Serviceable sentences, 51/10,000

The one man who has ever made me wish I had a penis is Norman Mailer.
—Alex Mar, “A Female Author’s Love for the Proudly Sexist Norman Mailer,” The Aesthete (undated)

(Not a bad sentence with which to start an essay on a subject as torturous as the sexual politics of reading Mailer. The title is bad, but I assume that’s an editorial imposition and that the much better “My Norman Mailer, Myself” of the article’s URL is Mar’s chosen title. Her penis envy, Mar clarifies, is figurative*: “I wanted a dick like his to swing around—you know, in the literary sense.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far because the second of three intervening sentences—”I was just out of college and starting a new life, living a few blocks from the paper he founded …, in an East Village studio so lopsided anything you dropped would roll across the floor”—hoops the mind with panniers of such self-satisfaction that the only sane response is to close the tab immediately.

*This is a disappointment. Imagine a literal legion of Mailer-steeped transmen marching through Provincetown, maniples hefting their synthetic man-poles in salute to a fellow prisoner of sex.)

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Serviceable sentences, 50/10,000

His [Samuel Johnson’s] was a hungry man’s hard-hearted view of life, more like Merle Haggard’s conservatism than like his later friend Edmund Burke’s.
—Adam Gopnik, “Man of Fetters,” The New Yorker (8 December 2017)

(The comparison is unnecessary—and grossly inaccurate if you imagine New Yorker readers taking it as gospel—but the affinity between all three holds: a political or social orientation that moralizes yet [mostly] eschews complaint & guards against its own transformation into universalist aggression. How many times have you seen Johnson, Burke, or Merle Haggard lyrics* used as a rhetorical bludgeon?

*”Fightin’ Side of Me” &”Okie from Muskogee” don’t count. Hell, the latter was so plasticized with irony—well-nigh Chaucerian levels—that the Hag could never consistently articulate what he was doing with that song in interviews.)

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20 Lines a Day: Houston

Its suburbs, Katy to be precise: sprawling gated communities, fenced-in subdivisions, country clubs. Some of the best square-foot-per-dollar value in the nation. The scale of the destruction—the amount of raw materials needed to replace, say, the bottom two feet of drywall & insulation in one 2,200 square-foot home, multiplied by thousands—stupifies. If Irma is bad, a third of the U.S. drywall market will be eaten up by Texas and Flordia. Every yard is piled high with torn out drywall, insulation, flooring, cabinets, furniture. Anything resting below the ~2-4 ft. level has been thrown out or is due to be thrown out once the occupants return. Piles as high as my head, dripping chalky water into the gutters. Piles slowly collapsing under their own weight as the rot of their component parts intensifies. Piles of moldering carpet—these piles lower because the weight of wet carpet makes it hard to throw higher than five feet—you can smell at the end of the street. Everywhere the marks of the flood’s high point. I see it on cars, many having been completely submerged, their paint now scored by dirt, their windows fogged up, their insides covered with an eighth of an inch of mold. (The drive back consists in large part of passing tow trucks loaded with scrapped cars still dripping muck from their wheel wells.) On bookcases leaned against trees, on busted brick walls, on the banks of water hazards at the country club. Everywhere mildew and rot, American flags, Red Cross trucks passing out hot meals to demo crews, good Samaritans doing the same. Voiding your bowels while mucking out a single story McMansions gets tricky: with the bottom four feet of interior walls stripped to the studs, there is little privacy to be had.

John Ashbery, 1927-2017

Why is it too late to be simple,
out riding, pointing at something, when all you loved was there anyway? Too late
to be inventoried or caressed, as one lays in a stock of family anecdotes for the future,
poses to assume, frippery, harmless tomfoolery, until in a cocoon
made of commas it will all seem to come right, but the ashes have been left far behind
on a nameless road, in whose ruts glass still flashes magisterially,
not merrily short-circuited as when we were among people, but a thing on its own now,
to weep over rather than think of saving? If only we could get the message out further,
yet here all kinds of sacred cows hinder one, so there is no longer any point
in pursuing the implications today. Tomorrow will be good enough for that.
—John Ashbery, Flow Chart (1991)

Serviceable sentences, 49/10,000

Intimacy should be off-putting; it’s someone else’s private space we’re barging into.
—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, “Sometimes, the staying power of horror has nothing to do with fear,” A.V. Club (28 July 2017)

(Off-putting in the sense of “uninviting” [from the Latin inuitare, which Skeat says is of uncertain origin]. Cf. the pornographic invitation recognized by the Mormon anti-porn PSA mentioned in Ss-48/10,000: “Just because you saw pornography, and just because it made you curious or interested, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”)

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Serviceable sentences, 48/10,000

Love was mortally wounded when the video camera was first pointed at a hard dick.
—NishikiPrestige, “Trads for Feminism. Trad Feminism. TRADBRO FEMINAZISM” (27 August 2017)

(In Mary Poppins [1964], Mary—on her verse towards the end of “Jolly Holiday”—thanks Bert for not being rapey. The wound is deep, & the Minivan Annihilationist has a way with words. It’s like Andrea Dworkin drunk driving past every “Porn Kills Love” billboard in the Bay Area while texting. Much more effective than the peppy platitudes of LDS anti-porn material my fellow Mormons bombard me with. Compare:

Mormon anti-porn PSA: “‘Pornography’ means bad pictures of people with little or no clothes on. […] Just because you saw pornography, and just because it made you curious or interested, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

NishikiPrestige: “You fucking piece of shit. You like porn? WOW. So does half of the human race. ‘human’ being a kind word for the crawling lusting filth that is YOU. FUCK[. //] An army of men are jerking off to the worst pain we could possibly come up with. Ruined women fuck on film for you. GREAT. You aren’t into that, are you ? Wow. What happened?”

If you’re not already reading NishikiPrestige, start. Start with the post quoted above. Then read this. Then mourn your misfortune that “Doomed Mutants At the Precipice” [formerly “Genetic Load and the Death of the West”] is no longer available.)

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Serviceable sentences, 47/10,000

Sundays, not for church, were for Shakespeare.
—Adam Plunkett, “Keats and King Lear,” Poetry (11 February 2015)

(Even more interesting, Shakespeare’s work served as a medium for Keats’s [proposed*] experiments with telepathic communion:

Keats imagined an afterlife with “direct communication of spirit” like that which he felt as he wrote to George and felt he could begin to approach by their reading “a passage of Shakespeare every Sunday at ten o’clock” on either side of the Atlantic. “And we shall be as near each other as blind bodies can be in the same room.”

*I do not know if he & George followed through on this.)

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Serviceable sentences, 45/10,000

He [H.G. Wells] became, even more than Verne, a Schoolteacher Absolute, a fate that would befall so many later SF writers—Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Le Guin, Delany—that it must be considered an occupational hazard.
—Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998)

(The tightropes of prose prophecy & phantasmagoric vision are hard ones for novelists to walk. At least there’s a net, even if it is pedantry.)

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