Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“These days, when reading critically, the fashion is to remain aloof from the human experiences of novelists.”

Book: Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, by Zadie Smith

I loved it for the most part. A few of the essays didn’t really pique my interest, but most of them did, and the ones that did were SO worth reading. She writes on writing (love), on writing about writing (relevant to my own writing of “reviews” or whatever these are), on literature, on politics, on voice, on memories, on David Foster Wallace. And she’s brilliant, witty, wise, and humble nearly the entire time.

Also, R.I.P. D.F.W.

——-

These days “self-actualization” is the aim, and if you can’t do it alone you are admitting a weakness.

It is odd to diagnose weakness where lovers themselves do not feel it.

[Black female protagonists] are pressed into service as role models to patch over our psychic wounds; they are perfect; they overcompensate.

To his detractors, the small, mild oeuvre of E. M. Forster is proof that when it comes to aesthetics, one really better be fagged: the zeal of the fanatic is what’s required.

A mix of empathy and ventriloquism fuels the comic engines of his novels.

Forster worked hard to avoid this fate…by way of a willed enthusiasm, an openness to everything that itself skirts perilously close to banality. He did not believe in the “rejection of life,” not for reasons of irritability, asceticism, intellectual fastidiousness or even mystical attachments.

Here’s the funny thing about literary criticism: it hates its own times, only realizing their worth twenty years later. And then, twenty years after that, it wildly sentimentalizes them, out of nostalgia for a collective youth.

These days, when reading critically, the fashion is to remain aloof from the human experiences of novelists.

Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own…Not a refusal of meaning, then, but a quest for it….Nabokov is not God, and I am not his creation. He is an Author and I am his reader, and we are stumbling toward meaning simultaneously, together. Zebra cocktail!

Readers are incurable fabulists.

[On modern literature] A breed of lyrical realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now, with most other exits blocked…It is perfectly done—in a sense, that’s the problem. It’s so precisely the image of what we have been taught to value in fiction that it throws that image into a kind of existential crisis, as the photograph gifts a nervous breakdown to the painted portrait.

It’s such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself.

After each book is done, you look forward to hating it (and you never have to wait long); there is a weird, inverse confidence to be had from feeling destroyed, because being destroyed, having to start again, means you have space in front of you, somewhere to go.

Magical thinking makes you crazy—and renders everything impossible.

It’s awful, the swing of the literary fraudulence pendulum: from moment to moment you can’t decide whether you’re the fraudulent idiot or your reader is the fraudulent idiot.

I’ve never read White Teeth. Five years ago I tried; I got about ten sentences in before I was overwhelmed with nausea.

We feel that our voices are who we are, and that to have more than one, or to use different versions of a voice for different occasions, represents, at best, a Janus-faced duplicity, and at worst, the loss of our very souls.

For Obama, having more than one voice in your ear is not a burden, or not solely a burden—it is also a gift.

He had the audacity to suggest that, even if you can’t see it stamped on their faces, most people come from Dream City, too. Most of us have complicated backstories, messy histories, multiple narratives. It was a high-wire strategy, for Obama, this invocation of our collective human messiness.

For reasons that are obscure to me, those qualities we cherish in our artists we condemn in our politicians.

Mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

But to live variously cannot simply be a gift, endowed by an accident of birth; it has to be a continual effort, continually renewed.

I believe that flexibility of voice leads to a flexibility in all things.

Christmas, childhood, the past, families, fathers, regret of all kinds—no one wants to be the grinch who steals these things, but you leave the door open with the hope he might come in and relieve you of your heavy stuff. Christmas is heavy.

But we do sense the more difficult truth: that Family represents the reality of which Christmas is the dream. It is, of course, Family (messy, complex, miserable, happy, so many gradations of those last two words ) that is the real gift, beneath the wrapping. Family is the daily miracle, and Christmas is the enforcement of ideals that, in truth, do not matter.

Where women are concerned…the dream is the truth.

[on David Foster Wallace]
He battled to share his gifts rather than simply display them, seeming to seek the solution in a principle of self-mortification.

What have we become when we “understand” ourselves so well all our questions are rhetorical? What is confession worth if what we want from it is not a solution but admiration for having confessed?

For the depressed person pain has certainly been fetishized, pathologized: she can’t feel simple sadness, only “agony”; she’s not merely depressed, she is “in terrible and unceasing emotional pain.”

He was always trying to place “relationships between persons” as the light at the end of his narrative dark tunnels; he took special care to re-create and respect the (often simple) language shared by people who feel some connection with each other.

He was always asking essentially the same question. How do I recognize that other people are real, as I am?

It’s young people who best understand his sense of urgency, and who tend to take abstract existential questions like these seriously, as interrogations that relate directly to themselves. The struggle with ego, the struggle with the self, the struggle to allow other people to exist in their genuine “otherness”—these were aspects of Wallace’s own struggle.

To Wallace, a gift truly was an accident; a chance, a fortuitous circumstance. Born intelligent, born with perfect pitch, with mathematical ability, with a talent of tennis—in what sense are we ever the proprietors of these blessings? What rights accrue to us because of them? How could we ever claim to truly own them?

Slowly, then suddenly?

Filed under: Zadie Smith,

“We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.”

Book: Junkyard Ghost Revival: poems by Anis Mojgani, Andrea Gibson, Buddy Wakefield, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Derrick Brown, Robbie Q. Telfer, and Sonya Renee

Reading this was admittedly not as world-rocking as seeing Mojgani/Brown in person, but I still really enjoyed them. There are some really resonant stanzas, and I came away from it with a renewed enthusiasm for platypuses (see last poem) (& no, not platypi, I checked).

