Love letters. I wrote this in my diary (indeed, a diary, on graph paper [un]fittingly,) just above my historical summary of Night of the Long Knives. Brains are so predictable.
I have never quite got over the fact that “acting” for a man — and I’m afraid still do you think, that a really, proper man — is sissified and vaguely ridiculous. I will do this film with Ponti and Loren out of sheer cupidity–desire for money. I will unquestionably do many more. But my heart, unlike yours, is not in it. The French have a word for it, what I am and it is called “manque,” meaning a failure of desire.
…I am everything “manque.” An actor manque, a philosopher manque, a writer manque, and consequently an intolerable bore. (Not manque, I’m afraid.)
Sentiment, being nothing but a fleeting bubble in an effervescent heart, is probably best articulated by art.
That’s all art is good for anyway, I’m sure. And one of the best feelings in the world is to see the people you love in your life succeed and be recognized for exactly what is inside of them, and yet made even sweeter when they’re extended the opportunities to unfold into something even bigger and true-er than they already are. So the only way I can put this is by telling you that inside, I’m doing the Snoopy dance.
When I saw that big mention, I send her a message that says, “!!!!!!!!! RICHARD BRODY OMFFFG.” She writes back, “Saturn is entering retrograde,” or something stupid. How annoying are artists?
So then I’m poking around the internet for a few minutes in Kartina-Ebert related news because that’s all I can stand on the internet anymore because it’s annoying and I’d rather obsess over anything that doesn’t exist exclusively in my head. I see this bullshit about Huck Finn and the swap of the word “nigger” for the word “slave.” The first thing I think is holy shit, the reality of this bunch of PTA hayseeds implicitly equating those two logos is so wildly detached from the facts of people’s lives that I can’t even remember why I am even still alive for a few moments. I forget how cartoonishly overfed and spoiled we are on the East Coast.
I don’t dare go West, I really don’t.
I love the pain it brings all these Stepford Wives when you wipe the vaseline off their lenses. No, you’re right, it’s not romantic, all that history. Yes, it certainly does tense the jaw to hear the word “nigger,” doesn’t it. Even to read it. Surely to write it.
Good. It should. It should punch you in the fucking nose. You should taste for a sad half-a-second all the suffering that stands behind that word, you should be so goddamn lucky. Stop making everyone into a fucking victim all the time, like having watched the OJ trial has you knowing better than the people who live it. Fairness is a lie, nothing’s fair. All we have is kindness.
History is not a film and it’s not a book. You can’t take a scissor and some tape to a few frames and you can’t tear out the pages. I won’t get hysterical about it because the acrobatics Americans do to muzzle all discussion so it comes out the side of our mouths as one mediocre, sanitized non-opinion is by now an established tradition. I can think of few things uglier than the insistence to choose polite silence over empathy, which is what that is, that whole thing about “the n-word,” as if that might expunge the whole wide world of the whole idea and the responsibility we all owe to it.
But like I’ve said, I don’t get hysterical about much anymore, because so what, really. All I can do is make every effort to never, ever be so baboon-assed embarrassing. I’ll fail, but surely with more grace than these kissing fucking cousins.
This is my favorite joke of all time. I have tried to articulate its exact beauty dozens of times, but I cannot. If someone were to ask me the point of anything, everything, I’d say it would all just boil down to this.
If the art you make is not in this tradition, don’t you some day have to ask yourself why you bother with it at all?
Do you know why I don’t care about political commentary or criticism anymore? It is because an estimated 96% of anyone who might listen to whatever you have wasted your time articulating, at heart, starts with this grain of ‘truth’ before deciding upon any other:
I know [because] that was the case with me.
Well then case closed, I guess.
Not to have a ‘Mac Attack, but like Lindsay was saying, “What Makes You Think You’re the One?” Maybe it’s the legacy of “the personal is political,” but it’s silly to pin this endemic human failure, a deep stupidity that was never born and will never die, on the moment it was finally turned into a war cry. That wasn’t really what had been meant anyway, that’s just what it would eventually unfold itself to be. It makes everything boring. It is soooooo boring. It is a void of curiosity. It is so fucking boring.
Honestly, a song does not get better than this. I mean this is the apex of human achievement. ILU, Mr. Fine Wine. I mean love love. Since I was in miniature, messing with the big mysterious wheel on the tuner my pops had handed on down to me.
(Seriously. This man made me, and he has now too broken me.)
What is genius? What makes a person truly valuable and luminous in this world?
For me, genius is at heart a generosity. It is the mind that can process a whirlwind and pass it on to you in a whisper.
The basic cartoon of genius around here is probably Einstein, for instance. I’m looking at my copy of “The World As I See It” right now. Why him?
“My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality… The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”
I think anybody who has an attachment to nuance and the mechanisms of experience (I guess we can call that poetics) will always struggle with the real, quantifiable relevance of theory. Its efficacy in general. If you’re still reading this, 20 to 1 you’ve got a sermon in your head that’s been rehearsed no less than four zillion times–and goddamn, you and me both are flat tired of it. I think we can leave it at this: you’re right and you have the right to exist.
