odds and ends / 3.17.2023


Pyramid quilt, artist unknown. Possibly Pennsylvania, late 19th or early 20th century. Silks and wools, 72 1/2 x 79 in.⁠ American Folk Art Museum.




"The Diversity of Infinity," a plate from Thomas Wright's An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, published in 1750. Per The University of Chicago Library:
The work is richly embellished with engraved illustrations on dark backgrounds and fragments of poetry. In the work, he concluded that the [universe] must be arranged in a disc or grindstone, or else in a spherical shell. He believed the sun was in the middle of the layer, and that when looking in the plane of the grindstone one sees a multitude of stars, the Milky Way. The work did not attract the attention of astronomers at the time. After the spiral shape of the galaxy became accepted after the work of William Herschel in the nineteenth century, Wright's grindstone was acknowledged as a precursor theory.

Endre Tót, "Hopes in the Nothing,” 1993, via fluxusgram.

A friend recently described the endeavor of searching for objects that speak to us as an act of self-portraiture ... But surely the same could be said for all of us who look at, and look for, things; through the ongoing process of seeking and choosing and making room for objects in our lives, we define and reveal ourselves. And, as my friend I think was getting at, this form of self-portraiture may be as true a way to know—perhaps to discover—ourselves as any other. It is also gloriously unfixed, forever in process, as we evolve through looking and finding and looking some more.

Kate Hackman, from "About Looking: Episode 1" for Ricco/Maresca. (I love Hackman's IG, Critical Eye.)

If the algorithmic feed is the sidewalk, conveniently providing a clean and clear-cut avenue to progress on, a personal cultural pursuit is the messier desire path, which moves in unexpected directions. ... The desire path wends its way around natural hillocks and curves. It doesn’t always proceed in a straight line. But it reflects a certain human independence, a compulsion to move through the world in a way that isn’t already rigorously defined or controlled from without.

Kyle Chayka,  "Algorithmic Pathways," 1/11/2023.

... [T]he large language model presents itself as the entire field of possibility, without edges or frontiers, already mapped out and waiting for us. We need to use our imagination only to chart a course through this field and ignore that it is designed to enclose us within it, that our interactions with it further reduce language and images to a set of statistical relationships that can be infinitely recombined without ever producing anything new or potentially destabilizing, foreclosing on the sense of an open-ended future.
Instead of our having to confront the unimaginable void of the not-yet-thought, generative models let us encounter and consume ideas passively. A chatbot offers the semblance of live reciprocal conversation with none of the risk of what the other person might think of you or expect. It reminds me of when I play chess against my phone because the thought of playing an actual person seems too stressful, and what I really want is to be cocooned in a few moments of distraction. There is enough of an illusion of “play” to disguise what I am really doing, which is prodding a machine to see how it has been programmed to respond. I always lose at the chess game, but I always win at having an uncontested emotional response about the outcome.

Rob Horning, "Conversation Fear." Internal Exile, 12/2/2022. 

If magazines were containers for taste, the creators of the creator economy are vessels. ... But when I am served videos by someone who has been anointed with this stardom I don’t feel like I am inhabiting someone else’s taste but, rather, the taste of the algorithm. (I told someone recently that the specific joy of stalking someone else’s Spotify account has been lost as more and more playlists are generated by the platform. It’s the opposite of intimacy, isn’t it? To stalk an algorithm? Like climbing a tree to look into your crush’s window and realizing someone else got there first...please don’t do this.)

Daisy Alito,  "The Taste Economy.Dirt, 3/2/2023.


