"Libidinal Confusion": Your Name Here: _________

Cam Tatham

                                                                                                                        An auto/bio/graphy
                                                                                                                        is something one invents
                                                                                                                        afterwards, after the facts
                                                                                                                        Therefore, in order to be
                                                                                                                        recorded in history, one
                                                                                                                        must either lie or die.

                                                                                                                        Raymond Federman,

I only remember in pieces.
                                                            Cris Mazza, Your Name Here:______

I would much rather fictionalize
my theories, theorize my fictions,
and practice philosophy as a
form of conceptual creativity.

Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects

                                                                                                           Deconstructionists Do It In Pieces

     The seminar on pomo fictions looked positively eager to discuss Mazza after the stormy sessions on Sukenick's 98.6. Professor Richardson thought the women members seemed especially animated – finally, a woman's point of view to balance the brutal sexism some denounced in Sukenick's 98.6 in the last class. Though a couple looked a little anxious, as if not sure of how they felt about Mazza becoming the class' official representative of a feminist – or postfeminist – perspective. Something about the novel bothered them, just as Richardson had warned. They were pretty sure they knew how they were supposed to feel about rape and sexual abuse but not how they actually did feel about the way Mazza presented such issues. And the men? Again, a range of looks, mostly variations on uneasiness lest they be seen as insensitive or politically incorrect. English majors, in Richardson's experience, like to think of themselves as enlightened, liberal, in tune with whatever social movements are foregrounded at the moment. They had all heard of postfeminism, and the professor had given them several hand-outs in which Mazza, Lily James, Eurudice and others had declared themselves on the topic, but most were still uncomfortable with feminism, let alone whatever supposedly came after it.


     Listen: One of our problems with feminism was that it didn't know when to find its shoes, take one more swig of tequila, and leave the party. We felt like everything that needed to be said about feminism had been said, loudly and repeatedly, and dealt with as much as it was going to be dealt with. People were ready to move on. We at the Playground didn't invent Postfeminism -- we were just analyzing and drawing attention to a phenomenon that was already in existence, giving words to the thoughts and feelings lots of women were having, telling people it was real and it was okay. (James)


     "So let's begin with a specific scene and see if what we have to say about it can lead into other areas and issues, okay? I'm thinking of that confrontation between Erin and the stripper, pages 216 to 219. What do you make of the way it's situated in the novel?"

     "Uh, well," Nora said tentatively, "it's right before she starts to remember what happened –"

     "That is, if we can trust that memory," Matts broke in, "and why should we when she deliberately undermines her entire credibility? And actually, it's less that she remembers than that she reads the earlier journal entries describing the event –"

     "Should we trust the entries any more than her memory?" Mary looked a little worried, as usual. "What counts as evidence in this mixture of journals – which I found kinda confusing, by the way?"

     "Including this one that you want us to look at, right?" Justin added.

     "A-and, uh, it comes sorta right after Kyle decides to get at his bosses by any means possible," Gayle said, "which we know turns into the plan to have Corinne date Al, though she doesn't know it yet."

     "Plus, it's right at the end of her affair with Garth, which she does know, and this is their last night out together, right?" Rose decided to join in, though she was usually so quiet.

     "Okay, so something is ending – the scene with Garth – and something is beginning – the memory of that terrible night and its aftermath. In the scene itself, what do you notice?" The professor liked to encourage close readings, residual impulses from his own apprenticeship in the new criticism.

     "Is that what postfeminism is, writing about strip clubs?" Trish seemed angry, or pretending to be. "It's so degrading – I suppose the point is that now that we're all postfeminists or whatever, it be okay for women to disrespect each other like this?"

     "But who's degrading who, huh?" Greg always rose to Trish's challenges, sometimes before he knew what he wanted to say. "I mean, hey, how do we measure all the manipulation going on – I mean, there's Garth feeling her up on the way there and acting like its some big compliment –"

     "—and Erin is taking it, you know? – which disrespects all women –"

     "—but it's Garth who points out that the dancer is being degraded –" Mary wanted to find some way to incorporate both sides.

     "—but then Erin points out how it degrades both genders, which I think is kinda a postfeminist position, isn't it?" Gayle added. "When she says how the sailor is especially pathetic, notice how Garth immediately condescends in a really offensive sexist way: "‘Very profound," Garth smiled. ‘"How much have you had to drink?"' Right there on page 218. And all Erin does is laugh, which makes me angry, not just the dancer. Maybe the dancer is there to play into all our, uh, stock responses, and then to make us question them?"

     "Yeah, and whose side is Erin on when the dancer confronts her?" Matts wanted to know. "Is she siding with a man's point of view or just sticking up for her right not to have to worry about being politically correct? – I mean, she says, ‘I didn't come here to discuss sociology. . . . I came here to have a good time.' That's a legitimate position, isn't it?"

     "But isn't she in effect siding with the ‘military lowlife' that are leering at the stripper?" Chuck countered. "Don't you ladies tell us all the time that we're supposed to stick up for women and confront sexism whenever it appears? Well, if women don't do it, why should we? Hey, don't get me wrong, I think anything like that that panders to, uh, ‘lowlife' tastes is bad and so on, but, you know, I don't get the feeling that Mazza wants us to judge the men or the dancer. I'm not sure who is being judged here."

     "Maybe," Richardson broke in, hoping to underscore what he felt was an important realization on the class' part, "these are examples of the ‘gray' areas Mazza so often refers to."

     "Yeah, and it culminates in violence on Erin's part," Justin added, "two women fighting, how trite, while the man breaks it up, ‘laughing [I'm reading from page 219, okay?], "I'm going to harness your energy . . ."' And Erin thinks, ‘ But he never said what he would use it for.' So what's that all about?"

     "Yeah but, don't we know what he's gonna do with her ‘energy'?" Matts again. "Like, use it in his scheme against Al. Though I wonder, is it her ‘energy' or her malleability that he's after?"

     "It reminds me of the Erin v. Haley conflict – another triangle, it occurs to me," Simon finally joined the conversation. "Hey, there are all sorts of triangles in this novel, aren't there. Like, starting with Corinne and Marcus and Libby, then Corinne and Kyle and Haley, then Corinne and Garth and Kathryn, here Corinne and Garth and the dancer – always two woman circling around some man."

     "It's kinda interesting, then, in the penthouse scene that's sorta the crux of this novel, it's two men and a woman." Nora didn't quite know where to take this next.