But don’t ever forget your humility. You are only part of a machine. A goddamn leviathan, maybe. But you’re nothing without every other tooth of every little pinion working every single gear.
I almost never see things from the same angle cinematically as Roger Ebert. But any time he’s in my view I’ve thought to myself, “That’s a man doing something important.” And, as I’ve been lucky enough to ripen in both the pre and post-internet world, I wonder if there isn’t some truth to naming him as one of America’s Last Great Journalists; no pretense, big-hearted, and full of grace.
Holy shit, Todd Rundgren’s official website and the ensuing absurdity of the explosive flash montage that is deliberately way too fucking long is the best thing I’ve ever been assaulted with on the internet.
Somehow related in my own head, an elegant and sinuous reading of the color black by Paul Le Farge in Cabinet, well expressed by a Robert Flud illustration which very much took me. Below, the 1617 Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica, atque Technica Historia (The Metaphysical, Physical, and Technical History of the Two Worlds, Namely the Greater and the Lesser).
Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter–even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.
You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.
You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.
I allegedly feel things very intensely. Everything. Touch. Smell. Total arrest at the foot of agonizing beauty. This is codified by all of Western medicine, which makes me feel somehow like a liar and a cheat and steeped in a theatrical self-deception in which I am somehow attuned to the connective gossamer threads of experience in ways that you will never have the painful pleasure of getting to see
You know what’s funny? I’m never sure if I know the plain meaning of loneliness. The way other people talk about it, it’s like some shock to what they thought they knew about nothing, it’s like they forget this is exactly how they came into the world and exactly how they’ll go out.
I had to read this three times to understand how I understood it implicitly on my first try.
Crush, Ada Limón
Maybe my limbs are made
mostly for decoration,
like the way I feel about
persimmons. You can’t
really eat them. Or you
wouldn’t want to. If you grab
the soft skin with your fist
it somehow feels funny,
like you’ve been here
before and uncomfortable,
too, like you’d rather
squish it between your teeth
impatiently, before spitting
the soft parts back up
to linger on the tongue like
burnt sugar or guilt.
For starters, it was all
an accident, you cut
the right branch
and a sort of light
woke up underneath,
and the inedible fruit
grew dark and needy.
Think crucial hanging.
Think crayon orange.
There is one low, leaning
heart-shaped globe left
and dearest, can you
tell, I am trying
to love you less.
The best thing about getting sliced and peeled like a mango has been getting to lay back, take some pills and listen to records. Admittedly, there isn’t much fun in pills when you’re actually in excruciating pain, but every now and then you’ll catch a nice wave that feels like you’ve just laid down in a field of poppies.
But who gets to sit down and just listen to records anymore?
Anyway, sometimes a man becomes a cartoon. It’s hard to listen to anything a cartoon says with any great earnestness because he’s a fucking cartoon. Cartoons are not austere and do not speak with authority, they make a scrobbly clattering sounds when they run.
Aaron Neville–let’s not mince words–at some point turned himself into a cartoon. It’s hard to remember sometimes that cartoon as like, the left ventricle of the heart of deep soul.
Aside from the obviously singular and iconic vocals, the songwriting is just so…unexpectedly tender and personal. There are details decorating the story he’s telling at perfect intervals, so you know this is his, but never does it manage to make the emotional space in the song feel small or like you’re a tourist of heartache. Whereas lots of Detroit soul in partic, but 60’s and 70’s era soul in general, feels powerful but admittedly uncommitted (unless we’re talking about an Ike Turner production, says me), Aaron Neville is like shaking his head at you with two light beers in honor of your commiseration and before you know it it’s 4am and you guys are leaning up against each other swaying, palms on foreheads, turning to each other every two minutes and saying, “I just don’t know what the fuck happened, man.”
Listen to the way he says “sip of your own medicine.” It’s just so good.
At least once every day, I’m thinking about Dorothy Parker. This week I’m also thinking about Cheever. Reading a man’s biography will have that effect. Very well crafted biography, by the way.
Naturally, I’m also flipping back and forth between his stories on the side and I’m just effervescent with the thrill of all this subcutaneous nuance. Earnestly. Though I’m never sure if it’s a good or bad thing to know the exact circumstances in a writer’s life that informs his work.
It’s so funny to me hearing about writers who didn’t hate every word they ever said. Cheever was one of those whose gift was simply fact. He wrote quickly and then sent it off to sea without too much terror, reasoning that a good story moved along like a brisk walk or something and it was his lack of preciousness which imparted that same quality in his work. f u.
Something dark in me says, “How nice that must be for you.” Of course, then I should understand how his self-loathing was just anatomically different than mine; I’ve got the brain and he’s got the crotch. And when I think about it that way, I even feel a drip of gratitude for my condition.
Did you catch that? How I just likened myself to Cheever? Normally I’d do anything to obscure that lack of humility, but it’s fun to try ‘writing like a man.’ Hopefully my hubris, should I really let it soak up some sunlight over this experiment, is more Cheevy and less Kerouac. Though I guess this is quite literally “typing, not writing.”
