1. "

    And once she lay over against me late in the night and she started talking, her breath in my ear, and she just went on and on, and talked faster and faster, she couldn’t stop, and I loved it, I just felt that all that life in her was running into me too, I had so little life in me, her life, her fire, was coming into me, in that hot breath in my ear, and I just wanted her to go on talking forever right there next to me, and I would go on living, like that, I would be able to go on living, but without her I don’t know….

    …I guess you get to a point where you look at that pain as if it were there in front of you three feet away lying in a box, an open box, in a window somewhere. It’s hard and cold, like a bar of metal. You just look at it there and say, All right, I’ll take it, I’ll buy it. That’s what it is. Because you know all about it before you even go into this thing. You know that pain is part of the whole thing. And it isn’t that you can say afterwards the pleasure was greater than the pain and that’s why you would do it again. That has nothing to do with it. You can’t measure it, because the pain comes after and it lasts longer. So the question really is, Why doesn’t that pain make you say, I won’t do it again? When the pain is so bad that you have to say that, but you don’t.

    "
    — Lydia Davis, “Break It Down”
     

  2. On “Trying To Figure Things Out”

    Here is that saccharine piece of writing I promised myself I would never write. I feel much better having written it.

    Many people I talk to these days, if I talk to them long enough, will say they are “figuring things out.” Last week a fellow 23-year-old told me she “is just figuring things out.” So it’s a function of age, right? Later that day her mother repeated the phrase verbatim. 

    This “trying to figure things out” is very important. It not only constitutes a set of actions, but also a purpose and a complete outlook on the world. You could be unemployed and still have things figured out. You could be working for a hedge fund and doing terrible things to the earth and humanity and have things figured out. You can have a family and a deeply rooted network of friends, or you can be completely alone and either way you can have things figured out.

    But I choose not to see myself this way. It’s a powerful motivator this “not having things figured out.” It’s a way of interacting with other people. It is an identity. It is close to “not having your shit together” but not quite. That’s a different person—or maybe me at a different time and place—who doesn’t have their shit together.

    Trying to figure things out means I will go to that protest, or that rally, or that meeting. It means I will take that assignment and pitch that article even though I don’t know what it will be yet. Especially because I don’t know what it will be yet. Trying to figure things out means new fears all the time and new ways to overcome them. It means new love all the time and new ways to open your heart to them. It means new metaphors and new connections between the old ones; new stories and new failures of language. It means you cry about things that never used to make you feel sad, or anything at all. It means your sense of humor now goes in new and interesting places, darker corners of the human heart get illuminated. Sometimes it means new ways of closing your eyes, sometimes it is new lies you tell yourself. 

    It is, in some ways, a willingness to go anywhere and do anything at any risk. But I refuse to believe it can’t also be maturity, a stronger sense of your convictions, the ideas becoming actions you want to share with others. Even your body starts feeling more like the solid earth beneath your feet. 

     

  3. "If you believe that people speak slogans to one another, or that women are turned by bourgeois society into marketable objects, or that human pleasures are now figments and products of advertising accounts and that these are directions of dehumanization—then what is the value of pouring further slogans into that world (e.g., “People speak in slogans” or “Women have become objects” or “Bourgeois society is dehumanizing” or “Love is impossible”)? And how do you distinguish the world’s dehumanizing of its inhabitants from your depersonalizing of them? How do you know whether your asserted impossibility of love is anything more than an expression of your distaste for its tasks? Without such knowledge, your disapproval of the world’s pleasures, such as they are, is not criticism (the negation of advertisement) but censorious (negative advertising)."
    — Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film 
     

  4. "Paradise is not the place in which you arrive but the journey toward it. Sometimes I think victories must be temporary or incomplete; what kind of humanity would survive paradise? The United States has tried to approximate paradise in its suburbs, with luxe, calme, volupté, cul-de-sacs, cable television, and two-car garages, and it has produced a soft ennui that shades over into despair and a decay of the soul suggesting that paradise is already a gulag. Countless desperate teenagers will tell you so. For paradise does not require of us courage, selflessness, creativity, passion: paradise in all accounts is passive, is sedative, and if you read carefully, soulless."
    — Rebecca Solnit, Hope In The Dark 
     

  5. "

    The fog has wiped the eyes and the mouth
    from the street I am barely facing
    what remains is only skin, sweating slightly,
    the particles of water and light buzz around the bodegas like flies,
    and the street lamps are like pearls deep in the ocean.
    No matter how close I come to one it always seems so far away.

    There are logics I can never arrive at
    no matter the green lights and red lights
    that open and close the movement of city life at night
    like valves, which tug the strings of heartbeats everywhere.
    No matter how long the lonely walk, spitting smoke
    there are these poetic constructs
    which can’t be turned from shiver to sound.
    The key is dead in the lock.

    On my stoop now I am writing these words,
    heavy with fog and the myth of the approach.
    The story of two people lost in the night
    who find one another without seeking,
    a fabric made without need of threading
    or looping endlessly around each other,
    the impossibility of your own writing
    and the pain of knowing it is language that pulls us together.
    Feet slumbering on these steps, hair tangled in street lamps.
    This poem is about what’s in between.

