Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Everyone else is abroad, or falling in love.

"My favorite thing about Coven is the men don’t talk." - Clare

Roughly, "Harvest my heart." By the end of the day, I am drained of hearing words but still want voices.

Andrea Quinlan's Mysteries of Laura is shipping now from Birds of Lace. There are only fifty — many of this year's Birds of Lace titles are gone now (it is so hard to choose a favorite but let's say, just, life is long without Samantha Cohen's Gossip).

My chapbook, Come as Your Madness, is up next and named after a party attended by Anais Nin, whose next wave of unexpurgated diaries, Mirages, showed up on a trip from which I just returned.

In case you're intrigued by Come as Your Madness (which is about first jobs, funerals, art, and love) and wondering if I write worthy chapbooks, please see:

After a weeklong trip in the northwest, I went to New York for a few hours, just long enough to see the Dante Feretti, Magritte, and John Cage exhibits at the MoMA.

By the time I went to McNally Jackson, I had all ready purchased twenty books on the trip. I only had two I was still looking for: Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford and White Girls by Hilton Als, which had not come out yet. The only book I picked up on impulse was In the Freud Archives by Janet Malcolm, and that was the one the bookseller wanted to talk about — its lawsuit, particularly. So all I could say was, I'm excited, I'm excited. That, as opposed to, if he'd focused on Hons or Girls, how I'd anticipated them for months, what I've been doing in the meantime, what I'd dreamed them into.

Of the twenty books I bought on the trip, I finished five before it ended: Jessica Mitford's Poison Penmanship in a hotel room in Eureka, California (most of it in a bedroom in Portland, Oregon), Maggie Nelson's Bluets in a living room in San Jose, Dorothea Lasky's AWE and Black Life in cafes across San Francisco, and Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem at the San Francisco Airport. I left a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in Olympia, Washington. I did not buy the Wes Anderson Collection, Anais Nin: Mirages, or anything else that was very big. I thought I would save space in my luggage, as I accumulated twenty small books.

I am attracted to strong wills and to extricating what the will responds to: deep focus or impulse. I think impulse has an undeserved reputation. But I am ill-prepared, then, when I follow someone into their will and they are disappointed I did not bring my perspective, that I was not supervising them. I do not have the impulse to supervise, or correct, when I see someone chase an impulse.

In New York, then, I put out of my mind the concern for what I had to carry, since the visit was a fast one. At the point my bags started breaking, I deserved to run out of money, I felt, just as I set eyes on Diana Vreeland's Memos. I am far, far more of an impulsive shopper in person than online. It would make sense to write, I have more willpower online, but will-wise, I am moved by little. There is no will to have, no want to fight. Which says, really, more about my relationship with what is imagined these days versus what is in front of me. Since I've written a series of stories that are ready to be a book, I'm of the mind to see them as a book rather than a set of stories. I am beyond them in my head and ready to have them in my hands.

I am unwilling to diagnose this as a negative or positive trend, since it is definitely of my behavior to diagnose a trend, and I would rather move on, move forward, regardless.

I do agree with the claim of feeling "ambidextrous" as a reader like the American Reader says people my age are. Do you hate the term content? Do you feel it diminishes writing, filming, photographing — creating? Amina Cain says it is better than product, but does it imply that what was once called writing, filming, photographing is now amalgamating to make what is being sold? Was there ever not that tension between what could come out of creating content — real art — and its role as commodity, as daily work for profit, in the case of the newspaper or magazine? Does the argument diminish the persistent potential in people doing what they do, be it writing, filming, or photographing, everyday, for art to come out of that activity? I concede that it isn't, as a word, attractive.

I missed a performance of John Cage's 4:33 by the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra to take the trip to the northwest, then ran into the exhibit on it in New York. I am the symphony reporter at work now, but the arrangement came too late for me to alter the trip (and I would have altered it). I was not expecting an exhibit about the piece and ran into it, delighted, and what paralyzed me was a film projector that was left on and reeling a flickering white square against the wall, making that white noise. I am easily romanced by a sound like that when everyone around me is observing the tenant of the exhibit: silence. And no photography. The Met and the MoMA are discouraging photography of their exhibits — about their permanent collections, I'm not sure. But that revelation made my mood soar!

I have nothing in me that is sentimental about "remembering I was there," so I can't empathize with that impulse. Or, I can reason that it has its place. I can make myself sensitive to the needs of another: he would like a photo of this to suddenly appear; I could use this for work. It just chafes against the very present impulse of mine to be archiving, keeping — I don't horde but what I do isn't pretty. Photographs cross a line, though.

I do not like to be photographed. People are very fast to engage this: they do not wonder. They reassure me that I am attractive. They demonstrate their disappointment. They give vent to my kinking their experience of whatever — whatever trite exercise we're up to together. Look, I'm angry just talking about it. Photography happens to be the site of my taking issue with discourtesy. I would like and am flattered by others asking me if they can photograph me. Too often I am ambushed. It disappoints me and reminds me of how many trespasses against myself I let slide. And every photo reminds me of that.

I let one photo of myself to be taken on the trip, when I found a copy of Caketrain in Powell's City of Books with my story, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," inside.

Olympia, Washington, has a lot in common with Harrisburg. Olympia is a capital on the water. That was where the trip started and I was glad to start there, where what was different was juxtaposed by what was similar. The trees (!) have just the effect that Twin Peaks promised.

Route 1 is awe-inspiring, but still a consolation prize for how the abundance of coffee fizzles out as northern California, Oregon, and Washington disappear. Somewhere outside of Eureka, I had a brief affair by phone under the guise of my friend with an evening radio personality who goes by the name of DJ Boogie, who played me "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Before I left, I launched a Facebook page to corral my writing at PennLive. It also serves as a place to which I can point people who want to contribute content, since I'm one of those in charge of that, and there's no dedicated place elsewhere to point. I created it then left.

Now I am three-quarters of the way through White Girls, in the middle of "Pryor Love." The end of "The Only One" froze me. I am reading back in my bed now. If I rest my head on my hand and prop myself up with my elbow in order to read, I can fall asleep within three pages. I have very bad insomnia and have lately figured out some tricks about placing pressure on certain parts of my head. The way Hilton Als writes essays: I admire in his writing the same qualities I admire in Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Neither of them write like me with the world swirling around me but like the world swirling around and I happen to be in it. I do not need to state why I should find this enviable.

(Title comes from here: "The crux of the matter is my attitude toward life — hinging on my science course...")