Anyway, Dotty and John. There is a lot of silence in their stories, the heavy kind, but they’re very different, these silences. Dot has this surging ache running just under the surface like little capillaries. The shape of her words makes me think of a fit man with a clean shave and a white undershirt, but the way they feel to read is like watching from across the street a man chase after a bus. He runs after it waving, frantic enough to manage only gestures and no shouting, abruptly losing his clip as the thing turns a corner up ahead. (That is Kartina‘s ‘saddest thing,’ and it is sooo good.)
Elsewhere, the Cheev exists in a universe where everyone must anesthetize themselves away from the yawning void of an aesthetic life lived mediocrely. The world ends when some consequence of their mechanized inattention comes to head. Bummers, all around.
Obviously, they both loved Flaubert. That’s something if you do not implicitly understand, I cannot explain to you why.
I was thinking about this because of the enormous similarities between Parker’s “Mr. Dumont” and Cheever’s “The Five-Forty-Eight.” I have to admit to you that their central character, whatever kind of limpid, impassive devil this is, is not someone I think I’ve ever met in person. On the other hand, I’m the only person I know with health insurance and that’s because my parents pay for it out of love and terror. It’s possible that I’ve just never toured their natural habitat of adulthood. Or, alternately, he represents a stark coldness you will sometimes get startled by in some people, people who appear to be deeply loved by those around them. The kind of man who does not appreciate complexity.
I am exhausted by the incessant, noisy drunk-talk inside my own head, though. This is the sort of boring vanity that muscles all practical thought out of its way, so I am unhappy giving it any more space or time. The point is this: if Dorothy Parker had allowed herself the certainty which she envied in the men who surrounded her, would she have haunted us with her gravity the same way Cheever does?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Today you may call me DeLilah, I’m feeling like the midnight dj. What are your favorite love songs? I think I’m always being swept up by various ones whether en flagrante delicto or not, but there are two that always make me die in their simplicity, the way they feel open and mysterious and to the gills with all that maudlin, wistful awe that will elevate any corny love song into the sublime. “Oh Yoko” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” if you were wondering. I’m not so adventurous after all, eh?
And then there’s poetry. I do this thing. I don’t especially like this thing I do, but I do it. I save poems. I keep the ones I love the most to myself and I give them away in secret. They’re reserved for deliberate moments and deliberate people. I’m sure it’s some sort of vanity. I guess it’s a particularly flattering light you catch when you’ve aided in the discovery of something great.
So, knowing that, this is my favorite(favoritefavorite) love poem. It’s not an obscure one, maybe you’ve read it before. It’ll kill you all over again. Keep it only half a secret.
Mon Semblable, Stephen Dunn
I like things my way
every chance I get.
A limit doesn’t exist
when it comes to that.
But please, don’t confuse
what I say with honesty.
Isn’t honesty the open yawn
the unimaginable love
more than truth?
Anonymous among strangers
I look for those
with hidden wings,
and for scars
that those who once had wings
Though I know it’s unfair,
I reveal myself
one mask at a time.
Does this appeal to you,
such slow disclosures,
a lifetime perhaps
of almost knowing one another?
I would hope you, too,
would hold something back,
and that you’d always want
whatever unequal share
you had style enough to get.
Altruism is for those
who can’t endure their desires.
There’s a world
as ambiguous as a moan,
a pleasure moan
our earnest neighbors
might think a crime.
It’s where we could live.
I’ll say I love you,
which will lead, of course,
but those words unsaid
poison every next moment.
I will try to disappoint you
better than anyone ever has.
I called one of these tracks “Opiated Disco” when I sent it to a friend, I might stick that to the whole jam. Very little of it’s actually disco, but it all sorta sounds like it’s wearing a flannel button down in July and swaying to the rhythm just a half-beat too slow. 17 tracks, none of them too recent because I’m pretty uncool, some ancient anthems because that’s occasionally necessary. Here’s a zipped doggie bag you can take to go.
It’s late into the night and I’m listening to this AM frequency pulsing real slow in and out with a stack of soul records from long ago and way up north, which when you’re nerdy about radio like I am is a deeply pleasurable midnight delicacy. So I’m swaying back and forth in my bedroom folding laundry on my bed and I’m admiring how the cat is so sleepy and heat-drunk she can’t even give a fuck about the dog’s big biscuit paw draping over her belly like she’s some little girlfriend of his and this track comes on and suddenly it’s like I’m being haunted by a friendly but sorta bummed out ghost.
When I was little I’d make movies in my head about the life I assumed I’d be leading after gritting my teeth long enough through the hassle of childhood. This was the song I imagined playing at my wedding. I probably haven’t fancied myself a bride since I started bleeding, but this song still sounds to me exactly like being in love feels.
Maybe nothing in the world can ever sound as good to you as that first soul record will.
122 ostensibly young people offering 122 expressions of gratitude in celebration of a single letter written with a certain unearned familiarity and which reads like a sun-warmed song of gratitude for a loved one held long and fast to the busom!, butis in fact a song in praise of no one, in awe of no thing, addressed to no specific object of affection. It’s some sort of tease; these words extending outwards and reaching at you like some asshole ghost of intimacy.
Thank you for these words of encouragement, they’re writing. It was exactly what I needed to hear.