I would rather pull out all my eyelashes than…

  1. Do a DIY craft project.
  2. Watch another reality TV show about rich, stupid people.
  3. Listen to someone express his or her undying adoration for the genius of Ayn Rand.
  4. Wear shorts.
  5. Watch the Food Network. Or any cooking show, for that matter.
  6. Iron my clothes.
  7. Listen to people talk about what they would have done differently in a pro sporting event.
  8. Pull hair out of the shower drain. (Thanks, Guion!)
  9. Go to the gym.
  10. Watch broadcast TV news.
  11. Sew anything.
  12. Take seriously any of the NRA’s policy recommendations.
  13. Listen to Mumford & Sons.
  14. “Play” in the snow.
  15. Run.

Hot-button issues

I love finding people who keep their Issues and Causes very close to themselves; the people who start long, passionate conversations if you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to mention a word that triggers them. You said the word “corn” and all of the sudden you’re locked in an hour-long conversation about the evil machinations of the FDA and big agribusiness. I like finding these people because they make me feel a bit less alone. They remind me that maybe I’m not the only person who has to rein herself in (often unsuccessfully) during conversations.

I probably care too much about things that I don’t know that much about. I was realizing this today. I am too quick to express my quickly formed opinions.

And so I write this list to caution you. These are the things that could trigger a brutally long and vehement conversation with me. You have been warned.

  • Any permutation on the topic of dogs. (Dog breeds, training, health, adoption, behavior, psychology, etc.)
  • Why Ayn Rand isn’t worth a second of anyone’s time.
  • Law school.
  • Homeschooling.
  • Mega-churches fixated on growth.
  • Reproductive rights.
  • Why paper and ink books still matter.
  • Christians judging other Christians for being on birth control.
  • Sororities and fraternities.
  • What I’ve been reading lately.
  • Anti-women policies and practices of conservatives.
  • Childhood obesity.
  • Dolphins.
  • Underpaid teachers.

Anyone else? Do you have “hot-button issues” that invariably embroil you in desperate, heated discussions–almost against your will? I hope I’m not the only one…

Monday Snax

Love
Alex and Kelsey came for a weekend visit!
Sister time
Nothing is better than time with one's sisters!

We had a delightful (if extremely hot) weekend with Kelsey and Alex. They are a lot of fun and I’m so glad they were able to drive up for a few days. We ate dinner, grabbed dessert and drinks at The Local, sweated around downtown, and introduced them to the joys of “Friday Night Lights”–and didn’t want them to leave! In other exciting news, though, Win is moving most of his stuff today into his swanky house in town. Our crafty plan is to get all of our family members to move to Charlottesville… so far, it’s working. A few more photos on Flickr.

Snax with lemonade so refreshing you wish you could just bathe in it:

When All Is Lovely. Oh, nothing. Just pictures of my dream life, that’s all. (La Porte Rouge)

Elmwood in July. Can I live here, too? All peonies and rowboats in the mist? (An Apple a Day)

A Dinner Party. Amazing things like this happen all the time in Charlottesville. Sarah of JohnSarahJohn writes a guest post for The Charlotte about a classy party she threw at the new store on Main Street. (The Charlotte)

A Cube with a Clever Layout. With the help of a Japanese designer, UVA graduate Alison Threatt builds this crazy house in the woods outside of Charlottesville. Featured on the New York Times this past week. (NYT Home and Garden)

Height and Cancer. So, I used to be proud of the fact that I was a tall woman. No more! Because now I’m going to DIE of CANCER. For sure. (The Hairpin)

Molly Stern: On Makeup and Motherhood. A down-to-earth makeup artist to all the biggest celebrities talks about how she juggles her looks-driven career and her children. (Girl’s Gone Child)

Mark Twain’s Illustrated “Advice to Little Girls.” Twain provides some tongue-in-cheek advice to his daughters, presumably. (Flavorwire)

It’s a Bunny’s World. Indeed. Totally getting a precious house rabbit like this lop one day. I wonder how a German shepherd would deal with that… (Pawsh Magazine)

Cats vs. Dogs: Infographic. I mean, clearly, dogs win here. (The Hydrant)

Seeking Redemption One Kernel at a Time. A food blogger says some nice things about much-maligned corn. I concur. There’s nothing so great in July as corn on the cob. (The Sweet Beet)

