"I was Nabokov’s ideal recipient, in that I read for beauty and would have rather burned a book than deconstructed it, but if I’d had to say Lolita was about anything other than love destroyed, I would have said it was a biography of Britney Spears."
Suddenly, I feel so young because I am wearing my birthstone. Two small amethyst studs, one in each year. They’re the size of a crumb; of the tiniest rock in your shoe that stops you in the street, obliging you to pause and lean against a wall (and feel the toothed grain of a wall) and take off your shoe. Tap twice because most often it’s a stubborn little rock. Tap twice because there’s other stuff in your shoe, too. My mind could be miles away (or at least in a song, in a made-up near-ceremonial scenario—a funeral, a friend reunion) and still, that rock in my shoe like a nudge from a childhood friend certain you aren’t listening to her story, says, HELLO. Says, ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING? Because really, it’s the tiniest rock in your shoe, tossing you out.
Suddenly, I feel so young because I am wearing my birthstone. They arrived in the mail in a white box that fits in my palm. I can fold my fingers around it; clamp it, coddle it, both. Nothing makes me feel more elegant than when I can fold my fingers around something. I’ve picked up that perception from the movies, from Katharine Hepburn and from the mother in Disney’s Peter Pan, who carefully somehow pleats her slender fingers around the ‘buried treasure,’ (her husband’s cufflinks).
Suddenly, I feel so young because I am wearing my birthstone: amethyst. The color of pale lilacs right before they brown. A gown this one actress wore years ago to the Oscars; her arms akimbo, and the color, cartoonishly ashen next to another actress who wore canary yellow and red lips. They’re all birds on that red carpet. Amethyst is the shade of a handkerchief I cannot place but that I remember. It belonged to my grandmother, maybe. Or to a woman I was staring at one afternoon, long ago, who likely had long, slender fingers.
BLVR: Ben Marcus said this about your stories: “It’s the empirical method of science, rather than an intuitive style of storytelling, that drives [Davis’s] best stories.” I like thinking of writers as mechanical engines, not just great big bags of emotions.
Lydia Davis: How about an intuitive style of empirical storytelling? Both models (bags of emotions and mechanical engines) leave out the guiding intelligence. One wonderful thing about that guiding intelligence is that it can absorb and assimilate scientific principles and bring them to bear on human psychology and emotion. I was just thinking about science per se today, because a friend was explaining to me the difference between convection and conduction, and then went on to talk about thermal radiation. (This started with a bottle of champagne cooling in a sink full of water.)
There is something very pleasing about the principles of science and the rules of math, because they are so inevitable and so harmonious—in the abstract, anyway.
A poet I like a lot, Rae Armantrout, has a deep interest in certain of the sciences. Scientific principles and facts are inevitably an integral part of her poetry because they are an integral part of her thinking.
"If I consider only poems with line breaks, then there’s an obvious rhythmical difference—the suspension at the end of each line, as opposed to the pause at the end of the sentence. But beyond that, I see each word or phrase in a true poem as being explosive, in a sense—it should open out or blossom in the reader’s mind. Whereas each word or phrase in a piece of prose does not contain compressed or condensed material in the same way. By elliptical, I don’t mean merely economical or deliberately obscure. Certainly a good poem should be economical (though not any more economical than a good piece of prose—Proust said his prose was economical, and I agree), but it may also actually leave out material that the reader may supply either explicitly or subliminally. (I say “may” because each poem operates by such different rules.) I don’t believe a good poet is very often deliberately obscure. A poet writes in a way necessary to him or her; the reader may then find the poem difficult.
Christopher Middleton writes: “The rhythm of a poem is a structure of variable tempos which realize its sounds as the radicles of meaning.” (I’m quoting him at one remove, but the plural realize seems to me correct.) This is a mouthful, but interesting to think about.”
