On Frances McDormand


1) I adore Frances McDormand.

2) Why is this NYT profile all about appearance and aging? (Hypocritically filtered through the lens of “she is fine with her appearance and aging.”) McDormand is an incredible actor; why is the profile about body image and neck tape?

3) It’s a travesty not to mention how strongly and confidently and screen-meltingly sexy she was in Laurel Canyon— it may be a “little-seen” film but I have seen it a lot. The contrast between McDormand and Kate Beckinsale in that film is a kind of sexual re-education, for Kate’s character and for us. Without attention to this role and this aspect of her acting, the profile perpetuates the star vs. character actor, sexy vs. not sexy binary that McDormand exists to disrupt. 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Drinks Sherry


I just read The Sweet Dove Died, which was published the year I was born. It’s the first novel I’ve read from Pym’s last years and it’s the saddest of her novels by far. It is also the best book I’ve read about a hag and her fag, and it made me miss the years my social life was full of gay men while simultaneously feeling grateful that the forms of love between women and gay men are not limited to the kind of pained romance depicted in the book. In other words I am grateful for friendship, which none of the characters in the novel seem capable of.

And I’m grateful for my extensive education in English literature if only for how it allows me to love this novel. I was reading along thinking “This is getting more Henry James by the minute,” and then I turned the page and there was a perfect Washington Square reference and I thought, oh Miss Pym I want to hug you, you are too good. “‘Leonora, I’m sure you read Henry James, he’s so very much your kind of novelist.’ ‘Of course one has read James.’” Of course one has. But I’d rather read Pym.

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We Have the Stars

My love letter to Now, Voyager— reposted for Bette Davis on the anniversary of her death. I have an old promotional photo of this image tacked to my bedroom door; for what could be better than hot dogs, therapy, and a blueprint for the future?

Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water–-peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing–-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.
Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (via invisibleforeigner)

Breakfast Reading


Breakfast reading is a raison d’être. It has to tip the balance between consciousness and unconsciousness, enough to make you not regret your choice to leave your bed. Telling yourself you have a job to do will get you up but won’t make you glad to be there; the right breakfast reading can make existence seem like a gift.

"Oh, this coming back to an empty house, Rupert thought, when he had seen her safely up to her door. People— though perhaps it was only women— seemed to make so much of it. As if life itself were not as empty as the house one was coming back to." 

Barbara Pym is the PERFECT antidote to Marilynne Robinson. But in a minute I’m plunging into Robinson again like some kind of sauna plunge from steam to snow or vice versa.

When I was a child I read books, and when I was no longer a child I kept reading them, and they have never failed me yet.

The Best Essay Ever Written on the Gilmore Girls


In honor of our #GilmoreGirlsonNetflix moment, I’m posting the best essay ever written on the Gilmore Girls, which is also one of my most-loved pieces of feminist cultural criticism: Virginia Heffernan’s take in the NYT (from back when the NYT had TV critics who loved TV), which I first read eight years ago and have never forgotten:

Indeed, that was the charm of the old show: women, fundamentally women without men, were compelled to talk as fast as they could to keep their loneliness at bay. The virtue of Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s shticky style was that it created characters who were new to television. In their purest incarnations, Lorelai and Rory shared the witty woman’s challenge: to architect a wall of words so high and so thick that no silence, no stares, no intimations of mortality or even love could penetrate it.

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(via ravinmaven)

Youtube Academic Survival Guide

Useful links I send my students:

For when you need a pep talk:
For when you need perspective on grades and academic stuff:
For when you’re doing your Daily Mirror Affirmations:
For when procrastination has you down:
For staying up late:
For when it’s time to rest:

Andrew W.K.: Party of One


Andrew sits

in the gloaming

nursing a scotch like


The wonderful Briallen Hopper recently published an essay called White People Problems in Killing the Buddha. Ms. Hopper’s piece was written in response to a column by Andrew W.K. Mr. W.K. has since published another column…


My badass friend Ash survives cancer and channels Beyoncé.

Andrew WK shared your essay on his Facebook!

Craziness! Thanks for letting me know!

White People Problems: A Time for Burning after Ferguson

I wrote about racism, privilege, cinéma vérité, and Andrew W.K. for Killing the Buddha.

That Uncanny Feeling When Someone Else Writes the Story of Your Life



by Brenda Shaughnessy

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Swim to a private island with a handsome stranger and tell him things you’ve never told anyone else

Myrna Loy and William PowellLibeled Lady  1936

Swim to a private island with a handsome stranger and tell him things you’ve never told anyone else


Myrna Loy and William Powell
Libeled Lady  1936

Quotenote: Bettye LaVette


"Pine, but pine hearty!" Bettye LaVette on romantic nostalgia.