Two months. Maybe less. And now I am institutionalized, in love with the quarantine. In my office hideout time mirrors a casino. I know whether it is day or night, but which on the calendar is mostly uncertain. This is more than a small freedom.
There is an envelope in my office full of heads. Carson McCullers. Yeats. Warhol. I decapitated each from postcards in college. There are bodies too. Brando sulking in an undershirt. Kerouac, back to brick wall, staring over all that rolling nothing. I study these along with Polaroids taken in dorm rooms. I re-watch black and white interviews with authors who accentuate their points with cigarettes. They seem so serious, so worldly and old though they were so young. I sift through these fragments from when my ambition to write was fresh and all-consuming.
In a life separate from clock and calendar I have gotten more pages down than in years. The new novel is going well, if slower than usual due to the attention I pour over each sentence. It would be quicker to translate what I want to say from Latin, but I want this book to be lean and beautiful. Short stories and poems come in flashes once in a while too. Days, weeks, and months cut off from all except the most tangential relationship with work are a gift. I live in the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last” with no need for glasses
Words have begun to stick in my head lately like half-remembered lyrics though. Today the word is “svaha.” In Yogic philosophy it essentially means, “let go.” It’s the same as the Buddhist principle of “non-attachment.” And on one level it is silly to make distinctions between Yogic, Hindu, or Buddhist philosophy. Or any school of philosophy since each wrestles with the same question: “What do we accept as truth out of tradition, and what is ultimately true?”
Be safe. Below are some timely works for you this week.
Listen to these
Radio Lab “In the Dust of This Planet” (pessimistic philosophy in pop culture, Dadaism, history)
Franz Liszt “Love Dream” (one of my favorite short classical pieces)
Thomas Pynchon “The Deadly Sins/Sloth; Nearer, My Couch, To Thee” (New York Times)
Anne Didion “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” (Saturday Evening Post)
The Center Will Not Hold (Netflix)