book report: april 2021


April was slim, reading-wise—partly because (and I don't know why) I decided to read/re-read a bunch of Kazuo Ishiguro before tackling Klara and the Sun and it operated like a literary muscle relaxer, slowing me down and making me feel somehow both sloppy and lucid (or maybe just deluded). (I am currently wading through the Kafka-esque twinings of The Unconsoled; more on that another time, maybe). But the little stack of books I read packed potent joys. 

A few weeks ago, I linked to an essay by Alice Jolly praising boring books:

It turned out that every word of the book was necessary, everything made sense and everything seemed both surprising and inevitable. I was left knowing that Madame Bovary is extraordinary, one of the best books I had ever read. But I had to face up to the fact that for long passages I had also been bored by it. Was it possible for a book to be boring and brilliant? Clearly it was.

Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes is not boring, though if you stopped reading it halfway through, you might think that it is. 

Well-behaved, middle-aged Lucy Pym has become a minor celebrity after publishing a book of pop psychology:

She read her first book on psychology out of curiosity, because it seemed to her an interesting sort of thing; and she read all the rest to see if they were just as silly. By the time she had read thirty-seven books on the subject, she had evolved ideas of her own on psychology; at variance, of course, with all thirty-seven volumes read to date. In fact, the thirty-seven volumes seemed to her so idiotic and made her so angry that she sat down there and then and wrote reams of refutal. Since one cannot talk about psychology in anything but jargon, there being no English for most of it, the reams of refusal read very learnedly indeed.

An old school friend who once stuck up for a bullied Lucy ("Lucy had gone home and enjoyed jam roll-poly instead of throwing herself in the river") is now the head of a women's physical education college (shades of a down-market Gaudy Night). She asks Lucy to come and give a talk about her book, and Lucy prolongs her stay, wrapped up in the world of the school, its rigor and rituals, and the personalities of the teachers and students as they prepare for graduation. Then, as the pages dwindle and the reader, perhaps baffled by the fact that this book has been billed as a murder mystery, is lulled, something shocking happens. Lucy's psychological insight is put to the test, and here is where Tey becomes a slight-of-hand artist, pulling off a satisfying, gasp-eliciting finale in a scant few pages, deftly turning the story from one thing into another.

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Some summer in my teenage years, I picked up an old, crumbly paperback by Mary Renault and for a sunbaked afternoon or two was swept off into the world of Alexander the Great. Madeleine Miller's Circe conjured that same sense of transport and strangeness, electrified by myths and stories half-remembered, so when I saw a new(ish) short story by Miller on my library app, I clicked "borrow." Galatea is told from the first-person perspective of the beautiful sculpture brought to life through Pygmalion's obsessive love. His obsession—and sense of possession—is the shape of Galatea's life, and the story finds her confined in a remote facility, under the care of people who monitor and drug her between his visits, until she finds a way to escape. A familiar myth recast as a troubling, twisted tale of toxic patriarchy.  

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I re-read Joan Druett's Island of the Lost because it is one of those true stories that I can't quite believe is true: in 1864,  few months apart, two different groups are shipwrecked on the Aukland Islands, 285 miles south of New Zealand in the subantarctic. One group, blessed with cooperative, ingenious folks, leads an almost Robinson Crusoe-like existence for over a year. They figure out how to make soap, tan leather, construct a smithy, and ultimately make a boat (forging hundreds of hand-cast nails!) that they sail hundred of miles to find help. In the other group, anarchy and social division reign. Most of the survivors die, and the remaining three are ultimately rescued by a plague ship. All the castaways survived by eating a plant called stilbocarpa; it prevented scurvy and bleached their teeth, so that when they were rescued, they all had uncannily gleaming grins.

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Kathryn Davis' Versailles is a history of a person (Marie Antoinette) but also a place, mostly told from Marie Antionette's first-person perspective:

After Léonard took off the curling papers, he frizzed my hair with a hot iron, combed it out with nettle juice, powdered it with bean flour, then mounted a ladder in order to affix the horsehair cushion that would form the armature for the final hairdo.

Cypresses and black marigolds and wheat sheaves and fruit-filled cornucopias—a hairdo reminding everyone that while they mourned the loss of one king, they also looked forward to the bounty the next would bring. Or how about the Inoculation hairdo, commemorating the Princes's victory over smallpox? One day Léonard made me Minerva. One day he made me an English garden with lawns, hills, and streams. One day he made me the world.