"There’s a narcissism that reemerges in the AI dream that we are going to prove that everything we thought was distinctively human can actually be accomplished by machines and accomplished better," Judith Butler, founding director of the critical-theory program at UC Berkeley, told me ... "Or that human potential—that’s the fascist idea—human potential is more fully actualized with AI than without it." The AI dream is "governed by the perfectibility thesis, and that’s where we see a fascist form of the human." There’s a technological takeover, a fleeing from the body. "Some people say, ‘Yes! Isn’t that great!’ Or ‘Isn’t that interesting?!’ ‘Let’s get over our romantic ideas, our anthropocentric idealism,’ you know, da-da-da, debunking," Butler added. "But the question of what’s living in my speech, what’s living in my emotion, in my love, in my language, gets eclipsed."

Elizabeth Weil, "You Are Not A Parrot." NYMag, 3/1/2023. 


Judith Butler, again: performative does not equal fake.

What I dislike about poetry is the author’s voice, which is usually far too present. That exhausts me. I’m attracted by the impersonal. I prefer the rare beauty one can find in a good Wikipedia entry to the cries and cackles of a poet who feels like they must always relay what lies deep in their heart.

Benjamín Labatut, interviewed by Frederico Perelmuter for Public Books, 3/7/2023.

SALGUEIRO: Do you have anything else to tell us about your work?

LISPECTOR: I don’t think so. You had good questions. I answered, and all I want to know is this: today is October 20, 1976. It’s raining. I’m wearing a suède dress. I’m with my friends Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna and Marina Colasanti. And I want to know, what will that matter after I die?

Benjamin Moser, "A Lost Interview with Clarice Lispector." The New Yorker, 2/13/2023. 

Honestly, you might hate work because work hates you, or at least, is relatively indifferent to you. I don’t mean that to sound dramatic or sinister or particular to you. It’s just that work—the apparatus of exchanging time for money—isn’t designed to make you feel anything good.

Eleanor Gordon-Smith, giving advice for The Guardian


imaginary outfit: a day-and-a-half knocking around new york city


Other than a frantic hour last August for a strategic bagel acquisition/bookstore bathroom break, I have not been back in New York City since the pandemic started. It's strange to have been away for so long from a place that was once home. Barring illness, delays, or other catastrophes, I will be there again this week for a very short visit, and I have been having fun contemplating improbable itineraries. Here's one:

Day 1: Arrive in the afternoon. Drop off bag and set out seeking Karma (bookstore and galleries) to look at Thaddeus Mosley's trees and Paul Mogensen's mathematical processes. Buy an imprudent number of heavy books, then pop into The Fortnight Institute to see Leonard Baby's pretty pictures. Stockpile sugar from Economy Candy and wander in and out of Top Hat, Bode, and Sweet Pickle Books, before wending over to Oroboro, C'H'C'M, and John Derian to buy something for my mom. Wind up at The Drawing Center to get lost in mythic worlds. Do I have time to sneak into the Renee Gladman exhibit at Artists Space? How fast can I walk and look? Dinner with friends.

Day 2: Up early-early for glorious, glorious lox at Russ & Daughters Cafe, then a train uptown and strolling near the Reservoir in Central Park until The Met opens. After admiring the scholar stones in Gallery 213, a long amble downtown (with stops to contemplate the cerulean ceiling at Albertine and the small boats) to see the new Kiki Smith murals in Grand Central, and then maybe MoMA for Ming Smith. Pause for a restorative buerre et jambon sandwich at L'Ami Pierre, hoard pens and other necessities of life at MUJI and walk down Library Way, then to Chelsea for Ja'Tovia Gary at Paula Cooper, Miyoko Ito at Matthew Marks, and Charles Atlas at Luhring Augustine. A look around at Printed Matter on 11th if I can make it there before they close, with a stop at 192 Books. (My vacation tradition is to stress the zippers on my carryon by cramming it with books.) Walk and walk and walk until my feet complain, and then acquire Thai food.

Day 3: Another early morning and a long train ride to the Upper West Side. Egg bagels from Absolute and a walk in my old neighborhood. On to the airport.

Mostly, though, I will be so happy to walk and walk and walk and see where I find myself.

