"A friend asked yesterday if this blog is addressed to anyone in particular? I said yes– it’s a love letter to someone I haven’t met yet."
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
“At the sight of her father, the fear went out of Jacey, and cold mortification took its place. There he stood, not yet 40, bald as an apple, and beaming out an uncomprehending fat-boy’s smile. His face, swollen with a recent sunburn, glowed against the green dark of the rosebushes at his back. He wore the cheap rubber sandals Jacey hated, and a black T-shirt airbrushed with the heads of howling wolves, whose smaller twin lay at the bottom of Jacey’s closet with the price tag still attached. Exhausted gray socks collapsed around his thick ankles, which rose to the familiar legs Jacey herself was afflicted with, bowed and trunk-like things a lifetime of exercise would never much improve. Her humiliation was sudden and solid and without thought or reason. But the wordless, exposed sensation overwhelming her was that her father wasn’t quite a person, not really, but a private part of her, a curse of pinkness and squatness and cureless vulnerability that was Jacey’s right alone to keep hidden from the world.”
from the short story "Wild America" by Wells Tower
“I write things on a page I don’t want to have to deal with in life. Writing is a safe vacuum for me because I’m not saying those horrible things to someone’s face. On the page, I can always find the great retort that doesn’t come to me at the right moment in life. I feel I have a kind of bravado in my writing I don’t have in life.”
The garbage man in the bright orange uniform is pushing three enormous green wheeled garbage bins down the sidewalk. Side by side, it looks like he is herding some sort of giant plastic cattle. They are wild, unmanageable. They are going to go exactly where they want, screw his direction. Just as he controls the drift of one bin, another starts to trundle off in a different direction, as if having seen some tasty grass off to the left that it wants to explore and eat.. The orange man keeps moving back and forth, pulling them in, pushing them down the street, herding. He sees me looking and smiling, shakes his head at his naughty flock.
Months after they'd broken up he realized something: From now on, she would be describing their affair to other men in the same quiet reasonable tone she'd used to explain to him when they were together why her past relationships had failed. Many times he had listened to her lay out with nuance, wit and the perfect amount of self-deprecation why this or that one hadn't worked. Back then, he would ask about a past boyfriend, "He sounds like a good guy. What went wrong?" She'd take a deep breath, smile small, and after a few beats let the breath out slowly and dramatically. Only then would she make eye contact and say something wistful like, "He *was* a good guy, a very good guy, but we never really understood each others' hearts." So-- how would she explain their failure to her new man? That she never really felt physically close to him? Or their views of the world and life never connected? He'd been a good guy too, but in the end she said go away. In her post game analysis of their finished love, what "praising with faint damns" things would she say about him?
Joy has no parents. No joy ever
learns from the one before, and it dies without heirs.
But sorrow has a long tradition,
handed down from eye to eye, from heart to heart.
Wednesday's poem is for JS:
THIS CAT IS GETTING OLD
by Nicanor Parra
Several months back
Even his shadow looked
Like a spirit to him.
His electric whiskers
Each had its own value.
Nowadays he spends his time
Snuggled up close to the brazier
When the dog sniffs at him
Or rats nip at his tail
He doesn't even care.
The world goes past his half-shut eye
Without stirring his interest.
Surely all three
White with ashes his spine
Shows he's a cat
Whose place is beyond good or evil.
When they were drinking they often played 'what if' games with each other. What if you inherited a lot of money? What if you could change one thing about yourself. What if you could fix one mistake you made in the past. Tonight his friend started off with, "What if you could have sex again with any of your past lovers. Who would it be and why?" For some reason the question immediately disturbed him. Although he came up with some febrile facile answer to keep the banter and playful mood going, he was lying. Because he could not think of one woman from his past that he would like to spend another intimate few hours or night with. What did that mean? What did that say about him or his life choices? Talk to some of his past lovers? Yes. Catch up on things and see what time and life had done to them? Absolutely. But touch them, smell them, see them naked again? No, he could think of no one. He was sure that said something important about him, his character, where he was in his life. But no matter how hard he thought about it in the following days, he couldn't figure out what it was.
One look at the couple and you could tell they were very angry at each other. Their stone faces and body language said it all. The ironic thing was both of their arms were full of gaily colored bags and parcels from different shops. The happy bright hues of these packages led one to believe they were going to a child's birthday party carrying lots of gifts.
from an editorial by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times:
"When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about. Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me."
The Hush of the Very Good
by Todd Boss
You can tell by how he lists
to let her
kiss him, that the getting, as he gets it,
It’s good in the sweetly salty,
deeply thirsty way that a sea-fogged
rain is good after a summer-long bout
of inland drought.
