- 1 day ago
- 1 day ago
- 2 weeks ago
- 2 weeks ago
"I claim that melancholy occurs not when we lose the object, but precisely when the object is here but we lose the desire for it. This is why modern philosophical subject cogito is deeply melancholic. Everything is here, but you no longer desire it. And so I claim that this is the enigma of modernity. It’s not some kind of protestant ethics which prohibits I don’t know what. It’s that you lose desire, and prohibitions come — precisely a desperate, secondary attempt to resuscitate desire."
- 3 weeks ago
Nude Reading by Roy Lichtenstein, 1994, 12 color relief print.
From the portfolio “Readers & Readings” in our Fall 2003 issue, Jeanette Winterson writes of the print, “Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude Reading is not locked in time, because she is freed by art. She is naked. She is in her own room. She is in her own time. She is her own time. It’s quite normal for her to read a book that hasn’t been written yet.”
"There’s nothing in India but the weather, my dear mother; it’s the alpha and omega of the whole affair."
"Every lineage has its great quality. Ours is detachment."
- 1 month ago
"'Will you love me in December as you do in May?'"
- 1 month ago
“Your name is Tasbeeh. Don’t let them call you by anything else.”
My mother speaks to me in Arabic; the command sounds more forceful in her mother tongue, a Libyan dialect that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds. I am seven years old and it has never occurred to me to disobey my mother. Until twelve years old, I would believe God gave her the supernatural ability to tell when I’m lying.
“Don’t let them give you an English nickname,” my mother insists once again, “I didn’t raise amreekan.”
My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth. Eight years in this country and she’s still not convinced she lives here. She wears her headscarf tightly around her neck, wades across the school lawn in long, floor-skimming skirts. Eight years in this country and her tongue refuses to bend and soften for the English language. It embarrasses me, her heavy Arab tongue, wrapping itself so forcefully around the clumsy syllables of English, strangling them out of their meaning.
But she is fierce and fearless. I have never heard her apologize to anyone. She will hold up long grocery lines checking and double-checking the receipt in case they’re trying to cheat us. My humiliation is heavy enough for the both of us. My English is not. Sometimes I step away, so people don’t know we’re together but my dark hair and skin betray me as a member of her tribe.
On my first day of school, my mother presses a kiss to my cheek.
“Your name is Tasbeeh,” she says again, like I’ve forgotten. “Tasbeeh.”
Roll call is the worst part of my day. After a long list of Brittanys, Jonathans, Ashleys, and Yen-but-call-me-Jens, the teacher rests on my name in silence. She squints. She has never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is this h doing at the end? Maybe it is a typo.
“Tasbeeh,” I mutter, with my hand half up in the air. “Tasbeeh.”
“Do you go by anything else?”
“No,” I say. “Just Tasbeeh. Tas-beeh.”
“Tazbee. All right. Alex?”
She moves on before I can correct her. She said it wrong. She said it so wrong. I have never heard my name said so ugly before, like it’s a burden. Her entire face contorts as she says it, like she is expelling a distasteful thing from her mouth. She avoids saying it for the rest of the day, but she has already baptized me with this new name. It is the name everyone knows me by, now, for the next six years I am in elementary school. “Tazbee,” a name with no grace, no meaning, no history; it belongs in no language.
“Tazbee,” says one of the students on the playground, later. “Like Tazmanian Devil?” Everyone laughs. I laugh too. It is funny, if you think about it.
I do not correct anyone for years. One day, in third grade, a plane flies above our school.
“Your dad up there, Bin Laden?” The voice comes from behind. It is dripping in derision.
“My name is Tazbee,” I say. I said it in this heavy English accent, so he may know who I am. I am American. But when I turn around they are gone.
I go to middle school far, far away. It is a 30-minute drive from our house. It’s a beautiful set of buildings located a few blocks off the beach. I have never in my life seen so many blond people, so many colored irises. This is a school full of Ashtons and Penelopes, Patricks and Sophias. Beautiful names that belong to beautiful faces. The kind of names that promise a lifetime of social triumph.
I am one of two headscarved girls at this new school. We are assigned the same gym class. We are the only ones in sweatpants and long-sleeved undershirts. We are both dreading roll call. When the gym teacher pauses at my name, I am already red with humiliation.
“How do I say your name?” she asks.
“Tazbee,” I say.
“Can I just call you Tess?”
I want to say yes. Call me Tess. But my mother will know, somehow. She will see it written in my eyes. God will whisper it in her ear. Her disappointment will overwhelm me.