———–

Anis Mojgani:
From “The Machine Had Been Built
For Teleportation
But Had No Bodies That Had Been Built
For Travel:”
I don’t like how the world moves sometimes. It moves like a cat at night cutting through the dark, not worrying of anything else. Moves like two sticks
that some boy nailed together and threw up into the sky just to see the shape
they would create when they fell back down, the quiet sound the dust would make
when they landed inside of it. I don’t know If I miss the feel of your arms or just their configuration. Does that matter? Is there a difference? Probably not. You smell beautiful.


Buddy Wakefield:

From “Horsehead:”
I did not recede into the distance.
I was still very much present
With what I had left behind.

I am not the end of a movie.
I am done playing sunsets for lonely.

It is work to ride head up and holy here.

I’ve been learning here how to grow larger
than the monsters alive in my dreams

Ya know, I don’t care to be good, Sheriff.
I care to be whole.

Not everyone wants to go home
to get the sunset painted back into their bones
to have the law with all that slack in its love
pretending to save me
you don’t need to save me

From “Stated:”
If there’s anything I’ve come to understand
it is that I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hate myself.
Make love to me like you know I am better than the worst thing I ever did.

From “Water Gun:”
If living
is really the greatest revenge
then I want you
to have my laughter.

And if we really do get what we give
then I give up,
so that I can
get up.

From “The Math:”
My parents kept the car window cracked
so they could smoke cigarettes and numb the night time
while the night time would shove air into the back seat on me

Let me out of these blinking lights.
Get me out of this whiney car
full of poets with their sadness and the anger.


Derrick Brown

From “The Return of Christ”:
Some piano is being beaten to death.
That’s my kinda music.
That’s the night music the kids are all choking on.

I try and drink away the thing in my brain
that makes me wish these lines
are really the way I feel.

The difference between bad living and bad loving
is a slipped keystroke.

From “After the Bachelorette Party”:
This is the city you run to and then crawl away from.

I am no longer against it.
I have fallen in love
with the choke and chance in this place.
Just having at least one chance feels good.
That’s why Southern people marry young.

I am writing this all down because sometimes I am a believer but a forgetter

and sometimes I look at all the things around me that make want to kill all those beliefs
and say fuck it, today I am going to nowhere. I am marrying a feeling.

Today I’m gonna talk about everything I am supposed to be ashamed to talk about.


Andrea Gibson

From “How It Ends”
Baby, I have no idea how this will end.
Maybe the equator will fall like a hoola hoop from the earth’s hips
And our mouths will freeze mid-kiss on our fiftieth anniversary.
Or maybe tomorrow my absolute insanity
combined with the absolute obstacle course of your communication skills
will leave us like a love letter in a landfill.
But whatever, whenever, however this ends
Heather, I want you to know that right now, in this moment,
I love you forever.

I promise whatever I do
I will always try my best to come true.

From “Trellis”
There is a reason why my body creaks like a closing casket
every time I fuck with the lights left on.

From “Birthday”
The sky didn’t fill with colors the night I convinced myself
veins are kite strings you can only cut free.
I suppose I love this life,

in spite of my clenched fist.

We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe.


We are all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways,
but you still have to call it a birthday.

I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic.
But every ocean has a shoreline
and every shoreline has a tide
that is constantly returning
to wake the songbirds in our hands,
to wake the music in our bones,
to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave river
that has to run through the center of our hearts
to find its way home.

From “Pole Dancer”
The key to finding love
is fucking up the pattern on purpose,
is skipping a stitch,
is leaving a tiny, tiny hole where the cold is
and hoping she fills it with your lips.

I am not looking for roses.
I want to break like a fever.
I want to break like the Berlin Wall.
I want to break like the clouds
so we can see every fearless star,
how they never speak guardrail,
how they only say fall.


Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

From “Salutatorians”
They told us we were having
“real life experiences,” said
we were preparing ourselves

in ways that our peers weren’t,
and I wish I could say we’d
have traded it all in for the heat,

for the magic, the all that young
stickiness, but the truth was we
liked it clean, liked it quiet.

Each heavy book in our bag
a brick, a stepping stone,
a non-refundable ticket out.

From “For The People at Bookstore Readings Who Keep Asking Me Why I Still Slam Now That I Have “Real Books” Out:”
Because there is poetry here, every cracked voice,
every stutter, every stumble is poetry. Every
shaky piece of paper held by shaky hands,
every nervous laugh, every awkward pause: poetry.

From “The Charmless Starling:”
Why
Did I announce my love of the platypus,

its webbed feet and leathery bill, its ability
to lay eggs but still nurse its young with
warm lapped milk, the fact that scientists
have studied the platypus for years and
still don’t know what the hell to make of it.

Always.

Filed under: Andrea Gibson, Buddy Wakefield, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Derrick Brown, Robbie Q. Telfer, Sonya Renee, , , , , , , ,

“Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don’t live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous.”

Book: Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, by Rob Sheffield

This was a really simple but cute read. I’d compare it to anything Klosterman, though more about the human experience (specifically, love, as you probably figured) than the pop culture experience. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, made me laugh aloud, and offered its fair share of underline-worthy passages. Plus, who hasn’t tried to express life and love through a mixtape at some point? Rob Sheffield, you have my props!

———-
She put a hitch in my git-along. She would wake up in the middle of the night and say things like “What if Bad Bad Leroy Brown was a girl?” or “Why don’t they have commercials for salt like they do for milk?” Then she would fall back to sleep, while I would lie awake and give thanks for this alien creature beside whom I resided.

It was a smashing time, and then it ended, because that’s what times do.

She was in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her.

Tonight, I feel like my whole body is made out of memories. I’m a mix tape, a cassette that’s been rewound so many times you can hear the fingerprints smudged on the tape.

