Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

” That was why we didn’t sleep! We were, goddamnit, trying to live a week that would be worth documenting.”

Book: You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers

Verdict: Egg-cellent! (Pardon my pun).
I liked it almost as much as A.H.W.O.S.G. (more than How We Are Hungry, I’d say), probably would’ve liked it just as much if it weren’t mostly fiction. But yes yes yes you should all read read read!!!!

My head was a condemned church with a ceiling of bats but I swung from this dark mood to euphoria when I thought about leaving.

3. There are bears and there are small dogs. Be strong like bear! If they take out your teeth, sit on the dogs. Bears always forget they can just sit on the dogs. Sit on the dogs.

…And there is a chance that everything we did was incorrect, but stasis is itself criminal for those with the means to move, and the means to weave communion between people.

My mind, I know, I can prove, hovers on hummingbird wings. It hovers and it churns. And when it is operating at full thrust, the churning does not stop. The machines do not rest, the systems rarely cool. And while I can forget anything of real importance-this is why people tell me secrets-my mind has an uncanny knack for organization when it comes to pain. Nothing tormenting is lost, never even diminished in color or intensity or quality of sound. These were filed near the front.

I was feeling everything much too much. Everything was pulling at my eyes.

The day was bright and gaudy and hot—the air like breathing through wool.

What was wrong with Charlotte? Nothing. Every complaint now seemed ridiculous. She had long dark hairs that swirled around her nipples and I’d seen this as problematic instead of loving her indifference to them. And I disliked her sighs. She sighed too much, I announced to myself one day, and worse, her sighs were too sad. Too full of sorrow. When I held her she sighed, and her sighs were weary, were groaning and exhausted, the sigh of an old person who’d seen everything and couldn’t believe she was now being held, at the end of a journey she could never describe. The sighs were withering, were mood-killing, and when I finally complained about Charlotte’s sighs, to no avail. She’d responded with another sigh and that, I know now, was the end of the end.

I was pissed. Fore very good deed there is someone, who is not doing a good deed, who is, for instance, gardening, questioning exactly how you’re doing that good deed.

They live in these rooms. They breathe here, I hear their laughter. I try to keep them in the rooms I don’t enter, but they move, and I forget where they are, and when we’re in a room together I vibrate, I have too much within me, I cannot contain my desire—death for them and even me, I will tie my blood to theirs, a line to anchor, whatever it takes, they make me want to end my brain.

Never before have I wanted such harm rent upon another, but here I am and this is what I want. Oh grant me this! I know forever they will be in my house, the rooms of my mind, I know this and have accepted this but while I know they will be there I want them dead there. I cannot have them breathing there! I want them in the floorboards of the basement of my soul. Can you not will you not grant me only this? For this I will forever be your servant, resolute, your tool here among the wretched. I will do for you deeds sinister or noble, in public or private, whatever the cost. Let me dear Lord bring these men to you, allow me to make them available to your rage. I will hold them upright as they are struck down. I will collect their remains if you choose to tear them asunder. I will bleach their bones if you strip them of their flesh and muscle. Out here under this sky of stone I feel I can know your rage. Oh please tell me you know rage! I want now your storms to converge, I await the blackening of your skies and the cracking of bones as you prepare for—

I could drink to pass out and keep from thinking. That would be the plan.

I leaned back until I was lying flat, staring up. The smoke from the grills striped the black starless sky. I couldn’t see Hand, but his shadow dimmed my right eye’s view. My body became heavier the longer I lay. I felt huge, sluggish, limitless in mass. It would take me hours to get up. I might never move again. I could become this landscape. I could fade into this pavement. I could watch as a mountain would watch, as a man on a balcony would watch, the people and their transactions, their hissed offers and threats, myself amused and without obligation. From a balcony, even twelve feet up, there was enough distance. There is movement below but it’s not your movement.

Maybe I wanted to be crushed, too. To be ready you need to be tired, and you need to have seen a great deal, or what you consider to have been a great deal—we all have such different capacities, are able to absorb and sustain vastly different quantities of visions and pain—and at that moment I started thinking that I had seen enough, that in general I’d had my fill and that in terms of visual stimulation the week thus far had shown me enough and that I was sated.

All I ever wanted was to know what to do.

You invite things to happen. You open the door. You inhale. And if you inhale the chaos, you give the chaos, the chaos gives back.

