Thursday, August 12, 2010

Turn the beat around, she writes

Got to hear percussion!

Yesterday, my birthday, I posted a silly note on Facebook that the day's theme was "Hot Flash," which I imagined as a Junior Walker and the All Stars type of catchy little brassy number. Today, settling in to the still shocking and appalling reality that I've turned the corner of my 50s and am tumbling downhill toward 60, I'm singing a different tune. It's all bass and drums. Disco, baby! The music of my 20s, the days I spent driving bus and nights dancing under that glittering spinning silver ball. I've never stopped loving disco, and it's still the music most likely to get me up off my aged old butt and shaking my groove thing. OK, sorry, I'll stop ... although in general I feel you shouldn't stop till you get enough ... OK, there, now, I'm done, really.

Not only have I never ceased loving it, but I have also always felt that the backlash against disco that started in the 1980s and in certain circles has never since abated has a very strong racist and anti-gay subtext. So this past spring I was happy to hear about a new book that makes this case while also celebrating the glorious life-affirming joy of disco music. Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture by Alice Echols. I knew Alice for a little while back in the disco days when we both lived in Ann Arbor and I was a bus driver and she was a graduate student. She's also written a critically praised biography of Janis Joplin that I've long meant to read (obviously her academic career took, while my bus driving didn't), but I most love that she's taken on a defense of disco, a genre maligned by meanspirited, racist, homophobic commentators.

Photo by TheCuriousGnome
I didn't mean to write a paean to disco this morning. I meant merely to mention that for some reason the great old Vicki Sue Robinson number (no, not the counterrevolutionary Gloria Estafan's version, no thank you very much) "Turn the Beat Around" has been pumping at my brain since I woke up this morning, and to say that this seems to me to be a good sign. Assuming it's not some Oliver-Sachs-worthy symptom of brain dysfunction, I take it as my subconscious reassuring me that there's still some kick in the old girl yet. And that I should and can settle into the rhythm I've charted out for myself on re-entry after my vacation. 

Work. Write. Contribute, as best I can, to the class struggle. Eat right, exercise, sleep. Read, and that's correct, I list reading as the last priority, which probably doesn't mean I'll do it much less since I've still got my subway sessions every day but does mean I won't allow my reading to intervene in my writing or activist life. It won't be my default mode. Write: this is the bass line I wish to bring back to the fore from the hush to which it had faded.

I have two to three stories in completed or nearly completed draft form that I'm rushing to rewrite and finish. And then I'll be recommencing my great project, the novel I began two years ago at my Saltonstall Colony residency, on which I've worked only sporadically since then. A couple writers whose opinions I respect have read the opening 50-ish pages and seem to think they're pretty good and have been on my case to get to it and finish the damned thing. My first novel remains unpublished but that fact can't be permitted to block my progress on this second one anymore. And so I proceed.

Meanwhile, I've just joined the online women writers' community called She Writes. I have my doubts that it will prove useful or meaningful but we'll see. As far as I can tell, it's sort of like Facebook but specifically for and about women writers. Given that I'd drifted toward a reprehensible tendency to waste time on Facebook and have recently broken myself of that bad habit, I have no desire to replace it with another equally pointless diversion. As a full-time worker with very limited time and energy outside of work hours, and determined as I am at this post-vacation moment full of new-year-resolution earnestness to stick to a disciplined, productive writing regimen, I don't plan to start hanging out at a new social-networking site, albeit one with a she-writes angle. On the other hand, who knows. Perhaps there's more there than meets the eye. Perhaps I'll make some new virtual friends who will enrich my writing life in as yet unforeseeable ways. I'm willing to give it a try.

Withal, another year begun. Uptempo now. That's all she writes.