For the Vampires and the Brokenhearted

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

and, as always, for Fitzroy, who is my mirror

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.
Lao Tzu

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

James Baldwin

Very tired, unable to sleep, I read an article in The Times about “reluctant caregivers”—people caring for difficult parents-in-law or parents who had always been cold and disapproving. It astonishes me how dutiful so many people are, what high standards they have for virtue.

I have never been nor will be that good. I can be kind to those I love, when I’m not too unhappy. If I am unhappy, I try to keep away, although that is also difficult for people. What I write about can be painful. My new friend Robin said yesterday that she was surprised at how much she was enjoying reading this blog, although it could be described as “a downer.” I told her she was exactly whom I wanted to write for and entertain—someone who doesn’t know me well enough to feel worried or sad, or irritated at my self-absorption.

I dreamed I was a vampire the other night, and I had the cutest little fangs, very pert and feminine. The best part was that although my fangs were small and I was facing eight male thugs ready for rape and murder, just flaunting them made the men scatter.

I love my dreams. They make so much more sense than my waking life.

I am trying, as so many times before, to focus on what and whom I love (writing; you, friend, stranger) to fight the impulse to isolation at its root; the hopeless attempt to convince myself that I don’t care about those who hurt me, I don’t care about whether my books are read, I don’t care if the world ends in fire and deluge…

I understand why my therapists gave up on me; I keep trying to do the same thing. But not yet. I don’t want to curdle into little grayish clumps of misery like what came off the pork chops when I cooked them too slowly. Love is fierce. You can’t stick it in the closet. If you can’t do the swoony sex thing you have to do something else. If you can’t do friendship, you still have to do something. If you can’t write you can always talk to yourself. Your strength may be gone but you’re left with courage.

I feel more like an immovable object than courageous, but I’d like to live up to Lao Tzu. “If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.” And the worst is if you’re not heading anywhere.

Okay, here’s your poem

After Reading Lao Tzu

The one who speaks does not know.
The one who knows does not speak,

wrote the old master, which perhaps describes
the situation. Meaning we were all sad.

Meaning that when you were seized by desire,
it was nothing more than flesh, bared above the collarbone

she poured the long night of herself
into empty coffee cans and cornfields

and brushed by air. Meaning: It’s chemical. So
that when the moon rears its parched head,

her eyes a mask on her face, the livestock snorting and pacing,
her absent husband…she died young

when you feel a finger grazing your neck,
it’s only wind created by the movement of

her daughter crying and lighting
fires under the bed

your own body. Downdraft. Live
stock. Because sadness is multiplied

don’t worry, she told me,
you can’t inherit this

by sadness. A cradle of no compare.
Loose conspiracy of mind and body,

dough swelling over the edge of the bowl,
the yeasty smell of it, a disease that is

a blanket over the window
a pillow over the face

known and not spoken and
also the other one,

who speaks and does not know
what to say.

-Amy Newlove Schroeder

Le Weekend, Le Deluge

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

NPG 142; George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron replica by Thomas Phillips

Kind Readers,

My last entry was a reblog of a tiger mom corralling her kits, and it occurred to me this is the perfect leavening for my too-often-monochrome depression postings. I didn’t get much sleep last night—cappucino with Robin (nice, but I shouldn’t have had two) agitation re psychic contamination and then woken by the insane jungle animals—but am not in a bad mood now, so I thought I would tell all my beloved readers that I am not ALWAYS in a bad mood, not as long as there are tigers, my menagerie, heaps of beads to make jewelry from and all sorts of words lying around free.

I looked at a novel I haven’t been able to finish—started in 2004—and saw that it was good. Like, excellently good! Also saw what it needed, which is not the same as doing what it needs, but good.

I reread my post of last night and feel like I didn’t adequately explain what interested me so much about Taleb’s book. That’s not a job for today, poor sleep deprived brain that I am coping with, but I will get to it. I’ve been thinking a lot about how stress and change lead to growth and hesitate to discuss it only because I always feel if I talk about the good stuff, someone will take it away. You’d think I’d have learned by now that talking about the bad stuff doesn’t result in anyone taking it away-:)

“Save me, save me!”
“No,” says the world.
“Why not?”
“Why you?”

…because…I can’t remember…I’m sure there’s a reason…

Moving on, did you read this in the Times? “College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck”… Besides the promotional pipelines it creates, setting a floor of college attainment also creates more office camaraderie, said Mr. Slipakoff, who handles most of the firm’s hiring and is especially partial to his fellow University of Florida graduates. There is a lot of trash-talking of each other’s college football teams, for example. And this year the office’s Christmas tree ornaments were a colorful menagerie of college mascots — Gators, Blue Devils, Yellow Jackets, Wolves, Eagles, Tigers, Panthers — in which just about every staffer’s school was represented.

“You know, if we had someone here with just a G.E.D. or something, I can see how they might feel slighted by the social atmosphere here,” he says. “There really is something sort of cohesive or binding about the fact that all of us went to college.”

Don’t you want to throw him into a dumpster, have toothless ancient homeless women (who are of course avatars of the Great Goddess) draw hex signs all over him with dog shit, then afflict him with a recurring nightmare of not being able to do anything right at work, and when asked about his education, realize, in horror, that he never finished college, just forgot those last exams?

Have a good weekend, dearies. It’s going to rain here. Not as bad as in Athens, I hope. I wish I could take a year and see the world, before we destroy it all.

But I’ll shut up about that. It’s time for tea. All will be well, and all manner of things shall be well, as long as you believe. In what, I have no idea. The Easter Bunny’s been on my mind.

Here’s some culture for you.

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage [There is a pleasure in the pathless woods]

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean–roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin–his control
Stops with the shore;–upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths,–thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,–thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: —there let him lay.

-George Gordon Byron

By the way, check this out
For my email readers, for whom links don’t work, here’s the address

And look at my other Treasury lists. Amazing stuff out there!

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

I prefer this with the sound off.


These four tiger cubs are only 10 days old, the youngest ones ever filmed in the wild — and they’re clearly a pain in their mom’s majestic ass. They wander off and tumble down rocks while she attempts to fetch them all back, eventually getting fed up and hauling one home by the leg. (By the time she gets done with that, the first one has probably toddled off again.)

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The AntiFragile (Not to be Confused with the AntiChrist)

February 21, 2013 § Leave a comment


I got a call from an old friend today, which was not important, but left me feeling fragile. This is hardly a new state of mind, and as the cats remind me, even a rent-regulated Greenwich Village apartment is a jungle. But I’ve been reading Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, which explores the idea that most things and systems can be put in three categories: the fragile, which are wounded or broken by volatility or disorder; the robust, which can weather shocks; and the antifragile, which benefits from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. A china teacup is fragile, a cannonball is robust, evolution and art are antifragile. Human beings are fragile in some ways, antifragile in others: all life forms need insult to stay fit.

I’m not happy to admit this. I have courtesans, hermits and sloths in my ancestry. “In most mammals hairs grow toward the extremities, but because sloths spend so much time with their legs above their bodies, their hairs grow away from the extremities in order to provide protection from the elements while the sloth hangs upside down.”—Wikipedia.

I wait too long to do things and then I walk into trucks. Maybe you’ve made the same mistake.

Taleb’s expertise is finance and he is one of those whose insights about non-linear change seek to explain the unpredictability of markets in general and the vulnerability of investment banks, large corporations, and modern nations. Efficiency is fragile (more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions). Increased international trade and interdependency invites the butterfly effect. The more complex our systems become, the less we’ll know about how they operate and what dangers accumulate from small pertubations. And speaking of weather, as I haven’t been doing enough lately as I try to figure out which way Obama’s going (nowhere, but he can fake it?), ignoring climate change is like borrowing money to short stock; if you’re wrong, the disaster is far greater than the benefit if you’re right.

I enjoyed the book, even though Taleb is egotistical, boastful and unfailingly self-indulgent, because I crave intellectual stimulation and it’s hard to come by. There’s an infinite amount of things to learn but really chewy, lightbulb ideas are hard to find, especially for those like me who are not in the sciences and can’t understand the details of the discoveries in biochemistry, genetics, robotics, AI, etc.

