Why You Have to Meet Phil Jourdan

Those of you who know me well have already heard about this guy. For the rest of you—I am about to gush. Hard. First, go to this website: slothrop.com so you can follow along. This guy is like the second coming of something I didn’t even know we all needed. Most of you know my feeling about academics,* but this one can actually speak English, and crack jokes at the same time. A funny Fiedler with less crust.

First I found this post on Franzen. Phil Jourdan put his finger on something that has both repulsed and endeared me to the author, the reason my patient friends continue to hear me either bitch, defend, or ramble aimlessly trying to make sense of what he does to me.  In this time when it is too easy for people to blast Jonathan Franzen, this blogger from out of nowhere puts a finger on the conflicted feelings I have been trying to sort out since I saw him at Seattle Arts and Lectures. And I got more information on the famous Gaddis essay, and he made the topic engaging. There was so much supplemental information you could spend weeks chasing it all down. I never thought I would be a fan of a blogger. Aren’t these guys supposed to be lazy?

I subscribed to the blogs and watched fun stuff fill my inbox; a link to all things related to The Shining, obscure books reviews, and a set of drawings explaining the universe.

Then came this post: Sex and Writing: an erotics of the writing act.

Oh God.

For those who have read early versions of Sex and Death in the American Novel, or have heard me ramble about the notion that sex and reading are perfect metaphors for each other or if you have heard me complain about how smart male novelists almost always avoid dealing with sex, you will appreciate how excited I got. Visit the site and view the comments I left, did I sound like a nut or what?

Another great article he posted for LitReactor handles feminism for authors. The information on Lacan and Freud, feminism and the history of almost anything he covers are so thorough; you can tell he cares if the rest of us understand these topics and isn’t just spouting to see his own words on the page. The best part is that all I have to do is hang around his website and I will get a a good chunk of what I am missing in grad school without losing my own chipper attitude toward life, without leaving my family and without spending a truckload of money.

His memoir was just released, Praise of Motherhood.  I will review it officially for Line Zero, but I can tell already, this is something amazing.

I was only a few pages in when I had to do that embarrassing thing I’ve done only a few times while reading a book; cover my eyes, then read the lines again:

The taboo of the child enamored of his parent is easy to misunderstand. The vulgarity of treating love as a purely sexual thing should be dismissed immediately. To be in love with your mother does not have to mean what common parlance would have it mean. When she died, I tried to think up things about my mother that I found repulsive: there was little. Perhaps, then, I had idealized her to such an extent that I was, in the literal sense, in love with her. 

There is wonderful context that makes those lines work even better, but I don’t want to spoil anything. You can read my review, or better, get the book for yourself. My own mother’s passing may make this material something I am more sensitive to, but I don’t think that’s the reason since I just spent a year working on a memoir that covered the same topic. What I still can’t get over; about this book, about so many things he addresses, is that this guy I just found on the flippin’ internet is writing it all up better than I ever could. And just when I was beginning to discover the ladies**…   

My piece in the last Line Zero gave a brief look at the creative process of musicians who are also writers. Phil Jourdan takes my notion that the two processes are closely related to another level completely. He is one half of the band Paris and the Hiltons.  They do something called ‘lit rock,’ where they make music that even to my indie challenged ears sounds really good, and in a few places he will even read to you. I thought Metallica was advanced when they alluded to Lovecraft, this band goes so much farther and work songs around books like Absalom, Absalom!, Ezra Pound’s Cantos and they even worked an entire EP around The Recognitions

If the last bits weren’t enough, he is also the founder of Perfect Edge Books and has some things to say on his publishing philosophy that will probably feel very familiar to many authors. Proof again that diverse and wonderful things are out there. You will be able to read more since he has graciously agreed to write an article for Line Zero.

I have gone crazy over a teacher before (Priscilla Long), I’ve been in love before (Junot Diaz), I’ve even been excited about various musicians (Cliff Burton, GaGa, Marilyn Manson) but this is different on a galactic level.  I have not been this moved by a single teacher, writer or musician—for this many reasons, ever.

Here’s to hoping you find as much to gush about and recommend as I did. Stop by and visit his site. Check out the various bits of writing advice he gives, argue with him if you dare, and while you’re there, leave a comment… tell him Annie Wilkes says hi.

*Those intimate with the book will also recall the way Vivi loves to bash academics. Como mi amado Junot… like Alejandro… Phil Jourdan proves that they don’t all spend their lives massaging their egos and boring the crap out of us with their theories. Some of them actually do some good in the world.

**Stay tuned for the review of Fear of Flying…and I thought that would be glowing.


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  • 4/24/2012 4:19 PM Isabel wrote:
    Phil Jourdan's book is totally mesmerizing, he articulates the pain of being human and does it brilliantly. I have bought several copies of his book.
    Reply to this
    1. 4/25/2012 10:44 AM Sarah Martinez wrote:

      I see I have a sister in the appreciation society! You are right. What I also think is important with this memoir in particular, is how different it was. The way he brought  his mother to life again was brilliant and this is what made the book so touching for me.

      Lots of us lose parents, and lots of us know how incredibly lonely and terrifying that is. I saw my mother everywhere I went after she died, I write her into my novels still, and in a million other ways have tried to bring her back to life. This memoir went beyond this and worked so well for having done that.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply to this
  • 4/25/2012 2:28 PM Caleb J. Ross wrote:
    True, what's not to love about this Phil guy. He recently asked me to start contributing to Slothrop (I've got one article up so far, with another "completed," but somehow lost to the strange depths of my computer). Our difference in topics is pretty easy: Phil writes smart things about everything; I write meh things about writing.
    Reply to this
    1. 4/26/2012 11:42 AM Sarah Martinez wrote:
      Another fan. I am so happy I have been able to find my people I have seen your name there, I believe I have even printed some of your articles so I wouldn't say "meh." I may have even reposted one recently...
      Good work you all are doing. I am so happy to see so many of you guys (who supposedly don't read or think about anything beyond baseball) out there getting real thoughts into the ether, helps combat the geeks saying nothing good comes from social media and all the rest. You all are saving me from having to leave the house to improve myself. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Reply to this
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