I wanted so many times while driving to flip, to skid and flip and fall from the car and have something happen. I wanted to land on my head and lose half of it, or land on my legs and lose one or both. I wanted something to happen so my choices would be fewer, so my map would have a route straight through, in red. I wanted limitations, boundaries, to ease the burden; because the agony, Jack, when we were up there in the dark, was in the silence! All I ever wanted was to know what to do. In these last months I’ve had no clue, I’ve been paralyzed by the quiet, and for a moment something spoke to me, and we came here, or came to Africa, and intermittently there were answers, intermittently there was a chorus and they sang to us and pointing, and were watching and approving, but just as often there was silence, and we stood blinking under the sun, or under the black sky, and we had to think of what to do next.

I was exhausted. You should sleep. Wake up early. That’s not the way. It’s the same. It means less that way. We sleep when we fall. We only sleep when we can’t move anymore. That’s juvenile. But it means everything. It’s the illusion of progress. Staying awake isn’t progress. The illusion is enough.

That was why we didn’t sleep! We were, goddamnit, trying to live a week that would be worth documenting.

–You have to give everything
–This is what I’m doing
–We are creating it. We are conjuring it.
–Every time we do it it’s a new world. I live again. Love is implicit in every connection. It should be. Thus when we absent it makes us insane. It breaks our equilibrium and we have to flounder for reasons. When we pass by another person without telling them we love them it’s cruel and wrong and we all know this. We live in a constant state of denial and imbalance.

The deejay, from Cuernevaca, knew everything and knew joy and how to maintain and even elevate joy—and when at five we were all soaked in sweat and bewildered by how blessed we were, after the last bus left, for the hotels, leaving us to get home via foot or taxi or sleep under a table on the high soft grass, people started jumping in the pool and when they jumped in I jumped in too. I took off my pants and my shoes which still held currency from a cold and suspicious land and I jumped in—it took so long to land and in the air I saw all the faces!—I jumped with my mouth so open, taking it all in, and the air was cold and the water was so cold but I jumped all the way in, all at once, and my heart froze. Man, I thought that was the end, right there. It stopped for a minute I swear, but then the sound and pictures came back on and for two more interminable months we lived.


Filed under: Dave Eggers,

“I am tired. I am true of heart!”

Book: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Now, I generally refrain from the celebrity crush phenomenon because I generally think it’s B.S., but HOLY MOTHER OF GOD DAVE EGGERS IS THE SPLENDA TO MY OATMEAL, the space foam topper to my crappy college mattress which enables me to sleep like a baby every single night, the vitamins A, C, D, E, and B-6 in my daily rhino beanie vites, the Fro to my Yo. I would write this man sonnets, and I do not enjoy writing sonnets. I would give him pedicures if just to have a single conversation; that is to say, I would struggle against and overcome my serious aversion to feet for him. I would kiss every one of his toes.
This book is basically a vial containing liquid trappings of the fountain of youth, only they’ve been simmered for hours and hours and days and days in an unlidded cauldron, reducing them to not just their purest material (though that in itself is magical) but the concentrated ESSENCE of that material.
I am convinced that this man urinates excellence; this man is sheer brilliance; and these quotes are going to be long, and I BEG YOU (as I have never before with any other novel and never will, I don’t think) to do yourself a favor and read all of them, because alkjgalkejgrlakjwrglkajerg! I have no words.

(I have an awkward amount of enthusiasm about this).READYONYOURMARKGETSETGO

First of all:
I am tired.
I am true of heart!
And also:
You are tired.
You are true of heart!

I like the dark part of the night, after midnight and before four-thirty, when it’s hollow, when ceilings are harder and farther away. Then I can breathe, and can think while others are sleeping, in a way can stop time, can have it so—this has always been my dream—so that while everyone else is frozen, I can work busily about them, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, like the elves who make the shoes while the children sleep.

Alcoholism and death make you omnivorous, both reckless and afraid, amoral, desperate.
Do you really believe that?
Sometimes. Sure. No. Yes.