Really, you could put anything on your head .. so long as it didn't (excuse me) snap your neck. 

Léonard used long steel pins to hold the cushion in place and combed my own hair up over it. Then he matted everything down with pomade, creating a kind of moist hive under which fleas and lice bred, and soon enough there wasn't a fashionable lady alive who wasn't using a long thin stick identical to the one Léonard made for me, complete with a little ivory claw, to scratch away at her scalp like mad.  

There are also dramatic interludes structured like one acts with chatty lap dogs and ladies-in-waiting; appearances by Bread, personified; discussions of how the grounds are planted; and servants doomed to die from pox. It's like the marvelous eccentric aunt of Danielle Dutton's gemlike and glittery Margaret the First.

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An anxious author can't stop going to parties with other artsy types and blabbing about his important new novel to skeptical, self-involved friends: is it Park Slope, ca. 2013? No—Paris, 1895. Over a hundred years ago, André Gide wrote Marshlands, a self-referential novel that lacerates literary pretension, pioneered autofictional forms, and foretold our post-truth reality:

"But it's not about truth, you can change the facts to make them be whatever you want."

"I arrange the facts to make them conform to the truth more closely than they do in real life. I can't explain it to you now, it's too complicated."

His friend is doubtful:

"I'm afraid this story of yours might be the least little bit boring."

A vastness of silence—subsequent to which I cried, my voice full of feeling: "Angela, Angela, please! When will you understand what books are about?" 

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Gerard Dou, Old Woman Reading, c. 1631 - c. 1632

odds and ends / 5.7.2021

 









Jean Brusselmans: Lilas (Seringen), 1934.

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Candlesticks that look like carnivorous plants by Tommy Mitchell.

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Wax-seal-encrusted treasure box by Parvum Opus.

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Colleen Herman, Something Warm

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NOMASEI ballerinas (tiny gold hands!)

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Klingspor-Schriften type sample. Offenbach: Gebrüder Klingspor, 1951.

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Photo of the artist Rose Wylie, by Sam Wright for the NYT Style Magazine.

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A moment extends to time passing as sense impression of a rose, including new
joys where imagined roses, roses I haven't yet seen or seen in books record as my
experience.

Then experience is revelation, because plants and people have in their cells
particles of light that can become coherent, that radiate out physically and also
with the creativity of metaphor, as in a beam of light holographically, i.e., by
intuition, in which I inhale the perfume of the Bourbon rose, then try to separate
what is scent, sense, and what you call memory, what is emotion, where in a
dialogue like touching is it so vibratory and so absorbent of my attention and
longing, with impressions like fingerprints all over.

I'm saying physical perception is the data of my embodiment, whereas for the
rose, scarlet itself is matter.

Mei-mei Berssenbruggefrom "Hello, the Roses."

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To start, think about what you like. Consider your own taste. What is your perfect soup? Is it clear? Creamy? Spicy? Thick? Think about its components. What ingredients do you have access to? We will offer some suggestions and a simple road map, but this is not an edict; improvisation is an essential part of cooking.

Who are you feeding? Reflect on this with every step.


Emily Hilliard and Rebecca Wright, "A Soup Recipe: Questions and Interpretive Instructions for a Present Process and a Future Meal." Ecotone

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It’s not that literature can’t be personally uplifting, or even morally improving; but when you insist that this is what literature is for, you make a claim that sits at odds with the manifest intentions of most writers and readers. Why do I read? Largely because I hate to be bored, and books are my favourite way of not being bored. (Also, a little bit, because I like people to think of me as someone who reads books.)


Sarah Ditum, "Books Won't Save You." UnHerd,  4/27/2021.

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[Jane] Harrison was the foremost figure in the Cambridge Ritualists, a group of classical scholars who infused the study of ancient Greece with modern theories of “primitive” ritual. The holophrase, a linguistic instance in which subject and object are rendered indistinguishable, fascinated her. In her book Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912), she provided an example of a holophrase ascribed to an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego: mamihlapinatapai, which means “looking-at-each-other-hoping-that-either-will-offer-to-do-something-which-both-parties-desire-but-are-unwilling-to-do.” She believed this suggested pre-modern speakers’ total involvement with their environments, the self dissolved in pure relation. The duality of mind and body is superseded by an articulation of shared reality.