There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one.

The words “douche” and “bag” have never coupled as passionately as they did in the person of my thirteen year old self. My body, my brain, my elbows that stuck out like switchblades, my feet that got tangled in my bike spokes, but most of all my soul—these formed the waterbed where douchitude and bagness made love sweet love with all the feral intensity of Burt Reynolds and Rachel Ward in Sharky’s Medicine”

In my headphones, I led a life of romance and incident and intrigue, none of which had anything to do with the world outside my Walkman.

I was wasted, not on drugs, but on something possibly worse. I read an aphorism of Nietzsche’s, in which he says, “The man who despises himself still respects himself as one who despises.” I laughed and said, Totally. That describes everybody I know, except me. It was time for a change.

I’ve been stuck in my little isolation chamber for so long I’m spinning through the same sounds I’ve been hearing in my head all my life. If I go on this way, I’ll get old too fast, without remembering any more sounds than I already know now…How do you turn down the volume on your personal-drama headphones and learn how to listen to other people? How do you jump off one moving train, marked Yourself, and jump onto a train moving in the opposite direction, marked Everybody Else?

If she breaks my heart, no matter what hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, just because of right now. Out the window is a blur and all I can really hear is this girls’ hair flapping in the wind, and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else.

That’s the way they did it in the old country. Two people battle the elements that are trying to kill them, and if one of them weakens, the other dies. If they stay strong, they get to die some other way. That was romance. My grandparents stayed in love for over sixty years.

That was always my most intense fear about getting married: When everything sucked and I was by myself, I thought, Well, at least I don’t have another miserable person to worry about. I figured if you give up your private place and it still turns out to be lonely, you’re just screwed. So I just felt safer not thinking about it.

Ruby put the “freak” in “frequently drunk and belligerent.”

I AM MADE OF BLUE SKY AND HARD ROCK AND I WILL LIVE THIS WAY FOREVER.

I’m not much of a phone person. I always vowed if I ever met a woman who ignored a ringing pone for me, she was the one. But of course, this never happened, and I fell for a woman who would have dropped a scalpel into my spleen in the middle of performing open-heart surgery on me to grab the phone.

And being a husband made me helpless, because I had somebody to protect (somebody a little high-strung, who had a tough time emotionally with things like the lights going out indefinitely). Man, I thought it was tough being broke when I was single, but being broke as a husband is not even in the same category…
I suddenly realized how much being a husband was about fear: fear of not being able to keep somebody safe, of not protecting somebody from all the bad stuff you want to protect them from. Knowing they have more tears in them than you will be able to keep them from crying. I realized that Renee had seen me fail, and that she was the person I was going to be failing in front of for the rest of my life. But that’s who your wife is, the person you fail in front of. Love is so confusing; there’s no peace of mind.

She knows dreams are something you have to steal…She knows pop dreams are a hustle, a deception, a “glamor” in the witchcraft sense of the word.

Every time I started to cry, I remembered how Renee used to say real life was a bad country song, except bad country songs are believable and real life isn’t.

You lose a certain kind of innocence when you experience this type of kindness. You lose your right to be a jaded cynic.
You can no longer go back through the looking glass and pretend not to know what you know about kindness. It’s defeat, in a way…People kept showing me unreasonable kindness, inexplicable kindness, indefensible kindness. People were kind when they knew that nobody would ever notice, much less praise them for it. People were even kind when they knew I wouldn’t’ appreciate it.
I had no idea how to live up to that kindness.

What do you do with kindness like that? I felt tiny beside it, and stupid for not understanding the first thing about it. I had a lot to learn. It was bewildering and humbling to keep discovering how many brave things people can fail to talk themselves out of doing.

Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that’s for sure. Cruelty isn’t that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That’s the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn’t make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.
Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don’t live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous.

The rhythm of the mix tape is the rhythm of romance, the analog hum of a physical connection between two sloppy, human bodies. The cassette is full of tape hiss and room tone; it’s full of wasted space, unnecessary noise. Compared to the go-go-go rhythm of an MP3, mix tapes are hopelessly inefficient. You go back to a cassette the way a detective sits and pours drinks for the elderly motel clerk who tells stories about the old days—you know you might be somewhat bored, but there might be a clue in there somewhere. And if there isn’t, what the hell? It’s not a bad time, you know you will waste time. You plan on it.

Is anyone?

Filed under: Rob Sheffield

“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you. It’s understanding the unreasonable.”

Book: Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman

I would first like to quote the charming individual who owned this book before me (I got it used). I don’t know who they are, but their additions to the margins were a joy to discover. My favorite:
“Football and church run the south and for good reason. We play hard and pray hard.”

YOU SAID IT BROTHER. Anyway, yet another pop-culture nonfiction book that I can’t help but enjoy. It’s fluffy; I guess some might say it’s not that literary; I enjoyed it immensely; I have no shame. So that’s that.

————————–

There is something sickeningly attractive about being in a bad relationship; you start feeding off the unhappiness. It becomes darkly interesting.

Let me begin by saying this: Death is part of life. Generally, it’s the shortest part of life, usually occurring near the end. However, this is not necessarily true for rock stars; sometimes rock stars don’t start living until they die.

The reason you should never cheat on someone is because you won’t enjoy it. No matter which person you’re with, you’ll always be thinking of the other one. You will never be in the romantic present tense; your mind will solely exist in the past and future.

“Because people who sincerely want to kill themselves don’t worry about which Beatles song they’d play while their bathtub fills with blood. Those kind of people don’t even like the Beatles.”

My problem is that every stupid person in Los Angeles is also a) unyieldingly narcissistic and b) unyieldingly nice. They have somehow managed to combine raging megalomania with genuine friendliness. It’s a personality combination that infects your blood like leukemia.

