Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Autobiographical in feeling”. Alice Munro Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

So happy to hear the news today that Alice Munro is awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Alice Munro. Photo: Kristin Ross/PR

I fell in love with her writing three years ago when I read Runaway, and every one of her books have been a great reading experience for me. Her brilliant short stories really sum up the human condition – without ever becoming pompous and without any sense of entitlement to them, without any self-conscious air of speaking on behalf of anyone else but the persona at hand. Munro has never been shy or coy about her drawing on autobiographical material (Lives of Girls and Women, for instance, was called “autobiographical in form but not in fact”, and in Dear Life the last four pieces were referred to by Munro as “autobiographical in feeling”), but she has that wondrous and rare ability to make her experiences into something personal rather than something private. The world is richer for the experiences she has had and for her gift for transforming these experiences into language and narratives.

I was certain that I must have mentioned Munro several times here on this blog in the past, but I just did a search and found that I have actually only mentioned her once, in my blog post about apostrophic props in operas. This is something that I will have to correct in the future, but for now I will just tip my hat to Munro and congratulate her on this well deserved award.

Patricia Lockwood: Rape Joke

I’m usually more than a little mortified if a Danish newspaper manages to write about an internet phenomenon before I’ve had the chance to find it myself. I pride myself on my internet phenomenon discovery abilities.

I’m glad it happened in the case of this phenomenon, on which I just read a great piece about in today’s paper, lest I never would have discovered it myself. The phenomenon in question is Patricia Lockwood’s brilliant poem Rape Joke, published at The Awl on July 25 this year, which I highly recommend.

A few excerpts:

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

(…)

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

(…)

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

(…)

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

Life. Happening.

So! I’ve been pretty absent from the blogopshere as of late. For the past four months to be more specific. I apologise for this.

All Suns Are Darkened was kind enough to hint a while ago that I have been missed, and I made a comment back apologising by saying that my life had been somewhat “dramatic” during these past few months. “Dramatic” is probably too strong a word, though. It would be more appropriate to say that, well, life happened.

And I mean that in the most literal sense of the term. Back in early April I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test in my trembling hands, and by next week it will be just four months till my due date. It seems that I’m carrying a little girl, and so far she is very well and looking absolutely adorable, judging from the ultrasound. My boyfriend and I are very happy and excited.

I realise that pregnancy may seem like a poor excuse for not blogging, but as many women have learned before me the first trimester can be pretty tough, and for many weeks most of my energy was spent trying not to look and behave like a complete zombie at work despite the fact that I was throwing up five to seven times a day, was generally grossed out by any kind of food, and feeling mysteriously depressed and extremely tired. I lost five kilos, and there was no inspiration left for blogging.

I’m well into my second trimester by now of course, and I’m feeling great now. No more nausea, no more secrecy at work, I’m not as tired as I was at first, I’m feeling the baby kick and move about every day, and two weeks ago someone let me have their seat on a train for the first time, smiling knowingly at my increasingly prominent baby bump. But I’ve still been at a bit of a loss as to how I should address the pregnancy here on the blog. I haven’t written a word about it on my Facebook profile, and I considered just leaving it off the blog completely, too. At the Lighthouse has never been a personal blog, I reasoned.

But on the other hand, At the Lighthouse has always been very much about gender, about sex, and about writing about the female experience, and actually descriptions of pregnancy in literature and art have always been an important topic to me, way before I became pregnant myself. Considering what a huge event it is for a human being, both physically and psychologically, to go through a pregnancy,  it’s a topic that’s been overlooked within artistic representation and studies of phenomenology for decades and one that’s still often treated as something slightly mushy and inferior, something belonging in pink, glossy ladies’ magazines, something not worthy of serious thought.

So I’ve decided to announce my pregnancy on this blog after all. This does not mean that I intend to turn At the Lighthouse into a personal blog or a so-called “mommy blog” (I hate that term, by the way. It’s baby speak and it’s yet another example of the mushy-fication of motherhood, I think. Which is a shame because there are many brilliant and well written blogs about motherhood out there). It does mean, however, that I may draw on my own experience of pregnancy every now and then, if it seems relevant to a cultural and/or gender-related topic I choose to deal with on this blog in the future, (I am planning, for instance, a blog entry about descriptions of pregnancy in literature at the moment). And it also may mean that I will continue to be less active on this blog than I used to be, busy as I am adjusting to this undramatic, yet huge life event. We’ll see.

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Happy St. Patty’s Day!

I haven’t had a single beer today, nor have I been wearing green. I have, however, watched this video, and I think that counts for a lot, because it is without doubt the most inspired version of “Danny Boy” ever recorded. Beaker is an artist.

