The New Yorker. Wouldn’t that be lovely? That would be a dream come true. I’d do a lot of gorgeous short-form pieces about all the little things that turn me on about writing – or thinking about writing. Now, I just need to go out and buy a pencil skirt.