Anine Bing fleece coat (the 2019 HYKE x North Face long fleece coat is my unobtainable ideal, though) / Malo fuzzy hat / Stella McCartney 48mm round tortoiseshell specs / russety sweater, like Sakaya Davis or IOLO / Comme des Garçons flowery pants (with long johns under, if it is chilly; in my dream, these flowery balloon pants would be a soft, medium-weight flannel, akin to cozy pajamas) / Rachel Comey Bond earrings / Cirque nail polish in Zeitgeist / Pedrolino travel mug by Debbie Carlos / Portage "Pocket" notebook (I get these at my local hardware store) and green Artline Fineline pen, for notes / Auxiliary pockets for masks of varying intensities, Metrocards, museum postcards, and various souvenirs, a.k.a. Clare V. denim tote of yore / Hansel from Basel daisy socks / New Balance 1906R sneakers / something to read that folds up small and can be recycled when I'm done. 

all heart


The "Heart of Space" meteorite, a 4.5 billion-year-old fragment of a star that fell to earth in 1947: "A mind-boggling series of occurrences and accidents were necessary to make a meteorite of this rare shape," says James Hyslop, Christie's science and natural history specialist. "And what makes it even more endearing is the fact that this piece would have come from the very core of its initial protoplanetary body—it broke off from the heart of its originator."


Handmade valentine in the collection of tihngs.


Heart meadow created by Winston Howes in memory of his wife, Janet. Daffodils blossom in the center when spring arrives. 



Heart by Alexander Girard, 1961, at the Compound Restaurant, Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Die Freundschaft bringt Freude
Die Liebe bringt Ruh'
Erwähle sie beide
Wie glücklich bist du
Friendship brings pleasure, 
love rest to the heart; 
if both be thy treasure, 
how happy thou art.

Personal Message by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber, available here.

It was a September afternoon in 1796, and Mary Wollstonecraft had one thing on her mind. “What say you,” she wrote to her lover William Godwin, “may I come to your house, about eight—to philosophize?” This use of code was typical. If she wanted him she would ask to borrow books or ink; he liked to say he needed soothing, like a sick child. In his journal Godwin used dots and dashes to log what he and Wollstonecraft had done, when they had done it, and where. After their third date he wrote, “chez moi, toute.”

Anahid Nersessian, "Love for Sale." The New York Review, 1/13/2022.  

One may care about a character on television, but one must care for a character in a video game. In fact, The Last of Us suggested that care, by definition, means choosing to have no choice, holding onto another person so tightly their survival becomes an inescapable necessity. ... [T]he point is not that a video game, like other art forms, can show us something about love, but that love, at its most monstrous, can have the unyielding structure of a video game. 

Andrea Long-Chu, "The Last of Us Is Not a Video-Game Adaptation." Vulture, 2/9/2023. 


“We’re not beginning to . . . to . . . mean something?"

imaginary outfit: wild things

When I was ten, my family moved in the middle of the school year, and as a goodbye gift, my teacher, Mrs. Hill, gave me a copy of Dear Mili. It is a story Wilhelm Grimm wrote in a letter to a little girl named Mili in 1813 that someone rediscovered in 1983; it was published as a book with Maurice Sendak's illustrations in 1988. My copy, with Mrs. Hill's kind wishes written in it, is a first edition and I have kept it with me all these years.

The story is this: long ago, in some place not named, there is a war, and a beloved little girl is sent by her mother into the wilderness with a pocketful of cake. She comes eventually to the hut of a kind old man, who gives her shelter and sends her out to look for roots to eat, and she discovers a little girl, almost a mirror of herself, who helps her. But the other child is an angel, and the man is Saint Joseph. And after three days, he sends her home, with the other child to guide her. After hard journey, she finds her village, though it is changed, and her mother's house, and her mother is waiting. But in the time she has been gone, her mother has become an old woman. The child has returned home just before the woman is to die, fulfilling her heart's wish to see her own dear child again. They die together, with a rose blooming between them. 