Seeing no resolution to my existential recognition of loss, I decided to eat lunch.

Meanwhile, me and Drinking Guy are trying to ascertain the relative danger of the situation, but we’re too stoned; we can’t tell if this behavior is incredibly grave or incredibly normal. This is the single-biggest problem with taking drugs: What’s normal seems crazy, and what’s crazy seems normal.

I hug her for the next seven hours on a very small bed, each of us facing the same wall. I kiss her neck for maybe 15 minutes, and she falls asleep halfway through. Clothing is never removed. Nobody gets crazy. Tomorrow, I will take a shower and leave before her digital clock reads 9:05 am. We will exchange cordial goodbyes. Later that day, Lenore will send me the nicest e-mail I’ve ever received from anyone, and reading it will make me want to hide in a cave for 10,000 years. It will make me feel like i am reading Lenore’s obituary in the newspaper. I will send her an e-mail in return, and hope that she finds endless happiness in life, and I will always secretly hope that she never likes another man as much as she likes me, even if she ultimately loves that man more. And we will never see each other again.

Women need to feel loved in order to feel free, so withholding love from your wife is like sentencing her to prison.

“People never show you what they’re truly like until you see them go ape-shit,” he says. “That’s the only time people say the things they really feel. Anger makes people honest. No matter how reasonable someone might seem, you never know for sure until they get mad.”

Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you. It’s understanding the unreasonable.

We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It’s easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven’t even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person who you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it always happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of those lovable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. You will remember having conversations with this person that never actually happened. You will recall sexual trysts with this person that never technically occurred. This is because the individual who embodies your personal definition of love does not really exist. The person is real, and the feelings are real–but you create the context. And context is everything. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.

Filed under: Chuck Klosterman,

In the whole world there was not as much sedation as there was instantaneous peril.


Book: Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion

I really, really liked this novel. It reads like one of those ‘crazy-person-memoirs’ I’m so addicted to, and I don’t doubt it’s a rather personal example of Didion’s fiction. The protagonist is definitely one of those quintessential “sad girls” all over pop culture these days (think Cassie in Skins), but Didion is careful not to glamorize her misery, which I really, really appreciate. And her writing is beautiful.

———-

Why? Unless you are prepared to take the long view, there is no satisfactory “answer” to such questions.
Just so. I am what I am. To look for “reasons” is beside the point. But because the pursuit of seasons is their business here, they ask me questions. Maria, yes or no: I see a cock in this inkblot. Maria, yes or no: a large number of people are guilty of bad sexual conduct, I believe my sins are unpardonable, I have been disappointed in love. How could I answer? How could it apply? NOTHING APPLIES, I print with the magnetized IBM pencil. What does apply, they ask later, as if the word “nothing” were ambiguous, open to interpretation, a questionable fragment of an Icelandic rune.
They will misread the facts, invent connections, will extrapolate reasons where none exist, but I told you, that is their business here.

She dressed every morning with a greater sense of purpose than she had felt in some time…, for it was essential (to pause was to throw herself into unspeakable peril) that she be on the freeway by ten o’clock. Not somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard, not on her way to the freeway, but actually on the freeway. If she was not she lost the day’s rhythm, its precariously imposed momentum. Once she was on the freeway and had maneuvered her way to a fast lane she turned on the radio at high volume and she drove.

Why was she crying, he wanted to know. Because he made her so happy, she said, and for that moment believed it.

The woman walked in small mincing steps and kept raising her hand to shield her eyes from the vacant sunlight. As if in trance Maria watched the woman, for it seemed to her then that she was watching the dead still center of the world, the quintessential intersection of nothing.

When she was not actually talking to him now she found it hard to keep him distinct from everyone else, everyone with whom she had ever slept or almost slept or refused to sleep or wanted to sleep. It had seemed this past month as if they were all one, that her life had been a single sexual encounter, one dreamed fuck, no beginnings or endings, no point beyond itself.

The stillness and clarity of the air seemed to rob everything of its perspective, seemed to alter all perception of depth, and Maria drove as carefully as if she were reconnoitering an atmosphere without gravity. Taco Bells jumped out at her.

In the whole world there was not as much sedation as there was instantaneous peril.

“I’m not living here, I’m just staying here.”

Going to New York had not occurred to her but in the instant’s confusion of running into Carter on the street in Beverly Hills the idea simultaneously materialized and assumed a real plausibility. It was something people did when they did not know what else to do, they went to New York for a few days.

“I didn’t mean to be that way,” she said after a while.
“You never mean to be any way.”
It was always that way when he came by but sometimes later, after he had left, the spectre of his joyless face would reach her, talk about heart’s needle, would flash across her hapless consciousness all the images of the family they might have been…

That afternoon Maria had a small accident with the Corvette, received a call from the bank about her over-drawn account, and learned from the drugstore that the doctor would no longer renew her barbiturate prescriptions. In a way she was relieved.

In the kitchen she danced by herself and felt a little dizzy but still good. She liked his not knowing her. She did not much like him but she liked his not knowing her.

She did not decide to stay in Vegas: she only failed to leave.

“What’s the matter,” Carter would ask when he saw her istting in the dark at two or three in the morning staring out at the dry wash. “What do you want. I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what you want.”
“I don’t want anything.”
“Tell me.”
“I just told you.”
“Fuck it then. Fuck it and fuck you. I’m up to here with you. I’ve had it. I’ve had it with the circles under your eyes and the veins showing on your arms and the lines starting on your face and your fucking menopausal depression—“
“Don’t say that word to me.”
“Menopause. Old. You’re going to get old.”
“You talk crazy any more and I’ll leave.”
“Leave. For Christ’s sake leave.”
“She would not take her eyes from the dry wash. “All right.”
“Don’t,” he would then say. “Don’t.”
“Why do you say those things. Why do you fight.”
He would sit on the bed and put his head in his hands. “To find out you’re alive.”