Dustin Illingworth, "Little Funny Things Ceaselessly Happening." Poetry, 3/1/2021. 

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"I want a holophrase."—Hope Mirrlees, Paris.

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Clariloops.

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What if hope exists not for any individual human being now living—but rather for the members of future generations, who though powerless to redeem us, might nevertheless be able to overturn the injustices we have been subject to and carve out a better existence for themselves? In this view, hope is not for “us” but it is nevertheless related to us, by means of our connection to other, future human beings. “I” might not be able to hope for anything. But “we” certainly can meaningfully hope for a better world—through the actions we might take, through the world and across generations, together.


Tom Whyman, "Why, Despite Everything, You Should Have Kids (If You Want Them)." NYT, 4/13/2021.

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This pure feeling I have and my certainty of what has caused it: the sight of the children … the rousing music, the marching feet. A feeling of one in distress who sees help coming but does not rejoice at his rescue—nor is he rescued—but rejoices, rather, at the arrival of fresh young people imbued with confidence and ready to take up the fight; ignorant, indeed, of what awaits them, but an ignorance that inspires not hopelessness but admiration and joy in the onlooker and brings tears to his eyes.


Franz Kafka, from a diary entry dated March 1922 describing hope:. 

Archeologists found a lost 3,000-year-old city in Luxor: "Work is underway and the mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures." (Washington Post.)


gifts some mothers might enjoy




































A reproduction of Francesco Primaticcio's Double Head, because to be a mother is to become one thing in the eyes of the world, and something else entirely to yourself.

A shiny snake bookmark, plus a new book to tuck it into (maybe a pair of novellas by Natalia Ginzburg, an anthology of poems about the weathera book of breakfast recipes that includes "useful tips like the top songs for boiling an egg to, and how to store mushrooms," or a rare and covetable exhibition catalog documenting 500 years of women's work.) 

Life Everywhere, a poster by Lexie Smith for New York Communities for Change: a compendium of "133 cut and collaged scans taken from six Simon & Schuster field guides: Mushrooms, Trees, Horses and Ponies, Fossils, Cacti and Succulents, and Shells."

A Regime des Fluers perfume that makes you smell like a cactus

A water glass that looks like a seething sample of microscopic pond life.

honey pot woven purse, impractically sized for toting useful items such as books and whatnot, but perfect for stashing foraged mushrooms and emergency snacks.

A long-coveted sweater in blossom pink.

Minty-fresh shoes + a bunch of flowers that last forever (or nearly).

A kit for low-key manicures.

Tiny earrings shaped like whirling balls of incandescent gas.

A way to tell the future, by Rebecca Artemesia. 

Sunshine-colored silk scrunchies for overgrown pandemic 'dos.

An hourglass, plus a glorious hour all alone. 

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Other gifts for mothers, from other years: 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020

odds and ends / 4.7.2021












Jacqueline Hassink, from Views, Kyoto, 2004-2014.

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Painted wooden fire screen, early 20th century.

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Agate fossil coral (showing small flowers), found on Reddit

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From How to Read the Aura, Practice Psychometry, Telepathy and Clairvoyance by W. E. Butler, via stopping off place.

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In Your Garden by Vita Sackville-West-West, 1951, first edition.

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The greatest hibernator of all is the snail. When the weather gets cold or dry, snails first go in search of places where they feel safe, among rocks or leaf litter. There they close themselves up. The snail moves in a shell that is its dwelling, and when it wants to hibernate, it makes a covering over the entrance. This is called an epiphragm, Greek for “lid.” The snail concocts it of mucus and calcium. The lid seals in moisture and keeps the snail from drying out. Inside its damp chamber the snail sleeps and waits for rain. Sometimes it sleeps for years. No one knows if snails dream. Someone may know. 


John Jeremiah Sullivan, "Uhtceare.The Paris Review, Issue 236, Spring 2021.