When I read it as a child, Sendak's illustrations puzzled and beguiled me. They are beautiful and fantastically ornate, filled with intricate, delicately-hued foliage and scenes within the scene that do not appear in Grimm's tale—hidden angels and broken headstones; a group of other children, wandering together. It was clear that he was seeing something more in this story, another story under and around and behind the story that was being told. I did not know then that Sendak had layered many of the things he had loved and that had troubled him in the illustrations, that his cherished dogs were there and the work of artists he admired, but also Mozart conducting a group of the doomed children who sang in Nazi death camps, and the fantastically ornate gravestones from the Jewish cemetery in Prague. But I felt that the pictures held more than they showed. I began looking for more of his work, which eventually led me to The Bat Poet and A Hole is to Dig and Open House for Butterflies and The Light Princess and Higglety Pigglety Pop and The Moon-Jumpers, books that became very precious to me. 

So at the end of January, after weeks of stubborn colds and low-grade fevers and days on the couch, we finally all felt well enough to do something and antsy enough to need to be someplace else, so we got in the car and drove a few hours to walk around the Columbus Museum of Art to see the Maurice Sendak exhibit, Wild Things Are Happening

And even though I love his work, I did not expect to be as moved as I was, seeing so much of it in person. Maybe it was just lingering effects—the head cold, too many days at home, too many pandemic years, accumulated decongestants in my system loosening my tear ducts—but it was almost unbearably wonderful. It collects, as survey exhibits do, a comprehensive array of pieces spanning his whole artistic career as well as objects and works of art that influenced him. There was the daffy 1939 postcard for Sunshine Biscuits with its white-hatted bakers that reappear in In the Night Kitchen, the toy milk truck that his father gave him, old black-and-white family photos that eventually served as inspiration for compositions of figures in assorted illustrations, a truly delightful selection of art from Winsor McKay to George Stubbs to Goya that he cherished and referenced. (I particularly liked that Beatrix Potter's bat studies inspired the finely drawn bats in The Bat Poet.) There were also the impossibly charming tiny book mock-ups he made, with small sketches indicating how the book could look, and the fantasy sketches, which were drawn to tell a story that lasted the span of a song. 

But what got to me was liveness of it all—how all the marks, the doodles, the sketches, the mock-ups, the painfully and astonishingly fine finals destined to be muted by print, all of them, were animated by a singular and idiosyncratic and questing intelligence. To see all the work, to see how much work, to realize it was all necessary, every bit, to someday make an image that has stayed in my mind for thirty-some years, of barefoot girls with their arms around each others' waists standing in the shadow of the gravestones and strange plants while Mozart conducts the lost children and the old man contemplates a rose. Sendak drew with a steel crow-nib quill, which had to be dipped again and again into the ink. And he dipped again and again into the stuff of his life, and the things he loved and noticed and remembered and feared, shaping it into images that reflected how he saw the world, images that made the words on the page stranger and sweeter and funnier and more beautiful and troubling.

Anyway, it made me happy but also sad, because all of it—all of the beautiful work on yellowing paper, all of the saved snapshots and grubby toys and pasted mock-ups—felt like relicts from a vanished mode of creative being, artifacts from another time. In our time, different wild things are lurking in the woods, disembodied intelligences that ingest indiscriminately and hallucinate lies, that generate distorted visions of humanity with hot-dog fingers and warped faces, that work to make everything look and sound more or less plausible, more or less the same. A pen was a tool that we used; now the tools use us. And no one is dipping pens into ink or writing fairy tales in letters to children anymore, anyway.

Maybe I am being too pessimistic, and we will find a way to leave our fingerprints on these new capabilities in ways that capture our messy magic singularness in a way I cannot see just yet. I never thought of emoji as capable of expressing anything particularly interesting until my kid sent me a screen-filling block of sunflowers, hibiscus, waterlilies, roses, tulips, toadstools, leaves, potted plants, and one smiling moon. In the middle, he had typed, "I sent you a garden."


