All posts tagged: Maggie Nelson

post-election reading | edge of evening

What are you going through?

I had put dark brackets around the paragraph that began, “The love of our neighbour in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: ‘What are you going through?’” [Simone] Weil was talking about the Grail quest, about the king afflicted with a terrible wound, experiencing excruciating pain. She was talking about suffering. The Grail was said to belong to the one who is compelled, feels the compassion, knows to ask, and, most importantly, has the courage to ask the king, “What are you going through?” Which seemed a very easy thing to do, but of course this is complicated by those cold and sometimes necessary distances we keep from one another as human beings, by our reservations, by our worries about what might be appropriate, by protocols, by hesitation, by over-interpretation of who the sorrowing suffering Grail king might truly be. How is one to do this?Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay I’m a firm believer in the serendipity of reading: that each book finds us when we most need …

Her Thirty-Seventh Year by Suzanne Scanlon | edge of evening

Her 37th Year: An Index

HAMLET (see also: Baby, The), We watch three film versions of Hamlet. I cry even when it is Bill Murray playing Polonius. I imagine my baby as Laertes. “Do you know how it is when someone dies? Birth is like that, too, just in reverse,” I say. Just before you announce the impending awkwardness, I ask aloud, “How could I have created something, someone, whom I will someday lose?” I think, How could life mean anything more, ever, ever again? . JOY (see also: Mother, Question, and Skunks), as experienced when in a dark room I lie next to Magoo and his cousin. Every so often, just when I think they might be asleep, a high voice with a serious question: “Are there skunks in Pittsburgh?” or “Do old-fashioned cars go faster than convertibles?” Four-year old musing & inquiry; for a moment I wish that Magoo would be four years old forever, that I might spend a life in this room with two four year old boys. There are times it feels like Heaven to …

Bluets by Maggie Nelson | edge of evening

Rereading: Bluets

1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a seahorse) it became somehow personal. Bluets by Maggie Nelson Rereading as a way to recover a lost state, to return to the cloud of feeling the book first evoked. I suppose that you re-readers must have made this discovery long ago. But, it’s not without its risks. Who hasn’t experienced the book that changes during one’s absence and upon reacquaintance isn’t at all the colour, shape, texture or density that memory would suggest? Or — more insidious, more disconcerting — the book that contains the underlinings and margin notes of an imbecile in one’s own neat hand. 130. We cannot read the darkness. We cannot read it. It …

37

Age doesn’t necessarily bring anything with it, save itself. The rest is optional. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson Last week mainly took me to places I didn’t want to go. It took me to being 37, the age that for the longest time I have not wanted to be because at some point being 37 will mean being older than my father was when he died. I used to be suspicious of people who were 37. They were never as grown up as I thought a 37-year-old should be. They didn’t have all the answers any more than I had all the answers, but I knew that they should have them because they were 37. Then, once I was in my 30s, I realised the impossibility of being as wise and sure and grown up as a 37-year-old parent is to an eleven-year-old child, which is, of course, wiser and surer and more grown up than any 37-year old — or at least this 37-year-old — actually is to themselves. The day after I turned 37 I found …

There was coffee, there were books

It must seem to my children that my two main interests in travel (or indeed in life) are books and coffee. And they have a fair point. One of the things I love the most about being anywhere new is imagining what it must be like to live there — thinking about how climate and place shape our lives; wondering what a normal day looks like to someone who lives there. Cafes and bookshops; coffee shops and book stores; they don’t, to me at least, seem the worst place to start. I set out with just two books, The Grapes of Wrath & Joan Didion’s Sentimental Journeys. I came back with seventeen. We had to buy an extra bag for the return flight. This is just a selection. You can blame most of it — the excellent bookshops, the great coffee places — on Nicole Gulotta’s wonderful blog Eat This Poem and the fantastic collection of literary city guides she has curated there. We had the best guides — to Sonoma County, to San Fransico, …

Bluets

“I will admit […] that writing does do something to one’s memory — that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve.” from Bluets by Maggie Nelson On Saturday afternoon the winter sun filled the living room with long slants of light and I stretched out on the sofa & read the whole of Bluets, a pencil in my hand, a cat on my lap. Oh what rare bliss! To read a book in a single sitting and follow the wandering path of someone’s thoughts from start to finish. A small boy with a ‘deep cough’ lay on the rug beside me building an intricate system of cogs and asking a question for each of the 95 pages of the book, but that didn’t take away from my pleasure. Bluets is a poet’s meditation on blue — “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color”. Nelson weaves art, science and philosophy …

We don’t get to choose

“At a job interview at a university, three men sitting across from me at a table. On my CV it says that I am currently working on a book about the color blue. I have been saying this for years without writing a word. It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel “in progress” rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette. One of the men asks, Why blue? People ask me this question often. I never know how to respond. We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.” from ‘Bluets’ by Maggie Nelson It’s got to that point in December when it seems we’re burning through the days, just like Maggie Nelson’s lit cigarette. There was a period, earlier in the month, when I thought that there was plenty of time. Now I’m just waiting for the ash to fall, for the year to turn. Which makes it sound like I’m not looking forward to Christmas. And …

The Gin Closet

“I found poems that might lend my life a sense of gravity. I read them in the near-dark, trying to pass the time so I wouldn’t go to bed at such embarrassingly early hours. When you are old and grey and full of sleep…My throat was gritty with wine; anger rose like phlegm. How could anyone write those words once they’d seen aging for themselves? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,/And loved the sorrows of your changing face. What did young Yeats know about the bodies of old women, how their pubic hair turned ashen between the sticks of their thighs?” Alcoholism; anorexia; abortion; the female body — pain of, aging of, desire of; family — secrets of, estrangement from, dysfunction of; sex — prostitution, affairs, consensual; the American West; displacement, rootlessness; the loneliness of the city. And that’s just for starters. It sounds like a lot for a first novel to carry, but The Gin Closet does it with grace and heartbreaking beauty. I’d been intimidated by Leslie Jamison. By the …