And, really—and perhaps more to the point—what is America? America, to me, is a flash of sunlight through a grove of trees. And then an alligator appears and you run like hell. America is a hope, a dream, and then that dream ends with you on your back, the taste of blood in your mouth, and some big crewcut guy is screaming at you that you seem like some kind of fucking subversive. And then he starts crying. He’s tired, he says, he doesn’t need this shit, he just got off a double shift and his racist club is now going to start charging for the brown shirts. America, to me, will always be a glass of iced tea at the end of a long day, the distant sound of a freight train, and then your mama puts down her glass of tea and goes, “That’s weird, there are no train tracks around here.” And then you all dive under the table, but that was dumb, because how is being under the table going to help you as a freight train comes crashing through your shack? And then later, at the rustic graveyard, after Pa has been lowered in, and has lurched out, and been pushed back in, with a shovel, a rustic gravedigger mutters a philosophical word to you in passing, but you can’t make it out, because his beard is just atrocious.
America, to me, is that house in the distance, across a plowed field, just at dusk, and an orange light shines from within and you are filled with a vague longing to trudge across that vast field and get to know those strangers better—you are lonely, you have been out on the road a long time, the world has been singing you a sad song indeed, and the nights have been cold, and various birds native only to America have been crying out in the night, and you have hallucinated their cries solidifying into human voices singing, “Loss! Love! Mourning!” And you mount that paintless porch and knock on that crooked door, and when a man answers and sees that you are a stranger, is he afraid? Does he slam that door in your face? No, he welcomes you in, and gives you a warm meal and a place to rest, and late that night, in an ancient room that speaks to you mysteriously of Antietam and Gettysburg, you think, Wait a minute, I know these people, these people are my freaking cousins—why did they act like they’ve never seen me before? And in the distance you once again hear a freight train, and you brace yourself, but this time (and perhaps this, to me, is the essence of the American propensity for hope), this time, the train is on tracks, and though the house shakes and some of the wife’s ceramic frogs fall off the shelf, the house stands, and you doze off, into a verdant, dream-laced sleep, thinking, Tomorrow, I will awaken into a land where the streams run crystal clear and golden fruit falls off the boughs of the trees, but since one can’t eat golden fruit, I’ll take my cousins over to Denny’s and see what’s up with this whole pretending-not-to-know-me shtick. Did I somehow offend them? Is this about that minibike I borrowed? Oh, shit, I bet it is."
- George Saunders on America (via danceinyourdirection)
I feel as though a great deal of my life thus far has been spent convincing/peer pressuring boys to get drunk on weeknights with me.
Boyhood was really good.
- from How Music Works, by David Byrne (via girlfromtralfamadore)
I really feel like the main thing majoring in english lit has provided me is making me seem really fucking tedious and obsessive and weirdly self-conscious to like 97% of the population when I attempt to discuss my thoughtz and feelz about any work of art. An overwhelming amount of my conversation seems to consist of sentences that begin “Probably I’m just reading too far into this but…”
"The only thing you can do for the dead is to sing to them. The hymn, the miroloy, the kaddish. In the ghettos, when a child died, the mother sang a lullaby. Because there was nothing else she could offer of her self, of her body. She made it up, a song of comfort, mentioning all the child’s favourite toys. And these lullabies were overheard and passed along and, generations later, that little song is all that’s left to tell us of that child… ."
Just before sleep Naomi experimented until she found the right position wrapped against me in some way. She moved about, adjusted limbs, searched for the right angles, and like a penguin under the ice, found the best breathing hole between bodies and blankets. She nuzzled, adjusted, nuzzled again, then slept with the resolve of an explorer out to conquer a dream landscape. Often she was in exactly the same position when she woke.
Sometimes looking at Naomi, the sweetness of her ways — settling into bed with her work, a little dish of licorice allsorts beside her, wearing her crazy misshapen T-shirt, such childlike contentment in her face — tightened my heart. I pushed away her papers and lay on top of the covers, on top of her. “What’s wrong little bear? What’s wrong …”
My mother taught me that the extra second it takes to say goodbye — always a kiss — even if she were simply rushing to the corner for milk or to the mailbox — was never misspent. Naomi loved this habit in me, for the plain reason one often finds a lover’s habits charming: she didn’t understand its origin.
What would I do without her? I began to be afraid. So I picked fights with her over anything. Over saying kaddish for my parents. And that’s when she was driven to an edge: “You want to punish me for my happy childhood, well screw you, screw your stupid self-pity!”
Because she was right, Naomi was sorry for having said those words. All candour eventually makes us sorry. I loved her, my warrior who swept aside the war in fits of frustration with a single “screw you.” Even Naomi, who thinks love has an answer for everything, knows that that’s the real response to history. She knows as well as I that history only goes into remission, while it continues to grow in you until you’re silted up and can’t move. And you disappear into a piece of music, a chest of drawers, perhaps a hospital record or two, and you slip away, forsaken even by those who claimed to love you most."
- Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses