“Andrew O’Hagan writes: ‘Joan Didion gave me her hand and she was so thin it felt like I was holding a butterfly’ (LRB, 7 November). A beautiful sentence, but I wondered about the simile’s plausibility. It’s been reported that Didion weighs less than eighty lbs. She’s so thin her doctors have put her on an ice cream diet to keep her mass up. A woman’s hand is said to be 0.5 per cent of her body weight. So if Didion weighs 75 lbs, her hand probably weighs about six ounces. The world’s heaviest butterfly, the female Queen Victorian Birdwing, weighs about two grams. There are about 28 grams in an ounce, and Joan Didion’s hand probably weighs about the same as holding 86 female Queen Victoria Birdwings. It would be difficult to hold them all in your hand because each one has a wingspan of 18 centimetres. The smallest butterfly in the world is the North American Pygmy Blue and you’d probably need thousands of them to tip the scales against one of Didion’s fingers. None of this is to detract from the loveliness of O’Hagan’s sentence. We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”—
“When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice. When you’re in town stand outside the theatre and see how the people differ in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people.”—Hemingway’s advice to aspiring writers (via explore-blog)
“If you grow up in the United States, it can be very easy to have no perspective on living in a culture dominated by art and media from another country. Some music from around the world seeps into mainstream American culture, but it’s never dominant, and music from abroad is made with the understanding that you have to cater to the American market to be a big star. Americans are used to the rest of the world bending over backwards to blend in with their culture, and think nothing of foreign stars from ABBA and Björk to Shakira and Phoenix singing in their second language to appeal to the English-speaking world. Americans are almost never asked to adapt, and very rarely have to feel as though their culture is being infiltrated by the value systems of foreign nations.”—
“To be a good novelist, you need to keep your sense of curiosity alive. You need to be the kind of person who wants to know things: about people, about events, about objects. What made you want to become a pilot? Do you get on with your sister? What is that police car doing there? Who lives in that tiny/big/smelly house? Who dropped that hand-written note in the park, and what does it say? Good fiction writers are nosey. I think “write what you know” is the single worst piece of writing advice. Instead, write what you’re really interested in. Write what is going to keep you awake at night; write what you don’t understand; write to figure something out. Good novels are journeys into the unknown, for their authors as well as their readers.”—Toni Jordan, “Sparks to Make Flame: On the Ideas behind Fiction” (via millionsmillions)
“This online cultivation of beautiful sadness is easy to join: anyone can take a picture, turn it black and white, pair it with a quote about misunderstood turmoil, and automatically be gratified with compassion and pity. And this readily accessible sea of dark poetry could easily drown out those whose suffering has reached the clinical level. During the vulnerable years during which adolescents seek out self-affirmation and recognition from others, this new, easy promise of being recognized as strong, beautiful, and mysterious by Tumblr “followers” can be very tempting, says Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Too often, it just leads to more teenagers believing and feeling they are depressed, self-pitying, self-harming.”—Anne-Sophie Bine, Social Media is Redefining Depression, The Atlantic. (via futurejournalismproject)
N was from Uruguay. He played the guitar like poetry and had a voice that made you melt. I imagined him serenading a dark eyed beauty, but when he played before us he never looked up. He played this song a lot.
I wish I had recorded it, but this is what I have instead. And the memories: the smoke from the fire, wobbly glasses of wine, the wet grass, his thick curls, the speckled stars overhead.
You said I shouldn’t quit my job before finding another one. Ok, its been months, I’m still miserable and I haven’t found any other job. The only difference is I saved up a bit. Should I quit now? Really, I’m having the worst time in my life.
No you’re not. You may be miserable, but this…
Oh Coquette, usually I adore your advice, but I can’t agree with you on this. Quit that awful job and start over. You need to be decisive, that momentum, that opportunity—freedom! A sense of security is nothing like a sense of liberation. Travel, start a business, make mistakes. There is so much more out there. Go and find it.
Living in New York turns out to be a process of earning nostalgia — hoarding enough memories to give you the kind of claim on a place that makes it possible to leave it. When you reach your limit and set out elsewhere, memories are your consolation prize. (Bonus points for writing about them.)
I love this piece on the anthology of essays on writers leaving NY. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read excerpts of excerpts—which were enough. The romantic notions of the writer, the city, the anecdotes get tiresome. i’m one to speak. I loved New York. I wrote about it so very often.
Now that I’ve left it, it’s easier to have some perspective. It’s a trope-easy and alluring, but ultimately perhaps empty, most vivid only in the imagination.
The wind in the altiplano is vicious, but the lovers don’t notice. Arms around shoulders beneath topiary shelters, curled together as worms atop green hills, standing out of view in between pine trees. Kissing the slow, gentle kisses of morning doves-what does it matter? We have all the times in the world. Cold noses nuzzled, head rested on laps, hair stroked, a hand pressed against a zipper, lingered against a breast. A kiss on the neck-how hot his lips! But don’t leave a mark.
Oblivious. The soundtrack of the neighborhood dogs-barking, snarling. The dogs with unbrushed fur, coated with the dust. But watch their curled tails, unrestrained motion. Running with the grace of wolves. Plastic bags dance above, dangling on wires, in between fences, orange and green. The sky fills with omnious clouds. The wind, the cold. They’ve got each other. Whispers, giggles, secrets pressed into skin. Nearby are the tents of families, blankets, children playing. Oblivious.
Lend them just one day, one night, a few minutes! Families await in brick houses. Mami chops tomatoes in the kitchen. Papi drinks and flips the channel. Once they met on a hill alone, alone! their eyes burning with unspoken amor.
Outside the park, an old man with one tooth raises a hand to stop the bus that will take him home.