I Pay Rapt Attention

Thoughts on Music, Literature, and (dreaded) Self-Reflection

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on June 24, 2009
Is it just me, or is the majority of popular music written in a range suited for most women? That is to say, I’ve noticed that over the years, the popularity of certain bands experiences an abrupt increase once they change the key of their songs to accomodate the typical female range (see also: Death Cab for Cutie, etc etc) There are obviously notable exceptions to this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.


I recently finished Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I really like Marianne Wiggins. Her prose is gorgeous and she has the capacity to write some of the most beautiful and expansive sentences I’ve ever encountered. I’m a huge fan of The Shadow Catcher. In that context, Evidence of Things Unseen was surprisingly disappointing. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad book- it’s actually quite good. The characters are compelling and she makes some interesting moves throughout her narrative about this couple building a life together post-WWII. Yet even as she painstakingly produces the voice of the characters in their thoughts and their dialogues with each other, she completely ruins the practical-country-folk-with-quirky-scientific-interests by giving them her trademark beautiful language. This isn’t to say that I don’t think them/that type of person incapable of expansive thoughts or beautiful language- it’s just remarkably out of character and doesn’t fit with the other things they’ve thought and said. Wiggins’ prose gets away from her, and it’s disappointing, considering how well she managed it in the Shadow Catcher. Oh well. It’s always disappointing to realize that you may have discovered an author’s best work first- the others are unfortunately diminished by comparison.

UPDATE: At least Shadow Catcher was more recent, and thus represents an improvement over her earlier work. I am slightly less disappointed.

What I’m reading now:

Zelda by Nancy Milford; Underworld by Don Delillo; House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski


As part of the process of writing essays for business school, I’ve been forced to think a lot about two relatively nebulous and thus uncomfortable topics: my past accomplishments, and what I hope to achieve in the future. I’ve had no problem articulating what I’ve learned from mistakes, or the trajectory of my academic career, but trying to identify my three most significant achievement is particularly problematic. I’m not trying to imply that I think I’ve accomplished nothing- I consider a lot of things I’ve done to be significant, at least to me. The issue is more attempting to find the balance between the things I find important (which tend to be more intangible and related to the relationships I have with people) and concrete projects that might be impressive to an admissions committee. As for my future plans, well- I don’t have to answer the question about my career vision. In fact, I probably won’t. But its presence made me stop and think a lot about why I’m even applying for this program in the first place. I know it appealed to me in that it built in 2 years of work prior to going back to school, but still guaranteed that I’d have a place if I wanted it. But why business school at all? It’s still a little unclear, but here’s what I came up with:

1. Business is a profession that appeals to me. I navigate complicated structures with relative ease, I’m a social person, and the types of problems that appear in a business situation appeal to me. I believe that communication between a business and its clients (or employees, for that matter) is incredibly interesting, and has the potential to be important. Also, I like delegating.

2. At present, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t feel I’m in a place to develop them yet. I’d rather take existing entities and make them better. In several of my recent jobs, I’ve essentially acted as an internal consultant, and I really enjoyed the experience. I like dropping into a situation or organization and identifying problems or solutions that had been overlooked because of the culture of a company. I like clarifying the vision of others, and helping provide next steps to achieve it. To put it bluntly: At this point in my life, creating a business of my own feels like having a child, and I’m not ready to be a mother.

 Thus: If I want to be involved in business, but do so in the capacity of engaging with existing organizations and improving them, I could stand to use an MBA. I’ll learn things there that could be helpful, and I’ll get to meet people who could be helpful later.  Also, I can always change my mind.
A final note about current events:

-There are rumors that BART might go on strike because of potential paycuts. I know that paycuts are unfortunate, but they’re happening everywhere. The UC system is taking 8% paycuts across the board. As someone dealing with the impending unemployment of a family member and all of its repercussions, I say: suck it up. At least you have jobs. And relatively high-paying ones at that. If you go on strike, hundreds of other people (ok, I) can’t go to work. In this economy, that just doesn’t seem fair.

-North Korea is making me nervous, but that might be because I’m on the West Coast right now.

-I can’t come up with anything interesting, original, or even particularly informed to say about Iran right now. I can’t even clarify my thoughts on the issue. But it certainly feels significant, and I’m interested to see what happens. I wish I thought the outcome (either way) would mean much for women’s rights or attitudes towards the West, but I honestly don’t.




I’m back! (also, my word count is currently 666. Creepy.)

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on December 21, 2008

So apparently posting from school didn’t work out so well for me this semester. It’s been a while, let’s say. Regardless,  I’m back in California for the next several weeks, and finally have access to a computer again. I apparently have the worst luck with laptop monitors that has ever existed- both of my laptops have been put out of commission by problems with their screens. Sigh.

Anyway, what a crazy ride the last few months have been, right? There’s the economy, and everything happening in Mumbai, and that awful movie Twilight. That’s right, I saw it. In fact, it was so bad, I saw it twice. I’ve never had to do that before, but I suppose there’s a first time for anything. I simply couldn’t believe it was as atrocious as it was after the first viewing. Needless to say,  I wasn’t wrong. Who knew an American accent could be so bad? (That’s right, I’m looking at you, Robert Pattison) Who knew vampires glittered?  At least Australia had Hugh Jackman going for it…

While we’re on the subject of movies, I will say that Slumdog Millionaire was incredible. The movie ranges from depictions of abject squalor to startling wealth, showing along the way both the briefest glimpse of the range of Indian society and a truly compelling story about the power of human ingenuity and feeling. There are poop jokes and religious killings, blindings and riding on trains. I can’t even express how worthwhile this movie was. Go see it. I’m seeing it again.

In the absence of my computer, I was fortunate enough to get a lot of reading done. What is finals period for, right?  I finally finished The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano. It’s a wonderful book (if a bit sluggish in the middle) and incidentally, I’ve finished just in time for two new Bolano translations to appear- what’s being touted as his magnum opus, 2666, and a collection of his poetry, The Romantic Dogs. I’ve also been fortunate enough to read a collection of his short stories entitled Last Evenings on Earth, so I can safely say that based on that and Detectives, I’m looking forward to reading these new works. Bolano somehow manages to write obsessively about the same topics or characters (usually struggling writers and their interactions with others of their ilk) without driving me crazy. This is an impressive feat, considering how short my attention span is.

Yet perhaps the most wonderful piece of writing I’ve read recently was The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins. Wiggins has a way of stringing together words that’s truly moving. I found myself wandering around reading the first page of the book outloud to my suitemates, trying to figure out exactly what it was in her prose that was compelling. Let’s just say that it’s pretty enough that my suitemates didn’t mind (which is also saying something, considering that they were studying for finals…) Regardless, it’s a beautiful book, and I’m currently desperately trying to get my hands on a copy of “Evidence of Things Unseen” as a result.

Other books consumed in the last month: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson, Women with Men by Richard Ford, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander, The Book of Ralph by John McNally, The Burning Plain by Juan Rulfo (and many more)

It’s raining here, so lightly that I can hardly tell. Instead, the sky seems to flicker outside my window. It’s an odd effect. I’ve got to plan my trip to Southern California now, but I’ll be back to talk about my classes (Digital Literature and Graphic Forms and Advanced Fiction Writing oh my!) and the GMAT (terror!) and my fantasies of throwing dinner parties (which are more exciting than you might expect) and perhaps even the new projects I have in the works. Who knows? There may even be a graphic novel adaptation of the only good short story I ever wrote. Featuring old robots, no less.