Ten Months: I’m a Complete SnotSucker For You

Hello sweet, sweet little one! You are an improbably Brobdingnagian ten months old today. I am writing this update from the master suite (which I do not deserve, but got nevertheless after pitching a teary fit at the “glamping” accommodations I’d originally and enthusiastically requested) of an eight-bedroom ranch in the middle of Texas, where your extended family on your mother’s side is reuniting in honor of Thanksgiving. Because your father and I are true Americans, we allowed you to partake in the classic American pastime of catching a cold on the airplane, and thus the past few days have been alternately heart-wrenching for you, and rather low-key, usually having to do with the frequency of baby Tylenol administrations.

Your aunt and cousin visiting Eugene from Austin. (Not pictured: Your uncle. Also not pictured: you and your cousin fighting over toys.)

I always fly with baby Tylenol and your “SnotSucker,” a contraption that (ostensibly) involves me gently placing a funnel on the perimeter of your nostril and then sucking out whatever godforsaken biomass is parked there obstructing your breathing, but which actually involves your father pinning you down while you scream bloody murder and I flail about with that instrument of death until by some miracle of miracles it manages to extract the distustingness and you can breathe again.

Rocking your jogging stroller in healthier days. I do no jogging with this, obviously. 

As you can possibly tell from that description, I have, for the first time, had to break out said Emergency Baby Sick Kit on this trip. At the moment of this writing, you seem to be on the mend a bit, but I am deep in the throes of whatever it is you had, and all I have to say is that I now understand 100% why you woke up caterwauling inconsolably at 3 a.m. the other night. I understand completely. Right now your grandmother is watching you while I hole up in the aforementioned master suite and when I flopped down onto the bed to type this I actually let out an actual whimper.

Being sick with a baby is tough. Having a sick baby is tougher, though. I would gladly volunteer to be sicker than this for every day of the rest of my life if I could guarantee that you would never feel the sore throat pain you felt at 3 a.m. the other night, my darling little one.

As such, your ten-month update is going to be even more of a narratively-dubious mishmash than usual. But I made a solemn promise to myself that I would write something about you every single month on the day of your “month birthday” (which, make no mistake, is NOT A THING and we have never used that term in earnest) no matter what, so here goes.

So, no big deal or anything, but a week or so ago you started talking. You went from an adorable lump of grunting, squirming, smiling, sleeping foie gras to a human being who speaks limited but nevertheless recognizable English. NO BIG DEAL. So, sure, your vocab isn’t the hugest. You would probably only score about a 1500 on your SAT at this point (I am assuming they’ve been recentered so many times by now that 1499 is the starting score). You say “Hi” (and wave) to anyone and everyone in your vicin, although it sounds more like “Hah.” This extends to yourself in the mirror, which is as adorable as it sounds. You sometimes say “uh-oh” when you drop something off your high chair. I realize this isn’t standard English per se, but you often smack your lips when you want to nurse. But the one actual, unmistakeable word you say, your real and irrefutable first word is…

Mama. (*heart implodes*)

I’d be outright lying if I pretended to be anything other than smugly delighted with this development. I’ve only spent the last ten months with you cleaved onto me almost nonstop, kid. I have EARNED your first fucking word. Mama FTW. It is especially wrenching when I have the gall to go to the bathroom and leave you with your father for forty-five seconds and you would prefer I don’t do that, and I can hear you screaming MAMA! MAMA! MAMAMAMAMAMAMAMAMA! (*heart collapses in on itself*)

You’d think this meant that I was your favorite person in the universe. You’d be wrong. Sometime in the last week, as we prepare at long last, after a wonderful three months in Eugene, Oregon, to take our leave of my parents, you have become so attached to your Grandma that when I try to take her away from you, you physically cling onto her like you are a barnacle and she is the world’s only boat. 

 It’s decaf at least. 

If one of us does successfully wrest her from your grip, you are inconsolable. Granted, she’s garnered this favor largely by pandering to your insatiable desire for dangerous objects to play with, but still. I really hope you haven’t developed any long-term sense of time or space, because when we take her away from you tomorrow, it’s going to be rough. Of course, we’re then depositing you directly into the arms of your other grandmother in San Diego (the second-to-last phase of our Endless Paternity Leave of Travel), so your anguish should be limited to our four-hour flight, wherein you will certainly pick up your next cold (and thus also your parents’ next cold). Thank all deities and all science and Sir Richard Dawkins himself that you have had all of your vaccinations and a cold is (knock every available tree-based surface) the worst thing you can catch on these hurtling metal petri dishes whose every surface you insist upon shoving directly into your maw.

Mmmm George W Bush Decision Points. Delish. 

