Tag Archives: feminism

Defeated Despair

1 Mar

A few weeks ago Caravan published After the Last Sky, my first paid publication in almost three years. I wrote it for Caravan because I’m a completist, and I wanted to close a circle that opened three years ago with Darkness Visible.

After the Last Sky was written just as I was transitioning from one of the darkest periods of my life into the sort of smack-dab happiness that is impossible to channel into language. It’s odd how that happens, this chiaroscuro of emotion, but without that joy, or the pain that came before, this would have been a very different essay and perhaps a feebler one. This was an essay written, as John Berger once said in “Undefeated Despair” from a familiarity with every sort of rubble, including the rubble of words. It is an essay about ruin.

Here is a simpler formulation: I wrote an essay about women who learned to live without love even as I was falling in love. If that makes me a hypocrite, all I can say is it makes an excellent change from an earnest despair. But there is despair in that essay, of course there is, it’s all over the place. Despair with prescriptive, idealized feminisms; despair with structures that exalt and oppress women; despair with explanations that remain trapped in clichés, despair with myself, with the smallness and uselessness of my words in the face of totalizing narratives. Perhaps, then, all that my tiny satisfaction offered me was a way out of defeat, and with that I must move on. And so I will.

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Tidings from Hebdomad.

6 Jul

Hebdomad, some of you will remember, is the blog I run on firstpost. It ostensibly belongs to one Ramachandran, and is doing reasonably well, thank you for asking. Neil Gaiman tweeted a post about his vampire sestina, which brought a skip to one’s step and a hum to one’s stats. He ignored, perhaps out of modesty, another fawning post about Sandman (his and E.T.A Hoffman’s). He was even gracious enough not to point out his sundry vampire-fic. Thankfully, comments folks were less restrained, and I’ve liblisted The Graveyard Book and reread ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ (I realised half way that I had it confused with ‘Lady of the House of Love’, which is either a great compliment or a terribly trite comparison.)

All the gaiman geekdom, anyway, earned me the gig. Hebdomad lives, and the most recent post remembered the spirit of Michael Kelly, whom I debated across the writing of Chaosbogey’s Politics last year. I spent a week with the blues ladies, mourning Janis and Billie Holiday. The parent, beloved reader, assures me I ‘broke’ the Indian slutwalk story by writing it up in the early days of twitter hysteria.  Most of bogeydom will agree (all you lonely victims of my assorted rambles) that fashion isn’t my forte. To write said trailblazer, thus, I prudently chose silence and dipped into Dorothy Sayers. A few days later, on 13th June, I celebrated her birthday, and was vastly entertained to find she shared it with Yeats. And so we are led into a poem.

Time drops in decay

like a candle burnt out

and the mountains and the woods

have their day, have their day

what one in the rout

of the fire-born moods

has fallen away?

Tisn’t as happy a poem as I’d have liked. (‘A Coat‘)  Fitting, though, given the fate of slutwalk, a debate from which I’ve finally walked away. Or so I declared on bookslut, which is as good as any virgin’s oath. There is, I will admit, a post waiting in the wings should the blessed event come to pass, failing which it will go up on July 25th. Then I’m done, if only because scores of women have said everything I need to say, and done so far better than I ever could. For a sampling, here is Annie Zaidi, or Kuzhali Manickavel, or Nisha SusanKatha Pollitt wrote an eloquent (and global) love letter to the movement, giving it much needed Serious Feminist Cred. Also, since I quote from it so liberally in the ‘slut essay, this be the rest of Adrienne Rich’s poem:

The light of outrage is the light of history

springing upon us when we’re least prepared

thinking maybe a little glade of time

leaf thick and with clear water

is ours, promised us, for all we’ve hacked

and tracked our way through: to this:

What will it be? Your wish or mine? your

prayers or my wish then: that those we love

be well, whatever that means, to be well.

Outrage: who dare protection for their own

amid such unprotection? What kind of prayer

is that? To what kind of god? What kind of wish?

— Through Corralitos under Rolls of Cloud, IV.

That is that as far as news goes (oh wait, I moaned about my nose). This Saturday, I shall be doing a Peake centenary post, so do keep an eye out for some amusing verse.  Now, because this is bogey and I love you all so, I shall inflict upon you an ‘exclusive’ from the failed experiments of my writing life. The.. bile that follows was written in an aborted attempt at understanding economics as I was reading “The Relentless Revolution”. It is also why the first draft of that review concluded with this immortal line: ‘it is the purpose of histories to differentiate between porsches and potatoes.’ So now you know.

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