Sunday, July 29, 2007


Today I spent $40 on books. I just had to get that off my chest.

Really, it's my first truly indulgent purchase since I moved here. Otherwise all my spending has been on food or drinks (and the drinks I justify as necessary to the making-new-friends process) and the occasional bus trip to visit family or friends. But I thought, here I am in Union Square with a little time to kill, and, well, there's the Strand.

I left all my books at home for space and packing reasons. There's a beautiful untouched library there now, books stacked high against the blue walls of my room in California, and no one to read them. One day, I don't know what I'll do, maybe pile them all into a car and drive to wherever my new home is. But for now, I'm in so much transition I can't have them with me. I've been trying to read New Press books as much as possible (they're free and, after all, what I do now), but I just really wanted something different.

Today the Strand was full with people seeking refuge from the rain, brushing our wet umbrellas against each other as we negotiated space in the narrow aisles. At first that place always seems too big, too crowded, the shelves stretching up so high I can't even read the spines. I thought about leaving emptyhanded. But that's what bookbuying is like, you have to wait for a while, no pressure, just meander, until you get a good idea or see something you'd forgotten about. And then the momentum builds.

First I picked up a George Saunders collection, which got bumped after I remembered some other short stories of interest, namely Garcia Marquez's Strange Pilgrims. Then I hunted down a cheap copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover---remember when I wanted to write my thesis on D.H. Lawrence?---as a consolation for the beautiful second American edition of the uncensored version that I saw in Maine and didn't buy because it was just too dear ($27). Although now that I think about how I just splurged on the Miranda July book for $17 (the yellow one; they didn't have the pink), I'm thinking it was a mistake to pass up that lovely old Lawrence book. Oh well. I considered getting a cheap Daniel Deronda, too, but it was just too ugly to be worth it. And then on the way out the door, I impulse bought Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

Now that I've catalogued my loot I feel a little better.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


First night in New York and I can't sleep.
It's easily accounted for, of course. It looks awfully late right now, but it's only 1:06am in California. I stayed up till 3 last night finishing On Beauty and weighing, unpacking, repacking, and again weighing my suitcase. I've been sleeping in excessive amounts these last few weeks, and I slept a little on my second flight this afternoon. On top of which, I'm in someone else's bed, someone else's room.

When I arrived in Park Slope tonight, the Edward Gorey calendar on the kitchen wall was certainly one indication that I'd come to the right place. I took Suite Francaise out of my backpack only to find it sitting flat on Jessie's bookshelf. I love those bits of proof that you're with a friend. The thing is, I'm terribly uninterested in most novels for the first 75 pages or so, and after that I can't put them down. I started On Beauty three different times over the last year, but it was only in the last couple days that I swept through it. Anyway, I haven't reached that point yet with Nemirovsky's novel, so that's no good to me right now.

I'm feeling hot and full (fat) and uncertain. On the plane I wondered, why the vague nervousness? I always think these feelings are diffuse, unattached, as though I'm victim to strange passing fits but immune from more obvious sources of distress. While anyone else might take one look at me and say: maybe it's because you've moved to a new city and are starting your first job on Monday. Maybe, and maybe that's why I can't sleep.

Tomorrow, my friends at Stanford graduate. Congratulations! Now we'll really all be done. And somehow I'm exactly stepping into that fantasy I'd had of post-college life--the city, the job, the new shoes. Doesn't look so great at the moment (except for the shoes), but maybe that will pass.

I'll stop here, and resume the usual insomnia mind-games, trying too hard not to think about the time or whether I should turn the light back on, etc., until hopefully the very effort exhausts me. Check in again soon; there should be much to report these next few weeks.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Selected Passages from My Beloved Novels (or, Why the Thesis is Sometimes a Pleasure)

Fanny Price joins a circulating library:

Fanny found it impossible not to try for books again. There were none in her father's house; but wealth is luxurious and daring--and some of hers found its way to a circulating library. She became a subscriber--amazed at being any thing in propria persona, amazed at her own doings in every way; to be a renter, a chuser of books!
(J. Austen, Mansfield Park)

Lucy's famous remarks on happiness:

No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so hollow as that of being told to cultivate
happiness. What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with manure.
(C. Bronte, Villette)

Dorothea's reaction to Will Ladislaw's (apparent) faithlessness:

