This collection reminded me in many ways of Mikita Brottman’s short story collection, Thirteen Girls. I found myself curious about all the women in this collection, as I did when I read about the women who fell to serial killers in Brottman’s penetrating look at victims and the ways they are remembered. The titles of the poems are the names of the women they are about, and there were enough stories of women and children whose sorry tales I knew before reading this book to ensure I felt the power of the poems Tamblyn crafted to portray them. Seeing the most troublesome parts of their lives depicted in poetry forced me to rethink my attitudes towards some of the people Tamblyn wrote about.
For instance, “Lindsay Lohan.” Her poem is blank, an expanse of empty page under the title. At first it seemed almost like a joke, a jab at this crash-and-burn starlet’s lack of gravitas in her current role as media laughingstock. But upon reflection there was so much more involved in leaving the page empty. She’s still alive, still crashing and burning, and there is no sense that there will soon be an end to the wreckage of her life. As much as she is mocked in the press, she’s had the sort of life that should inspire empathy. But that doesn’t happen. Many people look at her and see a clown, a rich white girl who squandered all her chances, and there is some truth in that, but it’s not the sole truth about her.
Amber Tamblyn’s a few years older than Lindsay Lohan but they had similar beginnings – both had roles on soap operas when still children, and both began to get roles in movies geared toward younger audiences. How did Lohan end up a joke and Tamblyn end up still working, albeit writing and producing as much as she acts? Lohan’s shitty parents, determined to make a buck off their kids, played a role, as did the company young Lohan kept. Few made it out of the early-era Paris Hilton mob unscathed. Factor in drugs, mental illness, and a complete inability to keep addiction and illness under control and you end up with Lohan. Tamblyn’s parents knew more about the entertainment industry, and she was shaped by counter-culture influences that while embracing the entertainment industry still kept an honesty and authenticity about their lives, the sort of authenticity that makes hanging around with Paris unappealing.
It’s often a thin line that separates those who rise above and those who sink down and even her relatively fortunate background didn’t save Tamblyn from being hit on by James Woods when she was a teen. Knowing she and her friend were sixteen, James Woods evidently tried to lure the two to go to Las Vegas with him. She told him she was sixteen but that didn’t deter Woods. James Woods called Tamblyn a liar but she hit back harder, and interestingly he shut up when she did. After she refused to give any sort of quarter to his response that she lied, he likely thought the better of continuing the dialogue because the fury she unleashed upon him was both beautiful to behold and resulted in other actresses joining the #metoo revolt in his name, notably Elizabeth Perkins.
If Lindsay Lohan ever spoke up about the men whom her parents essentially sold her to in order to reap the rewards of her fame, would you care? Would you laugh? Would you think she was embellishing the story? She’s now essentially a yacht girl, and if you don’t know what that is, go look it up and ask what kind of shit must happen for an actress who started off so strongly, who had talent and beauty, to end up living such a life. By leaving that page blank, Tamblyn lets the reader construct their own poem about Lohan... ...more
This is an artifact of its time - published in 1971, it's very breathless and Age of Aquarius. So if you approach it with that in mind, it can be a deThis is an artifact of its time - published in 1971, it's very breathless and Age of Aquarius. So if you approach it with that in mind, it can be a delightful little book. The best article in this book is about Susy Smith's search for a talking cat named Whitey. This story serves as my second entry in my Halloween 2017 discussions on Odd Things Considered. Here's a snippet:
Before we begin in earnest, it needs to be said that the Whitey tale was verified by a certain Bennett William Palmer, a retired minister, and therefore more trustworthy than the average Floridian who hears cats talking to them. He vouched for Mr and Mrs James Deem (seriously, those were their names) so Susy flew to Florida, picked up the Good Reverend and drove on over to the Deem house. Sadly, Whitey did not speak while Susy was in his house, and his owners seemed skittish as well, but after the humans in the house realized that Susy Smith was not going to mock them for claiming their enormous white cat could talk, they began to open up to her.
Mr Deem found Whitey when he was a tiny kitten. Mrs Deem heard a pitiful meowing coming from near the house, and sent Mr Deem out into the rain to find Whitey, miserable and sick. Mr and Mrs Deem spent 48 hours nursing the wee kitten until they restored him to health. Whitey found his niche in the Deem household, a nice counter-balance to the Deems’ other cat, aptly named Blackie. Then, when Whitey was six months old, he began to talk.
…he jumped on the bed one morning and said, “I’m hungry.” Mrs. Deem was not asleep, but she knew she must have been dreaming. “I thought I was hearing things,” she told me. “A cat can’t talk.” She turned over and looked at her pet. Whitey spoke again. “Mama, I’m hungry,” he said.
After verifying that Whitey had indeed said he was hungry, she did what any sane person would do. She got up and fed the cat.
