Hysterical’s Advice Column

1. What should I do with all these bookmarks?

If you want to take the manic pixie dream girl approach, you’d obviously write emo poetry on the backs of them and then stick them in random books that have been important to you in the library and some overly eager but superficially flawed person would fall in love with you. If you’re looking to get a book deal, start an Instagram account photographing them one by one and writing memoiristic captions about the book they once lay in and what you were struggling to understand at the time. You could also pulp them together and make new paper from them then hand write a book on the pages called Unmarked and giggle to yourself while you thought “Alanis Morisette would consider this ironic!”

2. How do we undo all the bad art and poetry (made by men) that has been canonized?

Oh, you sweet innocent little lamb. I wish that I could hand you a magical wand of un-fuckening and make our artistic canon a better place. I wish that you didn’t have to suffer another conversation about separating the art from the artist* with some dude bro whose only glimpse of marginalization was seeing his mom work too hard for too little money while struggling to prioritize her family and all he managed to take away from that relationship was resentment. 

The truth is, for at least the foreseeable future, you will always meet a man who is going to argue that David Foster Wallace wasn’t that bad and his work transcends his personal life. And sure, it’ll feel great to yell “Fuck off!” and add “Footnote one: his writing isn’t even that good. Footnote one A: Giving money and a platform to this kind of person, even in death, is a way of communicating that such behavior is okay if you’re just genius enough and I refuse to do that because young men and their future partners deserve a better model,” but that won’t change anything. 

You know how vaccines are just the disease diluted down so that you gain immunity without becoming sick? We will make a vaccine. We will dilute the motherfuckers. We will keep writing and keep yelling and keep reading the good shit until Bukowski’s grotesqueries (look, even I went through a Bukowski period, it’s okay…) are rendered powerless. So never shut up. Drown ‘em out. They’ll hate you for it, and that’s how you’ll know they’re dying out.

*Let me stop being pithy and get real with you for a minute. Art is not some self-sufficient child that the artist has produced and bears none of the responsibility or blame for its parent’s actions. Art is the product of a mind and a reflection of the culture. And if you truly believe that there was not one incredible woman of color writing away in the background, going unnoticed for her genius and thus unremembered by history and this abuser is the only true unique and perfect voice of his generation, then you need to grow up, hon, cause artistic success, like any success, is a product of luck and talent. And you know what a lot of people mistake for one or both of those things? Privilege. 

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