My father advised me that life itself was a crap game: it was one of the two lessons I learned as a child. The other was that overturning a rock was apt to reveal a rattle-snake. As lessons go those two seem to hold up, but not to apply.

Filed under: Joan Didion,

“Either you’re with us or against us, and both of those options is better than living without a soul.”

Book: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman

I read this like two years ago and liked it a lot. I read it today and liked it/understood it even more! MMM DELICIOUS pop culture lit goes down so smooooooth. When will I accept it as hard fact: nonfiction is my favorite.

————
In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever “in and of itself.”

We all convince ourselves of things like this—not necessarily about Say Anything, about fictionalized portrayals of romance that happen to us in the right place, at the right time. This is why I will never be completely satisfied by a woman, and this is why the kind of woman I tend to find attractive will never be satisfied by me. We will both measure our relationship against the prospect of fake love.

The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy. There is no “normal,” because everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously.

But this is how media devolution works: It creates an archetype that eventually dwarfs its origin. By now, the “Woody Allen Personality Type” has far greater cultural importance than the man himself.

This is the difference between art and life: In art, not talking is never an extension of having nothing to say; not talking always means something. And now that art and life have become completely interchangeable, we’re forced to live inside the acoustic power chords of Nuno Bettencourt, even if most of us don’t necessarily know who the fuck Nuno Bettencourt is.

Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less.

The Sims is an escapist vehicle for people who want to escape to where they already are.

People just have no clue about their genuine nature. I have countless friends who describe themselves as ‘cynical,’ and they’re all wrong. True cynics would never classify themselves as such, because it would mean that they know their view of the world is unjustly negative; despite their best efforts at being grumpy, a self-described cynic is secretly optimistic about normal human nature. Individuals who are truly cynical will always insist they’re pragmatic. The same goes for anyone who claims to be ‘creative.’ If you define your personality as creative, it only means you understand what is perceived to be creative by the world at large, so you’re really just following a rote creative template. That’s the opposite of creativity. Everybody is wrong about everything, just about all the time.

This is perhaps the most disturbing element of The Sims: The happiness of the characters is directly proportional to the shit you elect to buy them.

Being interesting has been replaced by being identifiable.

“You know how historians call people who came of age during World War II ‘the greatest generation’? No one will ever say that about us,” he wrote. “We’ll be the ‘cool generation.’ That’s all we’re good at, and that’s all you and your friends seem to aspire to.”

Being consciously derivative is not easy.

As for Marilyn [Monroe]…well, she personifies every beautiful/crazy/sexy/suicidal woman I’ve ever met (and you know the type of person I’m referring to—this is the kind of girl who’s depressed by the irrational notion that men only want her for her physical appearance but who still cannot shake the equally irrational fear that she is somehow overweight and repulsive).

Pam[ela Anderson] doesn’t just have sex with guys; Pam fucks reality.

The outcomes of games aren’t predetermined or scripted, but there are definitely dark forces who play with our reality. There are faceless puppet masters who pull strings and manipulate the purity of justice. It’s not necessarily a full-on conspiracy, but it’s certainly not fair. And that’s why NBA remains the only game that matters: Pro basketball is exactly like life.

This is why men need to become obsessed with things: It’s an extroverted way to pursue solipsism.

You don’t need to side with the Boston Celtics to be a good person. But you should definitely side with somebody. Either you’re with us or against us, and both of those options is better than living without a soul.

Net porn is the collective conscious. It’s where we all see the things people would never admit to wanting.
And what is it that we want? From what I can tell, that answer is twofold: We want imperfection, and we want heightened reality.

Saturday morning commercials for all the best cereals are teaching kids who to figure out what’s cool. They’re the first step in the indoctrination of future hipsters: Cereal commercials teach us that anything desirable is supposed to be exclusionary.

Being cool is mostly ridiculous, and so is sugared cereal. That’s why we like it.

The desire to be cool is—ultimately—the desire to be rescued. It’s the desire to be pulled from the unwashed masses of society. It’s the desire to be advanced beyond the faceless humanoid robots who will die unheralded deaths and never truly matter, mostly because they all lived the same pedestrian life. Without the spoils of exclusionary coolness, we’re just cogs in the struggle. But if we can just find that one cool thing that nobody has—that gregarious, nine-foot animated jungle cat who can provide a glimmer of hope and a balanced breakfast—we can be better than ourselves. We can be tigers. ‘Atta boy.

It’s like I said before: important things are inevitably cliché.

Quasi-intellectuals like to claim that math is spiritual. They are lying. Math is not religion. Math is the antireligion, because it splinters the gravity of life’s only imperative equation: Either something is true, or it isn’t. Do or do not; there is no try.

Objective reality is not situational; it doesn’t evolve along with you.

Reality is a paradigm that always seems different and personal and unique, yet never really is. Its reality is autonomous.

I think this is what motivates people to have children. Everyone agrees that creating life is important, so having a child guarantees you’ve done at least one act of consequence.

These are the kind of people who are fanatically good—the kind of people who’ll tell you that goodness isn’t even that much of an accomplishment.



Filed under: Chuck Klosterman,

“Tell him yes,” she said. “Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no.

