Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Literary Heroes Day

I got to meet Jeff Eugenides and Anton Shammas today.

What a fucking great day!

(More on this later, maybe; for now I must nurse a headache and take my kid trick-or-treating.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bookmark this

Poet, badass, and rockslinga pal Hayan Charara is now guest-blogging about topics as varied as sexy Arab potentates, name changes, rejection, and Arab American poetry, over at Arabisto. Check it out.

Here is a snippet:
Arab Name Substitution happens a lot, too. The premise here is that a name is too difficult to pronounce, so rather than butcher it or even make an attempt, the original is dropped for a new and improved version.

Some examples:

Mike = Mohammed
Charlie = Khalil
Abe = Abdul
Ed = Ahmad
This is an equal opportunity name game.
Sue = Saada
Jamie = Jamila
And my personal favorite:
Babbette = Ibtisam
Mispronouncing, on the other hand...is it really that hard? I’ve been called “High-on,” “High-yeen,” “Chai-yon,” “Ha-non,” and, technically a mispronunciation, “Hasan.”

It could be worse, I suppose. I could have an African name. A friend from high school was named Abiyamifalukemenarakuma. African names seem to get it worse than Arabic names. On top of mispronouncing, misspelling, substituting, and getting it all wrong, they get edited too. Most of my high school classmates just cut out the last twenty letters of Abiyamifalukemenarakuma’s name.


That’s a girl’s name. That’s a coming-of-age-1980s-movie-girl-actor-name. That’s hardly a beautiful African name.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I recently bought the collected shorter fiction of Oscar Wilde because I'd read "The Happy Prince" and loved it. Now, I am in love with "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime." Go read it if you have the time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Happy Eid

Hope you guys have a good one. I spent mine revising in the morning and pigging out and shopping later. Fun!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Khoury on Pamuk

Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun, and others, writes about Pamuk's Nobel win in this week's Ahram:
Did Pamuk receive the award in his capacity as an alternative to an Armenian writer? Has the game of doppelgangers and the interlocking of identities now overtaken the novelist himself, turning him into the hero of a novel he did not write? The game of the writer's transformation into the hero of a novel he has not penned fascinates me because it is one of the signs of the text's revenge on the writer who considers that his intelligence allows him to pass over the very chalice he has given to the heroes of his novels to drink. Was this not the fate of Salman Rushdie, Kafka and Emile Habiby, among others?
Read it here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Juvenile...but so true!!!

I just wrote a story about a funeral, so I thought this "what will your obituary say" quiz would be appropriate.

'What will your obituary say?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Man, I always thought if I could, I would marry Mr. Potatohead. I love Potatoes! And malleable men.

{Link via Fluffy $$$}

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nobel Prize Winner Pamuk on influence

In my "History of the Short Story" class, which is taught by the brilliant and inspiring Peter Ho Davies, we have been discussing influence and precursors. I find this snippet from Pamuk's interview with the Paris Review relevant:

Were you ever interested in doing social commentary through literature?


No. I was reacting to the older generation of novelists, especially in the eighties. I say this with all due respect, but their subject matter was very narrow and parochial.
I love this! In reacting against writers who come before, one may be able to produce fiction that has, say, social significance, or critique, or whatever their writing lacked.

Here's more:

... What inspired you to write The White Castle? It’s the first book where you employ a theme that recurs throughout the rest of your novels—impersonation. Why do you think this idea of becoming somebody else crops up so often in your fiction?


It's a very personal thing. I have a very competitive brother who is only eighteen months older than me. In a way, he was my father, —my Freudian father, so to speak. It was he who became my alter ego, the representation of authority. On the other hand, we also had a competitive and brotherly comradeship. A very complicated relationship. I wrote extensively about this in Istanbul. I was a typical Turkish boy, good at soccer and enthusiastic about all sorts of games and competitions. He was very successful in school, better than me. I felt jealousy towards him, and he was jealous of me too. He was the reasonable and responsible person, the one our superiors addressed. While I was paying attention to games, he paid attention to rules. We were competing all the time. And I fancied being him, that kind of thing. It set a model. Envy, jealousy, these are heartfelt themes for me. I always worry about how much my brother'’s strength or his success might have influenced me. This is an essential part of my spirit. I am aware of that, so I put some distance between me and those feelings. I know they are bad, so I have a civilized person'’s determination to fight them. I'm not saying I'm a victim of jealousy. But this is the galaxy of nerve points that I try to deal with all the time. And of course, in the end, it becomes the subject matter of all my stories. In The White Castle, for instance, the almost sadomasochistic relationship between the two main characters is based on my relationship with my brother.