Side: In my novel Your Name Here:_______, a character has unconsensual sex as a partial result of "acting out" blindly - out of retaliation, resentment and anger, out of wanting revenge for unrequited feelings. I intended for her to be a victim, but not simply a victim of male society that rapes its women, but of something more subtle (and more dangerous): a victim of whatever causes her to ignore the intellect she's been given, ignore the education she has, ignore the fact that she has a job she's good at, and be guided only by wanting a man to think of her as attractive, desirable, a potential sex partner. A goal more important than career or accomplishment. A goal that supersedes all other noble pursuits. And few women even realize they're doing it. No one forces women to do this. Perhaps that "evil society" encourages it, implants it, but if we're, by now, smart enough to recognize it, aren't we also smart enough to resist it? If not - THAT'S scary. (Mazza, Chick-Lit 2 13)
Sub-side: Now a feminist response is so programmed (and boring), a writer can't write a scene in a strip club without opening up a lot of (student) anxiety (unless, of course, I wrote the scene with a sense of horror and anger.) Naturally that scene was part of the investigation of "gray areas" of life, that you can't just have easy "this-is-bad" answers. The stripper is athletic, powerful and vital -- very alive. It's hard to just label her a victim, a symbol of evil patriarchal society. (E-mail from Mazza to Richardson, 4/1/2002)(1)


Outside: No amount of politically correct feminism can totally unravel the scene in the strip club – is it sexual harassment yet? If so, who is being harassed? The stripper because Garth and Erin do in fact look down on her (Garth: "'Want to buy her for my birthday?' he said. I laughed"[Name 217])? Erin because the stripper attacks her through a misguided "sociology" when she simply "came to have a good time" ( 218)? Erin because Garth is also demeaning her after her aborted fight: "Garth was laughing. ‘I'm going to harness your energy'' [219]? Garth because the entire scene is set up as a manipulation by Erin of their last ‘date'? The point is not to discover the true judgment of the scene, the correct position for the reader to take toward it, but to map its varying configurations.

     Its disturbing ambiguity directly precedes the crucial scene in which Corinne agrees to the date with Al – we have to ask why she agrees and the extent to which that makes her at least partly responsible for what follows. She is understandably shocked that it's actually Kyle who sets it up, who in effect pimps for His-Pal-Al. And Corinne knows this: "I wanted to tip the table over on you" (221), she says – to herself, later, as she constructs this journal entry. In the recorded moment, she complies and marches "straight to Al's office." Why?

     This, too, is deeply uncertain. She claims that her desire to have Kyle touch her again ("put your hand inside my sweater again . . . and this time look me in the eye to tell me you know it's me"[221]) is precisely the reason she "shouldn't go." Yet all Kyle has to do is plead, "For my sake . . . maybe you should go. One date won't hurt." So it would seem that her need to have his approval – registered through his caress – and his acknowledgment of her is what sways her. But did he ever actually touch her?

     Presumably, she is referring to one of two possible moments. The first comes after she has successfully framed Haley in order to get her fired – the details of her plot eerily foreshadow her own later attack ("Someone was raped, someone was fucked. But . . . it's like I was the rapist," reflects Erin as she tells the story to Garth [118]). What follows is carefully blurred so that we can never be sure that the description of Kyle caressing her is What Really Happened or is a dream reflecting only her guilty desire. Perhaps Kyle, for unexplained reasons, drugged her: "If he hadn't given me that pill, whatever it was, I'd remember what happened. But then it might not have happened" (126) – so did it happen, or not? All she says she can remember is "a hand, large, dry, warm, and it knew me already" (127-8). She claims to be unable to remember even where this took place, much less what else (if anything) might have occurred. She describes Haley breaking in on them, hysterical, yet ends the entry admitting, "It wasn't Haley. Haley was gone" (130). Looking back from her decade-long distance, Erin insists she remains uncertain: "I still don't remember it. [. . .] This could have been about someone else" (130).

     Or perhaps she is referring to a later scene in which she thinks Kyle may have caressed her breast under her sweater – though once again, she introduces that possibility admitting that she doesn't "remember this time very well either. [. . .] Was it just once? Or was it never and I only thought it happened. . .?" (155). The older Erin is bothered that she cannot pin down either of these moments, cannot separate desire from Reality, to help her understand What Really Happened – and why. "Any moment of revelation, if there was one," she considers, "is lost. Maybe there's no revelation to be had. No comfort to be had in any explanation" (124-5).

     Do we ‘trust' either the ‘original' account (Corinne writing about the events in their immediate aftermath) or the later reflections (Erin speculating about the events from the perspective of her current relationship with Garth)? Does it matter? Surely it does. Someone was fucked; someone was raped; someone was beaten. Who, what, when, why? Did she ask for it, deserve it, fantasize it – did it even happen? Disturbing questions. The need to know is what generates the novel, after all, what leads Erin to write the long letter to Kyle, which turns into journal entries counterpointing those from the earlier period she is nervously reading. Mazza herself reminds us that the novel "is an exploration into the issue of ‘what really happened? without being an answer. And when it comes time for an answer, it circles back on itself: what does the character think happened?" ("An Alt-X Interview with Cris Mazza"). Is this just one more pomo appeal to relativism, of ‘reality' as always-already a matter of point of view? Who would be willing to say, of a spouse or daughter, that such questions should be unanswerable? Who would be able to accept a perspective on an issue or event of genuine significance that assumed answers are impossible? Do we live our day-to-day lives in gray areas?


Inside: Is cancer a matter of point of view?

     "Professor Richardson, this is Doctor Barnes."

     "Yes doctor, you have the results?"

     "Yes we do, the results of the biopsy are in."


     "Yes well. . . . I'm sorry to have to tell you that cancerous cells were found in the polyp I removed from your sigmoid colon."


     "Now you recall that I was unable to get all of the polyp out during the colonoscopy?"


     "Yes well. I should reassure you that there's no reason to believe, at this point, that it's anything beyond what we call a Stage A growth. I won't try to get into all the details now but basically this means that the cancer has not spread very deeply into the colon wall. If this turns out to be true, the probability of long-term survival is excellent."


     "Still, I must urge you to undergo the surgery to remove that section of the colon as soon as possible. I can recommend an excellent surgeon and I urge you to schedule an appointment with him just as soon as possible."


     "I understand, Professor Richardson, that this is difficult for you. But, while we can't be certain, there's no reason not to hope for the best – I'd say your chances are excellent."


     "Professor Richardson? Are you still there?"



