Or, “HAHA! Please don’t ask me how my research is going.”

Because it’s supposed to be going well! This is something i need to keep telling myself as an ACTUAL PRESENTATION DATE (APD, herein) FAST APPROACHES, the actual date being October 28! Which seems far off, until I realize that–RIGHT!–I have a full-time job again!

Oh, go fuck yourselves (just kidding! Jobs are a great thing until we realize WE JUST MIGHT DIE if we don’t work, and then we realize how inhuman it all is and how THERE IS NO ESCAPE!..anyway…).

So about that full-time job: I work at a gallery now–which is great!–especially considering that I should be graduating soon with a Master’s degree in Museum Studies, and yet, I have next to no experience working in a museum. I mean…I’ve been to museums. I’ve presented papers and shit. I’ve interned in a couple…Okay, maybe I do have experience doing the museum thing, but shit, enough to merit a Master’s degree?

Hah! Hahaha! HAHAHA!

I don’t even know, I mean what the fuck is school for? Are we trying to be practical about running the silly things that happen to exist in the world or are we making room to step back and consider it in light of everything we know? It’s the latter I’m more comfortable with, because all I did in school was read and write (and those two internships and a few conferences here and there [I made a lot of friends, does that count?]).

So in terms of the work, there are times when I’m just sitting at my desk thinking, “Well someone has to seal all these envelopes!” and other times when I feel genuinely useful–like say, when an artist hands over a sheet of paper covered with doodles of circles and arrows for me to interpret to the dudes over at carpentry. That’s…work.

But enough of that: the other part, which brings me to this post, the job has me situated right across a bookstore! And the selection is not only discounted, it’s curated. Lolzies. I am out of time and…okay, I’m not broke, but I now have to walk past this thing that kind of bullies me into forking over my lunch money in exchange for…

Taipei by Tao Lin

If there was a theme for this, it would probably be men: men degenerating, men not being “men”, and a classic case for this would be Tao Lin, poet, founder of Muumuu House. That Tao Lin is a very prolific dude is often overshadowed by the cocktail of drugs and depression he always seems to be engulfed by. The careful craft that goes into the prose is covered up by how lazy and pitiful his characters are, especially in the way they speak.

Very little of the book is actually set in Taipei, so that can be misleading, although Taipei does serve as some kind of turning point, showing how little its characters–Paul and Erin, amid a rotating cast of wayward friends and enemies, people who show up a lot without actually doing anything–have to look forward to. But it never really gets dark in Paul and Erin’s world, and that’s where the beauty of this non-story lies. It compels the reader towards this void of boredom and privilege, but never really spirals into hopelessness, which in turn shines a light on how Tao Lin–despite being a poster boy for sardonic (literary) Millenials everywhere–has that rare vein of empathy that allows him to fully form a real human being on the page. This is essentially what happens here, we follow a real human being, and in the end, it doesn’t even matter that we end up going nowhere.

Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? by Dave Eggers

Conceptually, Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? is Eggers most interesting novel. The story moves forward as a series of conversations, set in an abandoned military barracks somewhere on the West Coast. It begins with an astronaut waking up tied to a post and, having been kidnapped by our hero, he is forced to answer a few questions. So a man who’s supposed to have walked among the stars, who literally defies gravity, is here chained up and unable to move.

The premise here does not only revolve around this unbelievable clusterfuck of “What the hell happened to men?” but “What the hell happened to our men?” hence, “your fathers” in the title. Towards the end, an interesting question is raised by Eggers, through his protagonist, a nondescript little guy named Thomas: Who wants to walk around in a world someone else built?

The funny thing is women don’t ask this question as much, because hasn’t our being forced to live in a world of men always been a given? So as a series of interrogations, questions like this come up repeatedly throughout Your fathers… but only here is it phrased as succinctly as this. Who wants to walk around in a world someone else built?

Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus

Among the four things I’ve read since I began working here, Where Art Belongs hews most closely to the kind of academic work I should be doing right now. For obvious reasons, the word “art” being in the title, then there’s the more poetic reason, because Kraus speaks of making not only a world, but a world that is habitable for making things–for art and artists.

She begins with Tiny Creatures, an art space-slash-gallery in Echo Park, before Echo Park became what it is today, that hosted–among other things–work by Ariel Pink and Jason Yates. From there we move to the oceans sailed by Bas Jan Ader, and Mexicali Rose, asking not so much “Where does art belong?” but stating the facts.

The facts are that people did these things, and the only imperative is that other people not only see, but encounter it. Which is a problem when we think of the antiseptic conditions we expect in the handling of fine art, or anything deemed worthy of the title “Cultural Heritage”. Kraus however comes through with a story that just tells it like it is, no romance, no moralizing. So I guess art belongs wherever it happens to go.

Bark by Lorrie Moore

I needed something light–which is a strange thing to want of Lorrie Moore. The first thing I read from her was about the wife of an academic coming to terms with having accidentally killed her friend’s baby (emphasis on accidentally). She accompanies him on a fellowship in rural (provincial?) Italy and gets a lot of massages (…I may be confusing this story with Haruki Murakami’s “Thailand”…).
Anyway! Lorrie Moore! The other story was about a child dying of cancer (from Birds of Paradise) but it felt like air – not only in the ease of telling but in the enormity, the fact that it never leaves the room.

None of the stories in Bark made that same impression, but it was a good collection of funny, well-turned phrases about aging couples, dead colleagues, raising teenagers, awkwardly inheriting a fortune from strangers, and love…there’s always love. What else is the short story but a condensed narrative of the relentless need to be loved and accepted; to find a place in a world someone else built.

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