I was walking—I would say “hiking,” if we were doing anything but walking, but since we were just walking, I will not use the word “hiking,” which everyone feels compelled to use anytime they’re outside and there’s a slight incline…

Moving on: the author wishes to acknowledge the existence of a planet just beyond Pluto, and further, wishes, on the basis of his own casual research and faith, to reassert Pluto’s planethood. Why did we do that to Pluto? We had it good with Pluto. The author wishes to acknowledge that because this book is occasionally haha, you are permitted to dismiss it. The author wishes to acknowledge your problems with the title. He too has reservations. The title you see on the cover was the winner of a round-robin sort of title tourney, held outside Phoenix, Arizona, over a long weekend in December 1998. The other contenders, with reasons for failure: A Heartbreaking Work of Death and Embarrassment (true but unappealing); An Astounding Work of Courage and Strength (Stephen Ambrose would have cause for action); Memories of a Catholic Boyhood (also taken, more or less); and Old and Black in America (risqué, some say)…Many of you, particularly those among you who seek out the maudlin and melodramatic, were struck by the “Heartbreaking” part. Others thought the “Staggering Genius” element seemed like a pretty good recommendation…
Oh, pshaw—does it even matter now? Hells no. You’re here, you’re in, we’re havin’ a party!

It’s not that our family has no taste, it’s just that our family’s taste is inconsistent.

And then they look at me and squint
They are scared. They are jealous.
We are pathetic. We are stars.
We are either sad and sickly or we are glamorous and new. We walk in and the choices race through my head. Sad and sickly? Or glamorous and new? Sad/sickly or glamorous/new? Sad/sickly? Glamorous/new?
We are unusual and tragic and alive.

We are the bright new stars born of a screaming black hole, the nascent suns burst from the darkness, from the grasping void of space that folds and wallow—a darkness that devour anyone not as strong as we. We are oddities, sideshows, talk show subjects. We capture everyone’s imagination.

Oh I could be out, rollicking in the ripeness of my flesh and others’, could be drinking things and eating things and rubbing mine against theirs. Speculating about this person or that, waving, indicating hello with a sudden upward jutting of my chin, sitting in the backseat of someone else’s car, bumping up and down. Seeing people staggering from the bars. Afterward stopping at a bodega, all our faces bright, glowing under streetlamps, down the sidewalk to this or that apartment party, hi, hi, putting the bottles in the fridge, removing one for now, hating the apartment, checking the view, sitting on the arm of a couch and being told not to, and then waiting for the bathroom, staring idly at that ubiquitous Ansel Adams print, Yosemite, talking to a short-haired girl while waiting in the hallway, talking about teeth, no reason really, the train of thought unclear, asking to see her fillings, no, really, I’ll show you mine first, ha, hahaha, then no, you go ahead, I’ll go after you, then, after using the bathroom she is still there, still in the hallway, she was waiting not just for the bathroom but for me, and so eventually we’ll go home together, her apartment, where she lives alone, in a wide, immaculate railroad type place, newly painted, decorated with her mother, then sleeping in her oversized, oversoft white bed, kissing and cuddling in her light-filled nook, then maybe to the kitchen to eat with the Sunday paper, then wandering home… whenever, never-

There’s too many of them, of us. Too many, too similar. What are they all doing here? All this standing, all this standing, sitting, talking. Just this loitering, lolling, this drinking of beer in thick glasses. I’ve risked everything for this? Something needs to happen. Something huge. The taking over of something, a building, a city, a country. We should all be armed and taking over small countries. Or rioting. Or no: an orgy. There should be an orgy.
But this—this is obscene. How dare we be standing around, talking about nothing, not running in one huge mass of people, running at something, something huge? Why do we all bother coming out, gathering here in numbers like this? We are wasting this.

Watching the show is like listening to one’s voice on tape: it’s real of course, but however mellifluous and articulate you hear your own words, once they’re sent through this machine and are given back to ou, they’re high-pitched, nasal, horrifying. Are our lives like that? Do we talk like that, look like that? Yes. It could not be. It is. No. The banality of our upper-middle-class lives, so gaudily stuck between the mindless drunk-driving of high school—that was meant as a metaphor only—and the death that is homeowning and family-having, especially when packaged within a comfort zone of colorful couches and lava lamps and pool tables—wouldn’t this make interesting television only for those whose lives are even more boring than those of The Real World’s cast?
But it’s impossible to ignore.

