Just before we left for Long Island, I was putting away the detritus of a finished novel — notebooks, drafts, galleys — when I found a poem I copied out somewhere along the way, written by the fictional Konstantin Perov in Nabokov’s “Forgotten Poet.” I’d copied it down to remind myself that in fiction, nothing appears arbitrarily.
reminiscence, possibility, art, love, memory
We don’t give other people credit for the same interior complexity we take for granted in ourselves, the same capacity for holding contradictory feelings in balance, for complexly alloyed affections, for bottomless generosity of heart and petty, capricious malice. We can’t believe that anyone could be unkind to us and still be genuinely fond of us, although we do it all the time.
Years ago a friend of mine had a dream about a strange invention; a staircase you could descend deep underground, in which you heard recordings of all the things anyone had ever said about you, both good and bad. The catch was, you had to pass through all the worst things people had said before you could get to the highest compliments at the very bottom. There is no way I would ever make it more than two and a half steps down such a staircase, but I understand its terrible logic: if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known. I Know What You Think of Me, New York Times (via apleasantsurprise)
Not the sunset poem you make when you think
with its linden tree in India ink
and the telegraph wires across its pink
not the mirror in you and her delicate bare
shoulder still glimmering there;
not the lyrical click of a pocket rhyme—
the tiny music that tells the time;
and not the pennies and weights on those
evening papers piled up in the rain;
not the cacodemons of carnal pain;
not the things you can say so much better in plain prose—
but the poem that hurtles from heights unknown
—when you wait for the splash of the stone
deep below, and grope for your pen,
and then comes the shiver, and then—
in the tangle of sounds, the leopards of words,
the leaflike insects, the eye-spotted birds
fuse and form a silent, intense,
mimetic pattern of perfect sense.
I happen to believe that a lot of scientific and rational premises are irrational to begin with – that the work of much science and academic inquiry is, deep down, merely the elaborate justification of desire, bias, whim, and glory. I sense that to some extent the rational ‘thinking’ areas of our brains are superrationalization engines. They provide us with means and justifications for our more animal impulses. They allow us to justify them both to ourselves and then, when that has been accomplished, to others.
Woke up to the smell of burning toast, which slowly dissipated into the air. There was no toast, and no burn, just a dream. Do dreams have smells? Rolled over in bed and remembered that phantom smells are a common symptom of brain tumors. Don’t know the connection but this made me think of Bobby Kennedy. Felt sorry for Ethel, in an oddly despairing kind of way that can only be accessed in the groove between waking and dreaming. Remembered a quote I once read about the Bobby-Jackie affair - “mortals behaving like the Gods.” Went back to sleep and dreamed of Jackie Kennedy and debutante balls.