Why had he come obtruding his life into hers, hers that might have been whole enough without him? Why had he brought his cheap regard and his lip born words to her who had nothing paltry to give in exchange? He knew that he was deluding her--wished, in the very moment of farewell, to make her believe that he gave her the whole price of her heart, and knew that he had spent it half before. Why had he not stayed among the crowd of whom she asked nothing--but only prayed that they might be less contemptible?
(G. Eliot, Middlemarch)

Susan, on motherhood:

I have lost my indifference, my blank eyes, my pear-shaped eyes that saw to the root. I am no longer January, May or any other season, but am all spun to a fine thread round the cradle, wrapping in a cocoon made of my own blood the delicate limbs of my baby. Sleep, I say, and feel within me uprush some wilder, darker violence, so that I would fell down with one blow any intruder, any snatcher, who should break into this room and wake the sleeper.
(V. Woolf, The Waves)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

SpellCheck, Meet the Academy

Words Microsoft Doesn't Like In My Thesis:
(in order of appearance)


Well, most of them are in quotes, okay? And I don't like them either!
(Except for the ones that are good to chew on...dailiness, prosiness, prolificness, embeddedness, and cathexis.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ha, exactly

from "Shouts & Murmurs" in the March 21st issue of The New Yorker:

III. How College Kids Imagine the United States Government


—Did you hear the news, Mr. President? The students at the University of Pittsfield are walking out of their classes, in protest over the war.

—(spits out coffee) Wha— What did you say?

—Apparently, students are standing up in the middle of lectures and walking right out of the building.

—But students love lectures. If they’re willing to give those up, they must really be serious about this peace thing! How did you hear about this protest?

—The White House hears about every protest, no matter how small.

—Oh, right, I remember.

—You haven’t heard the half of it, Mr. President. The leader of the group says that if you don’t stop the war today they’re going to . . . to . . . I’m sorry, I can’t say it out loud. It’s just too terrifying.

—Say it, damn it! I’m the President!

—All right! If you don’t stop the war . . . they’re going to stop going to school for the remainder of the week.

—Send the troops home.

—But, Mr. President! Shouldn’t we talk about this?

Send the troops home.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

as long as it's not killing me

running water everywhere. everything's melting, and maybe it's a false spring but it's still spring-like and i am wearing a dress and ballet flats today. it will definitely be spring in california on friday (while forecasts wintry mix this weekend for you suckers staying in the northeast).

disoriented, exhausted, driven along by strange momentum...this morning has felt surreal and i keep trying to knock myself out of this state with drinks of water and walks outside (where everything's fresh and streaming along!) but in the end i'm back at the computer with three documents open and about a million books on the table. if i'm in shock right now, it's at least in part because these last several days of never-not-working have felt almost natural, like things make some sense: i think i know what i'm doing and the only hitch is to just keep doing it.
taken up residence in the study room. everything now depends on my body. i didn't wake up for class this morning and felt like a complete fool. especially since that class is a welcome relief from everything else. i was bowled over by Thelma & Louise, which might sound naive but it's a goddamn powerful movie.

and so this post is nothing more than a wave to the outside world, a need i'm feeling to communicate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

St. Valentine died in a snowdrift.

The College is closed. Well, so they say, but I'm pretty sure I still have class.

Last night I went on WebMD dot com. Why does that site exist? It has nothing to offer but fear and distress. It actually made me cry. Then, when I couldn't seem to stop crying, I gave up on the day and went to bed at 10:50pm. This was a good idea, because when I woke up at quarter to six this morning I actually did feel better, and I swear I'll never "check my symptoms" again. (That's a lie.) But, honestly, what would you do if the little WebMD checklist indicated that you either had 'chronic depression' or 'cancer'? Cry? Yeah me too.

The snow is romantic, isn't it? It kind of makes me want to visit Emily Dickinson's grave or bake cookies or write a letter to a soldier. Perhaps now would be an appropriate time for a meditation on Valentine's Day. But I, unfortunately, have nothing to say--no strong feelings one way or another, except that maybe it would be nice to wear red today. There was a big construction paper heart under my door this morning, which I think must have been created in a certain Big Brother Big Sister session yesterday afternoon, and I certainly appreciated that. And I sent Rachel a virtual cup of coffee. My mother had asked for the name of my dorm and then immediately confessed to trying to send me something, but I suspect that even the intrepid delivery men and women of this town may balk at the weather, reasonably so. Beyond, then, Abby, Rachel, and my mother, I must admit I do not have a Valentine. That phrase has a lot less weight than anticipated; perhaps it's because I'm too worried about my impending death-by-WebMD.