“The scream’s a good weapon—fast, concealed. Sometimes the only one we’ve got. When babes imperiled are furthermore mute, like Helen in The Spiral Staircase (1949), Madeline in the Swedish Thriller (1973), and Thana in Ms. 45 (1981), or speechless, like Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion (1965), the situation feels irremediable. A girl without tongue is a eunuch.”—on Terminal Island, for n+1 (via snpsnpsnp)
“I wanted to live in Paris and write nothing but fiction and be perfectly free. I had decided all this had to be settled by the time I was thirty, and so I gave up my job and moved to Paris at twenty-eight. I just held my breath and jumped. I didn’t even look to see if there was water in the pool.”—
“All of which is another way of saying that porn is thicker than chic. Almost nothing else is. Fashion operates by seeking out symbols of resistance to fashion, then copying and recopying the symbols until, like pieces of duct tape, they lose their sticking power altogether. In my old army surplus jacket, I do not signal to anyone that I have ever done a push-up. In a baseball hat I am never confused for a player or an off-duty dad, and in a slashed and safety-pinned black dress, I conjure mid-’90s Versace, not Siouxsie Sioux. But: in a black leather bustier or stilettos that buckle like cuffs, I am steeled for many proprietary gazes, because no matter how many times a trend resimulates a lifestyle, or sublates bad taste with good branding, the glisten of fetish still clings. As Chris Kraus writes in “Aliens & Anorexia,” S-and-M is a commedia dell’arte stocked with collars, handcuffs and gags that do not change significance: “The objects here are meaning-cards, they hold all the information,” she writes. “The objects tell us who we are and what to do.”
2. A note from my father about our puppy, Willis, who was taken to the emergency room because he was throwing up and because his heart was racing: They are doing x-rays now and they may keep him overnight.
3. Finally, some renovations and fresh coats of paint at my old apartment in Boerum Hill. Thrilled, my roommate wrote: so Frazier is painting the kitchen and we have to let it dry overnight. i will put all the shit away tomorrow in the day. isn’t this exciting. There is no reply thread to that e-mail because I likely texted back, Fuck yeah.
4. Dispatches from various family members updating me about my aunt’s cancer treatment:
They may request Jen stays overnight for observation following the first treatment.
Jen will most likely spend overnight at the hospital, however, she is not in a room. Dolores will be keeping me posted.
she’s scheduled for chemo on monday (she’ll stay overnight in hospital) and tuesday so they can check her white blood cell count
5. A gchat with my friend about a new boy in her life. On April 2nd, 2013 at 6:07pm, she wrote:
he’s just completely changed the way he talks to me in the last two weeks and i don’t know what the hell is going on
And then three minutes later at 6:10pm, she writes: he went from hot to cold literally overnight!
6. A link (and the full text) of a New York Times profile of Chirlane McCray pasted into the e-mail:
He flirted with her mercilessly, she said, calling nonstop and trying to steal an unwelcome kiss. “I actually told him, ‘Slow this down,’ ” Ms. McCray said. Her resistance became less diplomatic: “Back off.”
But a romance blossomed: Mr. de Blasio, five years her junior, won over her family with an overnight visit that earned him a new moniker: “Brother Bill.”
7. An e-mail from my roommate while I was home in Montreal this past Christmas. A picture was attached depicting the street outside my bedroom window: We got about 6 inches in Brooklyn overnight and it is 10 degrees out. The subject of the e-mail was “Snow day” and I remember thinking how six inches was nothing compared to winter in Montreal. Appraising the difference made me ache for my friends yet promptly miss my parents who were sitting in the next room.
A leg was broken. Its double-sided woodscrew had loosened and its metal thread was irreversibly stripped. Now, my parents’ mid-century olive green chaise lounge looked comically dejected and lifeless, no longer possessing its coy, come hither posture. Few things look more miserable than a purposeless chair, especially one whose purpose is for lazing. So, my father went to the local hardware store to replace the double-sided screw and then after, to a bicycle shop next door where he had the metal flange rethreaded with a tap. But the wood inside the leg was also ruined. The man at the hardware store told my father to fill the hole with matchsticks and carpenter glue and instructed him to,Leave it overnight. The next day, the wood leg—walnut brown and tapered—screwed in effortlessly and the chair was once again, herself.
"All screwball comedies are, to some degree, female revenge movies, in that one of the genre’s characteristic plots pits a hyperarticulate, slightly hysterical protagonist (not always a woman, sometimes Cary Grant) against a ponderous, unsophisticated male character whose ego is pummeled, punctured, and deflated as a primary source of humor. Often this figure—a “man of the people” from somewhere like Albany or Oklahoma—is a secondary character meant to serve as a point of contrast for the film’s hero. In The Lady Eve, the source of screwball energy is the woman, and her male counterpart is both romantic lead and victim. In a sign that the contest between them is in no way a fair one, they meet on a steamship called the SS Southern Queen.”
“The best scene in the film, from the standpoint of female vengeance, comes on their wedding night. Her father, who was not invited to the wedding, gloomily sets the stage. “Now she’s honeymooning on a train with a man she hates,” he concludes. “Maybe she’s going to shoot him,” his partner suggests. “She’s afraid of guns.”—“Maybe she’s going to push him out of a window.”—“No, you can’t open a window on a train.” But her revenge is easier than that. She simply tells Charles that she has been married before: to “Angus the stable boy” when she was 16.”