Side: Anything that involves relating to another person is probably the least understood experience we have, the more intimate and/or personal, the more perplexing and complicated. […] Personal involvement with other members of our species is a fact of life. It's the "personal" part of the equation that becomes complex because it can mean and not mean so many different things, even ultimately (or especially) the inexplicable, the unarticulatable, the undefinable relationship. Like in Your Name Here: ____, he's not her peer, not her friend, certainly not her lover, yet he's made her his confidante. Sometimes he touches her, sometimes he doesn't. Each time it's in a totally different way. The completely undefinable nature of the relationship makes it more complicated than if he and she "simply" became romantically involved (and, working together, that would be complicated enough in itself). But that undefinable relationship becomes something that pervades and entangles every corner of the work they do, even when they know it's inadvisable to allow it to do so. This is also the complicating factor in inappropriate sexual behaviors and the huge gray areas of sexual harassment: Wanting to be noticed as more than a name & title & set of functions; wanting to be personally known & understood & accepted; wanting to be sexually desirable to the opposite sex / same sex / or both -- I think these have become fundamental instinctive drives in our species. A need almost as basic as food, shelter and reproduction. A need that probably grew when mere survival wasn't a question any more, thus the growth of the ego and the notion of the individual, I don't know, I'm not a social anthropologist! But as a basic need, the need to "be loved," (in all its various meanings, not just romantic) is the most interesting because it brings with it the baggage of conflict, confusion, complexity, & the potential for disillusionment. Which of our other "basic drives" have the potential for disillusionment? Disillusionment is only possible if there's the potential for illusion -- imagination. In this case, naturally, I don't equate the instinctive drive for reproduction with sexual desire, because obviously imagination is the largest (most important) part of -- and the biggest problem to -- sexual desire, isn't it? (Mazza, "An Alt-X Interview")
Sub-side: Desire [. . .] is made up of different lines which cross, articulate or impede each other and which constitute a particular assemblage [. . .]. What counts in desire is not the false alternative of law-spontaneity, nature-artifice; it is the respective play of territorialities, reterritorializations and the movements of deterritorializations. (Deleuze 97, 99)

Listen: So, as far as "feminist" as a pro-"underdog" descriptor, the "feminist" battle is far from obsolete. At the same time, to the degree that "feminist" describes an exclusive focus on one particular underdog, that myth has got to go. First, there is no generic "woman" (some would even argue that there is no such category as "woman," period), though all "women" to some degree suffer from sexism; second, to claim that women suffer socially AS women more acutely than they suffer under other denominators that mark them as socially "less than" or threatening – or that one's primary allegiance/identity should be as a woman in solidarity with other women - is shortsighted. (Damon)


Outside: What are we left with through the experience of this seemingly self-canceling fiction? Interestingly, Ron Sukenick may be helpful:

For me the whole purpose of the imagination in writing is to constantly destroy the formulations of language, to make language work against itself so that there can be an openness to data. {. . .] I am trying to make the work something that reminds the reader of how he himself thinks and what he is thinking, and thereby trying to activate his imagination so that he himself can look at the world, not necessarily in my version of it – in his own version of it." (Sukenick, "Cross Examination" 146)
Not the correct version, not the true version – neither text nor world affords us such certainty. A version, then, that you can live with, grow with, through which you can connect and reconnect with more of your experience and those of others.

     Erin starts searching for What Really Happened, assuming that somehow investigating "the hidden notebooks" will enable her "to find out" (17). So long as truth is at stake, she feels she must be able "to tell the memory of a lucid dream from the memory of something that happened while I was awake" (8). She ends, however, by asserting the power of fantasy, a healing enabled by "the most lucid dream of my life" (248) that allows her to pull together the deep splits in her self: "Then Erin can welcome Corinne back, recognize that what she's been missing is Corinne, not answers" (249).


Aside: Letting others speak in my text is not only a way of inscribing my work in a collective political movement, it is also a way of practicing what I preach. The dissolution of steady identities advocated by the poststructuralist generation is no mere rhetorical formula for me; the dethroning of the "transcendental narcissism" of the philosophizing "I" is a point of nonreturn. Letting the voices of others echo through my text is therefore a way of actualizing the noncentrality of the "I" to the project of thinking, while attaching it/her to a collective project. (Braidotti 37-8)

Side:But how can I not reinvent my own experience in my writing? Once I do so, I often can't remember what "really happened" to me. That doesn't matter -- what "really happened" to me becomes what I've written. [. . .] Often what "really happened" to me is confusing and that's why it stays buzzing in my head loud enough to work its way out my fingers onto the screen. That's a stupid way of saying the experiences that are the most import to me, and worthy of being explored in my work, are those I don't fully understand, or don't even begin to understand. Your Name Here: ___ is a perfect example because writing it, along with my story "Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?," led me to understand my experiences with sexual power or politics or manipulation (again, the gray areas of sexual harassment). Your Name Here: ___ does contain incidents of overt (criminal) sexual harassment, but those incidents are awash with and complicated by all the gray area of sexual manipulation which make up the rest of the book. (Mazza, "An Alt-X Interview")
Sub-side: the historical sense can evade metaphysics and become a privileged instrument of genealogy if it refuses the certainty of absolutes. Given this, it corresponds to the acuity of a glance that distinguishes, separates, and disperses, that is capable of liberating divergence and marginal elements – the kind of dissociating view that is capable of decomposing itself, capable of shattering the unity of man's being through which it was thought that he could extend his sovereignty to the events of his past. (Foucault, Memory, Counter-Memory, Practice 152-3)


     "Can I say something, Professor Richardson?" Gayle looked fixedly at the professor, catching his attention.

     "Sure, Gayle, what's on your mind?"

     "I'm not sure where you're going with this, but it seems to me that the notion that Erin finds some kind of ‘healing' at the end is awfully contrived, or trite, or easy, you know? Not, uh, very- postmodern, right? – and for sure not very postfeminist, or feminist, or whatever. Or maybe what bothers me is that she – I mean Erin, I don't know about Mazza – seems to be saying that she's found a healing, reconnected to the split-off part of herself, whatever, but there are just too many loose ends. At least for me."

     "And they are, the loose ends?"

     "Well, first of all, she still seems way too enmeshed with Kyle, a character who's really unpleasant and superficial – so if she's in fact grown, shouldn't she be able to see through him? On page 251, she claims she's ‘purged, exhausted, cleaned out,' but she's still committed to ‘go back' to Kyle ‘and this time let Corinne find you.'"

     "Yeah but—"


     "Doesn't she say she ‘already knows why' Kyle punched her and that she accepts that ‘it's time to bring it all back and leave it there with you, where it belongs' – so she's not going back to fawn on Kyle or start something up again, she's just returning to confront him and find some kind of resolution."

     "But," Gayle again, "is this any kind of genuine resolution? Doesn't that same paragraph end with her asking the one question she ought by now to know the answer to: ‘did I help you plan it?' So many she's progressed some just to be able to ask that question, but if she still can't really deal with even a possible answer, is she accepting responsibility in any sort of meaningful way?"

     "Oh come on," Mary said, "aren't we expecting way too much to think she can settle everything? She's been through a lot, and just to be able to confront the chance of her own collusion is an enormous step for her, a step toward taking responsibility for her actions. And isn't this just what Mazza talks about when she talks about the need to move beyond ‘vic-lit'?"

     "Maybe," the professor put in, "it depends on how you read the first sentences of that paragraph – if she has indeed gotten to "rock bottom," then she may be able to "start over" in a more, oh okay I'll use the word, authentic way. But surely there are factors that make us uneasy. For one, that she can only confront Garth in a fantasy: she realizes the objection that she still isn't "really facing that resolution either" and can only assert—this is on page 250, "Yes I am, Garth, think about it, I'm doing it, I'm facing it, it's over." And then there's the final gesture of throwing away the film – too melodramatic, too easy? Unconvincing? And at the very end, she refers to "the cameraman . . . who loved her" (252) – now that's Garth – but does he ‘love' her? Isn't that a fundamental illusion that she's still clinging to?"

