"I must now follow these same rhythmical interlacements."

As a sort of all-purpose way of responding to both the Vox Question of the Day and the Vox Hunt, allow me to present to you what may just be my favorite novel of all time.  I mean, it’s hard to say, really, since I specialize in novels; novels are my livelihood.  I am in love with so many and am reluctant to play favorites, but if you put a gun to my head and demanded that I choose, I would utter, without hesitation, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


It’s Nabokov’s first novel in English, and his insecurities about writing in a new language are clear — in the plot, not so much in the language itself.  The dude is always foremost a technical virtuoso, and he plays with words in a way I have rarely seen others do.  Nonetheless, the hapless Russian narrator, V, is uncertain about the English language and writes in the shadow of his brother, an English novelist of some (perhaps dubious) renown.

In one of my favorite passages, V describes the writing style of his brother Sebastian Knight, the purported subject of this sham biography, as being something to which both the narrator and I blindly,desperately, aspire:

[Sebastian Knight] had no use for ready-made phrases because the things he wanted to say were of an exceptional build and he knew moreover that no real idea can be said to exist without the words made to measure.  So that (to use a closer simile) the thought which only seemed naked was but pleading for the clothes it wore to become visible, while the words lurking afar were not empty shells as they seemed, but were only waiting for the thought they already concealed to set them aflame and in motion.

Reading this was a defining moment for me — my thoughts about language and the act of writing, the theory I would later develop for dissertatory purposes, Nabokov’s status as Favorite Writer Ever of All Time Really — everything can be traced back to this.  Not to be too dramatic, or anything.

Bathtime for Puppies

I gave Egon his inaugural shampooing with the fancy new stuff.  He doesn’t like bathtime too much: he tends to get all nervous and shaky at first, and won’t even eat the treats I am holding in his face.

Eventually, the little dude emboldens himself and starts trying to make a valliant escape effort.  Too bad I foil him every time!  Mwa ha ha ha.

Puppeh Update

Egon and I had our appointment at the vet this morning, and he took some skin scrapings and checked to rule out mange (which I had previously thought was some gross infectious disease, but it turns out that it’s just what happens when the naturally-occurring mites in the puppy’s skin get out of whack), and, relief, there is no mange. We probably don’t have to worry about the thyroid issue, either, because he is too young for that to be a problem. The vet did notice some dry seborrhea (flakes and rough skin) in a couple of small areas, so I came home with some fancy shampoo and some things which, in vet lingo, are called “hair caps.”  That sounds like some puppy fashion accoutrement — maybe a few accessories for his coiffure, diminished though it may be — but in reality they’re just some capsules filled with fatty acids to promote a healthy coat.  This means Egon will have to get a bath with the fancy shampoo every week or two and have a “hair cap” every day with his dinner.  No biggie. The vet also said it could just be the thinning hair that some dachshunds get, nothing you can do about it, not a health concern, etc. So, basically, Egon is healthy and maybe his hair will thicken up with the supplements and shampoo, but maybe it won’t.

All of this cost me one hundred much-needed, reluctantly-relinquished dollars.  While I could bitch about how ridiculous it is to charge me thirty bucks for the vet to look at a damned slide under a damned microscope — a process that took five whole minutes — on top of the forty-seven dollar basic charge, I’ll refrain from complaining for two reasons: first, my vet is great; he always remembers each of his patients and is generally kind and clearly loves animals, so I am certainly not looking for a new vet; second, part of the whole having-a-pet thing is the commitment to spending money to take care of it, and when we adopt a pet we all know what we’re getting into.  (Well, we should, anyway, except for those despicable people who think they want a “cute puppy” or whatever and then wind up neglecting or abusing it when it barks or pees on the carpet.  Like, surprise, asshat, that’s what puppies do!  I want to effing cut those people.)

Neglect your pets and Egon will cut you!

So!  The new shoes I wanted will just have to wait until next month.  Thankfully, February (shitty month that it is) is blessedly short, so “next month” just means “later this week.”

When I get home from school, Egon is getting a bath.  Maybe photos will ensue!  I am thinking only of your entertainment.

Little Eegs Is Not Just the President of the Company; He's Also a Client.

Calipers and the Possibility of Fabulous Prizes

Workers of the World Unite! You Have Nothing To Lose but Your Frames.