But still, my feeling is that if you’re not self-obsessed you’re probably boring. Not that you can always tell the self-obsessed. The best sort of self-obsessed person isn’t outwardly so. But they’re doing something more public than not, making sure people know that they’re doing it, or will know about it sooner or later.

Why do you want to be on The Real World?
Because I want everyone to witness my youth.
Isn’t it gorgeous?

Why do you want to share your suffering?
By sharing it I will dilute it.

What about dignity?
You will die, and when you die, you will know a profound lack of it. It’s never dignified. And in obscurity? Offensive. Dignity is an affectation, cute but eccentric, like learning French or collecting scarves. And it’s fleeting and incredibly mercurial. And subjective. So fuck it.

Let me share this. I can do it any way you want, too — I can do it funny, or maudlin, or just straight, uninflected — anything. You tell me. I can do it sad, or inspirational, or angry. It’s all there, all these things at once, so it’s up to you — you choose, you pick. Give me something. Quid pro quo. I promise I will be good. I will be sad and hopeful. I will be the conduit. I will be the beating heart. Please see this! I am the common multiplier for 47 million! I am the perfect amalgam! I was born of both stability and chaos. I have seen nothing and everything. I am twenty-four but feel ten thousand years old. I am emboldened by youth, unfettered and hopeful, though inextricably tied to the past and future by my beautiful brother, who is part of both. Can you not see that we’re extraordinary? That we were meant for something else, something more? All this did not happen to us for naught, I can assure you — there is no logic to that, there is logic only in assuming that we suffered for a reason. Just give us our due. I am bursting with the hopes of a generation, their hopes surge through me, threaten to burst my hardened heart! Can you not see this? I am at once pitiful and monstrous, I know, and this is all my own making, I know — not the fault of my parents but all my own creation, yes, but I am the product of my environment, and thus representative, must be exhibited, as inspiration and cautionary tale. Can you not see what I represent? I am both a) martyred moralizer and b) amoral omnivore born of the suburban vacuum + idleness + television + Catholicism + alcoholism + violence; I am a freak in secondhand velour, a leper who uses L’Oreal Anti-sticky Mega Gel. I am rootless, ripped from all foundations, an orphan raising an orphan and wanting to take away everything there is and replace it with stuff I’ve made. I have nothing but my friends and what’s left of my little family. I need community, I need feedback, I need love, connection, give-and-take — I will bleed if they will love. Let me try. Let me prove. I will pluck my hair, will remove my skin, I will stand before you feeble and shivering. I will open a vein, an artery. Pass over me at your peril! I could die soon. I probably already have AIDS. Or cancer. Something bad will happen to me, I know, I know this because I have seen it so many times. I will be shot in an elevator. I will be swallowed in a sinkhole, will drown, so I need to bring this message now; I only have so much time, I know that sounds ridiculous, I seem young, healthy, strong, but things happen, I know you may not think so, but things happen to those around me, they truly do, you’ll see, so I need to grab this while I can, because I could go at any minute, Laura, Mother, Father, God — Oh please let me show this to millions. Let me be the lattice, the center of the lattice. Let me be the conduit. There are all these hearts, and mine is strong, if there are — there are! — capillaries that bring blood to millions, that we are all of one body and that I am — Oh, I want to be the heart pumping blood to everyone, blood is what I know, I feel so warm in blood, can swim in blood, oh let me be the strong-beating heart that brings blood to everyone! I want—

And that will heal you?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

We have to avoid that kind of cruelly ironic fate—that we, the loudmouths who so cloyingly espouse the unshackling of one’s ideas about work and life themselves become slaves to something, to a schedule, obligated to advertisers, investors, keeping regular hours—Yes, we still care about changing the lives of our peers, and of course the world, and still expect at some point to be sent into space, but on the other hand…we have narrowed our scope and sharpened our knives. We have targets now, we have decided upon good guys and bad guys, friends, enemies (obstacles).

So instead of lamenting the end of unmediated experience, I will celebrate it, revel in the simultaneous living of an experience and its dozen or so echoes in art and media, the echoes making the experience not cheaper but richer, aha! being that much more layered, the depth luxurious, not soul-sucking or numbing but edifying, ramifying. So there is first the experience, the friend and the threatened suicide, then there are the echoes from these things having been done before, then the awareness of echoes, the anger at the presence of echoes, then the acceptance, embracing of presence of echoes—as enrichment—and above all the recognition of the value of the friend threatening suicide and having stomach pumped, as both life experience and also as fodder for experimental short story or passage in novel, not to mention more reason to feel experientially superior to others one’s age, especially those who have not seen what I have seen, all the things I have seen. Another experience that can be checked off, like skydiving, backpacking through Europe, a ménage a trois.