     "Yeah," said Rose, "we never really do get a very clear understanding of where Garth is coming from – I thought his attitude toward Erin was in a sense even more violent than Kyle's toward Corinne. He's using her in an incredibly trite way – you know, the husband out of town getting a little action on the side, even as he reports in regularly to wifey. Treats her like meat. And when wifey gets suspicious, Erin gets dumped. It's humiliating – surely this isn't part of ‘postfeminism'?"

     "Well," Simon countered, "Erin knew the situation up front – if he uses her, then she lets herself be used. And maybe that's the point of postfeminism, the need to recognize the real complexity of women, their self-destructive impulses, their needs that lead them to undermine themselves. Until she can consider that she colluded in exploiting herself with both Kyle and Garth, then I don't think she's grown very much. But if we as readers can see it, then maybe we've learned something important?"

     "Bullshit!" Gayle was angry now. "This is the same old shit about women bringing violence on themselves. If postfeminism means suspending judgment and shifting blame back on to women, then I think it's dangerous and regressive. Real feminism means taking stands, having the courage to make judgments. Kyle and Garth are both jerks, brutal and manipulative – I hated both of them!" Suddenly Gayle laughed, perhaps bitterly, and added, "And I guess I gotta admit I've known my share of Kyles and Garths, so they're real enough, I suppose."

     "Right, but they weren't just jerks, were they?" Mary asked.


     "Yeah, and don't we have to remember," Simon again, "that all we know about either man gets filtered through Erin/Corinne's perspective. And isn't there enough to at least allow us to consider that both men are more than cardboard patriarchal villains? Kyle's got his desperate need to accommodate so that his career won't be jeopardized, which is a real issue for a lot of men. And Garth is certainly being manipulated by his wife in ways that I'd bet a lot of married men would relate to. I got just as pissed at her as at Garth. Yeah, okay, they use Erin/Corinne, but she uses them, too, right? And what she does to Haley, as she herself admits, is also a kind of ‘rape.' So I don't think it's as simple as men = bad guys, women = abused victims."

     "Yeah," Mary tried to pull some loose ends together, "and I wonder if something important isn't happening on page 251. How many of you noticed the font shift in the word now? At first, I thought it was maybe a misprint but now I think it might be deliberate, a way to emphasize her reconnecting not just fractured parts of herself but two different and conflicting time periods as well. Somehow, by admitting her own relative responsibility for whatever happened – no bad guys, no vic-chicks, I agree – she's able recover herself in the present moment, the now. Something like that."

     Gayle had calmed down. "Maybe, but I hope it doesn't all end up with a return to some ‘whole or unified self' bullshit – ‘cause I think she's still sorta beside herself at the very end, not all together in some sort of ‘presence': when she tosses the tape out the window, she's being very self-conscious, melodramatic. But maybe she's just accepting that there is no fixed authentic self, so she can afford to play with melodrama – wouldn't that be a kind of postfeminist thing?" She smiled at the professor – Richardson had a fleeting sense that she might be flirting with him – no, stop that, the time for games was past. Decades past.

Sub-side: The object, in short, is to define the regime of power-knowledge-sexuality-pleasure that sustains the discourse on human sexuality in our part of the world. The central issue, then (at least in the first instance), is not to determine whether one says yes or no to sex, whether one formulates prohibitions or permissions, whether one asserts its importance or denies its effects, or whether one refines the words one uses to designate it; but to account for the fact that it is spoken about, to discover who does the speaking, the positions and viewpoints from which they speak, the institutions which prompt people to speak about it and which store and distribute the things that are said. What is at issue, briefly, is the over-all "discursive fact," the way in which sex is "put into discourse." (Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction 15)


Listen: Maybe women are simply no longer afraid to honestly assess and define themselves without having to live up to standards imposed by either a persistent patriarchal world or the insistence that we achieve self-empowerment.

     I realized there is such a thing as postfeminist writing. It's writing that says women are independent & confident, but not lacking in their share of human weakness & not necessarily self-empowered; that they are dealing with who they've made themselves into rather than blaming the rest of the world; that women can use and abuse another human being as well as anyone; that women can be conflicted about what they want and therefore get nothing; that women can love until they hurt someone, turn their hurt into love, refuse to love, or even ignore the notion of love completely as they confront the other 90% of life. Postfeminist writing says we don't have to be superhuman anymore, just human. (Mazza, Chick-Lit: Postfeminist Fiction 9)


Side:I believe that the fine line between truth and perception may not exist, and perception is the only truth. I'm not really a philosopher either, so going much further will expose me as a poseur. But technically, the POV in Your Name Here: ___, as well as in Exposed and How to Leave a Country, is an exploration into the issue of "what really happened?" without being an answer. And when it comes time for an answer, it circles back on itself: what does the character think happened? The POV doesn't attempt to provide a universal "reality," only the character's reality -- and this is possible to do in either 1st or 3rd person narratives. The character's perception is the only reality important to me. I think memory is the only self-creation. The narrative forms I've used are often simplistic (journal entries that turn into direct-address one-way discussions; letters that turn into journals; personal writing as conversation with another person that'll never be heard, shared or answered), but it is the role of memory that complicates the experience that these semi-epistolary narratives create, because memory is both unreliable and it's the only reliable creation of self. Basically I've got a character being influenced by herself of ten years ago -- a self she thought she abandoned and remade -- as she reads an old set of journals and responds (spontaneously creating a new journal) on her laptop computer, inserting both older and newer memories to complicate those she finds in the journal. Her current set of experiences is also being impacted by the zigzag of memory. That's a circular self-creation, all made of memory, but structured in a dueling-journals form. And yet there's something happening, something that happened, something that might've happened -- the events involving sexual manipulation and/or harassment -- all happening simultaneously at the moment she perceives and/or remembers them. Again, toying with time. The pearls of crises strung on a linear plot have, for this character, all knotted together when the straight necklace got tangled by memory & retrospect, which are the only places we sustain a view of ourselves. (Mazza, "An Alt-X Interview")
Sub-side: Far from presupposing a subject, desire cannot be attained except at a point where someone is deprived of the power of saying ‘I.' Far from directing itself towards an object, desire can only be reached at the point where someone no longer searches for or grasps an object any more than he grasps himself as subject. (Deleuze 89)


Outside: "Toying with time." The composition of Your Name Here: _______ is instructive. In an e-mail to Professor Richardson (4/1/2002), Mazza explained:

