Madame Bovary, Flaubert, trans. Lydia Davis
I'm really loving this new translation. I read it years ago but it's a completely different book to me now--age and translation both are factors, I'm sure. (Lonelies: Edmund got me to read it when I was like thirteen?? maybe fourteen? and though I dutifully ploughed through it meant nothing to me. Far too young.) Flaubert has my brain all atwitter about Realism once more. No coherent thoughts just yet. But how can one begrudge Flaubert his realism when those flies, that velvet soot, are just so perfect?
That is all.
2. Dear Virginia. This is from Mrs. Dalloway:
"She would not say of anyone in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always felt it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. …She knew nothing; no language; no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that."
This is the epigraph to W. S. Merwin's The Lice, which has been one of my staple late-night poetry reads this summer.
Blind children playing hide-and-seek. Found here. See also: Blind Children Studying the Hippopotamus, Blind Children Studying the Globe.
Annie Dillard in her essay "Seeing," reporting on Space and Sight, a case-study of the newly-sighted (by means of cataract-removal surgery), by Marius von Senden:
My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!
then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.
I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,
and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick
with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
but when I soared
That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
— Frank O’Hara
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.
--"The Sisters of Mercy," Leonard Cohen
I still have over 500 photos from my Europe trip unprocessed and sitting around on computer storage. Most of them are pretty similar -- I became obsessed with headless statues and took several hundred photos of them in museums all across italy -- but there are some gems that I discover each time I open up the folder to resize and crop one or two a month.
"I have a superficial, decorative concept of deep love and its useful employment. I am subject to visual passions. I keep whole a heart given over to unreal destinies."
--The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa
"I enjoy using words. Or rather: I enjoy making words work. For me words are tangible bodies, visible sirens, sensualities made flesh. Perhaps because real sensuality has no interest for me whatsoever--not even in thoughts or dreams--desire has become transmuted into the part of me that creates verbal rhythms or hears them in other people's speech. I tremble if I hear someone speak well."
--The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa
It's really sort of devastating and wonderful both at once that I find expressions of my deep secret inner soul on nearly every single page of this book. Wonderful because, well, obviously such a thing is wonderful. Devastating because it's such a nihilistic and depressing text -- not always, but often.
'What makes you say that?'
'I mean sudden,' Frankie said. 'The world is certainly a sudden place.'"
-The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
Dream Song 77
Seedy Henry rose up shy in de world
& shaved & swung his barbells, duded Henry up
and p.a.’d poor thousands of persons on topics of grand
moment to Henry, ah to those less & none.
Wif a book of his in either hand
he is stript down to move on.
—Come away, Mr. Bones.
—Henry is tired of the winter,
& haircuts, & a squeamish comfy ruin-prone proud national
mind, Spring (in the city so called).
Henry likes Fall.
Hé would be prepared to live in a world of Fall
for ever, impenitent Henry.
But the snows and summers grieve & dream;
these fierce & airy occupations, and love,
raved away so many of Henry’s years
it is a wonder that, with in each hand
one of his own mad books and all,
ancient fires for eyes, his head full
& his heart full, he’s making ready to move on.
(sometimes in the dark I see cities in my cigarettes)
I miss Wyoming skies. California just isn't the same -- probably the lack of wide empty space, the constant foggy claustrophobia of the air. I like to go to the Berkeley Marina just for the air -- heavy with salt, but cold, and windy enough that it feels like it's cleaning your spirit.
It's easy to be nostalgic for a place when you're no longer there.
Lesson well learned.
This makes me very sad! I say we should all reread A Wrinkle In Time this weekend. I, for one, haven't read it in roughly twelve years. I can't think of a better way to mark an author's passing, even a childhood author with whom you haven't spoken in over a decade, than by reading her work.
p.s. I FUCKING HATE SCHOOL. And everyone in it. God save me.
"Now, I believe that all troubles come from the misconception that human brains are located in the head. They are not: human brains are blown in by the winds from somewhere around the Caspian Sea."
"The Diary of a Madman," Gogol
So it would seem.
— Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
Back in the bay area and feeling far too much like Maugham's Philip Carey in my inability to go into public without wanting to claw my face off with anxiety every time someone looks at me. Over-identification with fictional characters is vicious.
400,000 volumes in vertiginous glory.
The Alexandrians employed climbing boys much in the same way as the Victorians employed sweeps. Unnamed bipeds, light as dust, gripping with swollen fingers and toes, the nooks and juts of sheer-faced walls.
To begin with, the shelves had been built around wide channels that easily allowed for a ladder, but, as the library expanded, the shelves contracted, until the ladders themselves splintered under the pressure of so much knowledge. Their rungs were driven into the sides of the shelves with such ferocity that all the end-books were speared in place for nine hundred years.
What was to be done? There were scribes and scholars, philosophers and kings, travellers and potentates, none of whom could now take down a book beyond the twentieth shelf. It soon became true that the only books of any interest were to be found above shelf twenty-one.
It was noticed that the marooned rungs still formed a crazy and precarious ascent between the dizzy miles of shelves. Who could climb them? Who would dare?
(No, I feel no guilt about typing up two and a half pages from this book. But I will take it down if anyone complains.)
I don't think I would find this as disturbing as I do if I had the same awareness about my fingernails. But I have never felt them grow. They don't seem to grow at all anymore.
I turned twenty-one last friday. If I think hard enough about it, I can almost convince myself that I feel different.
I've been playing at being a paralegal secretary this summer. I answer the phone upwards of fifty times a day and because of this I almost never actually answer my own phone anymore; I just can't bear the sound of ringing by the time that I leave work, so I usually turn it down. If I have missed your calls or not returned them, I apologize. I do love you anyway.
I think that, in order to survive a summer at home, I must devote myself to writing fleets and fleets of emails and letters. And reading. Lots and lots and lots of reading.
I'll be on Bainbridge Island, actually. Should be good.
I got out of bed very early to skip class and go to Nordstrom.
I feel a bit distraught because I am out of cigarettes and nicotine withdrawal is making my ears itch.
Last night I had to finish my term paper on the history of pre-communist Russian society. I focussed on the needs of women. I think it's ok, but if I don't pass this I'll lose my scholarship.
I want to tell the world that I love you all! You're all so special to me!
I am updating this journal for the first time in ages because I've been in prison.
I went to the doctor yesterday and he said I have a terrible skin disease which prevents me from coming into contact with other human beings. And bipolar disorder.
That's enough for now. But I'll leave you with the assurance that I am indeed alive and will post something real soon.
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