Archives for the month of: June, 2012

I’m sitting on about a dozen really swank works in progress from my fellow Clinton School attendees. Their stuff is pretty flash – I feel a little trite and malnourished next to them. Because I kind of miss the old “look at the titles of talks at MLA” articles from the heyday of the culture wars, I tried to formulate a scale of Serious Business for the papers, but in the end I think two groups are in evidence: Group 1 (everyone less Christian) and Group 2 (Christian).

It’s not my intent to be assholish – I’m not kidding when I say that I come across as a bit callow and trifling in comparison, but fish gotta swim – when I share the list of paper titles. Since it’s my virtual house, my title gets to be the punchline.

The Bagel Bakers’ Unions of New York City: From Lower East Side Jewish Immigrants to Unionized Journeymen

Diabolical Enterprises and Abominable Superstitions: Islam and the Conceptualization of Finance in Early American Literature

Dollar to Dimes: Managing disparity and uncertainty at the dollar store

An Eastern European Traveler to Paradise. Los Angeles in Petru Comarnescu’s American Travelogue from 1934.

Globalizing American Studies

“‘El Hombre Imperial’: Tense Framings of the Orientalist Tension in the Naked Lunch Writings.”

New Frontiers: US Foreign Policy and the North-South Divide in the Congo Crisis, 1960-1963

The Tenacious Grip of Interpellation and Aesthetic Experience in American Studies

US International Broadcasting Media to Iran

Values of the Belgrade Regime

My offering? Burt Reynolds, Hollywood’s Southern Strategy

I would pack a set of clown shoes to live up/down to my paper, but it’s hard enough to find a pair of proper shoes in my size.

Might as well light it on fire.

The Birmingham Fellowships are outlandishly great. I’d commit a couple of felonies if it meant that I could win a five year fellowship that, with four or five A-list journal articles, would turn into a permanent appointment. Even though everyone adds the punchline, “but you have to live in Birmingham“, you’d be a doofus not to take it. Birmingham was good enough for Stuart Hall, and that means it’s good enough for someone of my calibre.

Of course, the applications hinge on a question that asks, “what are your four best recent publications?” I decided to take a chance and pre-apply with an “alternate metrics” approach. I provided my research proposal for the World Atlas of American Cinema, and even threw in some “I live in a fucking disaster zone” for flavour. At the heart of my fool’s errand was this bit of anecdata about the tendency for journals and fellowships to operate as if my time had no value:

I have spent the greater part of the last three years waiting on editors. For example, I spent more than twelve months on the revise-and-resubmit treadmill for [Important Journal in My Field]. [The editor], to his credit, told me after the second set of revisions that, while he was in favour of publication, it was unlikely that the “no” voter would change his/her mind, and that I would be well-served to seek to place my article elsewhere. Taking his advice, I sent the piece to [A Journal I Have Previously Talked Shit On] on 1 September 2011. On 11 June 2012, a group email promised a decision would arrive in September of 2012. I have had similarly frustrating experiences with the grant and fellowship proposals I send out. While they are more timely in their rejections, grant and fellowship institutions now include an apology in their rejection notices that states that the large number of applicants means that it is impossible to provide any feedback.

I was promised a response within seven days. Fourteen days ago. It’s two pages. I have a hard time imagining that the Expert in the Field is sweating over the exactly perfect wording to a kind but well thought out let-em-down-easy rejection letter. Click to open the attachment, read it, go back to the email, click reply, and then type, “You’re right. You don’t have a chance. Best, X.”


Were I asked to lecture on Hesher, here’s how I’d occupy half an hour (maybe a bit more, including the clips). Two interesting things happen in Hesher. The first is an interesting engagement with the role of metaphor: TJ’s English teacher speaks of the role of dreams in literature as TJ daydreams out the widow. Throughout the film Hesher tells stories of his wild life that generate self-conscious responses – Nicole asks if his story about group sex is “some kind of perverted metaphor for me” and Grandma, upon hearing the tale of the snake that starved in a cage full of mice asks, “is TJ the mouse or the snake?”

The second is that, in spite of TJ being too young to drive, Hesher’s visibility to TJ’s dad, and a couple other things, quite a few moments in Hesher hint that Hesher isn’t quite real, but rather a figure TJ conjures up as a reaction to the traumas of his mother’s death and school bullying.

First of all, consider Hesher’s appearances in scenes associated with the bully. In the scene during which the English teacher asks, in post-dubbed dialog, what dreams represent to fictional characters, TJ looks out the window, and Hesher appears and then tosses a marker through that window at TJ. In a standard horror movie sequence of shots, Hesher throws the marker, then TJ leans over to pick it up, and as he rises again we’re back to the original shot set up. Where Hesher ought to occupy the background, he’s gone.

Later, when the bully forces TJ to eat a urinal cake, a door-opening sound causes the bully to look to his right, and Hesher is there. But the normally loquacious bully, after looking toward the door, where Hesher would be, says nothing. In the final, torrential downpour TJ-as-Captain-Willard scene, the bully regains the upper hand, only to be interrupted by a rock flying through the window (I can’t account for that – which is why it’s only a hint of Hesher being a figment). Hesher appears and slices the kid’s nose open. TJ screams at Hesher, but, as in the urinal cake eating scene, their two faces don’t share the frame.

Second, Hesher jumps up after Grandma dies and leaves “before I hurt somebody.” Hesher leaves, and TJ goes to his room to call Nicole with the news that he’s solved her rent problems (stealing, like it’s easy to imagine Hesher doing). Thus TJ goes to Nicole’s apartment, where she and Hesher are fucking. TJ flips out, saying he never wants to see Hesher again. He also calls Nicole a fat prostitute. I’d be willing to entertain the notion that such a reaction would be in line with TJ’s age, mental state, and general mommy issues.

Finally, there’s Grandma’s funeral. At first, TJ cannot speak. But as soon as he can’t say anything, Hesher shows up and says a lot of things. The slomo casket roll through the streets is way overdone, granted, but it’s the capstone to the series of moments when something like magical realism emerges out of TJ’s grief, in the form of Hesher.

To mock an American literature journal, I had to dive back into the in-box for some copy-paste. In the span of writing the final two sentences in the previous post, a new message arrived, this one about The Fictional Lives of American Presidents project I’m co-editing with Jeff Menne:

Dear Dr. Menne,
Hope you’re well. I’ve now received reviews of your project, and I’ve attached them here. My apologies that this process took this long. I’m pleased to say that I am interested in bringing the project forward to the editorial board. I’d appreciate if you would look through them and write 1-2 page response detailing how you would address the reviewers’ critiques, so that I may present a complete picture to the board. Specifically, reviewer 2 has a point regarding coverage beyond cinema about which I’d like to hear your thoughts. Please also include a revised proposed word count and completion date, taking any revisions into consideration.

Many thanks,
[acquiring editor]

Much better. At the risk of seeming like I’m polishing the press’s apple, there’s evidence of an actual human bring writing somewhat carefully considered sentences there – going so far as to highlight the most significant concern to address.

From this morning’s inbox:

Dear Authors,
I am sending a group email to let you know that none of your articles have been rejected at this point.  The editor, Professor [Name], is still collecting the reviews from the readers.  He will contact you individually in late September.
Thank you for your patience.
Associate Director
I submitted to this journal on 1 September 2011. They’ll take an entire calendar year to respond.