When I started, I found I had just enough writing-energy to do one '79 journal entry per day – each took around 3 hours (tiny short ones not included). Then when I started the '89 journals, I knew they would come between the older journal entries, so I had to read the preceding '79 entry each day so I would remember what it said. It didn't take long for me to realize that's what Erin was also doing. BUT … her reaction to each had to be fictionalized because, obviously, my reaction to reading something I'd created 6 months earlier would be much different than a person's reaction to reading their own over-emotional scribblings from ten years ago. [. . .] I did have to revise them. Some were cut completely (it was too long), others condensed. And here is where some fudging had to take place, when events just weren't available enough. I think they are now. I think you can tell basically what was going on in the conference room, can't you? Remember, you can only know what Corinne perceived, and sometimes she was wrong.
Issues of authority must be examined. Are the '79 journal entries less ‘reliable' than those from '89, being selected and perhaps filtered through Erin's situation as she reads them. Would that make the '89 entries any more authentic? Surely not, for insofar as memory influences perception, both must be equally open to question. But notice that Mazza explicitly parallels the process of constructing the novel with the internal acts of reading one set of entries alongside the writing of another set. If what Corinne perceives and what Erin records can be "wrong," are the comments of the author necessarily any more authoritative? Do we ‘trust' what Mazza says in an academic article (say, the introduction to Chick-Lit or Chick-Lit 2) more than her perhaps spontaneous reactions to Mark Amerika's questions in the Alt-X online interview? Where to situate an e-mail she (presumably) sent to a professor regarding a class on pomo fictions?

     Aside from issues of author/ity, what does the "dueling journal" format (as she has called it) add to the novel? As Erin reads the earlier entries (is it fair to call them "over-emotional scribblings"?), do they help her in some kind of genuine transformative process? In which case, does this reflect possible insights/transformations available to the reader of the novel as a whole? Take, for example, the entry for 2/19/80 (171-2). Here we see two perspectives clashing ("dueling"?): Corinne is seeing Kyle as "groveling like a worm" before Golden's demands; Kyle, on the other hand, warns Corinne to "be perceptive" and not to be so presumptuous as to think she can "change anything." Each has points more valid than the other cares to acknowledge: Kyle is certainly compromising himself in his need to advance his career – perhaps he is in some sense "groveling"; on the other hand, Corinne's judgment is probably too harsh and fails to take into account his human desire for success – moreover, she wants to hurt Kyle for his refusal to acknowledge her presence in his life, for what she called in the immediately prior '80 entry a "sterile punishment sent through this sometimes soundproof, sometimes one-way mirror between us" (170). Corinne is angry, deeply angry, that in some pervasive and frustrating way, she is being ignored.

     Erin, too, feels slighted. The corresponding '89 entry begins with her realization that "he [Garth] isn't going to call" (172). Does she fear that she has been "groveling like a worm" before Garth's demands? In correct feminist fashion, she laments, "Why should I allow myself to be treated this way?" (173). Does she, however, sense that for Corinne, as for herself, the situation is a bit more complicated – that her earlier counterpart as well as her present self are both stuck in conflicting needs? Corinne criticizes Kyle but still bends to his wishes; Erin realizes that "Smart people are supposed to protect themselves from shit like this. I'm supposed to say: I deserve to be treated better than this." She feels this, admits the resentment and the anger that goes with it, but must still also acknowledge her desire: "I shouldn't need Garth!" she says at the end of the entry, yet she clearly still does. The feminist says, You shouldn't (fill in the blank here: ________________); the postfeminist says, Nevertheless, I do (fill in the blank here: ________________). Admit the full complexity of where you are before you try to change, might be part of the ‘message' of Mazza's novel.

     Does a realization of how contiguous entries influence each other help us to understand "basically what was going on in the conference room," as Mazza suggests? She's referring to the last entry of the '80 journal, which immediately precedes the beating which the entire novel is struggling to unravel. Corinne is waiting for Kyle to return, after their fight, in which the two of them circle around a table hurling accusations and defenses back and forth. Corinne charges Kyle with misleading and manipulating her to further his career – that, basically, he pimped her to Al and Cy. He, in turn, claims he never intended a scene that could become violent and that she herself is guilty because she "went along" when she didn't have to and "let it happen" (234). Although Corinne, in an earlier entry, also wondered about the extent to which she is responsible for what she later wants to call "rape" (she admits she "never should've had those joints by [her]self before [she] even got there" and that "no one held me down" [227-8]), now she wants to claim that "I didn't let it happen. It just happened" (234). Was it rape? Yes, of course. No, not exactly. Does Kyle realize that if she goes to management with charges of rape, his own career is likely to sink with those of Al and Cy? Does he become murderously enraged because he fears losing control of Corinne, a control he had counted on, taken for granted?

     The following entry from the '89 journal would seem to suggest that Erin realizes the basic ambiguity of the earlier events: "Maybe I'll never remember what it was I had decided to do when I left the conference room that day" (236) – and therefore what it was that provoked (allowed?) Kyle to beat her savagely. Was he simply taking out his frustration and fear on her? Why did she wait around for him to come back into the room, Erin wonders, when "some frantic primal urge just said Run and don't look back" (237). She decides that she must have been "protecting" Kyle "this time from myself." Yet just as in the earlier example, the older Erin isn't clearly wiser than Corinne, so again here in this crucial moment which might appear to trigger the epiphany of the ending, we must admit doubts. First, instead of struggling with the full implications of her ‘memories,' she decides to block them out with sleeping pills and illusions of Garth's love ("how can who and what we are to each other ever change?" [237]). She does confront Kyle – but only in a strange fantasy scene, closer to what she calls her "lucid dreaming" than to anything remotely ‘real.' She declares that "intending to tell the owner it was rape" must be what Corinne "would've decided" (241), yet then shifts and wonders if what motivated Kyle's fury was mainly a desire to be rid of her (echoes of her wanting to be rid of Haley, even to the extent of ‘raping' her?). Again, she avoids expressing her own anger and outrage, instead indulging a certain sympathy for Kyle, as if somehow they now share a bond, an intimacy forged by his fists ("Should I feel closer to you? Should I feel sorry for you? Should I have been more sensitive [. . .]?" [242]). Then everything gets tangled in a further degree of fantasy, when she imagines being kissed (finally!) by Garth. What a mess! But how real, how familiar, how human! Instead of lapsing into the safety of prescribed moral judgments, perhaps we must map (a map we construct, not one that can be given to us) the event.

Sub-side: Writing is very simple. Either it is a way of reterritorializing oneself, conforming to a code of dominant utterances, to a territory of established states of things: not just schools and authors, but all those who write professionally, even in a non-literary sense. Or else, on the other hand, it is becoming, becoming something other than a writer, since what one is becoming at the same time becomes something other than writing. [. . .] Writing has no other goal: [. . .] to release what can be saved from life, that which can save itself by means of power and stubbornness, to extract from the event that which is not exhausted by the happening, to release from becoming that which will not permit itself to be fixed in a term. (Deleuze 74, 75)

Listen: What is Postfeminist Writing? If you have no answer or don't even know what the question means . . . good, perhaps you're a postfeminist writer. Just another absurd label, but it - like all labels - represents contemporary criticism's on-going quest to locate, define and thereby understand writers who, for reasons as individual as they are, haven't been embraced or appreciated. (Mazza, Chick-Lit 2 13)


     "Hey!" Simon asked of the class as a whole: "Has anyone figured out the title yet?"

