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Feb 28, 2012; Asks:

Stacey, For my Literature midterm, one of the stories we are writing about is "A Groupie, A Rockstar." I was just curious your viewpoint on a couple of the questions. I love to write but it is always interesting to me how people interpret what I'm trying to say. So I thought it would be cool to go straight to the source. A couple of the questions I have written answers to are: 1. What does the pool represent and how does it affect Richters message on empowerment? 2. Which gender is more powerless according to the story? I just thought it would make the paper more interesting if I could throw a quote in the paper from you directly. Thanks for your time.

Stacey answers:

Hi dbs, Those are great questions. Let's take them one by one. 1) The pool represents airports and air travel in general, and it affects Richter's message of empowerment by implying that flight and the upper perspective of those in airplanes are impending in the narrative, leading to soaring of the protagonist. 2) The more powerless gender, according to the story, is the gender lady. This is because the pearls around her neck threaten to choke her.

Feb 27, 2012; Tom Asks:

In the novel Venus On The Half Shell, sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout poses the question: Why are we born only to suffer and die (or at least something along those lines)? In your opinion as an observer of the human condition, do you believe we are born only to suffer and die? Or is existential pain just part of being human? And who would win a fight between cavemen and pirates?

Stacey answers:

Wasn't Kilgore Trout Kurt Vonnegut? Is that a novel-within-a-novel Tom? I think you've overtaken Liam as my main question-asker. Thank you for carrying the mantle.

Yeah, maybe we were born for suffering and death, but obviously we weren't only born for that. We were also born to drink and reproduce, eat, sniff, walk around, as well as to sleep, dream, sweat, talk, kiss, and sing tunelessly to ourselves (and possibly others). I feel like Kilgore Trout's question presupposes a Christian God who plopped us down here--he's a big guy, real powerful--and then makes us suffer and die, which, granted, seems mean. But there are other viewpoints. If the Buddhists are right, then we were born for rapture, and all our mucking around with suffering and death is basically our own problem.

Saying we were born only to suffer and die seems kind of negative. Even I don't think that, though I suffer more than most people (physically--though not as much as some other folks, poor dears) because of the smashed disk in my back. From where I stand, existential pain sounds great. I don't mean to pull a I'm-in-physical-pain-so-I-win-over-your-emotional-pain: it doesn't. Emotional pain is the pits, but it's flexible. It responds to meds, dogs, love, springtime, chocolate, cigarettes. If you want to make it really fade out, all you have to do is make some part of your body hurt a lot. Voila, no more existential pain!

Pirates would win. They have metal.

Feb 16, 2012; Tom Asks:

Are you familiar with the work of Jodi Picoult? If so, what is your opinion of her writing? A friend highly recommends her, but I have a slight concern that eighteen novels in approximately twenty years cannot be indicative of quality. Who knows, maybe she is wildly prolific. Or, like the novelist in "The Diviners", her books are team written.

Stacey answers:

I haven't read anything by Jodi Picoult. It doesn't seem like my thing, but who knows? Though I am tempted to judge books, many books, before reading them, I've been humbled by that stupid habit so many times that I've had to give it up. Also, I'm deeply suspicious of the tendency, even among writers who are themselves women, to denigrate books by women that seem to focus on love and the domestic trials of women. Really, what the fuck? That's great subject matter. Great books have been written on that subject matter! Most books are about that stuff in the end (unless they're about pirates). And there's nothing wrong with describing a character's hair and clothes and favorite kind of ice cream. It says a lot, and Updike wouldn't hesitate to do it. That's all I got on this one.

Feb 14, 2012; Ryan L. Asks:

I recently read "The Rememberer", by Aimee Bender. I was just wondering how much of that story did you think was strictly metaphor and how much of it was strange surrealism fiction. It almost felt to me like Bender was encrypting a message while at the same time exercising her "science fiction-type" writing method. Your thoughts?

Stacey answers:

Hi Ryan, I just re-read the story (finally). Even before re-reading it, I would have given the same answer: it's all metaphor. Everything is--that's how our minds make connections between emotions and thoughts, memories and experience, love and loss, monkeys and men (which I would say is what the story is about).

Some metaphors are stronger than others (because they're new or startling or apt), while others get a little fuzzy at the edges or drift into one another. Maybe those kind strike you as a conscious attempt to be strange? My guess is that's what you mean by "strange surrealism," but I see it all as a part of art. Allowing things to be a little fuzzy or drifty is part of leaving room for meaning. If you clamp down too hard on a metaphor, it goes away, or else becomes simile and then dies.

Sometimes you have to keep reading an author to see what she's up to with her language and images--especially with a story like this, so short, with a honey-eating salamander.