Book: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gorgeous! And heartbreaking. Really heartbreaking. Brutally romantic. The whole tragically inconvenient/forbidden/unfortunate love thing. And love as an illness thing (shoutout to Lucretius!). The timeless passion vs. convenience conflict. Reminded me of Unbearable Lightness of Being, though it bothered me less. Still really…heartbreaking. BUT GORGEOUS.

bold=like
bold italics=like SO MUCH

—————-

There still remained for the one who could identify it the dying embers of hapless love in the bitter almonds. Dr. Juvenal Urbino had often thought, with no premonitory intention, that this would not be a propitious place for dying in a state of grace. But in time he came to suppose that perhaps its disorder obeyed an obscure determination of Divine Providence.

“There is bound to be someone driven mad by love who will give you the chance one of these days.” And only after he said it did he realize that among the countless suicides he could remember, this was the first with cyanide that had not been caused by the sufferings of love. Then something changed in the tone of his voice. “And when you do find one, observe with care,” he said to the intern: “They almost always have crystals in their heart.”

A man should have two wives: one to love and one to sew on his buttons.

Neither could have said if their mutual dependence was based on love or convenience, but they had never asked the question with their hand on their hearts because both had always preferred not to know the answer.

The truth was they both played a game, mythical and perverse, but for all that comforting: it was one of the many dangerous pleasures of domestic love.


What he had seen that day, however, was the physical presence of something that until that moment had been only an imagined certainty.

He would not go without knowing how much she had loved him despite their doubts, and she felt an irresistible longing to begin life with him over again so that they could say what they had left unsaid and do everything right that they had done badly in the past. But she had to give in to the intransigence of death. Her grief exploded into a blind rage against the world, even against herself, and that is what filled her with the control and the courage to face her solitude alone. From that time on she had no peace, but she was careful about any gesture that might seem to betray her grief.

He did not have to keep a running tally, drawing a line for every day on the walls of a cell, because not a day had passed that something did not happen to remind him of her.

Little by little he idealized her, endowing her with improbably virtues and imaginary sentiments, and after two weeks he thought of nothing else but her.

For despite her austere conduct and penitential habit, Aunt Ascolastica had an instinct for life and a vocation for complicity, which were her greatest virtues.

But his examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning, first of the patient and then of his mother, to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.

“Take advantage of it now, while you are young, and suffer all you can,” she told him, “because these things don’t last your whole life.”

She reminded him that the weak would never enter the kingdom of love, which is a harsh and ungenerous kingdom, and that women give themselves only to men of resolute spirit, who provide the security they need in order to face life…She realized that he could hardly breathe with fear, but his determination was invincible.

It was the year they fell into devastating love. Neither one could do anything except think about the other, dream about the other, and wait for letters with the same impatience they felt when they answered them.

The truth is that she had always taken the comings and goings of the camellia as a lovers’ game, and it had never occurred to her to consider it as a crossroads in her destiny.

“Tell him yes,” she said. “Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no.”

One night she came back from her daily walk stunned by the revelation that one could be happy not only without love, but despite it.


To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.

He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good., and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.

When she awoke she opened the letter. It was brief and proper…She was impressed by its simplicity and seriousness, and the rage she had cultivated with so much love for so many days faded away on the spot.

He is ugly and sad … but he is all love.

Life was imposed on her from the outside.

A man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.

With her Florentino Ariza learned what he had already experienced many times without realizing it: that one can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. Alone in the midst of the crowd on the pier, he said to himself in a flash of anger: ‘My heart has more rooms than a whorehouse.’

She always felt as if her life had been lent to her by her husband: she was absolute monarch of a vast empire of happiness, which had been built by him and for him alone. She knew that he loved her above all else, more than anyone else in the world, but only for his own sake: she was in his holy service.

No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.

He repeated until his dying day that there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet.

She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them.

The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.

Humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest.

Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.

The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.

It was a meditation on life, love, old age, death: ideas that had often fluttered around her head like nocturnal birds but dissolved into a trickle of feathers when she tried to catch hold of them.


Together they had overcome the daily incomprehension, the instantaneous hatred, the reciprocal nastiness, and fabulous flashes of glory in the conjugal conspiracy. It was time when they both loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity. Life would still present them with other moral trials, of course, but that no longer mattered: they were on the other shore.

He looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.
“And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” he asked.
Florentino Ariza had kept his answer read for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights.
“Forever,” he said.

Filed under: Gabriel Garcia Marquez,

He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

Book: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

This book found its way into my life against odds. Or rather, against two factors that make it a “unique” addition to my collection of Things I’ve Read.

1) Okay, so once upon a time I was forced to watch the movie Stardust. It was not good for me. Not my “thing,” if you will. And ever since that time, I was sort of the opposite of inclined to read Gaiman. Hesitant, if you will. One might even say that I was disinclined! BUT I realize, especially in retrospect, that my having that attitude was like someone who hasn’t read Harry Potter (but has seen the first movie) turning a back on J.K. Rowling just because 11-year old Daniel Radcliffe is’t exactly Oscar material. Travesty, right?! (Not that I don’t like the movies–I love them. But I think I love the mostly because I love the books, and not necessarily in their own right). Anyway, let me tell you, those folks are missing out because Harry Potter is awesome.

2) I basically didn’t read anything other than memoirs about nutty people from Sophomore year on til latelyish.

Those two factors kept it off my radar for quite a while. However, I kept stumbling upon Gaiman excerpts that I liked, and kept hearing recommendations from creditable sources. So when Mr. Turvey sent me this book to peruse, I couldn’t just dismiss it to the bottom of my bookshelf with some vague “oh, yeah, i’ll read it eventually” response (he did, after all, endure many a chick-flick-novel just for me) (whatever, he loved them all, but that is neither here nor there). Thus, I gave it a go!

