The Pisces was beautiful, radically so. Here was a book that turned melancholia into the mythic. It was unashamed to delve into the lowest depressions of a person's narrative—unashamed to be so crass about it; unashamed to air out the disgusting and repulsive poisons that are so much a part of who you are, you are basically them; unashamed to be so fucking revolting, as one can be when within the heart of desperate, romantic obsessions—as one can be when one is, simply, lonely, and feel very direly the need to be touched, to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be un-alone. Unashamed to delve, and hold up our poisons against the light. It was unashamed to be unpleasant, to carry truths. And it had no qualms at being funny, to laugh at the ridiculous ways our sorrows manifest themselves—and never cruel, always empathetic, and never making you feel like it's wrong to laugh at what is essentially yourself. It is—for all its lack of squeamishness, for all its edged fun-making, for all its profaneness—a very kind book.
Some books announce themselves with a punch to the gut, some with a sting. Some sneak up on you and take care to embrace you with a numbness that expands as you need it to—all the better to prepare you for the sick, sly shock of recognition. Of course: The trap that awaits me whenever I seek to feel less alone with books points to the seeming ubiquity of scenes from my life. My story is not the most original thing, is the reminder; devastations like mine are never unique. See: Someone long dead has already conjured the very words that carved out something bright and soft and essential from within you, and set them to a fiction. [Continue reading.]
Consider the peculiar dangers of provoking desire through the books one reads; how words on a page can remind you of a longing you thought you’d long ago calmed, or tease you into considering the weight of someone else’s gaze, or galvanize you into crossing a once interminable distance to take the wrong person’s hand in yours and confess a wanting. Consider this unflinching definition of desire, brought forward by Siri Hustvedt via the very first line of an essay: “Always a hunger for something, and it always propels us somewhere else, toward the thing that is missing.” (And, here, remind yourself of Anne Carson declaring, “Desire moves. Eros is a verb.”) See yourself armed—first with your library, and then perhaps (of course) with your longings. And then, please, consider yourself in a reality where you moved, arms laden with the books that compelled you. [Continue reading?]
I’ve been turning a thought over and over in my hands for the past several weeks, holding it up against the light when my arms can bear the weight. Just thinking—navel-gazing, really, and a little mopily. About the writing I do about books, for books—here, in this space, and elsewhere online, and (to a lesser extent) what appears of me in traditional print. It’s an exhaustion-borne thought, I know this—but I don’t know how it got to this point, that it can actually calcify into a whole thought, or when it started brewing. It’s a declaration, one that's (upsettingly) more assured than most of the sentences that’s sprung whole in my mind: I want to stop writing about books, because I want to stop trying to justify myself. [Continue reading.]