A Visit to the Chocolate. Where is this? Can I go right now? (Andrew + Carissa)

Riding Bikes While Wearing Skirts. I am also a huge proponent of this practice. Although, perhaps, I am too enthusiastic about it, as I once mistakenly tried to ride my bike around campus in a wrap dress. Yes. I sufficiently flashed the entire student body and not a few significant professors at UNC that day. (A Cup of Jo)

If Women Ruled the World. As a feminist, I’m not supposed to like this, but… it’s funny. (And probably true?) (French By Design)

Sandra Reichl: A Face a Day. Someone should write stories about these people. What a cool project. (Design Work Life)

A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know about “Friday Night Lights.” For instance, that “Taylor Kitsch earned the part of Tim Riggins by chugging two tall boys in his audition video.” But should that surprise anyone? No. (Flavorwire)

Texas Forever. A meditation on Tim Riggins–in the Paris Review! Love it. And this, because truthfully, we have all prayed the same prayer:

When I lie in bed at night and imagine white-bearded God making his earthly presence known at the foot of my futon, he asks, “And what is your deepest desire, young man?” I say, “Lord of all things, king of the universe, purveyor of rain, and pain, and occasional love, would you be so kind as to turn me into Tim Riggins?”  (The Paris Review)

A Critic’s Notebook: On Meeting Ayn Rand’s Editor at Antioch College. A funny and illuminating conversation with Ayn Rand’s editor. This exchange I particularly loved:

Do you want to know why Ayn Rand’s books sell so well? he [Rand’s editor] countered.

Well, yes.

Because she writes the best children’s literature in America, O’Connor said. The Fountainhead is practically a rite of passage for alienated youth. She writes these epic, Wagnerian things. Where the sex takes place on the very highest plane and it speaks to the kids’ highest aspirations, their youthful idealism. It’s all YA stuff.

In that case, I argued, people should grow out of her, like a phase, they should get over her ideas when they become adults.

This is America, he said. There aren’t many ideas. Ayn Rand had a few simple ones which she believed in fiercely and promoted relentlessly. (The Millions)

Happy, hot Monday!

Monday Snax

Valentine's lilies from G. They make me so, so happy.

Happy random holiday! President’s Day, right? Easily the most pointless “holiday” on our national calendar, but I got today off, so I will take it. Merci, Washington.

The weather in Charlottesville has FINALLY started to carry a hint of spring. It’s been very blustery, but I will take the wind, since it brings with it 60-70 degree days. But this joy, of course, cannot last long. We’re supposed to get SNOW tomorrow. Curses.

Snax and some toast spackled with apple butter:

Best of Breed, the Westminster Dog Show Photos. Um, OF COURSE I looked at all of these and of course I am going re-post this here. I’ve always gotten mercilessly mocked by Dave and my father for loving dog shows (lots of quotes from “Best in Show” thrown at me), but I am unapologetic in my love for them. These are great portraits, too.

The Dogs and Humans of the Westminster Kennel Club Show. And if you haven’t had enough, enjoy NY Mag’s snarky take on the whole affair. (NY Magazine)

Books That Rocked Your World at 16 But Fall Flat Now. I’m posting this as a follow-up to my brief Ayn Rand bits. Please note the first novel that’s mentioned in this list. Um, yes. Just trying to make the case again that no one thinks it’s a worthwhile piece of literature. (Flavorwire)

Twenty-Six Birds and a Fence. Grace took this photograph in New Zealand and I’m amazed; I just love it. The silhouette is just perfect. You should all be following her budding photography portfolio online! (Grace Farson: Photography Portfolio)

Beauty Products. I realized the other day that I really love makeup. I don’t really wear a lot of it, but I could spend an obscene amount of money on it. In this post, Kate provides a helpful guide of her favorite makeup and it made my fingers itch to try some of it. (For Me, For You)

Old Photo Love. Everyone’s been posting about this project, but I’m going to do it again, because it’s so fun. Photographer Irina Werning has people reenact photographs of themselves as children and the results are delightful. (Bleubird Vintage)

On the Street, East 26th St., New York. I don’t normally post stuff from The Sartorialist, because everybody already reads it, but I am LOVING the way this girl looks. She owns it. (The Sartorialist)