So I could be aware of the dangers of the self-consciousness, but at the same time, I’ll be plowing through the fog of all these echoes, plowing through mixed metaphors, noise, and will try to show the core, which is still there, as a core, and is valid, despite the fog. The core is the core is the core. There is always the core, that can’t be articulated.

But of course there is no logic to San Francisco generally, a city built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored construction paper. It’s the work of fairies, elves, happy children with new crayons. Why not pink, purple, rainbow, gold? What color for a biker bar on 16th, near the highway? Plum. Plum. The light that is so strong and right that corners are clear, crisp all glass is blinding—stilts and buttresses and turrets—the remains of various highways—rainbow windsocks—a sexual sort of lushness to the foliage. Only intermittently does it seem like an actual place of residence and commerce, with functional roads and sensible buildings. All other times it’s just whimsy and faith.

Our mother was a Christmas extremist.

Work becomes ever more depressing, routine, improved only by the occasional near-death experience.

Most important, we too must suffer. Everyone around the ill must do what they can, in terms of sacrifice and struggle, or malnourishment or sleep deprivation, to suffer too, and to stay close while suffering; to leave the bedside, to leave the hospital, is to weaken the curing forces, to enfeeble the efforts toward recovery. While the ill are ill, if you can be there you should be there. I know these things. Bizarre, self-sacrificing gestures are important. On days that you cannot possibly come visit, you must visit.

Everything was tied together again and now this. I do not understand this. Are we bound or unbound? I have closed the loop, only to have it come undone again.

How lame this is, how small, terrible. Or maybe it is beautiful. I can’t decide if what I am doing is beautiful and noble and right, or small and disgusting. I want to be doing something beautiful, but am afraid that this is too small, too small, that this gesture, this end is too small–Is this white trash? That’s what it is!

And we will be ready, at the end of every day will be ready, will not say no to anything, will try to stay awake while everyone is sleeping, will not sleep, will make the shoes with the elves, will breathe deeply all the time, breathe in all the air full of glass and nails and blood, will breathe it and drink it, so rich, so when it comes we will not be angry, will be content, tired enough to go, gratefully, will shake hands with everyone, bye, bye, and then pack a bag, some snacks, and go to the volcano.
[the following is from a self-reflective addendum he added to a later edition of the novel]
There is, intrinsic to the process of a memoir, the resulting destruction of one’s former self. Writing about those years, and being as cruel to who I was as I could be, implicitly means that you are killing that person. Yes, you are sometimes celebrating that person’s better moments, and relating with sympathy that person’s better thoughts, but overall you are saying: This was me then, and I can look at that person, from the distance I now have, and throw water balloons on his stupid fat head. But even as good an idea as that seems to be, an idea attractive to the intellectually violent, it is also a very painful plan to carry out, and one that is rebelled against, by various self-preservative internal forces. Which is not to say anything of what happens once those thoughts are read and processed by the public at large. However much I tried to make happen the things I wanted to happen, and however much I tried to prevent things from happening that I hoped would not, they happened anyway.It was, for the most part, very entertaining. Were parts of the process incredibly painful? They were. I wrote a book in large part about the deaths of my parents, and living with my brother thereafter, and this, inexplicably, brought out in a very few people a kind of malice that I have rarely seen. Very strange. But it was not entirely unexpected. The weird thing is that while writing the original text, I had in my head not the usual Writer’s Ideal Reader, but instead my own potential reading person, the Mean/Jaded/Skimming Reader – the person I had been for many years. Thus I expected the worst from the book’s readers, I expected claws and blood and teeth. The book ends with a plea for those who would tear into me to just go ahead and do it, because I wanted it to happen, finally.

But then a weird thing happened: People were kind. It was almost impossible to find people who were as vicious and small as I had for many years been. Not completely impossible, but still: I expected crucifixion and instead got something more like its opposite.

Because secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox, because one’s past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way – not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I’ve-seen/lessons-I’ve-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.

Filed under: Dave Eggers,

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