But only you / Believe the truths you think you are finding there.Ariana Reines
camille rankine, symptoms of island. (via black-poetry)
Sometimes in the morning your hand
finds the dip in my side. For the moment
we’ll call it happiness. This does not
account for weeks spent cursing
the apple trees, their sticky bloom.
The man on the bus gaping
at my slack lip knew. Plump dumb
stone in my mouth. I’m sure of it.
That afternoon you were a brisk,
starched thing. We slipped out
the back way, screen door banging
cruel on my slim-boned grim. Today,
like most days, my mind arrives
an island, tongue-numb, child wishes
ivied onto me. God takes away,
it’s said. Call it what you will.
NYT: What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
TEJU COLE: I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.
Teju Cole, “Teju Cole: By The Book” A New York Times Q&A, March 6, 2014 (x)
…but the answers he gives before this one are great examples of “anxious score-keeping”! (“Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize”; “Lydia Davis is famous, but not nearly famous enough. Ditto Anne Carson.”; “The best art history books, I feel, are as good as the best novels.”; “They are the future of American poetry.”; ““the novel” is overrated”; etc. etc. etc.).
I really love Teju Cole but it’s so *BORING* how people—particularly people who build their reputations on literature—evoke this “bad-ass” persona out of what they haven’t read. How long would it take Teju Cole, given his literary experience and expertise, to read these “big” novels—2 or 3 hours, tops? He’s making a show of his ignorance—after having used the interview to display his deep learnedness and his complete orientation toward traditional ways of judging literature (“a perfect novel.”). He’s saying, well, it’s okay for me to choose what I read, because I’m me.
One more thing. Not to sound like a raging conservative, but having an illiterate grandmother is VERY common. Literacy was not as widespread in the late 19th/early 20th century, particularly among immigrants (which many of our grandparents were). Another thing that’s *boring* is when people wear their grandparents’ illiteracy like a badge. Of course an illiterate person can be a good person. But for an extremely successful and popular novelist/public intellectual/professor to wield his grandmother’s illiteracy as a reason to not read specific books is taking the conditions of her life way out of context. Our 21st century literacies— which are so influenced by e-stuff, and so much else—have so little to do with our grandparents’. It’s time to let that go. And to just read more.
Literature, especially novels, is written by and for the owning or the educated populace. Here is one reason why the novel is one of the most conservative art forms of our century.Kathy Acker (1989)
She hadn’t been able to see [the spell], but it was real. Otherwise, why would you rise up from your enclosed and well-defended self and go be with that other person? Why would you open your life, the most secret entries into yourself, to someone you didn’t really know? Who would do that unless she had to?Meg Wolitzer, “The Uncoupling”
But the one who loved less—or acted as if they did—was always in charge, and that was the way the world went.from “The Uncoupling,” by Meg Wolitzer