Hanging at the hospital while mon petit frère gets IV fluids and labs for his stomach flu (diabetes is the best ever, I highly recommend it) and the woman next to me has a copy of Cover Letters That Knock Them Dead and I just … things are very strange here. But comfortable all the same, that old battered sweater with holes in the elbows, that you should throw out but can’t bring yourself to do.
We decode the many variations of facial hair in Wes Anderson’s latest film.
Oyeyemi says that she thinks of herself as “ugly but interesting,” and she’s happy with that. “It helps me to think more clearly, if that makes sense.”
I ask why she thinks she ‘s ugly.
"Boys would come up and tell me," she says, matter-of-factly. "I’d be on the bus home, and they would say, "You’re so ugly, do you know that?" And after a while, I would just say, "Yes, thank you." At first I would cry. But I after a while you just think ‘Why does it matter so much?’"
Oyeyemi clearly still carries wounds from her teenage years: “I was suicidal for a long time in my teens and I was so unhappy,” she says. “It was the kind of unhappiness that you know everyone else is feeling, but you don’t care because you’ve dehumanized them, because they’re all monsters and demons and beasts who are out to kill you, so you become a beast and a monster yourself. I regret so much.”
Her fairy tales are not of the happily-ever-after variety: “Sometimes people ask me what I write and I say that I retell fairy tales, and they say, ‘Oh, children’s books!’ And that makes me laugh. People say things like ‘I want a fairy tale existence.’ The Brothers Grimm would be looking at them in this astonished way, like ‘So you would like your whole family to be murdered and then eaten in a pie?’” She laughs delightedly.
"People think they’re soft because they’re these perfect examples of narrative order. There is an ending that is usually happy, and a beginning, middle, and end … In this era where everyone is kind of postmodern and meta, we dissociate in a lot of ways from our circumstance. So I think there’s that sense that they’re so ordered, and therefore orderly, but actually, they’re just completely chaotic."
And fairy tales teach lessons, she says. Lessons like “Everything that you see is not necessarily what it is. You have to find another way to know things. You have to find another way to know things. There is inner vision. And then there’s exterior vision. There are levels of seeing.”
They reveal “some of the hardest and harshest truths about the ways that we live and the ways that we’ve always lived.” She cites a story she found in a book of Czech fairy tales. A princess is being courted by a magician, but she refuses him. In punishment, the magician turns her into a black woman. As Oyeyemi read it, she started crying. “It was awful … The worst thing that the teller of this tale can imagine is being black.” In Boy, Snow, Bird, she writes, “it’s not whiteness that sets Them against Us, but the worship of whiteness.” She tells me, “I feel as if we’re still in that era. There are still lots of ways in which it is horrific not to be the norm.”
The most poignant part of Helen Oyeyemi's interview on NPR where she addresses some very heavy personal issues concerning depression and suicide, race, universal perceptions of blackness and the “worship of whiteness”.
Conversely, the interviewer, Annalisa Quinn, starts off the article by writing, "The first time I met her, it was in a bar so dark that all I could see were her eyes and very white teeth", ignoring the matter that Oyeyemi raised on whiteness and its lack of racial sensitivity.
The analysis reveals that young people view their identities as complex, contradictory and diverse, and demonstrate a reflexive awareness of their own sense of self as a phenomenon which is personally constructed, continually revised and displayed to others.
The study highlights the importance of role models, and how individuals understand their own identities, more strongly than previous studies of young people and the media.
It suggests that the media functions as a resource young people use to conceptualise and formulate their present identities, as well as articulate possible future selves.
Young People, Identity, and the Media; Fatima Awan. PhD research project, 2007. Abstract.
What this means is what we can see in this image:
Everyone deserves to be able to envision themselves clearly, in fantasies and escapism, in the past, the present, and the future.
Medievalpoc articles tagged “representation”.
“Let’s face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.”
— (via be-killed)
But, but, but!
But, no, because there are reasons for all of those seemingly weird English bits.
Like “eggplant” is called “eggplant” because the white-skinned variety (to which the name originally applied) looks very egg-like.
The “hamburger” is named after the city of Hamburg.
The name “pineapple” originally (in Middle English) applied to pine cones (ie. the fruit of pines - the word “apple” at the time often being used more generically than it is now), and because the tropical pineapple bears a strong resemblance to pine cones, the name transferred.