The humanities have not been offering up a lot of interest lately. Though perhaps I’m not looking hard enough. And the looming destruction of human society is more of a spectacle than whatever may pass for new in the arts.

Taleb puts obsessive love in the antifragile category, since it thrives on disappointment and woundedness. It’s an interesting idea—not about the nature of obsessive love, which we all know, but because it makes me wonder whether this emotion offers any payoff beyond injecting excitement into the veins of those whose lives have been lived too meagerly. I always felt that it gave me data, which I needed as a writer and armchair psychologist, and certainly writers and artists abandon themselves to hopeless love at an alarming rate, but they are hardly the only ones. If it substitutes for creative expression or career satisfaction, does it offer any of the fruits of those?

This question is irrespective of psychoanalytic ideas about attempting to mend the broken hearts of our childhoods. At a certain point, one has to ask: why do we attempt to mend these breaks?

I don’t know the answer. I used to have ideas, and now I have experience, but I can’t put them together. The abyss of toothy emotion still separates my brain’s provinces.

Taleb writes a lot about the importance of failure, but the benefit is not necessarily to the individual. He celebrates the restaurant business, which never dies no matter how many establishments bite the dust. The allure is such that people keep trying, and even the failures are honored participants. As well as revealing what not to do, they provide a bridge. People can always get something to eat. They don’t give up and stay home, never noticing the new place on the corner, the one with the dark pink flocked wallpaper, the fancy corkscrew candles (the exact shape and size of a boar’s penis), the neon sign of the Willendorf Venus.

Now go apply this lesson of failure as social glue to the rest of life, or buy the book.

I looked for a poem on the theme of fragility—through hamfisted search—and found this, which is quite a bit more than I wanted to think about. Still, it’s a beautiful poem.

Chosen by the Lion

I am the one chosen by the lion at sundown
and dragged back from the shining water.
Yanked back to bushes and torn open, blood
blazing at the throat and breast of me.
Taken as meat. Devoured as spirit by spirit.
The others will return quickly to drink again
peacefully, but for me now there is only faith.
Only the fact that the tall windows I lived
with were left uncovered halfway up.
And the silence of those days I lived there
which were marked by your arrivals like
stations on a long journey. You write to say
you love me and lie awake in stillness
to avoid the pain. I remember looking
at you from within at the last moment,
with faith like a gift handkerchief, delicate
and almost fragile. This is the final thing.
Purity and faith, power and blood. Is there
nothing to see? Not memory even of forgetting?
Only the body eating the body? What of faith
when it meets death, being when it is hard
to account for? The nipples you bit
and the body you possessed lie buried in you.
My faith shines as the moon in the darkness
on water, as the sky in the day. Does it hover
in the air around you? Does it come like
a flower in your groin? Or is it like before
when you were alone and about to fall asleep
saying out loud in the darkness, “Linda,”
and hearing me answer immediately, “Yes!”

–Linda Gregg

Charles’s Very Good Point

February 17, 2013 § 1 Comment


On Thursday, Charles opened the champagne he bought me for Valentine’s Day and filled the glasses. My sister gave us these champagne flutes 30 years ago; they have outlasted all our other breakables, even the avocado-green mixing bowl from Charles’s first marriage, which I thought would be buried with us.

We were sitting on either side of the stubby, stained coffee table, surrounded by boxes, piles, stacks, shelves, cat-hair-covered black tee shirts, socks, towels, pens, knives, dental floss, two guitars, three cats and assorted detritus. This is Charles’ room. Mine is colonized by chocolate wrappers, books, papers, jewelry apparatus, lipstick and cat vomit. I lifted my glass and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

He lifted his glass, thought a moment and said, “Let this be a lesson to everyone who thinks falling in love will solve all their problems.”

“This” being us, our life, etc.

“Can I put that in my blog?”

“Of course. I never remember what I’ve said until I read it in your blog.”

We drank, listened to Bill Evans, talked about the things we always talk about. Is it like this for you? Each time you relax and have a little wine, the conversation finds the old grooves, the child Goth merry-go-round, no matter that each person is (face it) bored by the other’s tales and obsessions?

