it is perhaps a terrible irony, but I do believe that living in such close proximity, packed like cockaroaches right on top of one another, relieves people of their inborn civility. on a regular basis in this city where I am living I witness people commit flagrant acts of rudeness as if it were justified and pardonable– from profanities uttered full voice through lowered car windows to gestural impertinences undertaken effortlesslessly, scooting up the ending, merging lane ahead of a waiting line of traffic, trusting to the goodwill or at least car-sense of others to yield to a forced last-minute merge. occasionally this sort of assholeish line-cutting will put me so altogether out of sorts and beside myself that I will creep along upon the bumper of the car ahead, refusing to give a single inch– and then the entitled bastard edging in beside me, in his guzzler SUV, blatantly on his cell phone, wearing his too-joe-cool shades, will say, yeah this fucking bitch won’t let me merge– yeah, YOU, you bitch— and I’ll roll my window all the way down and scold him impotently for line-cutting– I so badly want to shake my finger, school-marm style at him, and only just resist– and drive on, feeling both irate and idiotic, flummoxed as to how I’ve come to this sad pass– from peaceful days in iowa and north carolina– what grisly feistiness this urban existence elicits in me.
another fine book with “dog” in the title (no mystery why these jump off the shelf at me): a three dog life by abigail thomas– memoir most gracefully arranged.
my head is full of shards that poke me awake at three and four a.m.– at which point I’ll get out of bed, fed up with it, meander aimlessly from bathroom to kitchen, alight on the couch and sit staring, full of unreconcilable noise, simply fraught in the dark, until eventually exhaustion wins out and back to bed.
saturday we spent entirely out, unusual for habitual homebodies– downtown among the shamrock throng– we pursued our own parallel and unrelated course from cell phone store to lunch to art museum to secondhand shops to bar and so on, weaving through and among all those drunken costumed babies– girls crying into cell phones, boys hollering, singing, peeing in doorways– loud and incidental to our own daylong adventure.
we’ve decided to stay put for now, though spring is tweaking me– it’s the good choice, pull ourselves together in all the right ways for planned rather than haphazard forward momentum. practicing patience is uncomfortable. my mind hounds itself with buts and ifs, and it’s difficult to keep still and steady. my heart craves large, marked and decisive gestures, but is unable or unwilling to settle on a single direction for momentum and so thrashes against itself, pushing this way and that until it’s simply worn out.
the time has changed, so days are brighter and seem longer, which lifts my mood across the board– regardless the prospect of another year confounds.
There’s a fairly short list of books I truly love, by which I feel gratefully reshaped while reading them—and I’ve just added one more title to their number: The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst. I don’t even quite know yet what I want to say about it… only to testify to this feeling of awe, of gratitude and grace for the experience of something so utterly moving and beautiful and bittersweet. It hurts exquisitely to read how well Parkhurst writes of Lexy’s anguish, as imagined through her husband’s eyes after the fact—there are two or three pages right near the end where the describing of the experience of despair is so pitch-perfect, accurate and immediately recognizable, that it feels as if my own heart, in its most private and awful moments, has been written onto the page and published and printed in the thousands by a complete stranger—it’s the oddest combination of intimacy and the public—which I suppose is also the pith of my secret heart. I want to hold the feeling this book has created inside me, not to let it slip away into daily whatevers—that’s really why I write about it. I dearly don’t want this exquisite feeling of graceful recognition and my own amazement to end. O the tragedy of the final page. So the inclination to talk about such books with others in classrooms and coffeeshops and book circles. But when a book comes printed, as this one does, with prepared discussion questions for groups of readers, well, I appreciate it, take it as a sign of the book’s power to move, but still can’t bear to glance at them for awhile—they feel, in their candor and baldness, at first like a cheapening of that magical, intimate, transported moment. The great power of a work of fiction to reach into exactly you in your most personal heart to create a there quiet chemical explosion, this is the wondrous gift of certain writers. If I could accomplish the same for other readers so wholly and satisfyingly in books, I would feel unutterably blessed and successful in my work.
there. if I’m honest about it, that is the dream. nothing less.
And now I’m going to make a cup of tea and maybe a batch of cookies and continue to savor the receiving of the gift.
I’ve been living on this stuff for the last week– and I’m not even sick of it yet:
- chicken broth
- several gloves garlic, sliced
- onion, chopped
- curry powder
- red pepper flake
simmer for 30 min.
- fresh parsley, chopped
- fresh cilantro, chopped
- fresh mint, chopped
- (I keep forgetting to buy basil, but that too)
- fresh lemon juice
puree. savor. breathe deep.
went out to my local sandwich joint to sit and read my escapist novel for a little mid-day oasis– but the tv set to CNN chattering away excitedly over my head had other plans.
odd, but the u.s. presidential campaign is beginning to feel like little more than a distraction…
if I can simply get more people to read richard russo’s straight man, I will feel that much of my work in this world has been for the good. it is Comedy in the grandest sense.
I was obsessed with this book as a kid– the haunted houses, the bizarre occurrences of talking animals, the whiff of an underside to this prosaic world. just thought of it.