Aaaaaaaaaand it wasn’t so bad! Actually I enjoyed it. Which is surprising to admit. But no, I did. Even though he talks about elves and gods, and a really scary prostitute god swallower thing in the third chapter, and gets kind of cynical about humanity, Mr. Gaiman points out some pretty valid insight into the universe, and his writing is definitely impressive, in its own way. It reads very visually/a lot like a movie, which is neat. With lots of dramatic literary lighting. And symbolic character names. And I bet they all have jagged haircuts. Not a book I want buried with me, but worth reading ‘fer sure!

————————–

He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

For the most part [American history] is uninspected, unimagined, unthought, a representation of the thing, and not the thing itself.

Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.

“Like I said, don’t piss off those bitches in the airports,
” said Johnnie Larch, in the back of his mind, “or they’ll haul your sorry ass back here before you can spit”

All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory.

“This is the only country in the world,” said Wednesday, into the stillness, “that worries about what it is.”
“What?”
“The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.”

The quickest way is sometimes the longest.

All we have to believe with is our senses, the tools we use to perceive the world: our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted. And even if we do not believe, then still we cannot travel in any other way than the road our senses show us; and we must walk that road to the end.

It’s easier to kill people, when you’re dead yourself…I mean, it’s not such a big deal. You’re not so prejudiced anymore.

So yeah, Jesus does pretty good over here. But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.

The brief winter days leading up to Christmas were like moments of light between the winter darknesses, and they fled fast in the house of the dead.

The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.

There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.

“Some things may change,” said Wednesday, abruptly. “People, however…people stay the same. Some grifts last forever, others are swallowed soon enough by time and by the world.”

What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.

The secret is this: people gamble to lose money. They come to the casinos for the moment in which they feel alive, to ride the spinning wheel and turn with the cards and lose themselves, with the coins, in the slots. They may brag about the nights they won, the money they took from the casino, but they treasure, secretly treasure, the times they lost. It’s a sacrifice, of sorts.

There are accounts that, if we open our hearts to them, will cut us too deeply. Look — here is a good man, good by his own lights and the lights of his friends: he is faithful and true to his wife, he adores and lavishes attention on his little children, he cares about his country, he does his job punctiliously, as best he can. So, efficiently and good-naturedly, he exterminates Jews: he appreciates the music that plays in the background to pacify them; he advises the Jews not to forget their identification numbers as they go into the showers—many people, he tells them, forget their numbers, and take the wrong clothes when they come out of the showers. This calms the Jews. There will be life, they assure themselves, after the showers. Our man supervises the detail taking the bodies to the ovens; and if there is anything he feels bad about, it is that he still allows the gassing of vermin to affect him. Were he a truly good man, he knows, he would feel nothing but joy as the earth is cleansed of its pests.

No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes—forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection), but still unique.

Without individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, “casualties may rise to a million.” With individual stories, the statistics become people — but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted, distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies’ own myriad squirming children?
We draw our lines around these moments of pain, and remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.
Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.

“I’m alive” said Shadow “I’m not dead. Remember?”
“You’re not dead” Laura said “But I’m not sure you’re alive, either. Not really”

Even for my kind, pain still hurts. If you move and act in the material world, then the material world acts on you. Pain hurts, just as greed intoxicates and lust burns. We may not die easy and we sure as hell don’t die well, but we can die. If we’re still loved and remembered, something else a whole lot like us comes along and takes our place and the whole damn thing starts all over again. And if we’re forgotten, we’re done.

“Listen — I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.” She stopped, out of breath.
Shadow almost took his hands off the wheel to applaud. Instead he said, “Okay. So if I tell you what I’ve learned you won’t think that I’m a nut.”
“Maybe,” she said. “Try me.”

Would you believe that all the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today?…And that there are new gods out there, gods of computers and telephones and whatever, and that they all seem to think there isn’t room for them both in the world. And that some kind of war is kind of likely.

“Gods are great,” said Atsula, slowly, as if she were imparting a great secret. “But the heart is greater. For it is from our hearts they come, and to our hearts they shall return…”

Neither path is safe. Which way would you walk — the way of hard truths or the way of fine lies?

It’s easy, there’s a trick to it, you do it or you die.

We do not always remember the things that do no credit to us. We justify them, cover them in bright lies or with the thick dust of forgetfulness. All of the things that Shadow had done in his life of which he was not proud, all the things he wished he had done otherwise or left undone, came at him then in a swirling storm of guilt and regret and shame, and he had nowhere to hide from them. He was as naked and as open as a corpse on a table, and dark Anubis the jackal god was his prosecutor and his persecutor.

Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.

None of this can actually be happening. If it makes you more comfortable, you could simply think of it as metaphor. Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you — even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.
Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.

People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.

Filed under: Neil Gaiman,

“When do you feel most loved?”

Book: “, said the shotgun to the head.”, a (200 pg) poem by Saul Williams

Firsties, credit goes to Michael for sending it to me! I definitely enjoyed it (another quick, afternoon read). It reminded me of Andrea Gibson a lot (esp. Blue Blanket and For Eli) as an emotional commentary on current events/political culture? Also reminded me of Howl. I think it maintains really impressive energy, and while reading it was great, I’d like to hear it spoken even more.

When do you feel most loved? Perhaps it is in the warm embrace of your lover or in the assuring touch of your mother. Perhaps, like me, you have likened this person to God in your life and realized that God was loving you through them. Or maybe you don’t believe in God. Cool.

my friends laugh at me
and talk behind my back
they say that you have changed me
and
i am

i am like a survivor
of the flood
walking through the streets
drenched with
God
surprised that all of the drowned victims
are still walking and talking

my friends,
love is an artform
slightly removed
from its element

and it smelled like teen sprit
angst driven insecure
a country in puberty
a country at war
wet dreams
cotton mouth
blood thirsty
oily hair
fast cars
movie stars
earn 20 mill…
to instill fear

Dead to themselves
Numb to the possibility
Of truth existing beyond
that which they can palm
in the bleeding hole
of their hands,
period.