Feb 09, 2012; Tom Asks:

Last Murakami question. I promise. Have you seen the film version of Norwegian Wood? If so, how is it?

Stacey answers:

No. I didn't even know there was one! I haven't read the book either, though I want to. I hope I live long enough to read all the books I want to read, or even half the books. More of them. And so we bring the discussion back to death.

Jan 31, 2012; Lauren Asks:

Hi Stacey. Wanted to write back and thank you for your answer. I don't know why it is exactly, being young and with a life ahead of me and all that jazz, or perhaps because of those things, but fear is definitely a more prominent emotion in my life than it used to be. And uncertainty. I think your comments helped release a little anxiety, in that there is some paradoxical comfort in knowing you can't control very much, and especially not another person. Unless you're crazy manipulative. Even then. You wrote that it's great to find books that feel like a part of your life. Which books would those be for you? I have always felt like certain poems resurface again and again. Lately, Borges' "Limits" and Larkin's "Aubade". If they seem dark, re:fear. I also like Piet Hein's Grooks which are lovely and silly and funny. I'll leave you with one (but it's incomplete because a grook is technically a poem with a drawing) A Toast The soul may be a mere pretense, the mind makes very little sense. So let us value the appeal of that which we can taste and feel.

Stacey answers:

Thank you for the Grook! But I really love Larkin's "Aubade": Death, death, death! So Lauren, your question about which books have been a part of my life left me stumped. The problem is that they all feel like part of my life, even the ones I don't like very much. But, overall, anything dark, humorous, and/or darkly humorous makes me feel like I'm not the last freak of my kind on the planet. Lately I've been loving Martin Amis for this, but the list is long and constantly changing.

Jan 28, 2012; Pickles, Pickles, Pickles Asks:

The first paragraph of your answer to Lauren is so Groucho Marx that I was looking for attribution. Who would you say are your comedic heroes?

Stacey answers:

It's true though, all the stuff about the cat. I know what you mean, Pickles, but I'm not exactly trying to be funny, but maybe Groucho wasn't always exactly trying either. As for old Jewish men, I like Jackie Mason, or at least I love his "I look like a hooker" joke (I'd tell it but you need the intonation for it to make sense).

My favorite comedy is usually a little surreal and sometimes not-funny in a way that makes it more funny to me. I kind of like early Woody Allen--though mostly I just love Annie Hall. I love anything that seems to be the product of a demented child-brain, like Andy Kaufman (Mighty Mouse is on Youtube) and of course "Kittens Inspired by Kittens." I love Louis C.K. and his brilliant show Louie, and though I've never immersed myself in the Kids in the Hall oeuvre, I've watched the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy a dozen times--not sure I can explain that. I love Kathy Griffin; she's funny but what I'm in total awe of is her bullshit detector. I once saw her making fun of a spokesperson on Larry King. It was an amazing TV moment, watching her say what she really thought; it was kind of wild.

As for funny writers, I love Diane Johnson and find Le Divorce especially wonderful. I loved Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow. That was funny, funny, smarty-pants funny, especially the part about Pride and Prejudice. I won't spoil it; maybe you'll read it someday.

Jan 23, 2012; Murakami is incredible! Asks:

Thank you for the suggestion. I started The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and all I can say, pardon the lack of imagination, is WOW!

Stacey answers:

Right on.

Jan 18, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Are artist ever happy? Maybe they would be if they had a good Pirate novel to read. A real swashbuckler that gives them something to do besides their work.

Stacey answers:

Good point. I don't know why pirate novels aren't popular anymore--maybe they were never popular. Pirates seem at least as cool as vampires, though they don't get to live forever and wear fancy gowns. They might not even get to take showers.

But even a thrilling swashbuckler probably wouldn't make most artists happy. They might be temporarily amused, then go back to brooding. I don't know if artists are ever happy. I don't know any happy artists (but if I met one I'd kill him). I don't think I even know any happy people (but if I did I might not like them). I think I might need to get out more.

Jan 18, 2012; Tom Hancock Asks:

Which Haruki Murakami work should I read first? A Wild Sheep Chase seems interesting. Then again, they all do.

Stacey answers:

I've heard A Wild Sheep's Chase is good but haven't read it. I might have started it and been put off by the business of the first chapter being about a guy making a cup of coffee. That was before I understood that every Murakami novel begins with a long, boring, detailed section and then slowly becomes more strange. Pretty much everyone likes The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because it's so amazing. I say read that. The Elephant Vanishes, a story collection, is also really great. I wouldn't recommend Kafka on the Shore (because talking cats should say things like, "Why are you starving me to death when my little nose is so sweet?", not, "You are taking too much of my time sir," like snooty headwaiters) and the gigantic 1Q84, which has cool parts but is wildly repetitive.

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