    "
    — me, “Drunk And Possibly Locked Out Of My Apartment”
     

  6. "All acts of sex were forms of degradation. Some random recollections: East 11th Street, on the bed with Murray Groman: “Swallow this mother ‘til you choke.” East 11th Street, in the bed with Gary Becker: “The trouble with you is, you’re such a shallow person.” East 11th Street, up against the wall with Peter Baumann: “The only thing that turns me on about you is pretending you’re a whore.” Second Avenue, the kitchen, Michael Wainwright: “Quite frankly, I deserve a better-looking, better-educated girlfriend.” What do you do with the Serious Young Woman (short hair, flat shoes, body slightly hunched, head drifting back and forth between the books she’s read)? You slap her, fuck her up the ass and treat her like a boy. The Serious Young Woman looked everywhere for sex but when she got it became an exercise in disintegration. What was the motivation of these men? Was it hatred she evoked? Was it some kind of challenge, trying to make the Serious Young Woman femme?"
    — Chris Kraus, I Love Dick 
     

  7. Sonnet XX-Something

    “How I long to be published by Al Jazeera someday!”

    “And how I envy your whole life ahead of you.”

    “Not true, my birthday is only five months away.”

    (They are twenty-five and twenty-two.)

    And here is the difference, what’s more

    she is fresh, with skill as a blogger;

    he was drowning in internships at twenty-four

    now his career is under water.

    So they circle round the shallow dating pool,

    their polished jaws unable to shut.

    One is considering graduate school.

    One considered graduate school, but.


    4 Ways Your Dreams of Being a Writer Will Bury You Alive:

    twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, and twenty-five

     

  8. Dream of Fair to Middling Matthew McConaughey

    A few nights ago was the finale of True Detectives and my Twitter feed became clogged for the second time in a week with a lot of opinions about Matthew McConaughey. I had never given too much thought to Matthew McConaughey and I didn’t think much of him then, just shrugged and closed my Twitter tab. But it must have done a number on my unconscious, because that night I had a very detailed dream, with many scenes, characters, and revelations, all revolving around Matthew McConaughey. And now the dream comes back to me in sharp, coruscating fragments of narrative, the remains of which I will try to relate below. In this way my memory of my dream is just like my memory of Failure To Launch, which I only ever saw the trailer for:

    I dream that Matthew McConaughey is my boyfriend. But he isn’t a crazy, folksy Hollywood freak, he is just a normal guy of unusual notoriety. We have a picnic on the beach together and everyone is stopping to take pictures with Matthew (in the dream he is just “Matthew”) and I say to the passersby, “Don’t take pictures, he’s just my boyfriend, he’s just a person like you and me.”

    A few days later Matthew and I are walking down the street when we spy a hot dog stand. He proposes that I buy him a hot dog and he buys me a hot dog. “Lovely,” I say. We are the perfect modern couple or something. We eat the hot dogs then fly the rest of the way down the block. (It just occurred to me that this could be a Freudian Twitter feed! But I am probably reading too much into it.)

    Then I start digging into Matthew’s past and I unearth some unusual items. I find myself in a dark warehouse of a library, where there are no books, all information is transcribed onto great stone tablets. With my superhuman strength I roll one of those great stone tablets from its shelf and lay it upon the strongest lectern ever built. There I read the startling truth, that during George W. Bush’s first presidential term, Matthew had been White House secretary. He is not secretary of anything in particular, but in dream world this makes total sense: it means that for four years Matthew answered all incoming calls to the White House. This is a high-ranking position that requires a lot of deviousness and interpersonal skills because a lot of people and nations call up the White House on a regular basis.

    It gets worse. I discover that in Bush’s second term Matthew was promoted to Secretary of Defense. This seemed weird because I thought that Rumsfeld had done that. I felt super alienated and creeped out. I wanted to break up with him but decided it was bad timing because he was supposed to meet my dad and brother in the morning. Also I had my doubts that this information was valid since it ran contrary to the historical record and Matthew did not strike me as particularly bright. 

    We break up a week later. Zero references to How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, a movie I actually did see. 

     

  9. "What will I have for breakfast?
    I wish I had some plums
    like the ones in Williams’s poem.
    He apologized to his wife
    for eating them
    but what he did not
    do was apologize to those
    who would read his poem
    and also not be able to eat them.
    That is why I like his poem
    when I am not hungry.
    Right now I do not like him
    or his poem. This is just
    to say that."
    — Ron Padgett, “This for That”
     

  10. "Instinctively saving a baby, a little happiness; spending time with Rwandans, the ones who survived, a little sadness; the idea of our final anonymity, a little more sadness; sexual desire fulfilled without complication, a little more happiness; and it went on like that, as thought succeeded thought. How petty seemed to me the human condition, that we were subject to this constant struggle to modulate the internal environment, this endless being tossed about like a cloud. Predictably, the mind noted that judgment, too, and assigned it its place, a little sadness."
    — Teju Cole, Open City