My teaching fellowship at the university means that I am in a union. I rarely attend meetings (only occasionally having shown up for the free pizza and beer), rarely vote, and in fact I rarely even think about this fact. This week, however, I must say that I am fairly thrilled with the union and the collective bargaining and the hey-hey, because I have purchased a new pair of glasses at a ridiculously cheap price. We are lucky enough to get decent health insurance, including dental and vision benefits, and it seems that the coverage gets slightly better every year. This year, I discovered, we got an additional $50 discount on the cost of … something, I don’t know. Anyway, my point is this: There was an extra fifty dollars I wasn’t expecting, and I was able to choose fancier, schmancier frames than I had thought, and yea verily it doth please me.

I have had the same glasses for at least six years now and although I love them, it is time for a change. I’m not getting rid of these, because really, I love them, but also because I paid an arm and a leg for them so I plan on eventually bequeathing them to my grandchildren. Nonetheless, I thought it might be nice to have a pair of frames that weren’t so quirky and so distinctive and so freaking loud that no one bothered to look at my actual face. You know? Countless times I have run into someone while I was wearing contacts, someone who had only previously seen me in my specs, and they have failed to even recognize me. That will make a person feel small all right. Other than grabbing their shoulders and shaking them while hollering into their imperceptive faces WHAT AM I? JUST A PAIR OF QUIRKY SPECTACLES TO YOU? I HAVE A FACE, TOO, YOU KNOW!, I thought I might do with a pair of more professional-type frames. I will be picking them up on Friday, and trewely that doth please me, too.

I suppose all those union dues over the years are adding up: maybe I will consider voting in the next election, or even attending an other meeting (only with the promise of pizza and beer, of course; a girl has got to have standards).

?????????? ???? ?????, ????????????!

On Love, Tulips, and a Clean Bar of Soap

(Because apparently one is meant to talk about love this time of year.)

I don’t write too much about my dating life, mostly because I don’t exactly have one at the moment.  For me, it has historically been (as the silly saying goes) feast or famine.  I am either entangled in a bunch of scandalousness, likely as not stepping out on at least one person, or I am alone for extended lengths of time, likely not even looking for anyone.  Lately, it has been the latter situation, mainly because I don’t know anyone I would consider dating who is single and not already my friend.  I think this singleton life is just fine, because after the slew of unsavory dudes I had been dating before this recent phase, I think I deserve some damned time off.

The hits of the past include, but are not limited to: possessive control-freaks, drug addicts, felons, bi-polar alcoholics, dudes with girlfriends, dudes who never want to ever have a girlfriend, dudes who are also hitting on my girl friends, and dudes who split up with me and then slept with other dudes.  I have been in dubious long-term, long-distance relationships; strange short-term relationships that were always just on the cusp of something intriguing; relationships where I only saw him every two weeks (but for twenty-four hours at a time, wink wink); relationships that were such a secret from everyone uninvolved that I often wondered if I was imagining them; and relationships (and I wished I was imagining these!) where I was afraid to ever look in the dude’s refrigerator, toilet, or shower.  I have split up with dudes I happily never saw or heard from again; dudes who remained my best friends for a dozen years after the fact; dudes who dated slews of nineteen-year-old skanks after me, only to suddenly realize at the point of some “life-changing” event that it was me they still “loved,” so they snuck up behind me and dropped an anvil-like love-letter on me from the safe remove of a mailbox thousands of miles away.

So, yeah, I needed a break.

It’s not that things had been all bad — not at all.  I have been with amazing people; some of my favorite people; some of the best, funniest, smartest, kindest people I know.  And the moments!  Oh, the moments!  The moments you know you have to remember, so you do; you write about them and draw them out and color them in and play them back time after time, because they are the tiniest moments and they contain so much.

You don’t have to try so hard, though, because they are moments that can write themselves into your memories and into your chemical composition without your knowing.  They are the memories you come back to again and again, when you need them, when everything else seems total shit and you have to explain to yourself once more why you don’t kick his alcoholic, commitment-phobic, deceitful, secretly-gay, felonious ass to the curb already, because fuck it all, dude ain’t going to change.  And you know that.

It’s easy when you’ve been single for a while to forget about the whole dating thing — after all, there is only so much time in a week, and it’s more than enough to squeeze in a PhD and teaching and writing and a part-time job and friends, and it’s impossible to imagine giving any of that up (or even just partially shirking it) for something about which you feel completely ambivalent.  I mean, love is awful, isn’t it? It can be all pain and anxiety and sacrifice (but it can also be a gleeful, bubbly stomach and goosebumps and moments of complete solace or pleasure or elevation or all of those at once). It’s fucking exhausting, and you just have to forget about it all, because everything else you have has got you full-to-bursting and, in this moment of selfishness, you can only tend to yourself.