On the other hand, this theme of impersonation is reflected in the fragility Turkey feels when faced with Western culture. After writing The White Castle, I realized that this jealousy, the anxiety about being influenced by someone else, resembles Turkey'’s position when it looks west. You know, aspiring to become Westernized and then being accused of not being authentic enough. Trying to grab the spirit of Europe and then feeling guilty about the imitative drive. The ups and downs of this mood are reminiscent of the relationship between competitive brothers.
Damn! To spill his guts out about his brother like that, with such an astute level of self-analysis, is indicative of one hell of a generous mind. But to compare his relationship with his brother to that between Turkey and the West, and then to take it further and talk about "the imitative drive"... so good, so right-on.

I'm so happy he won.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Make/Shift Mag

I recently accepted the offer to be a columnist for new feminist magazine, Make/Shift, which will be starting up early next year out of San Francisco. And after the outburst below, I think I know what my first article will be about!

Yes, yes, yes!

Model, actress, photographer Velvet D'Amour worked the catwalk during Gaultier's show for Fashion Week in Paris last week. Here is an interview with her in which she dispels many myths about fatness. I love her! I want to have her babies.

What I love about women like Velvet D'Amour is that their fierceness and beauty does not exist in spite of their size, or because of their size, but simply because they are rebels; badasses for liking themselves. And so, inevitably, here comes the cheese: Sometimes I think the biggest revolution would be if everyone woke up one morning in a state of total self-acceptance. Think of how much time (and money!) we would save. With all that saved time, we writers could probably produce at least 2 more books during our lifetimes.

On that note, gotta go finish story #2.

Postscript: It seems there's a lot of debate all over the place about this show. I must be living under a writer rock. Anyway, I don't give a shit about Gaultier's boldness. I don't give a shit about designers and honestly, modeling as a business and a livelihood can go to fucking hell. I just want to see images of fat women who (unlike Kristie Alley and Maragret Cho and Star fucking Jones, and unlike the skinny ideal constantly being shoved down everyone's throat, including thin women) are fat and like it! Fat and so what? Fat fat fat fat. Yes. I weigh 220 pounds, and when someone tells me they are so "proud" of me for "doing my thang" or for wearing a dress ("Oh, Randa, it's like you're saying: take me as I am!") I want to slap them across the face. Can you imagine going up to a black man and saying: "Hey, I think it's great that you just walk around and you don't care that you're black!" It's THAT insane!

We live in a world where fat-hate is one of the last permitted discriminations. And fat people are some of the most dehumanized on the planet, first and foremost by their families, who hate themselves, their own genetics and their children's inability to have SuperMetabolism, and then, by their peers and the media.

Fuck Gaultier; he's just another filthy rich white guy.

Here comes a hot hot hottie in her undies, and I want to plant a big smooch on her big, badass arms.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dept. of "Ann Arbor Events I Can't Wait to Attend"

(At left, photo of Anton Shammas's father's Palestinian passport)

A Passport for an Internal Diaspora

Anton Shammas: After many deliberations, I want to do a very personal piece on my father's Palestinian passport, issued in 1932. He used it primarily in order to court my mother in Beirut, Lebanon, in the late 1930s. There's something so tragic about it--the document that was supposed to establish his identity and take him places became obsolete 16 years later. Come 1948 he needed a special permit, from the Israeli military authorities, in order to leave his village in northern Palestine and move around in his own homeland.

Date: October 31, 2006, noon-1:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Location: Rackham Building, Osterman Common Room 1022

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Doctor's Note

Sorry I've been away for a while...I lost my internet connection and it was just now reconnected. In the absence of the internet I finished a story-- the longest story I've ever written, which is not saying much, but I do tend to write smaller pieces-- and I think the internet being gone helped.

I'm really enjoying grad school. I had a great workshop class monday, where everything seemed fair and inspiring. I'm also loving my short story class.

I was happy to read all your Fall Reading lists, they all sound intruiging, and ultimately I am envious that I don't have time to read everything on your lists as well as mine.

Wow, that was possibly the most boring blog post ever. I'll try not to post again until I have something exciting to say.