Speaking of your maw: Although you can now use it to use your words, your spoken oeuvre is not the limit of your language (and therefore world). You have also started using your baby sign language, albeit not usually in conjunction with your desire for whatever each sign portends, but rather in concert with the given page of the Baby Signs book we read you. The only sign you sometimes use “correctly” is the sign for “more,” often in the context of your books, at the ends of which you have been known to raise holy hell if there is not another book immediately ready to be read (or, more often, the same book, over and over again).

Speaking of your books: You never learned the sign for “mother,” but every time we open to the “mother” page of Baby Signs (or, rather, you open to it; you’ve been insisting on turning your own pages for almost two months now), without prompting you say…you guessed it, Mama. (*heart explodes*) You have also learned to identify a miś, or teddy bear, in any book that has a picture of one, and with that identification you utter a sweet little sound, a sort of “hmmm.” In addition to waving, you’ve also recently (today) learned the cherished art of the high five (right now you only respond when I do it in Borat accent; I’m trying not to be proud), and your new favorite game is to stick your tongue out, especially when someone else returns the favor.

Complete with Texas sized mosquito bite!

Sure, it’s not all fun and games; your newest favorite hobby while nursing is to use your fine motor skills to pinch the outer layer of my boob skin as hard as you can, sometimes often executing a breast-tissue-based Titty Twister, sometimes also compounded by the godforsaken talons you will no longer allow your father and me to trim, even when you’re sound asleep. No shit, you can snatch your hand away from us even in the deepest slumber.

Tomorrow we will take you on an airplane for the fifth time since August. (The tenth, if you count connections.) As of now you have not cried or expressed anything other than delight and curiosity for more than about two minutes, and you have charmed each and every passenger in your vicinity, up to and including the woman into whose lap you crawled for a full third of the most recent flight we took. There is no person in the world less deserving of this luck; I am the asshole who, when my row companions remark I feel bad for the parents when an inconsolable babby screams, used to go I feel bad for me. I’m the asshole who once rolled my eyes to my also-childless seating companion and nodded in strenuous assent when he said, There should be a licensing exam to parent. I am the asshole who, when stuck next to a blubbering couple absconding their shell-shocked new adopted one-year-old from his home country to their McDonald’s-filled household, took my earplugs out of my bag and kissed them before putting them in. (The kid was unbelievably sweet the whole time and I am an ASSHOLE.) I AM THAT ASSHOLE.

This lady is an asshole. 

We have two more flights to survive before our days of flying with an infant are over. I fully expect at least one major event of some sort, and if I get no sympathy from a single soul on board, I will deserve that fate.

At any rate, back to you, my sweetest cold-suffering little bean. Because you actively charm anyone who is not us (whilst also suffering from some minor-to-major stranger anxiety, directly proportional to the maleness and loudness of voice of your interlocutor), you have been characterized as an “easy baby” by people who have no fucking idea what they are talking about, no offense. What you are is largely very good-tempered because we know exactly what you want and can usually either give it to you (if it’s food, a boob, sleep, to be hotter/colder, to be in your Grandma’s arms) or distract you away from it (the electrical outlet, the fireplace, wrought iron spikes, unattended swimming pools, knives). On the rare occasions we don’t know how to or can’t help you — or, for example, to use a TOTALLY random example, when you’re exhausted and want to sleep but you’re too congested to sleep and the congestion makes you cry and that worsens your congestion, and I have to SnotSuck you and you believe that to be akin to waterboarding — your anguish is evident to anyone in a half-mile vicinity. (Of course then they just go: “Wow, she doesn’t usually do that. She’s so easy.”)

Your cousins helping to read you to sleep. 

Another example: At the Eugene airport before we left on this trip, you had an ill-timed Code Brown that needed attending to in the airport restroom, and since we were in a public restroom I could not indulge your usual diaper-change acrobatics, that often take upwards of a quarter hour and involve you rolling over and crawling everywhere (often through your own excrement, which is just fantastic, and if you didn’t want me to tell the Internet about it you should have thought about not doing it!). I had to make use of the Baby Straitjacket feature of the Koala Kare changing table, and let’s just say that the passengers at the furthermost gates one full escalator away were aware that you were irate at this turn of events.

Speaking of escalators! Or, rather, stairs. You LOVE stairs. You can scramble up an entire flight of stairs in about a minute. You are just beginning to figure out how to get down (backwards!) but at this point a spotter is necessary at all times. You are also just starting to stand unassisted for a few seconds at a time, often when you’re on ceramic tile or poured concrete or some other surface that would be great to fall down onto. Your confidence with your growing motor coordination is only rarely punctuated by mishaps, such as the time you toppled headfirst into your toy bin at my parents’, your flailing legs the only thing visible as you voiced your considerable displeasure at your new milieu.