I totally bought these for myself.

I totally bought these for myself.

It’s just as easy, though, to get sour on the whole idea, fixating on things like the utterly insignificant but telling fact that in the last ten years, the only people who have given you flowers are your mother and your college roommate, and both of those bouquets were given on the same day, making that a ratio of approximately 3549 flowerless days to 1 flowerful day. And all that would mean nothing, except that, embarrassingly enough, you care.

It seems hard to end this discussion, not because I don’t know where it’s going, but because I don’t exactly know where I’m going.  But I can’t exactly sit around forever waiting for someone else to come to the rescue with a bunch of red tulips when they are there — right there! — at the grocery store. So I take things into my own hands (heh), I open my own pickle jars and squish my own spiders and check my own oil in the car. I try not to get sour, and I try to stay on this comfortable even keel, which is a good life: sleeping diagonally across the big, big, too-big bed and puttering around in the mornings, talking to the cat and the dog, walking around in my underwear, and never, ever finding someone else’s pubes stuck to the soap.

Home Repair Update!

I have kicked the ass of my stupid fluorescent lights, though only after much Sturm und Drang.  I won’t bother telling you all about the entire closet full of crap I had to empty out just to access my step stool so I could reach the light in the first place, but you can trust that that little venture was, in fact, extremely annoying. (Though I do now have a clean hall closet, which is nice.)

Of course, I would have had to clean out an entire drawer full of tools and junk to get to my tape measure, so I didn’t wind up measuring the bulbs, which meant when I got to Target (where I wound up buying a bunch of other junk, too, because Target is Like That) I had to guess at what size to buy.  At first I thought the 48″ size looked right, but then I remembered the lesson learned so many times when buying furniture or electronics — things always seem much larger in my small apartment than they do in the massive department stores.  So, I bought the 36″ size, which, as you can guess, turned out to be wrong.  When I finally got back from my second trip to Target (where I had managed to buy still more unnecessary items — Hello Alias Season Five!) with the correct 48″ bulbs I then had to wrestle the cover off and remove the bulbs, which were, predictably, kind of stuck and also sort of weirdly slippery, then I crammed the new bulbs in and VICTORY WAS MINE.

I then successfully carried the old bulbs out to the garbage and recycling area, where I had my choice of about 15 different receptacles to dispose of them, not least of which is our massive compactor, which I have named Hurley, because he stinks so bad that you have to open the door, run back ten paces, and hurl your trash bag into the opening while holding your breath,  Hence, Hurley.  Anyway, I knew I couldn’t rely on Hurley to dispose of the bulbs because, duh, he is a compactor and if the bulbs were to break in there all of the lead and mercury and polonium-210 would spread all over the place, surely hurting all of the adorable little street urchins who sleep in the compactor at night.  None of the dumpsters seemed right either, so I wound up just propping the bulbs against the fence where people put their large items, hoping the waste management dudes would see them and know what to do.  I think they’re in a safe enough place where they won’t tip over and break, killing the whole neighborhood, because that would be so, so awful, except that it kind-of wouldn’t.

Anyway!  I now have light in my kitchen and I am getting ready to celebrate that fact by cooking some dinner.  Thanks for the tips, everybody!

Home Repair Advice Needed

So, I have never had fluorescent lightbulbs before now, and I have decided that I hate them.  The ones in my kitchen have gone all funny and dim — BOTH bulbs in the fixture.  I assume they need to be changed, but I know fluorescent bulbs are weird and dangerous and they explode and spray mercury and lead all in your face and shit.  I think I have to call the FBI or the EPA or Greenpeace to come and collect the old bulbs, and they are probably going to want a copy of my credit report and finger prints.

Seriously, though: the internet is of no help on this matter, at least not while the ehow.com article on the subject (the ONLY useful-looking google hit) is down.  I don’t even know how to remove the bulbs or how to even, like, touch them. The only info I found was about how dangerous they were, so now I am afraid of them, and no one can tell me how to CHANGE THE DAMNED BULBS ALREADY.  Does Target even have fluorescent bulbs?  I have never noticed them there.  Do they come in different sizes? Are they super expensive? Do they involve science?

Help me, for I am dumb and I can’t see in my own kitchen.

[Insert joke about how many academics it takes to change a lightbulb here.]

Dog Birthday!