Velvet Etro dress / Levis 501 jeans / Vivienne Westwood Roman three-strap shoes / Victorian tortoiseshell cherub earrings / Lelet Jackie barrette / Dorette gemstone ring / Herbert Frere Souer Le Gabie half-moon bag / Cirque navy jelly nail polish.

odds and ends / 2.8.2023

Louise Bourgeois, "10 am is When You Come to Me." Twenty sheets of musical score paper painted with Bourgeois' hands and those of her assistant Jerry Gorovoy. Via 8 Holland Street:
Bourgeois said of Gorovoy: "When you are at the bottom of the well, you look around and say, who is going to get me out? In this case it is Jerry who comes and he presents a rope, and I hook myself on the rope and he pulls me out."

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, detail from "The Women of Sorrento Drawing in the Boats." De Morgan Collection.



Child's armchair upholstered with petit point sewn by Alice B. Toklas over designs by Pablo Picasso, in the collection of the Beinecke Library.


From Anne Truitt's Daybook, via stopping off place.


Leonard Baby, "We Must Be Different From Our Parents," 2023. On view starting 2/16/2023 at Fortnight Institute.


Crossed letter from 1846 in the collection of tihngs.


"What’s going on? One idea is that two titanic forces are battling for control over the world’s heart."

But what are comets? The etymology of the term in English—from the Greek word 'komētēs,' meaning 'long-haired'—reminds us that they were once seen as long-tressed stars. For much of human history, comets were less than celebrated. Martin Luther called them “harlot stars,” for their wanton behavior. A Lutheran bishop, in 1578, described them as 'the thick smoke of human sins, rising every day, every hour, every moment full of stench and horror, before the face of God, and becoming gradually so thick as to form a comet, with curled and plaited tresses, which at last is kindled by the hot and fiery anger of the Supreme Heavenly Judge.' A scholar countered that this theory didn’t account for why we saw comets only occasionally. 

Rivka Galchen, "What the Green Comet tells Us About the Past—And the Future." The New Yorker, 1/31/2023.


"Commissioned by a cat supply company, A Short Story takes viewers along on the strange, surreal journey of a large black cat seeking something precious in this world..."

Brilliant, beautiful Alice is barely believable as a female human being. And why should she be? She’s a quester, an outlier, a method of inquiry, an experiment maybe, experimented upon like a mink crazed in a lab. ... Alice runs circles around this Dr. Cohen. She is the circle, actually, the Ouroboros, the snake of mythology coiled with its tail in its mouth, sacred symbol of the eternal cycle of destruction and rebirth, most secularly realized by the chemist August Kekulé’s dream about the configuration of molecules. Cormac McCarthy is interested in Kekulé’s dream and in the unconscious and in the distaste for language the unconscious harbors and the mystery of the evolution of language, which chose only one species to evolve in. He’s interested in the preposterous acceptance that one thing—a sound that becomes a word—can refer to another thing, mean another thing, replacing the world bit by bit with what can be said about it.

Joy Williams, "Great, Beautiful, Terrifying: On Cormac McCarthy." Harpers, January 2023.

And although she was now redundant as a woman, being neither a wife, mother nor mistress, she was by no means redundant as a narratologist ... certain female narratologists talked with pleasurable awe about wise Crones, but she was no crone, she was an unprecedented being, a woman with porcelain-crowned teeth, laser-corrected vision, her own store of money, her own life and field of power, who flew, who slept in luxurious sheets around the world, who gazed out at white fields under the sun by day and the brightly turning stars by night as she floated redundant.

A.S. Byatt, "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye."

Our mother was not the sort of woman to unpack her heart everywhere; she looked on human speech as a loaded gun, and, to use her own expression, talking often felt to her like an issue of blood.

Simone Schwarz-Bart, The Bridge of Beyond.


