Monday, September 17, 2007



I envy you your metaphysical shark bite and look forward to hearing what it means, not to mention getting occasional reports from the upcoming Season of Triumph. I think my last one of those was in sixth grade, or maybe the half semester of high school when I finally started speaking to people. At least, I have enshrined these times as ones of at least medium-sized triumph.

What the whole incident reminds me of more than anything else is that animals are riddles. For example, about two weeks ago I found myself staring and staring at a pair of Labradors that I’d been playing fetch with for about half an hour (the dogs names are Dolly (yellow) and Patsy (black), after their owners’ favorite country singers). Anyway, I’m staring at them and staring at them, the dogs are literally heaving, I mean their bodies look like they’re being squeezed by an invisible Scotsman and their tongues are hanging about a foot and a half past the end of their mouths. And then suddenly a sentence pops into my head. A dog is a unit of breath.

A dog is a unit of breath. I’m not sure what this means, but I have named my newest “story” after it. “Essay on Dogs as a Unit of Breath.”

Another big revelation this week: sitting sipping coffee a few mornings ago, listening to the sound of myself eating a muffin. Some people chew, but I am a fucking cow when it comes to pastries and especially things like muffins, and especially especially cream cheese and pumpkin muffins (eating one of these is like having cake for breakfast: always a worse idea than you think it will be). My body makes all these strange sounds, all these creaks and whistles, and then on top of that there’s the rustling of the wax paper the muffin was wrapped in and the sound of my ubiquitous god/neighbor moving around on the floor above us. As far as I can tell, he and I are the only people in New York who get up before eight o’clock on Saturdays, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes the thought of this fills me with a feeling of tenderness for him that makes me want to get the stepladder out of our closet and press my cheek to the ceiling as a sign of solidarity. To think that he sleeps, fucks, masturbates, reads, cries, shits and whatever a mere seven to ten vertical feet from where I myself do these exact same things boggles my mind. Cities are simply ridiculous.

Other than staring at things and listening to my body, the main vector this week has been a revival of my commitment to marginal literature of all kinds. I know I can’t shut up about this, but I feel a proselytiser’s desire to spread the word on all these fucking amazing books I’m discovering: books that no one really pays attention to because they don’t fit under the headlines of novel, short story or poetry.

For example, I’m reading one right now (Voices from the Chorus) by the Russian standup comic/mystic dissident Abram Tertz, a sort of diary of the time he spent in prison for some made up Soviet crime. Book is a fucking battery: it is a primer, an instruction manual on how to turn your own life into a book of great beauty and potency. And the strangest thing is, I am starting to get the sense this is what all diaries are, or at least what they try to be. Someone should make an anthology of diary entries and call it “How To Survive,” which is essentially the unspoken subtitle of all diaries anyway. Joy and energy being an essential part of the survival.

(short list of diaries that are changing my life: Journal by Gombrowicz, Voices From The Chorus, The Diary of Anne Frank, Emerson’s Journals).

Some Tertz to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

“While washing I touched my head and was suddenly surprised how small it was…”

“I simply can’t imagine why mice should have tails.”

“Whenever one sees Australia on a map, one’s heart leaps with pleasure: Kangaroo, boomerang!”

“A sparrow is very funny when it bathes: it bends forward to wet its breast, and then spends a long time shaking the water off. And the fact that it has no arms is then particularly noticeable.”

“I wonder what mice make of birds, and beetles – of butterflies? They are obviously able to see each other. But what do they think?”

Sentences like this feel like things to me, like rocks I can pick up and put in my pocket. I love writing that does this.

You asked for more Hrabal: have you read “I Served the King of England” yet? This is just as good as Too Loud a Solitude. The tragedy of this guy is that he’s written some insane number of books, forty or fifty or something, many of them supposedly awesome, except that there’s not enough readerly interest to get them translated into English. Also, if you haven’t read him, you should check out Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svek, basically the great Czech novel and Hrabal’s main ancestor. Goofy, ridiculous, a work of high smitage and superior frottage.

Swim like a maniac. Meanwhile I will keep inspecting the tidepools and sniffing my shoes when I step in something particularly interesting.

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