Bitchface: The Masterworks

Just a quick note to say that the tumblr blog Bitchface: The Masterworks is just about the best thing ever. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys bitchfaces and/or art. Check it out.

On the “Real Women Have Curves” Meme

Jezebel.com nails it once again. Writer “Lingerie Lesbian” wrote a blog post about, well, lingerie, and touches  (among other things) upon a subject that’s been on my mind a lot:

The “Real Women Have Curves” meme is problematic not only in its suggestion that certain types of bodies are better than others in their size and shape, but also in their suggestion that “real women” should want curves. It goes without saying that curves do not make a woman, but it does need saying that these curves that are so associated with “real” womanhood (and in this situation, an explicitly feminine version of womanhood) can bring an unwanted femininity especially because they are associated with this idea of the classically beautiful (read: classically feminine) woman. I hate when we act like beauty and femininity and curvy bodies are somehow synonymous.

THIS. The writer posts a meme:

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I’ve seen this before multiple times, reposted by various Facebook friends, I’ve seen several more pictures like it, and it annoys me every time.

Of course I don’t have anything against women being curvy. I’ll level with you,  I’m not a curvy woman myself. It’s not that I don’t have any curves at all, I do, but I don’t think anyone would describe me as curvy. When I’m not wearing a shirt, or if I’m wearing a tight-fitting top, you can count all my ribs. In the seventh grade I found a document authored by the boys of my class listing the girls of our class according to boob size, and I came in last, and I don’t think my position would have improved much if those same boys were to track down all us girls again today and do a qualified estimate (actually I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t, as I happen to know that the one contender for my final place is currently breastfeeding. So.). My scrawny stature is not brought on because of dieting or because I’m obsessively trying to look like a supermodel (which I don’t, by the way, not at all.). I just happen to have the genes for a small, non-curvy stature. Sometimes that’s annoying, sometimes it’s ok, but at no time does it mean that I’m not womanly, and I resent that idea.

Look, I was as thrilled as anybody when the Christina Hendricks thing started happening a few years back, and curviness came back in style. I grew up with the whole “skinny is pretty” thing and disliked it as much as the next person. What I don’t see, however, is how it suddenly became ok to just go ahead and say the exact opposite, namely that curvy is the only way to go, and that skinny women are not hot or, even, not real women. It offends me that when it comes to the issue of women’s appearance we’re obviously so reluctant to learn from the mistakes of the past. That it is obviously so difficult for us to just accept women for what they are. That there always have to be a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘real’ and ‘false’ when it comes to our looks.

I also don’t think ads like these are as funny as people make them out to be:

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I mean, I see how they’re thoughtprovoking in the sense that women are always trying to lose weight these days. But mostly I just think they’re kind of a depressing reminder that things have been this way for a really friggin’ long time, that for as long as anyone can remember, the world has had an attitude towards what kind of body type women should have in order to qualify as attractive. As Lingerie Lesbian puts it, it’s “woman vs. woman imagery”, and it’s ridiculous. And I do not even see what it’s supposed to mean. Skinny women and curvy women and in-between women have co-existed at all times, and, at least among my friends and acquaintances, I see no proof that curvy women have a harder time finding romantic partners than skinny ones, or vice versa. We’re ok. And we’re all women.

I’m not saying that people are not allowed to have preferences. If you’re a woman and your curves/skinniness makes you feel sexy, well, good for you. Also, if you’re a man and you happen to be into curvy ladies, that’s nice. But please, please let’s abandon the whole “real women” rhetorics. As well as the idea of a certain body style being “in”. Thanks.

Im Dorfe. Happy Birthday, Schubert.

It is so fitting, isn’t it, that Schubert should have been born in January? As I’ve mentioned before I love Schubert’s music dearly all year round, but it seems to me especially appropriate for the month of January, and I have, in fact, set up a rule for myself that under no circumstances am I allowed to listen to Winterreise earlier than January 1. That way I have something to look forward to about this the bleakest, coldest month of the year.

Oh, Schubert. It really does make me so weepy every time I think about his much too early death, even more so than with Mozart. The Grim Reeper cheated us out on a lot of undoubtedly great music from both gentlemen, certainly, but at least Mozart got to have a wife and kids. What did Schubert get? Syphilis, that’s what. Or at least something similarly nasty and painful and isolating. To have lived through such misery and then to have maintained the ability to communicate feelings so well through his music, to have insisted on remaining so warm and human deep inside that coldness … It breaks the heart.

Happy 216th, old Franz.  You are missed.