The “English” muffin was not invented in England, no, but it was invented by an Englishman, Samuel Bath Thomas, in New York in 1894. The name differentiates the “English-style” savoury muffin from “American” muffins which are commonly sweet.
"French fries" are not named for their country of origin (Belgium or Spain, depending who you ask), but for their preparation. They are French-cut fried potatoes - ie. French fries.
"Sweetmeats" originally referred to candied fruits or nuts, and given that we still use the term "nutmeat" to describe the edible part of a nut and "flesh" to describe the edible part of a fruit, that makes sense.
"Sweetbread" has nothing whatsoever to do with bread, but comes from the Middle English "brede", meaning "roasted meat". "Sweet" refers not to being sugary, but to being rich in flavour.
Similarly, “quicksand” means not “fast sand”, but “living sand” (from the Old English “cwicu” - “alive”).
The term boxing “ring” is a holdover from the time when the “ring” would have been just that - a circle marked on the ground. The first square boxing ring did not appear until 1838. In the rules of the sport itself, there is also a ring - real or imagined - drawn within the now square arena in which the boxers meet at the beginning of each round.
The etymology of “guinea pig” is disputed, but one suggestion has been that the sounds the animals make are similar to the grunting of a pig. Also, as with the “apple” that caused confusion in “pineapple”, “Guinea” used to be the catch-all name for any unspecified far away place. Another suggestion is that the animal was named after the sailors - the “Guinea-men” - who first brought it to England from its native South America.
As for the discrepancies between verb and noun forms, between plurals, and conjugations, these are always the result of differing word derivation.
Writers write because the meaning of the word “writer” is “one who writes”, but fingers never fing because “finger” is not a noun derived from a verb. Hammers don’t ham because the noun “hammer”, derived from the Old Norse “hamarr”, meaning “stone” and/or “tool with a stone head”, is how we derive the verb “to hammer” - ie. to use such a tool. But grocers, in a certain sense, DO “groce”, given that the word “grocer” means “one who buys and sells in gross” (from the Latin “grossarius”, meaning “wholesaler”).
"Tooth" and "teeth" is the legacy of the Old English "toð" and "teð", whereas "booth" comes from the Old Danish "boþ". "Goose" and "geese", from the Old English "gōs" and "gēs", follow the same pattern, but "moose" is an Algonquian word (Abenaki: "moz", Ojibwe: "mooz", Delaware: "mo:s"). "Index" is a Latin loanword, and forms its plural quite predictably by the Latin model (ex: matrix -> matrices, vertex -> vertices, helix -> helices).
One can “make amends” - which is to say, to amend what needs amending - and, case by case, can “amend” or “make an amendment”. No conflict there.
"Odds and ends" is not a word, but a phrase. It is, necessarily, by its very meaning, plural, given that it refers to a collection of miscellany. A single object can’t be described in the same terms as a group.
"Teach" and "taught" go back to Old English "tæcan" and "tæhte", but "preach" comes from Latin "predician" ("præ" + "dicare" - "to proclaim").
"Vegetarian" comes of "vegetable" and "agrarian" - put into common use in 1847 by the Vegetarian Society in Britain.
"Humanitarian", on the other hand, is a portmanteau of "humanity" and "Unitarian", coined in 1794 to described a Christian philosophical position - "One who affirms the humanity of Christ but denies his pre-existence and divinity". It didn’t take on its current meaning of "ethical benevolence" until 1838. The meaning of "philanthropist" or "one who advocates or practices human action to solve social problems" didn’t come into use until 1842.
We recite a play because the word comes from the Latin “recitare” - “to read aloud, to repeat from memory”. “Recital” is “the act of reciting”. Even this usage makes sense if you consider that the Latin “cite” comes from the Greek “cieo” - “to move, to stir, to rouse , to excite, to call upon, to summon”. Music “rouses” an emotional response. One plays at a recital for an audience one has “called upon” to listen.
The verb “to ship” is obviously a holdover from when the primary means of moving goods was by ship, but “cargo” comes from the Spanish “cargar”, meaning “to load, to burden, to impose taxes”, via the Latin “carricare” - “to load on a cart”.
"Run" (moving fast) and "run" (flowing) are homonyms with different roots in Old English: "ærnan" - "to ride, to reach, to run to, to gain by running", and "rinnan" - "to flow, to run together". Noses flow in the second sense, while feet run in the first. Simillarly, "to smell" has both the meaning "to emit" or "to perceive" odor. Feet, naturally, may do the former, but not the latter.