     Gayle responded, "Well, I found two places where it appears in the text – pages 226 and 248. The first one is a memory of the rape scene –"

     "Yeah, but was it rape?" Chuck interrupted. "I thought—"

     "Whatever," Gayle went on, "you know what I'm talking about. She realizes, ‘I was being fucked' and remembers someone singing ‘Happy Birthday.' So it suggests the nightmarish sense of unreality that pervades the entire novel, how ordinary things become bizarre, something like that, I don't know."

     "No, I think you're on to something," Mary trying to be supportive. "Then the second time also sorta shows her confusion and lack of self-understanding when she insists on Garth loving her: ‘Your name goes here, Garth.'"

     "When I thought about it," Rose offered, "I figured it referred to the reader – we're supposed to write in our own name, since this is in some sense or at some level about each of us, individually."

     "Then there are the two references to ‘Your Ad Here,' pages 192 and 200," Matts added, "referring to the tape the two of them make, the one she throws away at the very end – so it clues us in to its importance as an image of her mixture of collusion and exploitation."

     "You know what?" Richardson couldn't help himself. "I once asked Mazza about the title and instead of answering directly, she just said, "Hey, did anyone mention anything about my author photo? It has ‘my name there.'" Referring to the picture on the back cover, showing her seated on the back of her SUV, with one side referring to Mazda, the other to Mazza." Chuckles from the class.


Listen: We're no longer interested in special favors and Cosmo advice and sensitive men. We take our power and equality for granted and focus on the pleasures of being alive in the millennium. But postfeminism is in no way antifeminism. It is the fruit of feminism in many ways, it sprouts out of it, and however playfully it may treat its progenitors, it doesn't lose sight of history. Because, yes, gender is still an issue at large. It's merely our choice and our freedom not to treat it as one. We're inevitably building new history as we play on. (Euruduce, "Postfeminist Forum")



     "So what happened?"

     "What do you mean, what happened?"

     "You now exactly what I mean?"

     "No I don't, nothing happened."

     "Look, it's 2:30 in the morning, you were supposed to be home by 1, where have you been? Your mother and I have been frantic!"

     "Out with Charlie, you knew I was going out with Charlie, so his car broke down—"

     "Where did it break down, huh? Why did it take you this long to get home? We got you that cell phone so you could call us – why didn't you? We tried to call you, no answer – so what happened?"

     "My batteries ran down so I couldn't use the cell phone."

     "You're lying to me, tell the truth. You're only seventeen, you've got no business staying out this late – be straight with me."

     "I am telling you the truth, I was out with Charlie and his car broke down, I don't know where it was, on the way home, on the expressway, and he finally got hold of a friend to come pick us up, and that's why I'm late."

     "Oh come on, that's bullshit, tell the truth. Hey, look at me, are you high?"

     "No, I'm not high, I don't do drugs, I told you that."

     "Oh really, then why are your pupils so huge – you're lying to me. Tell me where you really were?"

     "Okay, I was out smoking crack and in an orgy with five guys at once, is that what you want to hear?"

     "All I want to hear is the truth."

     "Oh shit, I'm going to bed, I'm tired, good night!"

     "Oh no, not until you tell me what really happened."

     Sound of door slamming.


Outside: The final story in Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?, published four years before Your Name Here: __________, is helpful. "Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?," if only because it ‘concludes' that collection, suggests its importance then, and perhaps its relevance to the novel that followed. Divided into two columns, the man's position characterized in one, the woman's in the other, it provides an excellent introduction to Mazza's interest in point of view (what she often refers to simply as "POV"). However, the two sides are not given equal validation: Terence Lovell's (the man's) takes up more space, carries the primary plot line, and appears first, (so that most readers are likely to read it all the way through first), and has the last word as well, thereby giving it a kind of implicit authority. Moreover, the tone is mostly rational, calm, assertive – as we might expect, slightly detached. Comfortable with the authority its positioning in the story provides. The woman's (Michelle Rae's) seems more reactive, certainly "over-emotional," if not outright hysterical. No, that's not fair, that's just the surface.

     The two perspectives are presented as if at a hearing, perhaps one resulting from the sexual harassment charges. Terence's story unfolds primarily in third-person narrative, which lends the appearance of objectivity to his position. If we were limited to his POV, it might be reasonable to suppose that he's the one being harassed; reading only her POV, it's easy to imagine how someone like Terence might be offensive in the ways she charges – and furthermore, that he could be barely conscious of giving offense.(2) On the other hand, we learn that his wife leaves him and sues for divorce, he loses his exalted position as floor captain and is demoted to "regular waiter" (218), and seems to end up contemplating suicide – how could we not feel more sympathy for him than for Michelle's ravings? On the other hand, when Michelle reminds us that there are "so many ways to humiliate someone" (201) – well, we know from following Corinne's narrative that her feelings must be taken seriously: as Kyle did Corinne (at least, in her telling), Terence may simply be ignoring her, totally insensitive to the pain being caused. On the other hand, should he be responsible for her infatuation and so treat her carefully (should Kyle, too, be similarly responsible?)? Do we want to put ourselves in the position of respecting the report that simply seems more reasonable, more articulate, easier to accept? If we devalue Michelle's version, then don't we find ourselves allied with the very patriarchal system that she insists is oppressing her? Obviously, she has what psychobabble calls, carefully, ‘issues' – but then, who hasn't? On the other hand, her behavior does seem fairly paranoid and her reasoning . . . peculiar, as when she comments, "he could rape me at gunpoint any time he wanted, using that cigarette lighter which looks like a fancy pistol" (216).

     Then again, that pistol is an element that shakes whatever interpretive strategy we would devise. Is it a cigarette lighter that looks like a pistol, or vice versa? On Terence's side, it's described as "a small hand gun – the style that many cigarette lighters resemble" (199). Michelle, as we have seen, describes it in reverse terms, a lighter that resembles a gun. Someone is playing with our heads – the story itself, the larger form that juggles both POVs? Mazza? Does it matter? Insofar as the ending presents us with an image of Terence holding what is then described as "the elegant cigarette-lighter look-alike gun" (223), on the verge, maybe, of putting it to his head, then it does matter, surely. We're told that "when he tested the trigger once, he half expected to see a little flame pop from the end" – well, did he see "a little flame" or was there a cataclysmic explosion of ‘real' consequence?