I wrote a massive analysis of this book over on Odd Things Considered. I wrote six articles analyzing the book, and it's far too long to try to reprodI wrote a massive analysis of this book over on Odd Things Considered. I wrote six articles analyzing the book, and it's far too long to try to reproduce over here. I was deeply interested in how it is that Rachel was trying to explain herself in this book and ended up painting such a negative portrait of herself that I am baffled that this book ever got published. This memoir is so lacking in self-awareness that it beggars belief. So if you are interested in an extremely wordy analysis of a woman I find fascinating, check out one or possibly all six of the articles about Dolezal's book.
Part One discusses how Rachel's fundamentalist upbringing, coupled with childhood abuse of herself and her adopted black siblings, created in her an affiliation with blackness and black culture.
Part Two discusses Rachel's status as a permavictim and how she also victimized her children with the hate crimes she staged against herself.
Part Three discusses Rachel's use of weasel words and bizarre justifications for her behavior and her behavior as a self-impressed asshole.
Part Four discusses how Rachel sees black people as an exotic "other" and how she behaves as a white savior even as she derides such sentiments.
Part Five discusses how Rachel relies on racism to explain why she was so disliked even before she was outed and how she doesn't seem to really know who or what she is.
Part Six discusses how Rachel was a force of danger for black people and how she will never get why people think what she did is wrong....more
My Dead Pets Are Interesting consists of autobiographical sketches and is divided into four parts: “I Hate Myself;” “Just a Bunch of Kid Stuff;” “I’mMy Dead Pets Are Interesting consists of autobiographical sketches and is divided into four parts: “I Hate Myself;” “Just a Bunch of Kid Stuff;” “I’m Not Entirely Certain;” and “Dead Animals.”
I barely know how to start because basically every line Zion writes is either funny, trenchant, sad or moving in some manner. But I think the best place to start is literally the beginning – how obvious – the first line from the first article in the first section. From “What Not to Do About Rat Mites:”
My dermatologist was explaining to me that my problematic mole was likely going to have to go, but I wasn’t listening much because I was focusing on the fact that I couldn’t remember his name, and also because he was looking at me funny and I got the distinct impression that he was flirting with me, and I thought it was an odd time to choose to flirt with me, being that I was wearing only my underwear and he had just moments ago finished inspecting me for cancerous growths.
Zion’s neurosis seems to have contamination and fear of sickness as key components – she was at the dermatologist because she had an almost invisible bump on one of her fingers that she was convinced was caused by a possible rat mite infestation in her apartment. He’s instead worried about a mole on her face he wants to remove immediately because he fears it’s cancerous. She is certain the doctor is both trying to pick her up and also is picking up on her nervousness. She’s certain she is not behaving properly, that there is a human element of relating to the doctor that she doesn’t execute properly and that when she laughs a bit too long at one of her doctor’s jokes, she scares him away.
I was sitting there, basically naked, under profoundly unflattering light, complaining of rat mites, receiving a recommendation to remove my questionable, yucky, possibly diseased mole before its roots took hold and formed a personality of its own, and then I started smiling at my doctor like an idiot, because for some reason I thought that all of this might have left him feeling sexually attracted to me.
And this, I believe, is why he changed his mind and suggested that we “just watch” the mole instead of removing it. “Never mind, it’s not so bad. I gotta go, but don’t worry, I’ll send the nurse in.”
And he fled the examining room, leaving Zion now worried she has a cancer on her face. A bog-standard neurotic would just be worried now about rat mites and cancer but Zion is a professional. She takes it one step further.
So, I want you all to know that if this disgusting mole kills me, it’s because I managed to put my doctor into a situation so uncomfortable that he was willing to take that risk, if for no other reason than to ensure a speedy exit from the room in which he was trapped with a creep.
I am a creep.
And it’s killing me.
I need to go to a dermatologist and engage in some activity called “mole mapping.” It sounds hilarious and awful and I’ve been putting it off for over two years because I know these stupid little bumps are these things called cherry angiomas and they’re harmless, mostly, and that if I get everything mapped out, I will know how many of them there are and will want to remove them. I look in the mirror and demand that Mr. OTC tell me if the little pinpoint of red on my neck or (god help me) between my eyes was there yesterday and he always says no and sometimes he’s not just saying that because he knows it’s what I want to hear. They really do pop up overnight. And if I know where they are, how many there are, I will want to get them lasered off and that will be super expensive because it will be an elective procedure because none of this is cancer. So best not to know. Best to avoid engaging in my own freakout at the dermatologist because I won’t worry about cancer at the end of it – I won’t even have the luxury of that sort of gravitas. I’ll spend thousands of dollars to remove little red dots from my body that no one else sees because once I know for sure that new ones are sprouting up and that I am becoming a lumpy flesh bag covered in tiny red spots, I’ll have no choice but to drive us into penury getting them removed because assigning a number to anything makes me aware of it and when I am aware I am often anxious.