Speaking of falling down: Every night before you go to sleep, you spend about 20-90 minutes flopping around the bed, delighted and adorable (Beanie Smooches abound, which are sort of like a Dementor’s Kiss, except they fill you with happiness instead of taking it all away, and are possessed of substantially more slobber), but not falling asleep. Sometimes you flop yourself down onto your belly with your ass in the air, and literally kick kick kick yourself to sleep; the intervals between kicks become longer until they fade away altogether. Your other new favorite position for slumber is what I call the Snuggle Buggle Ruggle, where I drape you across my chest and plant your head in the vicinity of my left boob, so as to gently coerce you into drifting back off (and allow myself to do the same). It works a little too well, and as a result I’ve had to spend a few recent nights with your head plopped directly on top of my face.

I created this. All of it. 

You are still usually enthusiastic about eating. You suck down those unappetizing-looking pouches of organic baby food, yes, but also oatmeal mixed with chia (which then smears all over you and will NOT come off; the other day we found a half-sprouted chia seed in your butt crack). Your favorite foods are broccoli and frozen blueberries cut in half. 

 Your second-favorite foods are still non-foods, preferably the very dangerous sort. And still nothing compares to your parents’ iPhones, despite our constant admonitions that they are “not for chomping”! Recently you have also, to my simultaneous dismay and delight, begun to figure out how the iPhone works, and can even work a few of the less-insidious baby apps (the “rattle,” the “bubble popper,” the animated versions of Blue Hat, Green Hat and The Going to Bed Book). By far the best thing you have begun doing with the phones, though, is sniffing them like they’re a 40-year-old cabernet. Then you look straight at us, smile, and begin to chomp, knowing full well that they are not for chomping.

For a few weeks there, you were too impatient to love your books, preferring instead to turn the pages at warp speed and then chomp on them for a few minutes before hurling them across the room and then launching yourself for parts unknown once more. Now you are once again enthralled by them. Your favorite is Global Babies, a gift from your friend Gretchen, that has adorable pictures of babies from around the world: Mali, Spain, Afghanistan, Peru, South Africa, Fiji, etc. Your favorite of all the Global Babies is the baby from Bhutan. You love her so much, in fact, that sometimes, I say, “Beanie give the baby from Bhutan a kiss?” and you lean down and smooch the page. (*heart spontaneously combusts; phoenix heart rises from heart ashes; implodes again*)

Sweetest little one. May you feel better soon, and may a little cold be your only hinderance for the rest of your long and joyous life. I am in constant awe of your curiosity, your bravery, and your humblingly monumental heart. I wish I could read you a baby book that never ended, and watch you flop around on the bed and giggle and say Mama for time eternal. (Also, simultaneously and fully not mutually-exclusively, I wish I could hire Mary Poppins for juuuust like the next twelve hours and watch Jessica Jones on Netflix and drink warm water so that I could recover from the brutal adult version of the fucking cold you slobbered onto me.)

My sweet, sweet wonderful little one.

Yours forever,

MAMA (*heart collapses*)  


Kafka & Wittgenstein Interview with Straw-Man Me Part I

SCHUMANAs many of you know because I have told you, my first book, the academic monograph Kafka and Wittgenstein: The Case for an Analytic Modernism, came out yesterday. (Because everyone knows a Sunday pub date equals lots of sales. A-duh.) I am proud to say that it is currently the #1 bestseller in books about Kafka and Wittgenstein that were released yesterday. QUITE A FEAT, if I do say so myself. I expect it to remain at the top of this list (of one) for the rest of its print run (of slightly more than one, but not much).

Aaaaanyway, this week, along with my joke contest, I am going to run a promotional interview I did with a straw-man version of myself, and before I get started I do have to say that I lobbed myself some serious softballs, and am not impressed. This interview may or may not run all week, depending on whether or not I stay on track with my other book deadline, which looms very large.

Q: What the fuck is ‘analytic modernism’? That sounds made up. Also, why should I care about it? 

A: I’m so glad you asked, and in such a nice way, straw-man me. I define “analytic modernism” a bunch of different ways in the book, most of which use big-ass words that are no longer a part of my everyday vocab, so feel free to defer to the much smarter version of myself that wrote this book in 2012, but basically, it’s this: At the same time that Kafka (and Rilke, and Kraus, and Hofmannsthal, and Musil, and Stefan Zweig, and Georg Trakl, and people we now associate with “Austrian Modernism”) wrote, there was a huge revolution brewing in philosophy, of which Ludwig Wittgenstein was a key part (some would say the most important part, but others would not). This revolution was called “the New Logic” (Aristotelian logic being an “old logic”), and basically it was the precursor to what is now taught around the world as first-order logic, which is a key component to what people outside philosophy departments call “analytic philosophy,” and philosophers call “philosophy.”

Q: Wait, are you saying that Heidegger is NOT the number-one figure studied by philosophers worldwide, like I was led to believe in all of my literature seminars?

