Waiting for Elmo: A Timely Meditation

I hope they don’t wind up waiting too long.

Family Ties

“Family Ties” by Clarice Lispector

I want to write the red blot of blood
with drops and coagula dripping
from within to within.

I want to write yellow-gold
with rays of translucency.
That they understand me not
maters little to me.

I have nothing to lose.

I toss everything to the violence
that has always populated me,
the rough, acute and prolonged shout,
the shout which I,
because of false respect for humanity,
did not give.

But here it goes –the hollow womb
from where the ambitioned rattling sprouts.

I want to embrace the world
with the earthquake caused by a shout.
The climax of my life will be death.

I want to write notions
without the abusive use of words.

All that is left is for me to be naked:
I do not have anything else to lose.

— Copyright © 2010 by Rosangela M Vieira (English Translation of Laços de família). Found here. (Hopefully I got the page breaks correct.)

Frey Factory

Lately I’ve acquired the habit of reading before bed. Though in the back of my mind I worry that its sedative properties signify a lack of interest, I do it anyway. My book of the week is a big, bad Gothic horror novel, Uncle Silas. I must admit it is at times a bit dull. After all, my sensibilities are 21st century, not 19th century; a book can’t be wholly exciting all the way through. But then suddenly a ghost appears and I’m trilled all over again.

Last night I made the mistake of putting my novel down and reading this article right before I turned the lights out, which was a big mistake. It bothered me so much that I laid awake for hours. It’s an exposé written by a Columbia MFA student who, along with her fellow classmates, was propositioned by the disgraced writer James Frey to write the next big YA novel. I didn’t exactly know which fact disturbed me more, the very existence of the Full Fathom Five factory or the very fact that anyone in their right minds would give their ideas away to such an opportunistic man. In the article, you’ll find its disgraced subject possesses a rather pedestrian taste in literature, especially in what he finds to be “transgressive.” He comes across as a rather cocky human being with nothing but good things to say about himself.

Most of all, it’s a sad, depressing look into the reality that writers face these days. However, it was good to have stumbled upon an alternatively hopeful message.

21st Century Stoicism

Part 1: Twenty-First Century Stoic — From Zen to Zeno: How I Became a Stoic
Part 2: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Insult Pacifism
Part 3: Twenty-First Century Stoic — Stoic Transformation

I have, on more than one occasion been described as being stoic. Meaning, I am able to bounce back from emotional trauma with speed. Of course this isn’t always the case. When things burn, they burn deeply inside of me and never want to let go. But for the most part, I endure many aspects of life “without hardship.”

But the above series of blog posts tells the story of one man (whose book I have yet to read…That’s going on the Wishlist this year for sure) who endeavors to “endure without hardship” the philosophy of the Stoics. He writes about three main aspects of living Stoically:

1. Negative Visualization, in which he contemplates the loss of the things in front of him. In doing so, you tend to appreciate what you have and especially who you have around you. No writing sappy songs about how you never told your loved ones how much you love them. Or, more simply, appreciate that your coffee maker made it one more day without breaking — you couldn’t say as much for the last one that died 6 months into its life.

2. Insult Pacifism, in which you don’t re-act when someone insults you. The cast of the Jersey Shore would surely fail at this one. Yet the funny thing about insult pacifism is how well it works. Your detractors will be taken far, far aback when their insults are ignored.

3. Greeting Life’s Curveballs with Glee. This one has mostly to do with #3, but is a non-social phenomenon. If we don’t react, one horrible traffic jam at a time, we’ll be better equipped to deal with genuinely bad news. (“Your headache is something a little more menacing, sir. I’m afraid we’ll have to operate.” This one might be the biggest lesson of them all.

So is it possible to live Stoically in the 21st century? William B. Irvine seems to think so. But if you follow his instructions, you may find the reactions of those around you to be a bit funny. What do you mean he doesn’t hate his beat-up ’97 Honda? Surely the author doesn’t mind these whispers. The transformations going on inside are good enough to make up for it.

[Nahh!] Boo Kov

This weekend I finished my first Nabokov book. I suppose my mental loins were never fired up due to a certain disinterest in anything too “exposed,” or anything that my peers held in too great of an esteem: every 20 year old seemed to love Nabokov. This I took as a sure-fire indication that he was “easy” to read, therefore beneath my intellectual standards. I have become much lighter in my old age, and while I’m not quite at this point yet, I do find that my snobbery has largely waned. I will, as it stands, read almost anything.

So the Top 100 Readers’ Favorite Books table at The Strand is fair game. And Lolita beat out The Sound and the Fury as the book that I wanted to stop saying that I had never read (along with a glowing review from a friend whose opinion I hold in high regard). So, I started and finished it with an eagerness and obsession that I can only summarize as one that, as you gather, has inspired me to start a new blog. “So good it’s bloggable” may be the correct modern expression. It’s filled with beautifully obsessive language that asks its reader to consume obsessively. Accessible? Sure, but I imagine most readers missing the point back when it was published, much like many people miss the point of my favorite movies. It’s a case of the artist being understandably mis-marketed. After all, why wouldn’t the publisher find it lurid, pornographic and morally depraved? Humbert Humbert was, of course, a sick man. A spade’s a spade. And my pretensions of it being “easy” were completely unfounded. This book is among the best literature I’ve ever read.

Besides walking around Park Slope with my ailing beau, I also helped a friend out by being an extra in her movie. The shoot was all the way uptown near Columbia University. Trekking from Park Slope to Morningside Heights is no easy feat. But it does enable one thing — undisturbed reading time. As I made the journey up, I was fully aware of the power that my book could have in keeping people away from me: antisocial behavior that Humbert Humbert surely would have approved of (if he had seen his “self” as precious as his dear Lolita). But no one thought much of me and my book. Surely they’re aware of the significance?

But, I realized, no one notices anyone on a crowded train here in New York City. A thought that used to somehow comfort me I now find unnerving. But on I went, finishing my book in relative peace. And yes, I will be reading more in the future.