Kinds of Teeth
Have you ever seen the VH1 Behind the Music episode for Madonna? Madonna is fine/really not fine/whatever, but at one point in the episode she says: "I didn't get into music because I thought I had a great voice or because I thought I could dance well, I got into music because I have something to say.”
Madonna doesn’t have a great voice, it’s true. In addition, she’s notorious for stealing the contents of others’ voices, and other people’s imagery and themes—e.g. Black, queer, trans voices in the New York City 1980s ball scene, the pop inertia of Andy Warhol, vague understandings of Asia as, like, a place, among others.
So if she’s not interested in having a “great voice,” but she is interested in saying something, then what is that something? What’s it mean to make a full-throated and loud statement when the contours of the vessel with which you make that statement don’t seem to matter? McLuhan was right, but maybe only about the episode of Behind the Music about Madonna.
But of course those contours do matter. Everyone knows Madonna’s voice. It’s immediately recognizable due to its cultural ubiquity. Actually, maybe that’s the most Warhol thing about her—the level of ubiquity, of repetition, of a Hegelian progressive muchness.
In the 1996 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Evita, she elaborates upon this imperative. She sings: "Deep in my heart I’m concealing!/ Things that I’m longing/to say!/scared to confess!/ what I’m feeling!/frightened you’ll slip away/you must love me.”
Reader, this is an order.
The thing about being an impulsive person is that people only take notice of your impulsivity when it doesn’t work out, when your impulse was wrong. I hazard to say that most of my impulses are pretty good. I’m still alive. My child is still alive. My husband gets mad at me a lot, but both of us are still alive. That said, other aspects aren’t ideal, and many of those aspects aren’t helped by my own particular will to power.
Like the nuclear family, US academe has an uneasy and mostly hostile relationship to impulsivity. One time a distinguished professor was mad at me (people are often mad at me) for doing something impulsive and I was like “yeah, I’m bad at things, and I don’t convey confidence well, and I’m flaky, so I try to make up for it by trying to be super insightful all the time.”
Reader, this professor was surprised (people are often surprised by me), but also, I think, mostly unimpressed.
Starting now, when I write “Reader,” here, I am addressing this professor. Well, not this professor specifically— I mean the people and kinds of people that find impulsivity to be solely alienating, that deem it to be a process that traffics in a very particular and very maligned series of affects with limited ethical or creative redemption. Reader, even if you don’t think of yourself as someone with those values, there are ghosts of them in your blood. Banshees in your bones, even if you dampen their voices. They’re in my blood and bones, too. This is my attempt at exorcism. My words are puke. Eleanor Regan.
Even my hacky use of “Reader,” here, comes from an attachment to the address in defiance of contemporary (internet) decorum. As far as I can tell, the “Reader, I married him” reference is no longer interesting or charming. I am unwilling to forfeit an attachment to something simply because other people might think its use indicates an obliviousness to social mores.
Frankly, the clause “because other people might think” is the fucking plague of my life— and yours, Reader.
That’s not true; obviously, there’s a worse plague in our lives. I guess what I’m saying, in all this polytonal generic weirdness—is it a newsletter? Is it a blog? Is it a rant? A screed? A polemic? A tone poem? Bullshit? Why are you using this post of your newsletter to yell at someone nobody knows and who isn’t quite real? —is that I want to write what you think you don’t want to hear but maybe you actually do. Other than my initial demand that you love me, there is nothing else that you, Reader, must do. I just want you to listen and be nice to me.
Think of this post as the introduction to a monograph and the one that precedes it as the foreward written by Northrop Frye or Martha Stewart or whatever. What follows is a list of the specific topics I’m looking forward to you being nice to me about in the future. In no particular order:
In Praise of Corniness
On Cringe (companion piece to Corniness) as failed cuteness
What is the gender of the internet?
“Backseat” by Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen as a Covid anthem
“Going Nowhere” by Lena Zavaroni; also Simone Weil, Otessa Moshfegh, and Marguerite Duras
Maris on Frasier as the Derridean absent-present
The Tinkerbell franchise and how it’s really fucking gay
On Emotional Labor
Bad Moms: Cookie Mueller and Courtney Love
Amelia Bedelia as a neurodivergent icon
Some of these posts will be co-authored! I am very excited about this aspect of the newsletter in particular. Thinking with others can be a kind of being alone together that makes life survivable, I think. I know that mandatory appointments are frequently the only thing that gets me out of bed when I have the option otherwise.
However, thinking with—and through—others, as well as the ether, is also a key strategy for the Right. One thing I’ve become keenly aware of over the last few years is the creativity of certain dumbnesses. Specifically, the weird and evil artistic rigor of QAnon believers. What are the epistemological implications of this kind of worldmaking? What does it mean to be so stupid you make another world possible?
Maybe the world of this newsletter, structured by impulsivity as both ideology and method, can make another world, too. Dumbness, smartness, vulgarity, specificity, all lateralized here. Not a QAnon world, Reader, but maybe something we don’t have a name for yet. Earnest and precious—obviously—but also forthright and dense. Outside bones: discolored molars distending from bloody, gummy mouths, but, like, in a fun, reparative way. Thanks for reading.