"Fat chance" is an intentionally sarcastic expression of the sentiment "slim chance" in the same way that "Yeah, right" expresses doubt - by saying the opposite.
"Wise guy" vs. "wise man" is a result of two different uses of the word "wise". Originally, from Old English "wis", it meant "to know, to see". It is closely related to Old English "wit" - "knowledge, understanding, intelligence, mind". From German, we get "Witz", meaning "joke, witticism". So, a wise man knows, sees, and understands. A wise guy cracks jokes.
The seemingly contradictory “burn up” and “burn down” aren’t really contradictory at all, but relative. A thing which burns up is consumed by fire. A house burns down because, as it burns, it collapses.
"Fill in" and "fill out" are phrasal verbs with a difference of meaning so slight as to be largely interchangeable, but there is a difference of meaning. To use the example in the post, you fill OUT a form by filling it IN, not the other way around. That is because "fill in" means "to supply what is missing" - in the example, that would be information, but by the same token, one can "fill in" an outline to make a solid shape, and one can "fill in" for a missing person by taking his/her place. "Fill out", on the other hand, means "to complete by supplying what is missing", so that form we mentioned will not be filled OUT into we fill IN all the missing information.
An alarm may “go off” and it may be turned on (ie. armed), but it does not “go on”. That is because the verb “to go off” means “to become active suddenly, to trigger” (which is why bombs and guns also go off, but do not go on).
i think i just came
my whole soul cries out for american magical realism
where are the little midwestern towns with the waving grass in summer and the deep snow in winter, towns full of young women in white and slender-wristed dead hitchikers drinking merle’s coffee
where’s john henry raising black dogs and sasquatch footprints left outside the public library and no-face charlie walking the streets at night, whistling ‘o susanna’
there should be crumbling overgrown cemeteries and diners with faded linoleum floors, and molly pitcher pours cheap beer on bingo nights and crows are good luck when you catch sight of them perched on the cart return outside of walmart and out of the corner of your eye you see coyote, laughing at you
I realize this probably isn’t a post you were looking for a response to, and I’m sorry if some of these are ones you’ve already read/don’t consider magic realism [esp. since magic realism is one of those things thats devilishly hard to define] but —
“The Witches of Athens” by Lara Elena Donnelly [the Athens in question is Athens, Ohio]
“Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” by Andy Duncan (probably almost anything by Duncan counts, tho I’ve not read v much)
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
“Anansi Meets Peter Parker at the Taco Bell on Lexington” by Douglas Kearney
“Librarians in the Branch Library of Babel” by Shaenon K. Garrity
“The Ice Princess” by Jae Brim
“Hope Chest” by Garth Nix
Beloved by Toni Morrison (Also, I think Song of Solomon qualifies too, but I haven’t read that one yet.)
“All the Young Kirks and Their Good Intentions” by Helena Bell (okay, technically, science fiction-y, technically, probably doesn’t count, but also, i would ask you to consider the fact that it also totally counts)
“The Glass Bottle Trick” by Nalo Hopkinson (tho this leans more heavily on the Southern Gothic tradition than the magic realism side of things.)
“Non-Zero Probabilities” by N.K. Jemisin
“In the House of the Seven Librarians” by Ellen Klages
“The Hotel Astarte” by M.K. Hobson
“Lark Till Dawn, Princess” by Barth Anderson
“Fate” by Jenise Aminoff
Honestly, probably the majority of Mojo: Conjure Stories edited by Nalo Hopkinson (which is where I read “Lark Till Dawn, Princess” and “Fate”)
“Jesus Christ in Texas” by W.E.B. Du Bois
And then stuff I’ve heard of/read about but haven’t yet to read, but am pretty sure qualifies & am fairly confident quality-wise:
“Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” by Ursula K. Le Guin
“The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” by Kij Johnson (which was first published in an anthology called The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales so that’s probably a good bet for some more, and looking @ the TOC there’s tons of good authors.)
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
“The Hag Queen’s Curse” by M.K. Hobson
“Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, In the City Under the Still Waters” by N.K. Jemisin
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
I can palpably feel myself leaving out some good stuff, but that’s as far as I can remember/fetch easily. It’s sort of light on novels, but hopefully it’s a start.