He had a life as well as a career: his ukulele, his animals, his gardening, his inventions—including a model railroad track he’d constructed that ran from his garage workshop to the kitchen to the backyard. Its cars transported snacks to the poolside guests, and the caboose carried Alka-Seltzer. 

John Lahr, "Puzzled Puss." London Review of Books, 1/19/2023. 


odds and ends / 1.12.2023


Hugo Simberg, The Wounded Angel, 1903.


Léon Spilliaert, Winter round the lake, 1929.



Sculpture by Tung Ming-Chin.


Hans Christian Anderson's sun troll.

'Time is incredibly flexible and we all experience it in different ways,' Ogden explains. ... In Iraq, for example, people she surveyed almost universally felt that time slowed. But half of U.K. respondents who experienced time distortion felt it moved faster than in what we've come to think of as 'the before times.' In Argentina, younger, physically active women felt time passed faster than older men. Ogden says it's hard to pinpoint the root cause of those differences, because there are so many different variables. Living in a war-torn area, or under strict lockdown policies, could help explain the differences in each country. 'When life changes, time changes,' Ogden says.

Yuki Noguchi, "How Did COVID Warp Our Sense of Time? It's a Matter of Perception." NPR's Morning Edition,  December 14, 2022.

The imperative to always demonstrate the right stuff shaped the language that astronauts used to describe their experiences in space. As Patricia Santy, a longtime psychiatrist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston, wrote in 1994, “Expression of emotions such as sadness or fear is considered a weakness.” If the sight of Earth marooned in darkness inspired such feelings in the heart of an astronaut, he was unlikely to admit it, lest he jeopardize his shot at another mission. ... Weibel, who conducts anonymous interviews of astronauts for her research, said that one told her he took one look out the window of the space shuttle and “became absolutely convinced we would kill ourselves off between 500 and 1,000 years from now.” He never said so publicly.

Marina Koren, "Seeing Earth From Space Will Change You; The Question is How.The Atlantic, December 10, 2022.


Because of the tutoring, because it is a Teaching Monday after a Friday payday, because I am delirious after three solid hours of two different seminars of two dozen sulky first-years, I buy sneakers I unnecessarily tried on and coveted last week. Cycle of unnecessary shopping becoming rationalized into necessary purchase. I want a uniform. Everything I buy will be the last thing.

My mom texts me an article about uniform shopping, “what if you buy yourself a uniform, a capsule closet,” she suggests. But what if I have claustrophobia.

Adrienne Raphel, "Shopping Diary." The Paris Review, November 25, 2022.


She was afraid of finding someone else’s thoughts left behind in her personality, like a strange scarf unearthed from the sofa cushions after a party. Books were the most acute threat to the sanctity of the bordered self.

Audrey Wollen, "The Writer Who Burned Her Own Books." The New Yorker, January 3, 2023. 


Is there ever anything sham about it, I sometimes wondered reading Tenth of December, moving toward one of his deaths or near-deaths. A cheapness? There was a whiff of robin funerals, of that kid who wants to feel the feeling, something you don’t get with, say, Flannery O’Connor, who might actually have killed people. Then again, robin funerals are kind of the business: a little thing to put in a box, so that the rest of us can be glad to feel alive.

Patricia Lockwood, "Worm Interlude.London Review of Books, November 17, 2022. 


"I suppose I’m trying to make a space where people can rest their attention in one place for a while."

a fancied dot; a three instead of a two


The past has flown away,
the coming month and year do not exist;
Ours only is the present’s tiny point.
Time is but a fancied dot ever moving on
which you have called a flowing river stream. 
I am alone in a wide desert,
listening to the echo of strange noises.

Mahmoud Shabistaru, from "Time" in Rose Garden of Mystery.