Charles used to say he didn’t mind hearing my stories over. And over. Philip never remembered that I’d told him before. I’d say, “I told you that” and he’d say very forcefully “No. I would remember,” or sometimes he’d try, “Well, your family is so weird I can’t believe half the things you tell me and so I forget them.” My family was especially weird between 1966-1980. Not in the grand scheme of things weird, but weird to an Italian boy from Staten Island, whose own family suffered no deaths, divorce, untoward sex, over-indulgence in alcohol, or Southern relatives.

My family’s not so weird now, if you don’t count my mother’s home décor. But Charles and I make up for it. My peculiarities are well known to my readers, and Charles thinks the cats talk to him. “Mouchette told me I had beautiful eyes,” he said today.

He also dreamed last night that he was making jewelry out of dead bodies.

A cousin I hadn’t seen since childhood died this week. I didn’t really respond when I heard, but it affected me. I’d rather it didn’t. When you have suicidal thoughts with depressing regularity, the deaths of one’s peers seems so unfair. I would have taken that for you, I think. It would have been my pleasure to barter my remaining time. Why can’t that work?

I’d always meant to connect with those boys (men), my father’s nephews, but was for so long nervous about any connection to my father, who gave me the crazy gene and then made sure it was fully expressed, that I kept putting it off. And then there were other family dynamics I won’t go into, but I missed out on Mike.

His brother Arthur I knew a lot better because he came to New England as a young man to see a specialist for his diabetes. He was a wild boy, and it killed him eventually. But when he was in his early twenties and I was maybe 19, we had a few drinks together and then kissed in my brother’s room (the only downstairs bedroom in my mother’s house in Newcastle, N.H.).

Arthur said, “We can’t do this! We’re cousins!” I didn’t really see the problem, but we stopped. I kind of regret that, though I wouldn’t have wanted to make him feel like a pervert. On my side of the family it was a badge of honor but Arthur was raised Catholic in the South.

That’s all I know of Mike: his brother. Not really anything.

I was talking to Charles tonight about the Cathedral, and various people in religious orders. He thinks religion is on its way out, like the pope, that people are sick of it. I think that will never happen. I said, “I understand why people like religion. Believing that some deity cares, that their lives matter. It would be comforting to believe in Jesus, but I can’t.” I took a thawed chicken breast out of the fridge, stared at that bloody slab of meat with its caul of yellow fat and wished we could go out to dinner.

Then I noticed my cat. “Look at Fitzroy, “I said. He was curled up on the couch like an animal from a storybook, all neat curves and shining fur.

“Fitzroy will always mean more to me than Jesus,” said Charles.

Song to Celia

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
And Ile not looke for wine.
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise,
Doth aske a drinke divine:
But might I of Jove’s Nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered bee.
But thou thereon did’st onely breath,
And sent’st it back to mee:
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare,
Not of it selfe, but thee.

Ben Jonson

Let Them Eat Chocolate

February 14, 2013 § Leave a comment


If you want to be loved, be lovable.
If you wish to be loved, show more of your faults than your virtues.
Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
Write me 500 words on whether or not the above quotes are in conflict.

Did you make valentines as a child, sitting at a table all weekend with construction paper and lace doilies, stickers and crayons? That early February snow-light, afternoons already longer, the smell of Elmer’s glue? Looking forward to hot chocolate, dinner, Saturday night TV (The Outer Limits, Gilligan’s Island)?

I had lots of creative activity as a girl—painting and poems and sewing projects, elaborate dioramas of dolls and toy animals—but making valentines was by far the most satisfying. We made them as a family. They were to be given away. I remember that feeling of being suffused with love, overflowing with it, when I handed the most embellished, the queen valentine, to my mother.

This year, my mother gave me a box of chocolate ladybugs, complete with rhyming couplet. And when I’m finished with the book I’m currently reading, The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, I’ll send it to her.

“In an early Colonial report on the ‘wild’ (that is, still unconquered) Chol Maya of the Chiapas forests, cited by Eric Thompson: ‘The form of the marriage is this; the bride gives the bridegroom a small stool painted in colors, and also gives five grains of cacao, and says to him “These I give thee as a sign I accept thee as my husband.” And he also gives her some new skirts and another five grains of cacao, saying the same things.’”