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As a poet I feel like it is my task to protect consciousness from the tech lords and the moon from Elon Musk, but I am not so delusional as to think I could lead an organized resistance to this process of enclosure. Nor do I think I can, alone, defend those poet things: the moon and love. But I also can't forget that there are people who want to own, as data, the bacteria in our intestines and the salt in our tears. I have watched people being conditioned into screen addiction and once-unimaginable interpersonal viciousness. I have lost loved ones to paranoid screen holes and conspiracies and seen even self-identified leftists align themselves fully to corporate entities. Even as I stepped away, almost entirely, from most everything online — even, for a time, giving up email — I have felt such survivor guilt about those left behind, the ones still compulsively refreshing their twitter or facebook feeds. I also know it didn't have to be like this: that the technologies developed in my life could and sometimes were used for what was beautiful and good.


Anne Boyer, "the earthly shadow of the cloud." MIRABILARY, 3/30/2021.

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Honestly, the more I think about it, the more the internet in these novels starts to feel like that one awkward white guy who knows he can’t dance but tries to let you know that he knows it so that he can bop along in the background at the party just the same. It feels like one of White Media’s greater farces that they have deceived us into thinking that the internet as described and proscribed in these novels is a thing that is actually worth arguing over. Aesthetically. I mean, really, think about it. The huge tracts of digital life that these novels don’t touch. None of the transformative capacity or will to change that animates so much of online life for black and brown and queer people exists in these novels. For some of us, the democratic dream and the populist impulse of digital life is alive. Not perfect, no. Not entirely democratic even. But it’s still there. Singing. 


Brandon Taylor, "i read your little internet novels / it's all very gothic up in here.sweater weather, 3/23/2021. 

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I was, unconvincingly, so many people as a teenager—a rebel, a sophisticate, a drama nerd, a go-getter, a witch. I could try on a persona for size and then return it, tags on. There was no social media then and no one wanted me on any reality series, so I never had to curate a self before I had one. But I did stupid things for love. What would I have done for likes? What would that have made me?


Alexis Sokolski, "'Kid 90' and the Days When Even Wild TV Teens Had Privacy." NYT, 3/26/2021. 

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Whatever this mode of production is, that it eats brains as well as bodies seems key to how it works, and how it is made. Capital extracts the energy out of the laboring body and makes it over as a thing apart, as capital in the form of the machine, which subordinates living labor to it. This other, more recent mode of production extracts information from bodies, and makes of it a thing apart, forms of artificial intelligence, over and against the thinking, feeling body.


McKenzie Wark, interviewed by Jessica Caroline at filthy dreams, 10/14/2019.

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Books, like vacuum cleaners, are increasingly judged on their ability to deliver what they appear to offer. They are consumer products. The customer has paid and must get what he wants. Pity the writer who falls foul of the vacuum cleaner purchaser. 


Alice Jolly, "In Praise of Boring Books." 3:AM Magazine, 3/22/2021.

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And it’s this question of “the business of reading,” of how we read, why we read, and what reading does for and to us, that I keep turning over in my mind.


Yaa Gyasi, "White people, black authors are not your medicine." The Guardian, 3/20/2021.

He was trying to persuade someone, anyone, to go with him, and only after everyone else had refused did he ask me.

Barbara Greene, quoted by Lucy Scholes in a review of Greene's book Too Late to Turn Back about traveling in Africa with her cousin, Graham (he wrote about their trip in Journey without Maps.)

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 A deep dive.

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Dandelion paperweights.

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A sonic atlas of phantom islands.

book report: march 2021



This month I read books that frustrated me, books that amused me, books that bored me, and books that gave me nightmares, plus one book I loved, probably problematically.

Filed under clever har-har!, was George and Weedon Grossman's The Diary of a Nobody. I'm sort of compiling an idiosyncratic reading list on suburbia and suburbanites (with Danielle Dutton's Sprawl and Lucy Hellman's Ducks, Newburyport in the to-be-read stack), and this 1892 novel in the form of a diary seemed as though it might be some sort of foundational text for the rich vein of complacent literary derision dedicated to all things suburban (have to dig more, though, to get to the roots of that). It is a mock diary of one Charles Pooter, happy, dull, and oblivious, faithfully jotting down the events of his small life in a London suburb sometime in the late 1800s (the format and tone will be familiar to anyone who ever read any of Sue Townshend's Adrian Mole books) .

Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time (1951) was more of a clever, ho ho! read. Inspector Allen Grant is laid up in a hospital bed recovering from a back injury, but his agile brain demands occupation, so he begins to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of the little princes in the Tower of London, allegedly done to death by their uncle Richard the Third. Grant, a British police inspector who prides himself on discerning character through a person's face (cue 21st-century wince), sees a portrait of Richard and concludes he does not look like a villain. It's an entertaining inversion of the classic whodunit, with the inspector stuck in one place and shadowy suspects lurking between the lines of suspect historical accounts, that expands into a meditation on how (and why) we construct "truth."