Uniform-Clad Nationalists at Yasukuni Shrine. I spent an afternoon here at Yasukuni Jinja while in Tokyo (my photos here). Yasukuni is the highly controversial national war memorial. These photos were very chilling to me–the severity of the men’s faces among the falling snow and so forth. (Tokyo Times)

Competitive Reading. Guion keeps telling me how hilarious “Portlandia” is; this clip alone will resonate with most of us borderline hipsters. (The Book Bench)

Nancy-tines. I love Kate Beaton’s general fixation with Nancy Drew. I never liked her books growing up, and so I feel rather pleased to see her taken on with such gleeful sarcasm. (Hark, a Vagrant!)

Hold Your Water. The things people try to sell on Etsy never fails to amaze me. (Regretsy)

Washed Away. Pottery Barn really does sell some dumb stuff. (Catalog Living)

Better to Be a Ho. Daughter might get a job as a cab driver; her mother is none too pleased. (Postcards from Yo Momma)

The Maltese Falcon and hyper-masculine novels

For the church classics book club, we’re reading Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective novel, The Maltese Falcon. I’m not a big fan. I actually roll my eyes at just about everything the protagonists do. For example, take this exchange:

She suddenly moved close to him on the settee and cried angrily: “Can I buy you with my body?”

Their faces were a few inches apart. Spade took her face between his hands and he kissed her mouth roughly and contemptuously. Then he sat back and said: “I’ll think it over.” His face was hard and furious.

Or this one:

Spade’s arms went around her, holding her to him, muscles bulging his blue sleeves, a hand cradling her head, its fingers half lost among red hair, a hand moving groping fingers over her slim back. His eyes burned yellowly.

Um, barf. Most of the book sounds just like this, like it was written by an 11th-grade boy who is trying his hand at noir short stories.

Here we have the detective Sam Spade, 110% American male, fighting the dark forces with his cool masculinity. The dark forces, so far, happen to be embodied by a highly stereotyped man named Joel Cairo, who is usually just called “the Levantine” (had to look it up; old-fashioned term for someone from Israel, Lebanon, or Syria) and is just a prototypical image of the “Arab enemy.” It’s gross. And then we have Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the dame in the quotation above. You can pretty much guess that she’s always sexy and impulsive and pulling wads of cash out of her bra.

Some people like these kinds of novels. My dad, for instance, likes Ayn Rand and Clive Cussler. He’d probably like Dan Brown, too, if he had read him. It’s easy to see why Hollywood also likes these kinds of novels and is always adapting them into film; they read like run-of-the-mill screenplays. Authors like Rand, Cussler, Brown, and yes, Hammett, play into a formula in which one can simply plug in a number of variables–and then, poof! Bestselling novel. Add some grossly overused and stereotypical characters (uber-macho, dangerous man + voluptuous woman in need of rescue) and lots of guns, explosions, sex, and cliff-hanger moments and you’re golden.

Personally, I fundamentally reject the notion that literature can be crafted from such an easy set of variables. There’s a reason why Dashiell Hammett is remembered for basically inventing the detective novel genre, but there’s also a reason why no one remembers him as a great writer. The same goes for Ayn Rand, Clive Cussler, and Dan Brown. They write dramatic page-turners, but they don’t write great literature.

I kind of want someone to prove me wrong, though. Do you know of a novel that fits this general hyper-macho mold that is generally regarded as part of the literary canon? If so, why can it be included and not these others? Hemingway and Steinbeck come to mind as writers of hyper-masculine novels who are considered critical to the American canon. I think the differentiation between them and the crowd of thinly disguised screenwriters is that Hemingway and Steinbeck knew when to avoid a crippling stereotype and craft a deep, meaningful character. Any thoughts? Am I totally off-base in my utter disregard for this novel and those like it?

“The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get”

Flannery O’Connor takes down Ayn Rand.

Thank God for Flannery O’Connor. This is for Patrick, Dad, Dave, Alan Greenspan, and all the college freshmen who swear that “OMG, Atlas Shrugged changed my LIFE.” No, it didn’t. You just haven’t read real novels yet.

I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re: fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.

— Flannery O’Connor, talking about writing well here.