     What really happened? We're back to that apparently unanswerable question – again. We also have to consider the slyness of . . . the author, when we see that the last words of the last sentence of the last story are: "the end." Can we joke about sexual harassment yet, whether of men or women or both or neither? At the very least, we must engage in a constantly shifting reconsideration of our own position on these topics – good training for the more developed and finally more intricate novel that would follow.(3)


Inside:The professor knew all too well the inside intricacies of sexual harassment – as did so many of his colleagues, who even as they solemnly voted to condemn even consensual relationships within academia, must have been aware of the irony of their own marriages that had originated in affairs with their students. Richardson had prided himself on being able to stir up his students but had never quite known what to do when among the emotions stirred up evolved into varying degrees of passion. Coming from young women but finding a ready response in him. At first, he wondered if the co-eds were simply trying to score another victory notch in the heady days of the experimental seventies; later, he suspected it was he who was keeping score, vainly trying to keep off all too evident signs of aging. His first wife finally had enough and sued for divorce – but he had already lined up his second wife from among that year's crop of impressionable graduate students. Now she too was gone, and he was left with these tangled speculations.
Sub-side: During this time I was screwing a deconstructionist. Well, two. One was a wanna-be, the other the thing itself. The thing about a deconstructionist is they won't hold still. Am I right? Slippery little suckers, aren't they. Always fading from focus, too. You know what I mean. It's like playing hide and seek with Nietzsche. God is dead. Olly-olly-umcomphree. Go fish. Good looking sons-of-bitches though. Anyway. (Lidia Yuknavitch, "Against Interpretation")


Listen: In contrast to the strident, earnest feminist, the "postfeminist" is fun, indifferent to, or even critical of, "politics," cheerfully apathetic, sexy and independent. She has no need for liberation or solidarity with other women and she's far too busy having orgasms to worry about such issues as comparable worth, daycare, or abortion. In contrast, feminists are viewed in much the same way one might view one's parents: as arbitrary despots clamoring about insignificant, petty concerns, as un-evolved. Uncool. Hopelessly "pre" and clueless about "post."

For the bad girl, the problem with feminism is that it has an agenda: the "postfeminist" woman is a free agent who refuses to be defined or labeled; for her, allegiances are merely limitations. She may be defined by her body or her sexuality, but she is never limited to it. Hers is an empowered sexuality constituted in an era of "post-dependency": she is autonomous, self-sufficient and no longer conflicted. The postfeminist bad girl is hard-wired [. . . ]; she has evolved beyond the pain and the unseemly rage of the feminist movement. She scoffs at Our Bodies,Ourselves feminism rooted in self-exploration and all-for-one collective sisterhood; the bad girl's body is a glamorous object over which she, and only she, has control.

In the wake of Katie Roiphe's The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, the feminist is seen as a whiner who deploys her victim status in order to avoid responsibility for her own actions and behavior. In the undergraduate classroom, feminism is decidedly passé; it is viewed as some kind of wacky religion, and the postfeminists are ensconced as its infidels. To call oneself a "feminist" is to embrace the retrograde identity of the seventies woman - the joiner, the placard-waver, the bra burner. This view is in many ways deeply ironic, given the fact that "postfeminism" can be seen as an outgrowth of academic feminism, which was deemed too theoretical and too distanced from the political issues of the women's movement. "Postfeminism," then, is the evil twin of academic feminism: the nerdy sister sheds her glasses and - presto! - she's got glam power. "Post" makes the so-called dogma of the feminist movement palatable to a popular culture audience which includes men and skeptical Gen-X women whose mothers were/are feminists. (Tarrier, "Bare-Naked Ladies: The Bad Girls of the Postfeminist Nineties")


Side: Bluntly, women (and men) want someone else to be turned on (sexually) by them. I'm not saying that sexual harassment doesn't exist, that there aren't actual victims who deserve compensation and victimizers who deserve punishment. Fuck me or no promotion. Sleep with me and I'll notice your intellectual capabilities. These are crimes with a distinct victim. [. . .] But what about the huge gray area I've been talking about? What I experienced in my early 20s would be called sexual harassment now, but I can't call myself a victim of anything other than a civilization that created the conflicting need in people to be noticed as both intellectually able and sexually desirable. When it happened, I stopped caring about anything else, put no effort into the particular work at hand, I showed no abilities or intellectual capability. Being "desirable" turned me into a weak, needy adolescent. No one did that to me. Yes, he was wrong for overtly acting on his need to be recognized as a sexual being. He led and I let myself be led. I never said "don't do that anymore" [. . .]. What finally made me angry: not that it had happened in the first place, but that it suddenly snapped off. His behavior ended abruptly. I was angry at being led someplace and then left there by myself. [. . .] But the "libidinal confusion" I was left with became fodder that energized my writing for years. (Mazza, "An Alt-X Interview")


Listen: When the first On The Edge: New Women's Fiction Anthology was released in October 1995, my ice-breaker, aren't-I-funny-as-shit identification tag in the call-for-manuscripts had become the subtitle:

Chick-Lit: Postfeminist Fiction

     There was even a colon! All of a sudden I was responsible for something, expected to define and defend it, wear the plaque, lead the garrison. Trying to remain undaunted, I offered a complimentary copy to a senior faculty member in English and Women's Studies. "Postfeminist, huh? What's that? Hope you're not implying all the issues have been solved or are obsolete."

My abashed response:

     But then someone else said it better. . .

BUT I'VE STUCK MY FINGERS IN IT." (two girls review)
(Mazza, Chick-Lit 2 13-4)


     "Is anyone else bothered by the way the novel handles sexuality?" Nora asked.

     "What do you mean?"

     "Well, first of all, there are places where it seems awfully, oh I don't know, sappy or something. For example, March 15th entry in the '89 journal, which seems to be both explicit and sentimental. I mean, come on: ‘Garth was on his back, and I was touching his cock with the tip of a single finger' and so on – and the way it ends: ‘maybe the most important part of his story was how he told more of it without words, and how I listened with my body.'"

     "So?" Chuck asked aggressively, "What's wrong with that? Those are real feelings, aren't they? And I think it's sorta beautiful, that whole scene."

     "And," Gayle said, "she admits that a lot of her feelings aren't ‘very feminist, mature and professional' – that's on page 48 – but I agree with Chuck this time, ‘cause I know exactly what she's talking about, I've been there and more than once. And that kind of intensity just doesn't follow any politically correct rules about what we should feel."

     "Well, maybe. But I also wonder about Libby's role in all this."

     "Yeah," Justin agreed, "I noticed too that we haven't said anything about her yet."

     "Okay, what do you think we need to say?" asked the professor.

     "I think maybe she's the key to everything – which would certainly give the novel a slightly different slant. Okay, she was the spark of the first triangle, the one she formed with Corinne and Marcus. Then there's the mention of Libby doing a 'parody' of a striptease, which she starts to get in to, and which sets up the scene toward the end of the novel, where Erin confronts the stripper. Plus, she gets connected to Haley – for example, in that scene where she's thinking about her setting up Haley's being fired – on pages 114-115 – she's more engrossed with trying to recall if she ever told Haley about Libby. But maybe most important is when Libby kisses her (pages 121-2), which sends Corinne into a total panic, running away as if for her life. So before she ever meets Kyle, let alone Garth, she's running away from something she doesn't want to admit about Libby –"

     "Or maybe something she doesn't want to admit about herself," Simon broke in. "Obviously, she attracted sexually to Libby, despite all her efforts to suppress it. So could it be that she becomes so confused about heterosexual love because she's a latent lesbian? Or at least bi-?"

