That’s what summer was like. Don’t you remember?
Suddenly, all those empty hours. You woke into nothing much — no dread of the coming school day, no pell-mell scramble to get ready to leave the house. Instead, chirping of birds and intimation of cool air. Your mother downstairs on the phone: obscure words, silence, more words. Where did you need to be? Nowhere. What should you be doing? Nothing. And for the moment, at least, who were you, really? No one, if being someone meant that you couldn’t lie on your side staring at the wall, loose-limbed, your thoughts skimming. From that last dream you’d had, in which you’d stopped running and finally turned to face the horror behind you, only to have it fade and vanish. To that girl whose crooked smile laid you bare, whose glinty eyes made you ache. To the places you might wander later that day, with never a thought the entire time for anyone who might be wondering what you were doing, with whom you were doing it, and whether you were safe and sound.
Cutoff blue jeans and sneakers. Fingers streaked with oil from a bike chain that wouldn’t stay on its sprocket. For you, the frayed world of humdrum workdays and commonplace tragedies didn’t yet exist. Everything was known, but nothing was familiar. The cracks in the pavement were a map to a secret kingdom. The darkness under the trees told a story. You were like a wayfarer in an ancient land, where nature itself had a numinous power to alter everything, for unknowable reasons or for no reason at all.
In those summers, you were naked to the world and full of expectation. There was more, of course, much more to come. And because there was more, the thinness of the present moment was an empty jar, into which you could happily pour the itchy scab on your knee, the sourness of a ripening blackberry, the magazine photos of girls in bikinis. Nothing was especially important, nothing unimportant. Your life was your own. And if you had paused to consider, your life would have seemed to you to be a possession so precious that surely, somewhere out there, burned an immense star with your name on it, lighting and warming the black void of interstellar space.
That’s what summer was like, back in those bygone days.
On these hot May days, I often get caught in an eddy of thought. Each rhyming revolution, flow and counterflow, carries me closer and closer to … something. At the last moment, just before translation from this into that, I’m released. Let go into the iron grip of the river. Know what that feels like? Like powerful arms, ropy with muscle, wrapping themselves around you.
The whitewater guide shouts at the swimmer, “Flip onto your back! Get your face out of the water! Point your feet downstream!”
So there I am, you can imagine, my eyes filled with sky, listening to an adrenaline rush of blood in my ears. (more…)
Cartoon by Adam Katzenstein, in The New Yorker.
I like to think that some devotee of Charles Dickens, back in 1852-1853, decided to purchase and set aside each of the twenty monthly installments of Bleak House — easily my favorite Dickens story — so that he or she could eventually “binge read” the novel in its entirety.
Nothing new under the sun, as they say.
It’s common to observe that we’re living through a Golden Age of television. To be sure, we’ve come a long, long way from Three’s Company and The Price is Right. I’m a fan of the actor and comedian John Hodgman, who likes to say that it’s just a matter of time until your corner coffee shop or dry cleaner starts producing and streaming shows online. The dam has burst, and new series seem to appear weekly from a head-spinning number of sources: HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Showtime, FX, BBC, USA Network, Starz, Disney, et al.
Given the competition among the streaming services, the sheer volume of new content, and the virtuous cycle of high-quality television sustaining a market for more and more daring offerings — well, there’s some really good stuff that comes out of all that.
Take Amazon’s new series Patriot. I’m fairly certain that I’ve never seen anything like it. (more…)
In a review of Paul Auster’s new book 4 3 2 1, Nathaniel Rich makes this observation:
It takes a strong imagination to see the world as it isn’t.
It takes an even stronger imagination to see the world as it is.
Stop and think about that for a moment.
So much to say, right? (more…)