page 116 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

“Good intentions prove nothing,” true; “Faith proves nothing,” and I disagree with this because faith proves faith, Faith is its own proof. And not just in something religious, but even of oneself – faith in oneself proves faith in oneself, to be daring, to be rebellious, to listen and have faith.

Never have a found a book so profoundly brilliant and infuriating at the same damn time.

page 115 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Again these statements she makes are odd: “War is the father of us all” seems far to general and sweeping and, honestly, a little insipid. What does this even mean? I mean, what does it really mean … is she saying that strife and murder conjoin with nurture to produce? what, exactly? I see war as something that happens to us, not as something that gives us half of our DNA.

page 115 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Odd how Keates wrote about reading King Lear, an old man at the end of his life when Keates is eternally young. Is it the same as when I, nearing 50, read Keats to prime the pump of his youthful well hoping to find youth there, just as he thought about nature and age and wandering through the barren landscape of … what, exactly? Was he mapping the topography of aging? of time?

page 114 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

“To be rebellious and to distrust rebellion is the plight of the tragic artist. Daring is dangerous.” True. I wonder how much ED thought she was being daring? Maybe in the sense that she wrote what was in her heart and mind – because to reveal oneself is an act of daring – but did she think of herself as rebellious? I imagine her as someone who questions – is asking questions a form of daring rebellion? Probably.

page 107 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Did Shakespeare have a “volcanic loathing for women?” He was equally able to peel back anyone’s skin to find their soul – I’d argue he didn’t much care for anyone, man or woman, which made him able to see them for all their good and evil. You sort of have to hate humanity to find a way to actually love it and know why you love it and express why you love it. If you always love, you never question it.

page 102 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

OK, now THIS I can totally get behind in that she’s naming the gun (is the gun) in the way of myth where swords had names, “Beowulf had Naegling, Sigmund owned Gram, Roland – Durandel, Hauteclere belonged to Oliver, and the Lady of the Lake lent Excalibur to Arthur”. But here she is not only gun / sword, but giver and wielder. She’s all three and thus encompasses myth.

page 95 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I feel like I’ve lost some of the thread here. She’s pulling for a lot of sources and quoting them at length, but if she wants us to see what she sees she needs to maybe be a bit more clear? Trying to write the way ED thinks is bold, but I’m sot sure she’s pulling it off well here. Fascinating nevertheless, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m probably not smart enough for this book.

page 84 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

Not that I am for how women were treated during ED’s time, but to say women were “psychologically mutilated” is going too far. All people are forced to work within a system they have no control over so to suggest that a male dominated society only has a negative influence on women suggests that there in no effect on men, which isn’t true either. We’re all in this together; troubling to see these divisions.

page 79 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

She equates ‘loaded gun’ with hunting down Higginson and, thus, hunting down approval, help, appreciation, validation … and everything a writer hopes to find in the eyes of a fellow creative. To hunt with a gun, however, in terms of creativity, is interesting in that she’s a loaded figure full of dangerous potential. And she’s a gun he can never figure out how to shoot.

page 64 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

I like the letter where Browning says “I am perfectly indifferent whether my name is remembered or not. The reward would be that the ideas which were mine, should live and benefit the race!” I can see how ED might appreciate this too. Shakespeare probably would care, being the practical businessman / showman that he was, so I think that analogy falls apart, but the point is still taken.

page 62 of 160 of My Emily Dickinson

The two Emily’s. This is an interesting comparison and contrast. EB writes, “I threw the flower on the ground; at that moment the universe appeared to me a vast machine constructed only to bring forth evil”. How does this square with ED’s philosophy? I doubt she saw this much evil in a flower, but she is skeptical of everything, and like Blake, I doubt she’s seeing a (just and goodly) universe in a grain of sand.

page 250 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

Being captain of a ship with a bunch of starving people and kids would be a nightmare – nobody would know what to do (and what not to do) and everybody would think they have a right to the ship’s operation (like the engine or the water supply). Having been in the Navy, reading this section makes me laugh, cringe, and stressed out all at the same time – and yet I’m not the one fleeing for my life.

page 221 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

Everyone spying on each other, class disparity, government control – it’s like these things just keep happening over and over again no matter what country you live in – now it’s becoming America’s turn to dive head first into this insanity because if anyone thinks the artifice of society and government and safety are permanent has not opened the books those in power want to burn.

page 213 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

At the same time, spring 1975, while Vietnam was (either won or lost, depending on who you asked and which side you were one), Cambodia was also being taken over by communist forces, the Khmer Rouge, and that would lead to the killing fields and the horrific genocide in that country. It feels like Cambodia has yet to recover from those events, while Vietnam currently seems like it stands on its own now.

page 206 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

I like how she shows how complicated the situation was for her parents. Her father talks about the general who killed the Viet Cong in the head (the famous photo) and about how he hated that the military treated the people like criminals, but then also talks about how that Viet Cong had murdered his family a few hours earlier. There aren’t really sides here, it’s more complexities of nuance and gray and surviving.

page 168 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

She also shows the ugly side of Vietnamese independence and how 200,000 were killed in the Land Reforms and that nobody was really free and the police made sure you clapped during the propaganda films. Not much of a life, especially if you’ve enjoyed the material luxuries of the French. Hard to go back home again (which he literally is doing but is struggling with seeing the upside to).

page 158 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

It’s interesting how even though the French brought so many luxuries to Vietnam, which her father enjoyed, especially since he had been so poor initially before attending French school, so many people were willing to give it up to claim an independent identity, even if it meant sacrificing family. Speaks to the power that blood has over material things, and how much freedom is more valued than being ruled.

page 150 of 330 of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir

I don’t know if I should admit this, but I agree with her mother about how “Marriage = trap” and “Education = freedom”. I know it’s possible to balance the two, but I know it’s also a struggle and when you have to decide between the two you’re almost always going to side with family rather than freedom – and not that it’s a negative thing to do so, but balancing self vs others is always a conflict and tension.