I am reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild—after months of giving it a wide berth, of picking it up and setting it back down again at the bookstore, of finally buying it only to set it aside in favor of more timely books—in anticipation of future directionlessness.
But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.
From The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Once love had seemed like magic. Now it seemed like tricks. You had to learn the sleight-of-hand, the snarling dog, the Hail Marys and hoops of it! Through all the muck of themselves, the times they had unobligated each other, the anger, the permitted absences, the loneliness grown dangerous, she had always returned to him. He’d had faith in that—abracadabra! But eventually the deadliness set in again. Could you live in the dead excellence of a thing—that stupid mortar of a body, the stubborn husk love had crawled from? Yes, he thought.
From “Like Life,” short story by Lorrie Moore.
Took me long enough, but have finally unearthed this baby. Twenty-eight stories in all, so one Alice Munro a day for the next month? Delicious. [Thinking of this, too, as a personal refresher course on Munro, as it includes stories from her earlier collections—from Dance of the Happy Shades to Open Secrets.]
I’m always so glad for it, the distress that comes after finishing a pretty affecting—an almost always devastating—book.
"What is the point. That is what must be borne in mind. Sometimes the point is really who wants what. Sometimes the point is what is right or kind. Sometimes the point is a momentum, a fact, a quality, a voice, an imitation, a thing that is said or unsaid. Sometimes it’s who’s at fault, or what will happen if you do not move at once. The point changes and goes out. You cannot be forever watching for the point, or you lose the simplest thing: being a major character in your own life. But if you are, for any length of time, custodian of the point—in art, in court, in politics, in lives, in rooms—it turns out there are rear-guard actions everywhere. To see a thing clearly, and when your vision of it dims, or when it goes to someone else, if you have a gentle nature, keep your silence, that is lovely. Otherwise, now and then, a small foray is worthwhile. Just so that being always, complacently, thoroughly wrong does not become the safest position of them all. The point has never quite been entrusted to me."
From Speedboat, by Renata Adler.
Mostly, however, he had books about love. He believed in studying his own heart this way.
Maybe every author needs to keep faith with Nabokov, and every reader with Barthes. For how can you write, believing in Barthes? Still, I’m glad I’m not the reader I was in college anymore, and I’ll tell you why: it made me feel lonely. Back then I wanted to tear down the icon of the author and abolish, too, the idea of a privileged reader—the text was to be a free, wild thing, open to everyone, belonging to no one, refusing an ultimate meaning. Which was a powerful feeling, but also rather isolating, because it jettisons the very idea of communication, of any possible genuine link between the person who writes and the person who reads. Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own. To this end I find myself placing a cautious faith in the difficult partnership between reader and writer, that discrete struggle to reveal an individual’s experience of the world through the unstable medium of language. Not a refusal of meaning, then, but a quest for it.
— La Florista [and detail], by Ana Teresa Barboza.
— by Ana Teresa Barboza.