HE was not honest. SHE was not sure. A great grandfather had sacrificed the family’s clarity for gold in the late eighteen hundreds. Nonetheless, SHE had allowed him to mispronounce her name, which had eventually led to her misinterpreting her own…

dreams. And, later, doubting them. But the night was young…

MC: it’s carefully designed for the short attention span.
J: would you characterize yourself as different?
MC: Well, it’s also written this way because my attention span is pretty short.

Sorcery of self:
A phrase I coined
And now surrender to you

It’s as if I’ve swallowed
An interior decorator

I like my heart where it is

I cannot make your past disappear

Only rabbits, my love,
Only rabbits.

We have been forced
To create a new currency

one that will truly allow us
to love our neighbors
for reasons beyond guilt and pity


her essence
cupped in her being
she has made herself
available to you

she needn’t steal your heart
if you give it to her

the cops and robbers
of your childhood
neglected to teach you
such simplicity

come, my love
we have mountains to climb
wilderness to wander

you have shown me
a love that cannot be given or taken

let us bask
in the fullness
of ourselves

a simple kiss
now blood and breath
both awakened

a balanced diet
to sustain
life and health.

there is the current
I wish to sail
Here is a love
Uncharted

Throw away your map
And swallow
This cratered pill

Pull it from the sky
And let it dissolve
Under your tongue

It is only a matter of time
Before we are timeless


Filed under: Saul Williams,

“But you make me happy. It’s living up to being happy that’s the difficult part.”

Book: The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

I adore this book. It reminds me of a cross between Slaughterhouse Five and The History of Love–which is some high praise. I suppose it’s kind of “girly,” and very romantic, so if that’s not your jam, then this probably won’t be either…but it’s really, really beautiful. Tragic in parts, but beautiful. I’ve reread it several times, and every time i do, I find new passages to underline/lose my breath over.

——–
CLARE: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays. I keep myself busy. Time goes faster that way.

I go to sleep alone, and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?

Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?

“He said something interesting: he said that he thinks there is only free will when you are in time, in the present. He says in the past we can only do what we did, and we can only be there if we were there.”

I feel a weird combination of freedom and despair. I’m sweating; he opens the window and cold air floods into the room. “But then I’m not responsible for anything I do while I’m not in the present.”
He smiles. “Thank God.”
“And everything has already happened.”
“Sure looks that way…But he said that you have to behave as though you have free will, as though you are responsible for what you do.”
“Why? What does it matter?”
“Apparently, if you don’t, things are bad. Depressing.”

“I thought free will had to do with sin.”
I think about this. “No,” I say, “why should free will be limited to right and wrong? I mean, you just decided, of your own free will, to take off your shoes. It doesn’t matter, nobody cares if you wear shoes or not, and it’s not sinful, or virtuous, and it doesn’t affect the future, but you’ve exercised your free will.”
Clare shrugs. “But sometimes you ell me something and I feel like the future is already there, you know? Like my future has happened in the past and I can’t do anything about it.”
“That’s called determinism,” I tell her. “It haunts my dreams.”

“What’s the opposite of determinism?”
“Chaos.”
“Oh. I don’t think I like that. Do you like that?”
…“I do and I don’t. Chaos is more freedom; in fact, total freedom. But no meaning. I want to be free to act, and I also want my actions to mean something.”

“Do you ever miss him?” She asks me.
“Every day. Every minute.”
“Every minute,” she says. “Yes. It’s that way, isn’t it?”

“I love him. He’s my life. I’ve been waiting for him, my whole life, and now, he’s here.” I don’t know how to explain. “With Henry, I can see everything laid out, like a map, past and future, everything at once, like an angel…”

“I wish for a moment that time would lift me out of this day, and into some more benign one. But then I feel guilty for wanting to avoid the sadness; dead people need us to remember them, even if it eats us, even if all we can do is say “I’m sorry” until it is as meaningless air.”

“He’s an alcoholic. That’s what alcoholics do. It’s in their job description: Fall apart, and then keep falling apart.”

“Come and be bedded, almost-wife. It’s the only warm spot in the whole place.” We climb in.
“We do everything out of order, don’t we?”
“You have a problem with that?”
“No. I like it.”
“Good. You’ve come to the right man for all your extrachronological needs.”

“The compelling thing about making art – or making anything, I suppose – is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances.”

“Now every absence is a nonevent, a subtraction, an adventure I will hear about when my adventurer materializes at my feet, bleeding or whistling, smiling or shaking. Now I am afraid when he is gone.”

“We laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost, or dead, or far away: right now we are here, and nothing can mar our perfection, or steal the joy of this perfect moment.”

“There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

“Don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”

“I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense.”

“I am overwhelmed by desire, by a longing to be connected to Clare as strongly as possible, to be here, now. I kiss her very lightly, lingering, thinking about nothing. She is drunk with sleep moves her hand to my face and wakes more as she feels the solidity of me. Now she is present; she runs her hand down my arm, a caress.”

“But you make me happy. It’s living up to being happy that’s the difficult part.”

“The space that I can call mine…is so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from this tiny space.. Every day the ideas come more reluctantly, as though they know I will starve them and stunt their growth.”

“I feel guilty for wanting to avoid the sadness, dead people need us to remember them, even if it eats us, even if all we can do is say “I am sorry”, until its as meaningless as air.”

“I feel that I an everything to her.”

“Maybe I’m dreaming you. Maybe you’re dreaming me; maybe we only exist in each other’s dreams and every morning when we wake up we forget all about each other.”

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