     "Oh come on, why couldn't she just be turned off by what Libby did then and is running not mainly from that but from that entire world?" Chuck asked.

     "No, I think Simon and Justin are right here," Mary put in, and don't we have to remember that while she ran terrified away from Libby's kiss, she longs extravagantly for Garth to kiss her? So maybe we have to factor in repression to her problems with memory --?"

     "Yeah but," Chuck shot back, "she doesn't repress her memory of Libby, it's right there, that's why you noticed it."

     "But she seems – here and in a lot of places – unaware of the implications of what she tells us, as if she doesn't want to know," Mary replied.

     "Hey, maybe that's the point," Matts added, "that she desperately wants to know what happened and just as desperately doesn't want to know. You know?"

     Chuckles again. Shouldn't we be serious? the professor almost said but didn't.

     "We should be serious, shouldn't we?"? asked Gayle, looking at the professor. Did she wink? Surely not. Gayle smiled, perhaps at herself, at her reflexive seriousness. The class faded into gray.


[Real Time Window:(4) an e-mail exchange in which Professor Richardson is copied:

TO: Cris Mazza
CC: Tristram Richardson
SUBJECT: Authorial authority
FROM: Lance Olsen
From my point of view, once an author has written something she or he becomes simply one more critic of one's work among many.
In fact, as author, half the fun is seeing how readers read against one, around one, shed light on corners one never thought need light shed on them, invented special effects one never even contemplated contemplating.
How do you feel about this question of authority and authorship, Cris?

TO: Lance Olsen
CC: Tristram Richardson
SUBJECT: RE: Authorial authority
FROM: Cris Mazza
I rarely say an interpretation of my work is incorrect, except if it is based on factual errors or errors in misunderstanding technique (i.e., a reader believing Corinne's inventions of Kyle's thoughts are really his thoughts). But as far as theoretical or critical interpretations, I am usually awed by them, pleased by them, astonished by them, flattered by them (sometimes), and learn from them (sometimes). But I do think that my relationship with my own work is going to be vastly different than any one reader's. Some readers will agree with each other and have similar interpretations, but no one anywhere will see my work as I do or have the relationship to it that I do. This makes me, in many ways, *not* the best critic of my own work (I've tried to only respond to readings I think have gone awry – for the above reasons – or to pose questions for readers to test their interpretations). I can know what I intended, but I also know the personal energy, the secret part of myself where the work came from, which is something the reader shouldn't necessarily have because it will influence the reader's interpretation with something outside the text. (Yes, I suppose Tristram's students asked, "I wonder if this happened to her, to Mazza," but my reasons for not responding have to do with letting the book speak to you on its own power. Finally, it doesn't matter what I intended or what I think – what do *they* think, that's all that really matters, and I can only hope they think all sorts of things.)]

(1) This e-mail exchange raises questions again analogous to those framed by the novel: yes, Cris Mazza is of course ‘real,' but Richardson is a fictional character, more or less. So how do we know these positions ascribed to her aren't fictitious? (The date of the exchange is also a bit suspicious.) Are all texts – journals, letters, e-mails, critical essays, position papers any/all forms ofdiscourse – in some important sense fictitious? Where does truth enter in? Are the Works Cited that follow all, like what you have just read, modes of critifiction? Are we always-already (as poststructuralists are fond of saying) in gray areas?

(2) Pamela Caughie also notes that the presentation of Terence's POV, situated within a third-person exposition, is likely to make it seem more compelling, whereas Michelle's ‘side,' "unmediated by narrative agency [. . .] sounds incoherent, even irrational, and [. . .] is emphatically personal and emotional" (ix-x – she expands her discussion somewhat in Passing and Pedagogy, 202-244, by discussing other notorious cases of sexual harassment). But Caughie's goal is to sensitize us to the ways in which the discourses of sexual harassment narratives are governed by forms controlled by the dominant (patriarchal) culture – so that we should be finally more sympathetic with Michelle, who transgresses those norms because she must. I would argue that the story is more complicated than that, so that it becomes increasingly difficult to sympathize with either position.

(3) Another story in that collection also seems to prefigure closely Your Name Here: _________. "The Old Gopher Returns" is told from the POV of a woman returning to confront a prior boss who ‘let her go' under ambiguous circumstances and who now seems (pretends?) not even to recognize her. A preview of what might happen should Erin go on to hunt down Kyle? (And note that both the boss here and Kyle have the nickname "Champ.") One could also look at ""His Crazy Former Assistant and His Sweet Old Mother," "Second Person," and "Wistfully," all in that same collection and focusing on a male-boss/female-worker ambiguous relationship. For Mazza, in this period of her writing career, such situations seem paradigmatic and rich in libidinal confusion.

(4) A playful device used by Sukenick in Mosaic Man which speaks in a present tense ‘outside' the time frame of the narrative but which inevitably remains folded into the text and thereby calls into question our assumptions about time linearly conceived. To ‘work' it must be accepted as real, actual, non-fiction – impossible? Of course: you will read this, if ever, long after I actually compose it on my computer. Still, the pretense of an extra-textual time frame raises questions of authority and trust, questions inevitably similar to those explored by Mazza in Your Name Here:______. See footnote #1.

Works Cited

Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.

Caughie, Pamela. "Introduction," Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?. Normal: FC2, 1998.
---. Passing and Pedagogy: The Dynamics of Responsibility. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. Dialogues. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia UP, 1987.

Damon, Maria. "Postfeminist Forum," Electronic Book Review,

Eurudice. "Postfeminist Forum." Electronic Book Review,

Federman, Raymond. Critifiction: Postmodern Essays. Albany: SUNY Press, 1993.

Foucault, Michel. "Nietzsche, Genealogy, and History," Language, Counter- Memory, Practice. Ithaca: Cornell UP.
---. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York, 1978.

Lily James, "Postfeminism Is With the Angels."

Mazza, Cris. "An Alt-X Interview with Cris Mazza."

---. Chick-Lit: Postfeminist Fiction. Eds. Cris Mazza & Jeffrey DeShell. Normal: FC2, 1995.
---. Chick-Lit 2: No Chick Vics, Eds. Cris Mazza, Jeffrey DeShell, Elisabeth Sheffield. Normal: FC2, 1996.
---. Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? Normal: FC2, 1991.
---. Your Name Here: _________. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1995.

Sukenick, Ron. "Cross Examination," In Form. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1985.
---. Mosaic Man. Normal: FC2, 1999.

Yuknavitch, Lidia. "Against Interpretation."

An interview with Cris Mazza by KatMeads can be found at
"CRIS MAZZA's World, and What Rocks It"
in FlashPøint #10