John Banville's Snow (2020): Ireland, 1950s, Catholic priest gruesomely murdered in a decaying Protestant country house, mad women and damaged young men and a sinister reform school for boys ... the plot here hinges on easily guessed horrors. It mostly left me wondering just exactly what a sex scene is supposed to do in a book that seems mostly written to entertain. The ones in this book come in three flavors—sordid, boring, and abusive—and none of the them felt particularly illuminating or necessary (except maybe to indicate that BAD people have BAD sex and GOOD people have WHOLESOME sex). If you want to write about sex between consenting people, go crazy, but once you start writing about someone sexually abusing children, for me, you've just skipped right out of the "reading for fun" zone into "this needs to be worth it, somehow." It wasn't.

As a brain cleanser, I read about disastrous fungal pandemics in Nicholas P. Money's The Triumph of the Fungi (2006). It was a welcome corrective to the current wave of pop-culture mushroom veneration, and a reminder that fungus are complex living things, not merely agents of redemption or inspiration for humans. The author's pop-culture references were eye-rollers (amazing to find a Britney Spears slam in a book detailing various fungal blights!), but he compellingly illustrated how human choices (clear-cutting forests, monoculture agriculture, global trade) set the scene for predictable catastrophes. 

Next, I gave myself nightmares reading Jessica Bruder's Nomadland after watching the equally unsettling movieBruder spent years following a group of older Americans living in RVs, vans, and cars, piecing together seasonal work at factories, Amazon fulfillment centers, and campgrounds, eventually building out her own van and working at some of the same jobs in an attempt to understand the experience. A sixty-something woman named Linda May is her main touchstone and guide through this precarious world; Linda May also appears in Chloe Zhao's film adaptation of the book. Richard Brody wrote a snitty review of the movie, lamenting the way it blurs real people and actors—"it’s two movies in one: a documentary and a fiction" (Note to RB: 21st-century literature is going to be a real bummer for you...) and "exalts the working class, but doesn't let working people present themselves." Other writers have similar complaints, arguing that Zhao somehow makes Amazon and the gig economy look great, which left me wondering if we had watched the same movie, because what I saw was a depiction of a person moving through purgatory, aware enough to feel moments of grace but knowing hell was a hand's-breadth away. (The filmmakers described Frances McDormand, who plays a wholly imagined character, as a "docent," which made me think of Virgil leading Dante through the various rings of eternity.) And while Bruder's account is sobering, Zhao's movie hit me on a deeper emotional register, because there was a power in hearing people speak and watching McDormand listen. 

I find myself wondering whether the people playing versions of themselves got paid; something I don't think they do in documentaries or for subjects of nonfiction books. Reading about how Zhao and McDormand approached the project of the movie—imagining a story between the truths Bruder reported, working closely with the people she knew and including their input and perspective—strikes me as perhaps a more ethical choice than trying to bend someone's actual lived life into a narrative arc, but maybe that's because my mind lives mostly in various sorts of stories where real and true are not always the same.

Take, for example, "autofiction," a genre of stories that mostly feel neither true nor particularly real, at least to me. These are novels, usually with a nameless narrator or a narrator that shares the author's name (though not always), that use elements of the author's own life in a story somewhat fictionalized, sometimes resulting in good books, but mostly leading to boring hermetic claustrophobic reads about anxious writers living their writerly lives thinking writerly thoughts, or "wan little husks," if you ask Joyce Carol Oates (cue performative online writerly outrage, Twitter being mostly a platform for real-time autofictional creation). But this is where my brain and its blindspots (theater major from an engineering school here) gets tripped up. From St. Augustine to Sylvia Plath, tweaking lived stories for various effects is nothing new, yet somehow, sometime in the 2000s, "autofiction" arose as a category unto itself. In a Vulture piece from 2018, Christian Lorentzen argues that the "fiction" is more important than the "auto," but I am skeptical. Autofiction is a very handy label for authors—as personalities, it sticks them smack dab at the center of the story and the reader's attention, grants them unassailable power (because only the writer knows what is really "true"), and provides the helpful cover of ambiguous lived experiences as a "right" to write about whatever it is they are writing about, even if they really don't have anything illuminating to say about it and only want to use it as a pretense to talk about their own special selves (see: Sheila Heti, Motherhood). 