We exchange gold rings instead of cacao beans; which is the fertile and nourishing symbol? I’m not quite certain of the reason for the small stool painted in colors. The gift of skirts for the bride makes me think of the husband under her skirts, sitting on the stool, etc, but that sounds more Victorian porn than Mayan wedding night. Not that I’d know anything about it.

Think of all the moments you have treated chocolate like a cheap commodity, something to consume in the form of powdered cake mix, Hershey bars, chewable chocolate-flavored vitamins. A Starbucks mocha is not far up the evolutionary ladder. Why then, should we not have a culture of penis growth supplements and vaginal cosmetic surgery? In my youth, a debased period but far superior to the present day, people licked chocolate syrup off one another’s genitals. Genitals untouched not only by the scalpel but the razor, I might add. I can’t say I actually did that myself. We did it with wine, Charles and I–not very good wine, either. It was messy.

Weddings weren’t the only rituals cacao was used for. The Spanish were astonished to discover that these “savages” had their own form of baptism.

“The ritual was in the charge of a gorgeously arrayed priest. The children gathered together inside a cord held by four elderly men representing the Chacs (rain gods), each standing in a corner of the room. Then the noble who was giving the ceremony took a bone and wet it in a vessel filled with water made of ‘certain flowers and of cacao pounded and dissolved in virgin water, which they call that brought from the hollows of trees of the rocks of the forest’; with this liquid he anointed the children on their foreheads, faces, and the spaces between their fingers and their toes, in complete silence.”

My mother did her best to approximate this: Easter Sunday overflowing with chocolate eggs and rabbits, much of it ending up smeared on our faces. Even she forgot the spaces between our fingers and toes.

For those of you with small children, unencumbered by Christianity, consider inventing your own baptismal ritual. Depending on where you live, rain gods may or may not be warranted.

In other news:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

(from Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold)

Let us be true to one another because the world offers no joy nor love nor light; we just made that stuff up ourselves. Mostly Matthew loved his talent, and his love, whoever she was, probably didn’t even like him.

But maybe she did. I’m surrounded by happy couples: both siblings, both nieces. And I love Charles too, though it’s a cracked happiness, one of those hearts with a zigzag lighting bolt going through, all sorts of things falling out the broken place. But I did buy him a box of Li-Lac truffles. He promised to wash the dishes sometime this week.

The Warning

For love—I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes.

Love is dead in us
if we forget
the virtues of an amulet
and quick surprise.

Robert Creeley

Have You Seen My Tiny Man? ( I Lost Him)

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment


I’ve been reading the reviews of Jamaica Kincaid’s new novel, See Now Then, which may or may not reveal secrets of her broken marriage. She says it’s fiction but makes the characters resemble, in obsessive detail, her and her ex-husband, the diminutive composer Allen Shawn, living in a home much like their much-written-about house and garden in Vermont.

One of the most intoxicating pleasures of writing is to take stories from your life and give them a sharp twist (or several), to recreate yourself and others as crueler or kinder or weirder or with green hair; weave in events that didn’t happen, add people who never existed. The wise and flighty grandmother. The lover in his bear suit. The devil in disguise as an aging pole dancer. But when you do that, you generally try to give the reader a hand by making some clear distinctions between writer and protagonist, especially if you’re a literary celebrity. When you don’t—as Philip Roth doesn’t—you may still be writing fiction but you’re also playing with the titillation of gossip; you’re using the reader’s desire to know the dirty details of your life as part of the narrative carnival. You throw away the veil, even if there is still a veil, or many veils. You laugh up your sleeve.

And you may sigh but you can’t complain when people read your book as autobiography. They may be simplifying tremendously your subtle work of art—I know, for example, how much fun it is to write about “Margaret” knowing that there are a thousand Margarets inside me, some more real than others, some who grow drunk on fermented words and know nothing of the outside world—but you offered them the option on a platter. There’s fiction, there’s memoir, and then there’s riffing. Those who riff are riffed upon.

