Breathless we talked, it was tongues.
If you haven’t known trepidation (a disquieting fear, not the terror found in a book like The Shining) while reading, then you might want to pick up a copy of W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. Normally I wouldn’t write about a book while only halfway through it, but I am reading it so slowly that I’m not sure I’ll even finish anytime soon.
I’m not even sure it’s a novel. It is, rather, a meditation on inner and outer decay, on decline, loss, memory, and the gradual effacement of even the most extraordinary of things. I half expect the book itself to vanish or crumble between my fingers while I’m reading. Certainly it reminds me of a book I read earlier this year — Teju Cole’s Open City. Published a decade earlier, Austerlitz (so far) greets us in Belgium as Cole’s novel does, and also in Wales and in London. The settings are intensely and intimately described, yet the novel also seems to take place within Sebald’s memory. There’s a term I’m reminded of: “umwelt” — a German word often translated as “a self-centered world”. Weirdly, I began a short story titled “Umwelt”, also set in London, which has dragged on and on…
And it’s the passages about the inner workings of our selves that seem most familiar. Here, at length, is Austerlitz describing the process of writing and reading:
But now I found writing such hard going that it often took me a whole day to compose a single sentence, and no sooner had I thought such a sentence out, with the greatest effort, and written it down, than I saw the awkward falsity of my constructions and the inadequacy of all the words I had employed….However much or little I had written, on a subsequent reading it always seemed so fundamentally flawed that I had to destroy it immediately and begin again.
As always, things seem connected. Between readings I’ve been listening repeatedly to the first track on what I think what may end up being one of 2011’s more under-appreciated break-up records. The same disquiet stirs.
Go ahead and be my world, and everything will be ok. Just hide there in plain sight, too big to see.
Throughout this year, between the endless mountains of packed snow and the minutes stuck at the same morning traffic lights, I find myself singing the final chorus of this song over and over, accompanied by my boys on occasion, and other times as if my insides are pouring over the steering wheel. And that gorgeous gorgeous trumpet line…”You let the devil in your home!”
So sad to miss their show here in August.
Two beautiful covers, two musical eras. Go see Devotchka live. Generation Derivative, listen up.
My youngest son has hair that is completely different than mine. It is entirely straight; it does not sprout from his head, it simply falls. Hair such as his does not seem to naturally part, and I find myself continually, almost absently, pushing his hair away from his eyes and to one side. It is as if my fingers have become wiper blades on an intermittent setting.
It struck me one day that his hair is not really in his eyes as much as I think. He rarely brushes it aside, and goes about unbothered by the way it hangs. I realized that my brushing away hair that really isn’t in his way is in some respects me filling a need of my own — the need to touch him, to shape him, both literally and figuratively.
Choriqueso at Polvo’s. Green Chili Pork taco and the Democrat at Torchy’s Tacos. Micheladas (made w/Negra Modelo, of course) at multiple locations. Uchi sushi. Nepali noodle salad at Farm to Market. Sweet potato fries at Freddie’s. A BBQ pork sandwich with jalapenos. Home Slice pizza. Those lovely rosemary and salt bagels w/cream cheese in the mornings at Once Over. A slow-moving orgy.
Some years ago, when I was at university, I enrolled in a small class on South Asian history. The class was in fact tiny for such a large subject — only five students — and was the first stand-alone course on the history of the subcontinent ever taught at my school. That awkward and surprising fact aside (the year was 1989, the Berlin Wall would fall and declarations of the end of history would soon abound) the other odd nugget was that the course was taught jointly. Two professors, B— and J—, one focusing on the history of India and the other on the creation of the nation called Pakistan. Even stranger, I learned that the pair of professors were connected. They shared a home and lascivious rumor had it that they were lovers. Continue reading →