Peter Ho Davies' The Fortunes (a series of four stories about the experiences of Chinese immigrants to the U.S.) was wonderful, so when I saw his new book, A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, on my library app, I checked it out. Here, Ho Davies is in full autofictional mode, with a nameless neurotic writer narrator recounting the particular anguish and implications of parenthood shaped by choice—the choice to terminate one pregnancy, the choice to continue another, the choice to turn the experience into content:

Telling a story about a child, though? Telling a version of a life that is still soft, still forming? Like a fontanel. In his writing classes the father talks about appropriation, the taking and telling of other people's stories. Young writers get exercised about these things, what they are and aren't allowed to write. They just want to be good people, he knows, except that he's not sure writers are good people ... Certainly they're no respecters of rules. All fiction is appropriation. Only the narrowest, most solipsistic memoir—of life on a desert island, say—doesn't appropriate from others. Still some appropriations, he knows, are more charged than others. It's a challenge for a woman to write a male character, but it's a different challenge for a man to write a female character (and yes, for a man to write about abortion). For a Black writer to write a white character is one thing, for a white writer to write a Black character something else again. Something shaped by society, and history, by the power and the abuse of power. Writers are no respecters of rules, of "don't" or "can't," but he wants his students to understand them in order to break them. To be good writers, if not good people. Yet isn't the ultimate power imbalance between parents and children? For a child to write about a parent is one thing; for a parent to write about a child something else. And he still wants to be a good parent.


And this, I think, is why we have FICTION. Throw off the shackles of the narrated self, writers! Give your friends and loved ones and colleagues and children the friendly scrim of MAKE BELIEVE!

It's such a good scrim:
Behind the scrim of fiction, the writer is able to stop performing as an author and devote his energies to being a storyteller instead.

Maybe this is my real problem with a lot of autofiction—it's mostly a genre of writers writing to be read by other writers. 

The last two books I read in March unabashedly mixed facts, memories, assertions, and exaggerations, and both were a pleasure. I hadn't read Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia (1977) for years, and was startled to see in it traces of things that became very important to me much later (Osip Mandelstam being one). Chatwin's books were lightning bolts for me when I first read them in my teens, illuminating whole new landscapes of what a book could do, what a book could hold. I knew very little about him as a person, or how the books came to be, or even whether they were "true" or not. I didn't really care; what was fascinating was watching his mind work, following along as he constructed a story from scraps of mylodon fur, lost colonies of Welsh settlers, half-true tales of Butch Cassidy, and fading pieces of family history.

I finished Paul Wilson's new translation of The Gentle Barbarian, Bohumal Hrabal's memories of the artist Vladimir Boudnik, on the last morning of the month, then lay in bed for fifteen minutes marveling at the strange turns of history that made it possible for me to read a '70s-era piece of samizdat Czech literature describing the antic lives of radical artists and poets and writers on a little hunk of plastic.

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Moomin panel by Tove Jansson.

set of three / 3.11.2021

 






Who could have dreamed them up? At least snails
have shells, but all these have is—nothing.


Brian Swann, from "Slugs."

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I began to read about the slime itself, and discover that like all mucus, it is a liquid crystal, with some properties of liquid and some of solid.


Emily Wick, "The Shimmering Slime Drawings of Snails and Slugs." Learning How to See, 4/25/2018. 

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Here in this spring, stars float along the void;
Here in this ornamental winter
Down pelts the naked weather;
This summer buries a spring bird.

Symbols are selected from the years'
Slow rounding of four seasons' coasts,
In autumn teach three seasons' fires
And four birds' notes.

I should tell summer from the trees, the worms
Tell, if at all, the winter's storms
Or the funeral of the sun;
I should learn spring by the cuckooing,
And the slug should teach me destruction.

A worm tells summer better than the clock,
The slug's a living calendar of days;
What shall it tell me if a timeless insect
Says the world wears away?


Dylan Thomas, "Here In This Spring."

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From top:

Nagasawa Rosetsu, Slug. 18th century, Edo period. Via Stephen Ellcock.
David Arnold, Chain of Letters, 1976. Via Letterform Archive.