From the early pages of See Now Then

Her husband, the dear Mr. Sweet, hated her very much. He so often wished her dead: once then, a night when he had returned home after performing a piano performance by Shostakovich to an audience of people who lived in the nearby villages and so felt that they wanted to get out of their homes from time to time, but as soon as they left their homes they wanted to return immediately, for nothing was nearby and nothing was as nice as their own homes and hearing Mr. Sweet play the piano made them sleepy, their heads sometimes suddenly falling forward, and they struggled to keep their chins from landing on their chests and that happened anyway and there would be lurching and balancing and gulping and coughing and though Mr. Sweet’s back was turned from his rural audience he could sense all this and he could feel every twitch, every shudder, as it registered in each individual. He loved Shostakovich and as he played the music written by this man—“The Oath to the People’s Commissar,” “Song of the Forests,” Eight Preludes for Piano”—the grave sorrows and injustices visited on him flowed over Mr. Sweet and he was very moved by the man and the music that the man played and he wept as he played, pouring all his feelings into that music, imagining that his life, his precious life, was being spent with that dreadful woman, his wife, the dear Mrs. Sweet, who loved making three courses of French food for her small children and loved their company and she loved gardens and loved him and was least worthy of her love, for he was such a small man, sometimes people mistook him for a rodent, he scurried around so. And he was not a rodent at all, he was a man capable of understanding Wittgenstein, Einstein, and any other names that ended in stein, Gertrude included, the intricacies of the universe itself, the intricacies of human existence itself, the seeing of Now being Then and how Now becomes Then; how well he knew everything but could not express himself, he could not show the world, at least as the world as turned up in small New England villages, what a remarkable person he was then and had been and in time to come, these people who wore the same socks days in a row and didn’t dye their hair after it lost its natural color and the luster it had when they were young and they liked to eat foods which were imperfect…

I can’t go on until the end of the sentence because the sentence doesn’t end for another page. I’m rarely seduced by that technique; it feels too much like a crowded party with someone breathing in my face.

Still. This passage is almost brilliant, but the worm gets in the way: I can’t imagine Mr. Sweet as a fictional character, because the characters we invent, no matter how repulsive, carry the silly fondness of a parent’s love. Perhaps I would see it differently if I didn’t know the backstory of this book, but I don’t think so. And if I embrace the autobiographical element, which is quite alright as a strategy, I’m perplexed. I don’t understand presenting the ex-beloved in such a way that the reader can’t understand why he was ever appealing in the first place.

Yes, rage and hatred privilege a person’s uglier qualities. Being tolerant of flaws makes those flaws worse in retrospect, as if all the forgiveness you offered were to return as the living dead. But you’d think writers would learn that taking revenge in a torrent of words is a tricky business. Best to do it subtly—to allow the beloved all his charms and virtues, letting his flaws very slowly rise up and tip the balance—but that courts the possibility that by the end of the exercise you’ll no longer be so angry, that you may, yourself, succumb again to the fatal attraction.

I’m sure there are ways to take revenge that are reliably satisfying, if generally illegal. But writing a book isn’t one of them. It can satisfy in a different way by being a success, which I’m sure is what Kincaid is after. She’s worked hard enough to make her book a world unto itself—a world of sentences and music, of writerly embroidery, underpainting, overpainting, stagecraft.

And it may well be a success. But that worm, that worm. That rodent husband, scurrying about. Give him a rind of cheese, won’t you? Give him an audience of fascinated pink-nosed rats, so happy to get out of their lab cages for an evening, rats that never want to go back.

Tender Buttons [A Little Called Pauline]

A little called anything shows shudders.
Come and say what prints all day. A whole few watermelon. There is no pope.
No cut in pennies and little dressing and choose wide soles and little spats really little spices.
A little lace makes boils. This is not true.
Gracious of gracious and a stamp a blue green white bow a blue green lean, lean on the top.
If it is absurd then it is leadish and nearly set in where there is a tight head.
A peaceful life to arise her, noon and moon and moon. A letter a cold sleeve a blanket a shaving house and nearly the best and regular window.
Nearer in fairy sea, nearer and farther, show white has lime in sight, show a stitch of ten. Count, count more so that thicker and thicker is leaning.
I hope she has her cow. Bidding a wedding, widening received treading, little leading mention nothing.
Cough out cough out in the leather and really feather it is not for.
Please could, please could, jam it not plus more sit in when.

Gertrude Stein

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