A: That is indeed what I am saying, straw-man me. In the vast majority of English-language philosophy departments in the world, Wittgenstein, not Heidegger, is considered the most important philosopher of the first half of the 20th Century. Fun fact: When I shared this in my book, my editor Nathan put in a marginal note that was like, “Are you sure you want to say that Wittgenstein is THE most important philosopher of the first half of the 20th Century? Wouldn’t most people say that was Heidegger?” And I was like, “Wow, Nathan, you sound JUST LIKE STRAW-MAN ME, are you two friends?” and he was like, “What?” and I was like, “Never mind, but no, actually, only literary theorists believe that; I’m stickin’ to my guns in the motherfucking book.” Then I deleted the word “motherfucking,” because Nathan doesn’t need to deal with that.

Q: Tell me more about how The New Logic fits in with Kafka. Kafka strikes me as highly illogical. Given that, you know, most of the shit he writes about makes no sense.

A: I am SO glad you mentioned this, straw-man me. So, logic. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Or at any rate, I think you are using the word in a kind of casual, quasi-Aristotelian sense. The best way to explain this would actually be to introduce one of my chapters, which also appeared in an earlier form as this article in the German Quarterly. (DON’T WORRY, almost all of the book is NEW MATERIAL.) In the chapter about Der Prozess (The Trial), I concentrate on one particular structure in formal logic: the contradiction.

You know Josef K., right? How he can’t be guilty of anything specific, because he’s never charged? But he also can’t be NOT guilty, because he’s never charged so he can’t exonerate himself? Pretty fucked up, no? It’s ALSO what we call a logical contradiction. Josef K. is not guilty AND not-not guilty. ~G & ~~G, if you want to use the most jacked version of formal logic I can quickly crap out on a keyboard.

Anyway, the Prozess chapter explores what Wittgenstein had to say about logical contradiction in the Tractatus (HINT: IT’S INTERESTING), including the super-fascinating rule of “false elimination” or ex falso quodlibet, which relates back to Der Prozess in a wonderful way.

Once we see how well Josef K.’s lack of charge fits with the form of the logical contradiction, a dozen other logical contradictions in the novel appear, culminating with the Priest telling Josef K.: “Misunderstanding something and correctly understanding that same thing are not mutually exclusive.” That should apply to this chapter recap, too!!! Booya.

Q: Whu?

A: All’s I’m saying is: If you’re a fan of Der Prozess, or Der Proceß, however the fuck you want to spell it, but you’ve never been 100% convinced by the bajillion other readings of Josef K.’s “guilt” (or non-guilt), most of which are political, then give my reading a try! You might like it!

Q: I doubt it. Not enough Heidegger.

A: Suit yourself then.

How many Tractatus remarks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

…none, because if you read them right, you’d have to THROW AWAY THE LADDER.

See what I did there?

Hello. Today is Nov. 15, 2015, which is the release date of my first book, Kafka and Wittgenstein: The Case for an Analytic Modernism (Northwestern U Press).  It is also two weeks before the due date for the manuscript of my second book and first book of commercial nonfiction, so shit’s a bit hectic around here.

HOWEVER. The baby and I would like to do a little promotion in honor of K/W’s release, and I do mean “little,” because I only have one book to give away. I got five freebies from the publisher and the other four are spoken for (family, adviser, May who will actually read it, and one to keep), but the fifth, the fifth CAN BE YOURS. (And yes, I will inscribe it, or not, depending on whether you think that would add to or detract from its allure.)

Here’s how to get yours:

Post your best Kafka or Wittgenstein (or Kafka AND Wittgenstein) joke in the comments, on my Facebook author page, or Tweet ’em at me. You have next Friday, Nov. 20. Best one wins. I am the arbiter of “best.” I expect ALL entries to be better than my sample joke.


“Not enough Foucault references.”

“Chapter 3 is a head-scratcher, but largely just because my head itches.”

“Oh, hello. Didn’t see you there. Just contemplating whether to throw up on this copy before or after I try to eat it. Also, that will be the copy my mother gives away.”

It’s the fiiiinal coooountdoooown deedlee-doo deedlee-doo-doo

Here are some Slate articles I wrote in the past week. They are the last articles I will be writing until mah BOOK IS AT THE PUBLISHER’s at the end of the month.

First I wrote an excursus on an app called Yik Yak, which if you are over the age of 22 you have probably never heard of, and that is a good thing. College students often use Yik Yak to be racist, homophobic, misogynistic and mean to their professors. But my article says: The problem isn’t Yik Yak. It’s that thousands of students are in college who don’t want to be. Please read it!

Then I wrote another excursus on the dumbest idea for faculty hiring anyone has ever had, straight out of (big surprise) Florida.

Hoping to do some blogging during my leave time, so stay tuned!