“No,” I say, “Please call me Tazbee.”
I don’t hear her say it for the rest of the year.
My history teacher calls me Tashbah for the entire year. It does not matter how often I correct her, she reverts to that misshapen sneeze of a word. It is the ugliest conglomeration of sounds I have ever heard.
When my mother comes to parents’ night, she corrects her angrily, “Tasbeeh. Her name is Tasbeeh.” My history teacher grimaces. I want the world to swallow me up.
My college professors don’t even bother. I will only know them for a few months of the year. They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”
My name is a burden. My name is a burden. My name is a burden. I am a burden.
On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.
At the start of a new semester, I walk into a math class. My teacher is blond and blue-eyed. I don’t remember his name. When he comes to mine on the roll call, he takes the requisite pause. I hold my breath.
“How do I pronounce your name?” he asks.
I say, “Just call me Tess.”
“Is that how it’s pronounced?”
I say, “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”
“That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,” he said. “What is your name?”
When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tasbeeh. He repeats it back to me several times until he’s got it. It is difficult for his American tongue. His has none of the strength, none of the force of my mother’s. But he gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so deserving of a name. My name feels like a crown.
“Thank you for my name, mama.”
When the barista asks me my name, sharpie poised above the coffee cup, I tell him: “My name is Tasbeeh. It’s a tough t clinging to a soft a, which melts into a silky ssss, which loosely hugs the b, and the rest of my name is a hard whisper — eeh. Tasbeeh. My name is Tasbeeh. Hold it in your mouth until it becomes a prayer. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tasbeeeeeeeh – sand let the h heat your throat like cinnamon. Tasbeeh. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tasbeeh. It means giving glory to God. Tasbeeh. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and give God what he is due."
- 1 month ago
God, I love Franny and Zooey so much. This is just the book I needed to read right about now.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
I’m still so taken in by the perfectness of it all to have any sort of coherent thought on it but here goes -
Why do I love it?
A) Angst, personal crises in relation to academia, the university and the ”intellectual”: Utterly relateable, especially at this time of my life. Third year of university, the rat-race of ego and ‘intellectualism’. Everyone claims to know everything. Everyone claims to be smarter than everyone else. The pursuit of knowledge unable to be divorced from the strengthening of the ego. The professor, the academic slowly being revealed as phonies. Realizing that all this frustration ultimately boils down to the ego, the ego, the ego. Franny gets this - she’s looking for a spiritual solution to rid herself of the ego. But she’s full of bitterness - she hates everyone and everything because she sees the ego everywhere. The novel does well to explore this crisis through Franny’s POV and find a point where the reader - along with Franny - can find some sort of contentment. The solution is to remember that above all, what counts is not intellect but humanity and respect. At the end of the day, you do it all for ‘the Fat Lady’ - the perfect embodiment of humanness.
"The announcer was a moron, the studio audience were all morons, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn’t going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn’t see them anyway where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady."
"I’ll tell you a terrible secret. Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy, and all his goddamn cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddamn secret yet? And don’t you know—Listen to me, now. Don’t you know who the Fat Lady really is? Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy, it’s Christ Himself, Christ Himself, buddy."
B) Family: Again, I can relate. Very well. My family is all into academia, I’m the youngest of the lot, the only sister to three elder brothers - all intelligent and supposedly ‘brilliant’. Like Franny, my brothers have been my intellectual mentors. And I see myself becoming like them - aloof, detached from the world itself and consumed by violent abstract struggles that are both so bourgeois and pretentious in nature that I am ashamed of them. I adore my brothers, but I know that the way we all think cuts us off from the world. Ironically, this brings us closer together. I don’t think I can explain it any better than a line from the text itself that I quoted previously. ”We are, all four of us, blood relatives, and we speak a kind of esoteric, family language, a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle”. Like Franny, I both blame my brothers and respect them for what they have made of me.
C) Style, plot and other literary jargonisms: The plot is absolutely minimal - there’s really not much action that takes place. Space and time are confined allowing us to really delve into dialogue and other subtler actions the characters engage in - the way a cigarette is lifted, the way a paper is folded. This could have been a play! Give me a work of fiction like this and I’d instantly prefer it over grand plots revolving around the usual melodrama - a love story, a revenge plot etc etc. Sure, it’s pretty abstract - the characters are arguing about philosophical and theological ideas. There’s very little reference to the outside world in Franny especially, no backstory; very much like the iceberg effect - and this reminded me of my absolute favourite work of fiction; Hemingway’s ”Hills Like White Elephants”.