Sunday, March 23, 2014


My husband is scheduled for* his second pharmacological nuclear stress test,** which might herald his fourth angioplasty (at forty-six). Good thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

*And of course it's at eight in the morning. Why? Because cardiologists are ROBINS, I guess, I have no idea.

**The preparation for which includes no food for 6 hours beforehand, no caffeine for TWENTY-FOUR HOURS beforehand, and, weirdly, no tanning sprays.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ocean Vuong, "Eurydice"

It's more like the sound
a doe makes
when the arrowhead
replaces the day
with an answer to the rib's
hollowed hum. We saw it coming
but kept walking through the hole
in the garden. Because the leaves
were bright green & the fire
only a pink brushstroke
in the distance. It's not
about the light—but how dark
it makes you depending
on where you stand.
Depending on where you stand
his name can appear like moonlight
shredded in a dead dog's fur.
His name changed when touched
by gravity. Gravity breaking
our kneecaps just to show us
the sky. We kept saying Yes—
even with all those birds.
Who would believe us
now? My voice cracking
like bones inside the radio.
Silly me. I thought love was real
& the body imaginary.
But here we are—standing
in the cold field, him calling
for the girl. The girl
beside him. Frosted grass
snapping beneath her hooves.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Henry James to Grace Norton, July 28th, 1883

I don't know why we live—the gift of life comes to us from I don't know what source or for what purpose; but I believe we can go on living for the reason that (always of course up to a certain point) life is the most valuable thing we know anything about and it is therefore presumptively a great mistake to surrender it while there is any yet left in the cup. In other words consciousness is an illimitable power, and though at times it may seem to be all consciousness of misery, yet in the way it propagates itself from wave to wave, so that we never cease to feel, though at moments we appear to, try to, pray to, there is something that holds one in one's place, makes it a standpoint in the universe which it is probably good not to forsake. You are right in your consciousness that we are all echoes and reverberations of the same, and you are noble when your interest and pity as to everything that surrounds you, appears to have a sustaining and harmonizing power. Only don't, I beseech you, generalize too much in these sympathies and tendernesses—remember that every life is a special problem which is not yours but another's, and content yourself with the terrible algebra of your own. Don't melt too much into the universe, but be as solid and dense and fixed as you can. We all live together, and those of us who love and know, live so most. We help each other—even unconsciously, each in our own effort, we lighten the effort of others, we contribute to the sum of success, make it possible for others to live. Sorrow comes in great waves—no one can know that better than you—but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it is strong we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain. It wears us, uses us, but we wear it and use it in return; and it is blind, whereas we after a manner see.

'Try To Praise The Mutilated World'

Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

- Adam Zagajewski

Saturday, March 8, 2014

from yet another email to K.

"I meant to just look something up in the new Penguin ed of Hill House (which has a DREADFUL intro by Laura Miller in which she says Jackson is like James -- JAMES!) and began reading it and kept reading it unstoppably hardly even able to tear myself away from it to drink tea or go to the bathroom til I had read it all. God damn. She was golden, wasn't she. She just flew."

Monday, March 3, 2014

books read in March 2014

Fiction is in red.

40. Flanders, Patricia Anthony
41. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, Sarah Churchwell (one of the worst goddamn book titles ever)
42. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (first reread in a good long while)
43. Life Among the Savages, Shirley Jackson (ditto)
44. The Memory of Blood, Christopher Fowler
45. The Invisible Code, Christopher Fowler
46. Raven Black, Ann Cleeves
47. White Nights, Ann Cleeves
48. Dead Water, Ann Cleeves 
49. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), Jenny Lawson
50. Hatching Twitter, Nick Bilton
51. The Fever, Megan Abbott (really disappointing) 
52. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites, Kate Christensen (I was....expecting a lot more about food, frankly) (altho it did kill a couple of hours in the Cardiovascular Diagnostic Imaging Center) 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rozencrantz & Guildenstern Are....TAs

This is a very old piece of writing I'm still rather unreasonably proud of.


ROZ: What are we doing again?

