Monthly Archives: November 2011

annoying quirks

I read a lot, and I don’t use libraries*. I buy the books I read, and have noticed a troublesome quirk I have when I buy multiple books at once. If I buy one book, I will read it immediately. If I buy a couple books or more, they stay stacked on the table while I reread books I own already instead. I don’t know why, but this always happens.

I just got done rereading the Land of Laughs, and now I should read Fool or 11/22/63 –both of which have been sitting on the coffee table for weeks– but I unshelved a Fritz Leiber book, and am thinking of finishing that off tonight instead of starting one of my new books. WHY DO I DO THIS?

*It's not that I don't respect and love the idea of and purpose of libraries; I do. I just am territorial about stories, and if I love a book, I want to keep it. I want to keep the book I loved and built a relationship with, and I know that if I bought a new copy there won't be anything changed, I know this rationally, I've rebought books I've lost or lent out and never got back when necessary, but, like the people I love, those books are not interchangeable. I want the book I held. I don't want a copy, even an exact copy, of it. So libraries are incredibly frustrating for me because I do not want to give something I loved back. I only checked one book out of the Chicago Public Library system, and that was several years ago, and I can't go back now because I never returned it, and how do you explain that without sounding insane?

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Charmed, I’m sure.

Try thinking of how many people you know who are truly charming.

There is the sort of illusionary charm created by the observer and refracted onto a person who is a vacuum. These people are sociopathically charismatic for as long as it takes one to realize that their best attributes are not, in fact, theirs at all. This is why there are ciphers in fiction, those carefully constructed empty vessels into which you can pour your own favorite attributes in order to make the character what you want him to be. They’re important in crafting a hero or a villain meant to appeal to an audience whose members’ definitions of both vary wildly; all you need to do is build a beautiful frame so as not to get in the way of the audience’s imagination and expectations. This is most easily observable in film, I think. Neo, from THE MATRIX, was a cipher. Shadow from American Gods was a cipher. Most of Disney’s Princes are ciphers.

I generally dislike this kind of character, both the fictional and real varieties. They’re useful, as a placeholder, I guess, but their charm is a brittle coating which only shines when light comes from somewhere else. Their appeal is not sustainable without your determined blindness to the fact that you are the one providing their appeal. I would argue that this is not really charm, the way lust isn’t really love. I just don’t think there’s a word for this sort of gradation, so people will refer to hucksters as charming when really, they’re the lust version of charm. Chlust. They’re chlusty. Chust? They are chusting?

I could really use a coffee. I’m making some tea, but you know those mornings when you’re just like, ugh, tea is not going to do the trick unless I drink a gallon of it?

Anyway, real charm is self-sustaining. It requires nothing from an outsider to exist. It’s a glow, not a shine, because it’s an internal light, and not a reflection. It’s not a veneer. It doesn’t rub off after prolonged exposure. The secondary characters (both in fiction and in life) are often the most charming. The one who imparts his self onto his character and by extension, the audience, instead of allowing the audience to do the work of creation, those are the people I love.

I think it’s pretty rare, and pretty wonderful. So I guess that I’ve officially added “charming” as an adjective to the list of things that make my skin crawl when used incorrectly.

Also on the list:


regardless (often contorted into “irregardless,” which is not a word)

since (relates to time, not cause and effect)

objective case pronouns used as nominative case pronouns (and vice versa, although that’s rarer)





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the heart is multilingual

Big Think’s Top Ten Relationship Words That Aren’t Translatable Into English

These are lovely, and apt. Priding myself on loving the nuances of words, I actively tried to come up with an English equivalent for each one, and mostly failed. It’s kind of like trying to find a pop music equivalent to an old school country-western song. English words just don’t typically evoke a story in and of themselves.

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my thieves

I’m working on a series of short stories inspired by photos of criminals from the 1920’s. There are a lot of photos, and no full-fledged stories yet, just notes and notes. Turns out, even after (I assume) death, these scofflaws are honing their skill set, stealing my ability to sleep. I start to drift off, and it’s, oh that! That is what number 8 is! And I get up, to make a note, so I don’t forget.

Maybe eventually, when they’ve purloined enough minutes, those old ghosts will use that time in a wise and good way. Maybe it will be for something pedestrian, like telling someone they love that they loved them, too late to matter. Maybe it will be spent avariciously, looking for forgotten keys to abandoned safe deposit boxes. Or maybe they’ll tell me I’ve gone and got their stories wrong.

But tonight I have to go to bed. And stay in it.

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“because the city around them had conspired to break a hundred thousand hearts”

“How satisfying it is when we come across something that perfectly fits the curve of our desire.” Jonathan Carroll

The City
C.P. Cavafy

You said: I will go to some other place, some other sea,
find another city better than this one.
Every move I make is doomed to come out wrong
and my heart, like something dead, lies buried inside me.
How long is my mind to wither away like this?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruin of my life, here,
where I have spent so many years- wasted, destroyed them

You will not find some other place, some other sea.
The city will follow you. And you will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhood,
in these same houses watch yourself turn gray.
You will always end up in this city. Do not look for things
there is no ship for you, no road out.
Just as you have ruined your life here, in this small corner,
you have destroyed it now everywhere in the world.

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Bernard: a berceuse

Your lips my sustenance, until
they crack and flake away,
A skin leaf
I brush aside with my fingers.

Your eyelids slide, sag
into the creases and hollows
from which I’d siphoned
away your seeping, salt-tinged wetness.

How long, dear, can I keep you?

My song, your song,
resonates within these bones
pretending to life.
We’ll waltz when the world falls asleep.

My lips, my tongue,
rest on the cushion of skin
below your breast.
I’ll lend you my warmth while you sleep.

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George Rodrigue

“Always there’s that space between what you feel and what you do, and in that gap all human sadness lies.”

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