And you know it
when you see it, don’t you? How it
drenches what’s dry, how the having
of it quenches.
There is a grassy inlet
where your ocean meets your land, a slip
that needs a certain kind of vessel,
when that shapely skiff skims in at last,
trimmed bright, mast lightly flagging
left and right,
then the long, lush reeds
of your longing part, and soft against
the hull of that bent wood almost im-
perceptibly brushes a luscious hush
the heart heeds helplessly—
of the very good.
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing--
that the light is everything... And I do.
A number of people have recently written in asking if I have a "Twitter" account. I do and you can look it up under "JSCarroll"
"At one point Ms Burkheiser (the prosecutor) handed the eight jurors a box containing items retrieved from the cellar and invited them to smell them. The jurors wrinkled their noses in disgust as they passed the box around."
Although deeply repugnant, when I saw those two sentences in a newspaper article about the Josef Fritzl trial, I gulped and thought almost admiringly, "that observation alone is a million dollar detail." In less than fifty words is a priceless lesson for the aspiring writer: With something as small but visceral as smelling objects in a box, you get a real sense of the full horror of the experience. You don't need a ten page description of how endlessly ghastly it was for the woman and her children to have been kept captive in that cellar all those years. Like a pebble tossed into a still pond, that single, almost banal image just keeps rippling out into wider circles in the reader's appalled imagination.
"The world doesn’t need anything from you, but you need to give the world something. That’s why you’re alive. Kill yourself now, and you’re proving the majority right—you’re no different from the billion other skulls under the ground. Give it something, no matter how short- or long-lasting, and you’ve won."
from A CHILD ACROSS THE SKY
here's an interesting site from JdT:
The trial everyone here in Austria has been waiting for finally began yesterday: Josef Fritzl, the man who imprisoned his daughter in the basement of his house for 24 years and fathered 7 children by her. Yesterday afternoon I was out and about and stopped in a cafe for a quick one. The first person I saw was a man who looked so much like Fritzl that it was stunning. He was sitting there with his wife eating a big fat piece of cake. The similarity was spooky. It made me think of all those poor people who resemble famous villains and monsters-- the man in Milwaukee or the small town in France who all of his life has had to contend with the fact he looks just like Hitler. Or the poor soul in the Philippines who is a dead ringer for Imelda Marcos. I once read an interview with the actor Anthony Hopkins a few years after he'd won an Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of Hannibal Lector in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Hopkins said since the movie came out, wherever he goes people stop him and ask him to "be" Lector for them-- just repeat a few of his lines from the movie. He said he was so sick of it that sometimes he wished he had never made that film. But that's just a character in a film. Imagine if all your life people stop and say you look just like Jeffrey Dahmer or Bin Laden or...
my favorite website of the week:
by David Shumate
I am seduced by trains. When one moans in the night like some
dragon gone lame, I rise and put on my grandfather's suit. I pack a
small bag, step out onto the porch, and wait in the darkness. I rest
my broad-brimmed hat on my knee. To a passerby I'm a curious
sight—a solitary man sitting in the night. There's something
unsettling about a traveler who doesn't know where he's headed.
You can't predict his next move. In a week you may receive a
postcard from Haiti. Madagascar. You might turn on your
answering machine and hear his voice amid the tumult of a
Bangkok avenue. All afternoon you feel the weight of the things
you've never done. Don't think about it too much. Everything
starts to sound like a train.
Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
and from Gobi:
Audrey Niffenegger, the author of the huge bestseller THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, just received a five million dollar advance for her next novel. There are many articles about this in US newspapers, most of them commenting on the size of the advance. But TIME TRAVELER sold millions of copies worldwide, was chosen by innumerable reading groups, etcetera. In other arts, five million dollars these days is no big deal. A midlist movie "star" easily receives five mill per picture. A rock star who makes five million on their latest CD is considered good but not great. The British painter Damien Hirst's work often goes for five million or much more on today's art market. In other words, the writer is still the only artist who is not "allowed" to make too much money. As soon as they do, they're often dismissed as "popular" (in other words crap for the masses), or labeled sellouts like Cormac McCarthy for going on The Oprah Winfrey show to discuss his novel THE ROAD.
Making the Best of the Holidays
by James Tate
Justine called on Christmas day to say she
was thinking of killing herself. I said, "We're
in the middle of opening presents, Justine. Could
you possibly call back later, that is, if you're
still alive." She was furious with me and called
me all sorts of names which I refuse to dignify
by repeating them. I hung up on her and returned
to the joyful task of opening presents. Everyone
seemed delighted with what they got, and that
definitely included me. I placed a few more logs
on the fire, and then the phone rang again. This
time it was Hugh and he had just taken all of his
pills and washed them down with a quart of gin.