Neither the symbolic detail
of a three instead of a two,
nor that rough metaphor
that hails one term dying and another emerging
nor the fulfillment of an astronomical process
muddle and undermine
the high plateau of this night
making us wait
for the twelve irreparable strokes of the bell.
The real cause
is our murky pervasive suspicion
of the enigma of Time,
it is our awe at the miracle
that, though the chances are infinite
and though we are
drops in Heraclitus' river,
allows something in us to endure,
never moving.

Jorge Luis Borges, translated by W.S. Merwin. (Originally posted here on 12/31/2012.)


Other poems for a new year.

Rolling the dice:

Egyptian stone die, ca. 30 B.C.—364 A.D., in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Iranian astrological plaque and dice, ca. 1600-1700, in the collection of Victoria & Albert Museum.

glad tidings

Streeter Blair, Pasture in Winter, 1960. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.


Detail from Is This You? by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, via Mac Barnett.




Vanessa Bell, hand-painted calendar for friends from 1951.

Milton Avery, Pinecones, ca. 1940. The Phillips Collection.


Robert Watts, Xmas Event, 1962. 


Detail from a Christmas card in the collection of Robert E. Jackson.


'What Josephine said,' explained Robert, 'was simply that it would be pretty to put candles on one of the growing trees, instead of having a Christmas-tree indoors'.... 
Soon they were busy round a prickly fir-tree at the end of the lawn. Jim stood in the background vaguely staring. The bicycle lamp sent a beam of strong white light deep into the uncanny foliage, heads clustered and hands worked. The night above was silent, dim. There was no wind. In the near distance they could hear the panting of some engine at the colliery. 
'Shall we light them as we fix them,' asked Robert, 'or save them for one grand rocket at the end?' 
'Oh, as we do them,' said Cyril Scott, who had lacerated his fingers and wanted to see some reward. 
A match spluttered. One naked little flame sprang alight among the dark foliage. The candle burned tremulously, naked. They all were silent. 
'We ought to do a ritual dance! We ought to worship the tree,' sang Julia, in her high voice. 
'Hold on a minute. We'll have a little more illumination,' said Robert. 
'Why yes. We want more than one candle,' said Josephine. 
But Julia had dropped the cloak in which she was huddled, and with arms slung asunder was sliding, waving, crouching in a pas seul before the tree, looking like an animated bough herself. 
Jim, who was hugging his pipe in the background, broke into a short, harsh, cackling laugh.
'Aren't we fools! he cried. 'What? Oh, God's love, aren't we fools!'

D.H. Lawrence, Aaron's Rod.

On Christmas Eve, we build a fire, then snuff it out with an old wet towel, realizing, fearfully, that we haven’t cleaned the flue in five years. Then the boiler breaks down. We plug in the space heaters. We order takeout Chinese. Only then, when almost all is lost and I am feeling so unexpectedly sad, do I realize what a sucker I am for the beautiful fake Christmas that German-American commerce concocted for us years ago. A boon for the economy and a pernicious sweet for the mind. But it moves me. My heart is a chump. I actually like the shopping, the gift wrap, the carols—even the tinkling store music. I like the invented holiday miracles, the unexpected kindnesses and transformations—at least, as they are portrayed on the TV specials! And, looking out the window and seeing only sleet, I realize that I even like the snow. Where, now, is that lovely perfect Christmas? On whose open fire are those goddam chestnuts roasting? I have a fiction writer’s weakness for fiction. It’s an occupational hazard. A business thing.

Lorrie Moore, "Chop-Suey Xmas."

Well, why anything? Why do we? Come every year sure as the solstice to carol these antiquities that if you listened to the words would break your heart. Silence, darkness, Jesus, angels. Better, I suppose, to sing than to listen.

John Updike, "The Carol Sing."

Despite the forecast's promise,
It didn't snow that night;
But in the morning, flakes began
To glide all right.
Not enough to cover roads
Or even hide the grass;
But enough to change the light.

Bernard O'Donoghue, 'Christmas.'



Merry everything, friends.