Book Acquired Recently: Women in Clothes

Heti, Sheila, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Sharpton, eds. Women in Clothes. New York: Blue Rider, 2014.

I read a review of this book in BookForum and thought it sounded amazing, so I bought it from one of amazon.com’s independent sellers. It is the results of a survey the editors did of women about clothing. The goal was to document some of the everyday discourse around women’s clothing as opposed to that in the fashion world and media. The book includes text, drawings, and photographs. Aesthetically it is a very pleasing object, and the subject sounds super fascinating and important. I can’t wait to read it!

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Book Acquired Recently: Motion: American Sports Poems

Blaustein, Noah, ed. Motion: American Sports Poems. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2001.

One of my colleagues is teaching a course on sports and literature this semester, and was telling me about this anthology, which is one of the course texts. It sounded interesting enough that I decided to buy a copy from the campus bookstore. The book covers a wide range of sports, not just the big five, which is refreshing. It includes a nice range of poets from the canonical (e.g., Sherman Alexie, Elizabeth Bishop, and Donald Hall) to the obscure.

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Book Acquired Recently: Adirondack Ghosts II

Macken, Lynda Lee. Adirondack Ghosts II: Haunting Tales of New York’s North Country. Forked River: Black Cat, 2003.

This evening the old Utica psychiatric hospital (“Old Main”) was open for tours for the first time in several years, and I went with some friends. I was excited to see inside of the building (which is gorgeous on the outside) because I have had a number of students do research about the building. The tour was interesting, though not as exciting as if people had been allowed to wander around on their own. The event was sponsored by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica. Admission was free, but people who donated to the society received a copy of Macken’s book, which is appropriate because Old Main is said to be haunted.

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Books Acquired Recently

Bechdel, Alison. Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. 2012. Boston: Mariner, 2013.

I will be teaching Bechdel’s book about her father, Fun Home, in one of my classes this fall, and as preparation for this I acquired Are You My Mother?, which is her book about her mother. If it is even half as good as Fun Home I will be pleased.

Gooden, Dwight, and Ellis Henican. Doc: A Memoir. Boston: New Harvest, 2013.

Somehow I missed this book when it was released last year. I recently found out about it, and, in light of my obsession with the ’86 Mets, ordered it immediately.

Schrag, Ariel. Adam. Boston: Mariner, 2014.

I read a review of this novel in BookForum that intrigued me, as it centers around LGBT issues. It has blurbs from Bechdel and Aimee Mann (!), thus I am very eager to read it.

All three books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

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Book Acquired Recently: Mary McCarthy’s The Group

McCarthy, Mary. The Group. Orlando: Harvest, 1989.

I just won this book in a raffle at the Utica Public Library. I haven’t read any of McCarthy’s work before, but the raffle ticket was free with my purchase at a local coffeehouse. The novel’s blurb is an enticing one, and apparently it is scandalous enough that it was once banned in Australia, thus I look forward to reading it!

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Lucy

I decided to see the movie Lucy today because the commercials I’d seen for it made it look like it would raise some interesting philosophical questions about what it means to be human rather than simply being a stereotypical action film, and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed it thoroughly; it was one of those rare art pieces that helps me touch the sublime. My mind is still buzzing from it.

I won’t go into too much detail about the film here because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that the major reason I liked it was because it dealt rather explicitly with two of my favorite theories: Walt Whitman’s idea that everything is connected and thus life is in a sense eternal (though not in a religious way) and Donna Haraway’s idea of humans as cyborgs, beings that extend beyond the boundaries of their physical bodies to encompass other elements of the world. At one point Lucy says “we never really die,” and this idea is never explained clearly within the context of the movie itself (I fear that most viewers will miss its significance), but in light of Whitman’s constant assertions throughout “Song of Myself” that we continue to exist after our bodies die in the natural world, the statement makes perfect sense. At the end of the film a character asks of Lucy “where is she?,” and she, for lack of a better term, texts “I am everywhere,” just as the 1855 version of “Song of Myself” ends “I stop some where waiting for you.” Likewise, the film explores Whitman’s idea of universal divinity as Lucy becomes a kind of secular Christ figure, connecting humanity back to the Big Bang and reconnecting with the first human, “Lucy” (for whom the title character is, of course, named), reminding us that we are all interconnected.

Similarly, with regard to Haraway’s idea of what it means to be “post-human,” Lucy literally becomes a cyborg in the RoboCop sense of the word, melding with a super computer before her ultimate meld with the universe. This post-humanness is the saddest part of the film, and is acknowledged by Lucy as such, because even though she breaks the restrictive bonds of what it is to be human, in doing so she loses her humanity, her selfhood, and is not given a choice in the matter. She is impregnated with her powers in a way reminiscent of the virgin Mary (i.e., it is not literal rape, but it is very close, and yes, Lucy is both a Jesus figure and a Marian one, but the film manages this double symbolism quite nicely), forced to do her best with her lot. Scarlett Johansson does an excellent job portraying Lucy’s other-than-humanness in heart-breaking, compelling fashion. By the end of the film, her character makes the viewer uncomfortable because as a post-human she has become objectified, and this objectification verges on exploitation, but at the same time Lucy recognizes her objectification and uses it for the good of humanity, so maybe it is okay. I’m still trying to process it. But that is a good thing because the best art refuses to offer easy answers, and this is why Lucy succeeds.

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The Baseball Hall of Fame’s New Ballot Eligibility Rule

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced today that candidates for election will only be allowed to stay on the ballot for ten years rather than fifteen. Three players who have already been on the ballot for more than ten years (Here they are, along with my opinion on whether or not they should be elected: Don Mattingly-no, Alan Trammell-yes [it seems that in a number of cases of fringe Hall of Famers from the 1980s (Keith Hernandez and Lou Whitaker come immediately to mind) voters have ignored defensive excellence when considering players' candidacies, and Trammell has certainly suffered from this trend], Lee Smith-yes, though he almost certainly will not be elected because voters have thus far generally been prejudiced against one-inning closers [i.e., Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage fall into a different category]. I understand that saves are a fairly meaningless stat and that the way closers are used makes no logical sense because a manager should use his best reliever when the game is on the line, which is not always the ninth inning, but it is not closers’ fault that they are used this way. They are now an integral part of the sport and voters should treat them as such, but, like kickers in football, their odd role results in prejudice from voters.) will be allowed to finish out their fifteen years if necessary.

This is a good change. While the reason for making it is questionable (its goal is clearly to get controversial figures from the steroids era such as Barry Bonds [who should be in] and Roger Clemens [who shouldn't] off of the ballot as soon as possible), the move itself is logical because if a player is such a borderline candidate that they have not been elected during a decade of eligibility, they probably do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. One player whom the change really hurts, though, is Tim Raines, who should be in but is a controversial case because his statistics look much better from a sabermetric view than a traditional one, and voters haven’t yet quite caught up to sabermetrics’ obvious superiority. Raines loses five years of eligibility during a time when many more recent excellent cases will continue to come on the ballot, so it will be a tight squeeze for him as he now only has three appearances on the ballot left. But this one example is not enough to make the change a bad decision.

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