"Sleep it off, Hugh," I said, "I can barely under-
stand you, you're slurring so badly. Call me
tomorrow, Hugh, and Merry Christmas." The roast
in the oven smelled delicious. The kids were playing
with their new toys. Loni was giving me a big
Christmas kiss when the phone rang again. It was
Debbie. "I hate you," she said. "You're the most
disgusting human being on the planet." "You're
absolutely right," I said, "and I've always been
aware of this. Nonetheless, Merry Christmas, Debbie."
Halfway through dinner the phone rang again, but
this time Loni answered it. When she came back
to the table she looked pale. "Who was it?" I
asked. "It was my mother," she said. "And what
did she say?" I asked. "She said she wasn't my
mother," she said.
"He understood nothing about her; for him she had the unfathomable look of a creature from another world, and that was precisely what bound him to her. He experienced her presence in his house not like that of a dog, which has no secrets from human beings, but like that of a cat, which is in itself a secret-- and to that extent he felt free and unthreatened. And just as a dog belongs to a human being but a cat belongs to a house, so she merged with the order in his apartment and became a part of it. Dogs knock over tables, scoop cushions from armchairs, and carry things out of the room with their heads held high; cats do not even touch what they touch."
"When you were seventeen, you thought that the world was made of the same substance as your own theories, so that you had control of it and could turn it to your own advantage. But one day everyone had to confront the bitter truth that it wasn't like that, that the world was soup and thought was generally a fork: it seldom resulted in a good meal."
"Thought is never action, forward, up and at it, as people think who do not know what thinking is; it is not like a forest explorer cutting back creeping vines, but more like someone letting himself into a hot bath."
a recent interview I did with the Barnes and Noble website:
Love sits at any table
comfortable with the surroundings.
It has great stories to tell--
you can't get enough of them.
It knows every menu; can say the names of dishes
in any language. Trust it to order for you.
Maybe during the meal it waves to someone it knows
across the room, but don't be jealous.
Tonight it only has eyes for you
and wouldn't want to be anywhere else on earth.
KW sent this smart observation:
"You know how people generalize about the people of a certain nationality
'Ah, that's so British' or 'I hate Americans'. I realized that you actually
need to specify the generation, because the character of a country can change
quite a bit over time. For example, I really love the "British" born in the
40s-70s, but am less keen on the generations since then.'"
There was an interesting article in the UK GUARDIAN newspaper this morning about what books impress the opposite sex if you're trying to make contact. IE are you more attractive to a girl if you're seen reading Tolstoy rather than Tom Clancy? This quote was the most memorable:
"Female respondents were no less demanding in their literary requirements. 'It'd have to be something current, like Obama's life history. Or travel writing.' Another went so far as declaring it unattractive to spot a man reading fiction: "It's just a bit girly."
He admitted they broke up. That surprised me because they seemed very happy together. He said she ended up being like certain colognes: they smell so beautiful when you first put them on, but then the aroma disappears entirely in half an hour. So you end up feeling cheated or stupid for having bought it.
I was talking with a bookstore owner about the state of the book business and they made an interesting point: across the street from their store is a ritzy restaurant. The store owner said, "Someone comes in here and asks how much does the new Jonathan Carroll novel cost? I tell them $26. The person gets angry-- $26? That's way too much money. I'll wait for the paperback. Then they go across the street, order a $26 bottle of wine with dinner and don't think twice about it. If they'd bought the book they could reread it as often as they like, or give it as a gift when they're done, etc. With the bottle of wine, they drink it and a few hours later piss it out. Gone forever. I'd rather have the book."
from a recent profile of the novelist Ian McEwan in THE NEW YORKER:
Three years ago, McEwan culled the fiction library of his London town house, in Fitzroy Square. He and his younger son, Greg, handed out thirty novels in a nearby park. In an essay for the Guardian, McEwan reported that “every young woman we approached . . . was eager and grateful to take a book,” whereas the men “could not be persuaded. ‘Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks, mate, but no.’ ” The researcher’s conclusion: “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”
A man's mistakes, his worst acts,
aren't out of character, as he'd like to think,
are not put on him by power of stress or too much to drink,
but are simply a worse self he consents to be.
After he left, she tried to fall in love with someone else, but the memories of him wouldn't let her.
No one can look dignified while eating a salad.