A weekly digest of thoughts on fiction, non-fiction, and all the news I see fit to print.
Writing is Hard
And sometimes reading is, too.
I’ve been working my way (very slowly) through Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. When I first picked up the book, I had an idea that I would read it in about a week. But then it took me a whole week just to drag myself through the first chapter, so I had to reevaluate the plan. I decided to scale back to one chapter per week, a much more manageable reading goal. Of course, I could have just chucked it. Sometimes it’s best to give up on something if you aren’t enjoying it—not everything is to everyone’s taste, after all—but I do want very much to finish the novel. (I recently watched the sublime film adaptation and would like to compare the two texts.) Motivations aside, sometimes it’s good to stick with something that hasn’t grabbed your interest straight off the bat—not everything starts with a bang, after all—because patience can pay off.
Take this amazing meditation on the ever-so-commonplace agonies of composition:
[Orlando] soon perceived, however, that the battles which Sir Miles and the rest had waged against armed knights to win a kingdom, were not half so arduous as this which he now undertook to win immortality against the English language. Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours [sic] of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in’ was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings’ snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted his people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.
Distilled down to its basic components: writing is hard no matter who you are. It’s taken me a long time to truly understand that. Like many aspiring artists, I used to have that the idea that success was a question of talent. That you were either good at something and suited for it, or not good and not suited. Of course, grad school cured me of that most unfortunate misconception. But it’s nice to hear the reality of artistic struggle reiterated—in breathtakingly lovely prose—by one of the greats.
A Good Week for Body Positivity
I was pleased to see a lot of push back against assorted body shaming tactics this week. Jennifer Aniston called the media (and society in general) out on their enforcement of impossible beauty standards, Leslie Jones made a triumphant appearance on the red carpet after having been snubbed by a number of fashion designers who claimed not to be able to create a custom look for a non-sample-sized woman, and a Playboy model was soundly denounced for her cruel mockery of a plus-sized woman on social media. Of course it’s entirely possible that these constitute nothing more than isolated incidents whose implications will be quickly forgotten, but I like to think they indicate a groundswell for change.
The release this week of the Ghostbusters reboot, a film that features four unconventionally attractive women as leads, and its opening-weekend success certainly suggest that better days are ahead in the fight against body shaming—particularly considering how sensitively the film handles issues of social awkwardness, alienation, and exclusion arising from difference (both appearance- and experience-based). I was really blown away by how very excellent the new Ghostbusters is, and I have a lot more to say about it. For now, however, I simply recommend it. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’s a great step forward in terms of positive media representation for women.
Final Thought: All For One…
I finally had the opportunity to start watching BBC’s The Musketeers…
…and it is as awesome as I always imagined it would be.
It’s available for streaming on Hulu Plus. Go forth and watch it.
That is all.