Zapruder’s mission is to “explore what it is about poetry that makes people feel they don’t understand it […] take seriously the objections people have, and try to address those objections clearly and simply.” “Most people,” he observes (by which I think he may mean most Americans) regard poetry “on a spectrum of skepticism to scorn.” His thesis is that contrary to what the majority may think, poetry’s pleasures and benefits are accessible to anyone willing to invest a bit of time and attention. And he contends that poetry’s riches are worth having, perhaps especially in our current, alienated political moment. No special tools, bohemian lifestyles, passwords, or degrees are needed, he argues. I am happy to report that he is refreshingly successful in making his case.
Of the two ebooks I’ve ever bought, one was trivial, and the other is a book that I’ve never, ever told anybody about. When I first bought this book I would have died of shame if anybody saw me reading it or happened to find it in my apartment. I purchased it as an ebook because that was the only way I could be sure that it would remain my secret.
I bought it in November 2010, and even though I’ve never told anybody about it, I don’t mind sharing it with you all now. Its title, in full, is Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality, and it is an academic work of gender theory by a Princeton professor named Gayle Salamon, published in 2010 by Columbia University Press.
Writing from the perspective of an abused teenage girl was risky, and some readers and critics may fault Mr. Tallent’s handling of such a sensitive subject, or for attempting it in the first place. Mr. Tallent, who often spoke in abstract, almost academic language about his work, said he approached writing about Turtle’s abuse “with trepidation, and my trepidation had several valences.” But he was compelled to write about it in specific, unsparing language — in part because he feels that violence against young women is too often treated as a plot point in literature, rather than as a way to understand a victim’s experience.
He cupped the two halves of my tush and spoke directly to them. “Run away with me, girls,” he whispered. “She doesn’t understand our love.”
I lay still, staring out the window, letting them have their time together. If I protested, I’d only make his case stronger: I’m less fun than my own butt. Which is not untrue. In my essence, I am a stone, unmoving for ten thousand years, unless picked up and moved. It’s not just sex; I find this whole experience—life—gratuitously slow and drawn out. See it crawl, second by fucking second. If I’m a workaholic, it’s only because I hate work so much that I’m trying to finish it, all of it, once and for all. So I can just ride out the rest of my life in some kind of internal trance state. Not a coma but, like, a step above that.