GUIL: (not looking up) Grading.

ROZ: Oh. (pause) Grading what?

GUIL: Student papers.

ROZ: Oh, these were....written by....human beings?

GUIL: Whom did you think they were written by, then?

ROZ: I thought they were failed Turing tests.


ROZ: Do you want to flip coins?


ROZ: Do you want to re-enact Waiting for Godot?


ROZ: Do you want to grade papers?


ROZ: I'm going mad.

GUIL: ....Going?

ROZ: All right, I've gone mad. What exactly does this mean? "From the dawn of time, there have been two contrasting society changes, one embodied forth in the Ten Commandments, the other shaped by the Hammurabi Code. One is a pillar, the other is a -- "

GUIL: (not looking up again) I told you, it's a student paper.

ROZ: But these are unintelligible! Incoherent! Barely legible! And I didn't say ninety percent of this stuff! And the ten percent I did say is so, so -- terribly garbled and distorted and misunderstood --

GUIL: What part of "student paper" didn't you understand when you signed up for the gig?

ROZ: I thought it was going to be like Stand and Deliver....or Goodbye Mr Chips....or To Sir, With Love.... or --

GUIL: You're not telling me you based a large part of your career, indeed your life, on....Hollywood versions of overly romanticized and absolutely unrealistic visions of pedagogy?

ROZ: Fine, all right, what was it for you then?


GUIL: Dead Poets Society.

ROZ: D'you think these'd get better if we played Beethoven at th --


ROZ: So where's Hamlet....?

GUIL: Teaching. "Strategies of Rhetoric in Late Lacan, Early Derrida and Middle Maimonides."

ROZ: And the O-girl?

GUIL: Departmental chair, Women's Studies.

ROZ: And Claudius is....

GUIL: Gertie got a chair in Tennessee, Feminist History, so they found a gig for him there in Poli Sci.

ROZ: Oh.


ROZ: Well, this certainly isn't heaven, and....I don't think hell would be quite so dull, --

GUIL: (not looking up) No.

ROZ: (piqued) Well how d'you know, then?

GUIL: (still not looking up) The souls in purgatory know they're going to be saved.


The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist', nor 'fugitive'. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

- J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, March 1, 2014

finished yesterday and I already miss her

and she did

For some, the circus element has replaced the central activity- in a fleeting visit to one of the best funded creative writing schools in the world I met young people who seriously discussed how they would stand up to the stress of a book tour before they had even written a book, let alone had one accepted for publication. In Canada this spring- yes, at a festival- I met a successful young writer who had been completely confused by the demands of her publicist. Her first novel involved an undertaker, and she had been asked to pose as a corpse in a coffin. Should she have said no? Was it demeaning to agree to go for the photo opportunity? As I tried to assure her in my elder statesman way that she had the right to say no, I recalled that a press photographer once long ago asked me to jump off the top of a heaped pile of copies of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. And I did it.

- Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble on Jane Austen

We know that she liked to view her characters as real people, imagining futures for them beyond the end of the book, even telling her family what would have happened in a book she did not write, and declaring that Mrs Bingley liked green and Mrs Darcy liked yellow.

It is not too much to speculate that, as she felt death approaching, she did not wish to create characters that she would feel pain at abandoning. Anne Elliott abandoned would have been a tragedy: Mr Parker left wondering is a joke. She was too ill to moralize in fiction, and cheered herself up by seeing the world as a joke: she comments on the change of manners in Miss Denham, obliged to flatter Lady Denham, by saying it was ‘very striking — and very amusing — or very melancholy, just as satire or morality might prevail’. In this fragment, she chooses to let satire prevail, and the novel ends unfinished, appropriately, with a posthumous joke played by Lady Denham upon the dead.


There are a very great number of minor alterations in the text of Sanditon, most of them merely second thoughts about phrasing. I have only recorded a very few of the more interesting ones. It is worth noting that although it was the last thing Jane Austen wrote, and she was ill while she wrote it, Chapman says ‘the latter part of the manuscript shows no change in legibility or accuracy’.