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All about love, nearly

two leaves

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpCJf6ft9d8&feature=youtu.be

 

“How to explain that the betrayal is of another sort altogether? I know the tidal pull of the blood; that a mere glance can send plumes of fire curling through the nerves. After J. arrived: the sudden, mind-controlling molecular saturation of pheromones in the air, a maddening inability to concentrate, to think of anything at all. Intoxication, situational insanity, delusion. An attraction so fierce it made me angry; the almost violent force required to resist it. Focus on what you don’t like—it’s all there, right in the very first moment. Just take a look back and you can see it clear as day: the sober assessment, the critical points like elephants weighing down the wrong side of the scale, and then the sticky-sweet goo of self-deception oozing all over it like an egg cracked atop a skull, the giddy, hypnotic, honeyed brilliance of it—ah, love! How blind does it have to be to erase that immediate recognition of disaster? Men have their siren song to lead them astray, but what about us?”
— from the blog “Stories I tell myself before I go to sleep at night,” April 2014.

Published in “Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board,” an anthology of experimental women’s fiction (eds. Nava Renek, Natalie Nuzzo, Spuyten Duyvil Press).

I am happy to have an excerpt from my blog, “all about love, nearly,” coming out soon in this excellent new anthology published by Spuyten Duyvil Press. Come to KGB’s on April 22 to a reading celebrating the release of Wreckage of Reason II: Back to the Drawing Board — an anthology of experimental women’s fiction published by Spuyten Duyvil Press.

KGB Bar

85 East 4th Street

NYC 10003

7 — 9 p.m.

Readers include:  Andrea Scrima, Martha King, Lorraine Schiene, Geri Lipschultz, Alexandra Chasin, Kathe Burkhart, Holly Anderson, Carmen Firan, Joanna Sit

 

wreckage2

 

“The range of the stories in this volume of Wreckage of Reason II is vast and far-reaching. There are thirty-three selections, among which are playfully reconstituted myths and fairy tales, experimental flash fiction, and sexually pungent satires that are presented alongside powerful stories about violence and loss, mothers and daughters, lovers and spouses, political horrors and existential loneliness, erotic visions and happenings. Each of them seemed to come from a commitment to literary risk, exploration, and playfulness and a tacit disregard of marketability. For that, the selections are unusually wrought, evincing precisely articulated literary intentions. Space will not allow me to include each and every one of them, yet each was unusual and lively, a truth on its own twirling axis.”

— Leora Skolkin-Smith

In this follow-up to the 2008 bestselling Wreckage of Reason: An Anthology of Experimental Prose by Contemporary Women Writers, 29 contributors use different styles and language genres, their tools at hand, to illustrate moments of conflict, amusement, bafflement and joy that make up a day, a year, an individual life or a collective history. Held up to the light or inspected under a microscope, set in locales real, virtual, mythic, and imaginary, characters bump into and move through events, leaving readers with the humorous, sad, sexy and playful ambiguities of what it means to be alive. This anthology provides a much needed venue to spotlight women writers engaged in serious creative writing projects chronicling and responding to our current culture.

“Were this book published by St. Martin’s or Norton, they would have slapped its contents on wider margins and packaged it for the college market at twice the cost. Except Norton or St. Martin’s would never publish this book—it’s too dangerous, wild, and singular. Wreckage of Reason gives us three dozen women authors beyond any easily marketable definition; by any description, it’s an anthology worthy of an audience and acclaim.”

— Ted Pelton, from The Brooklyn Rail (writing about Wreckage of Reason I)

It’s as though each of us were born with a tender spot somewhere that we are completely unaware of until someone or something pokes around in it; suddenly, with a blinding pain we can barely remember afterwards, we are expelled from our innocence, from childhood, and then it can take us years to comprehend that a spot exists, to learn where it is and what it means, to find a way to protect oneself. Eventually, we learn that the spot is the locus of our greatest sensitivity, that some of our highest endeavors have come about in response to it; that the scar tissue that grows over the spot can be as beautiful as a spider web, or the texture of a leaf. But before that happens, it can seem as though the spot were gaping out from the middle of our forehead: a hideous defect, an all-encompassing shortcoming that invalidates the rest of our existence, that we do all we can to conceal from others. Sometimes we toughen up in response, sometimes this occurs at the cost of a larger receptivity, but sometimes the wound won’t heal and goes on oozing for a long time, emitting a strange odor that others instinctively pull back from.

Researching a quote from Nietzsche’s posthumous writings, only some of which have been translated into English, I call my friend Rainer, expert in all things Nietzsche. He points me to a “non-book” that I actually have at home, The Will to Power, edited by Walter Kaufmann. I retrieve it from a shelf high up in one of my bookcases and wipe off the dust. In it I find several passages marked in red by the person I was thirty years ago:

On the genesis of art.— That making perfect, seeing as perfect, which characterizes the cerebral system bursting with sexual energy (evening with the beloved, the smallest chance occurrences transfigured, life a succession of sublime things, ‘the misfortune of the unfortunate lover worth more than anything else’): on the other hand, everything perfect and beautiful works as an unconscious reminder of that enamored condition and its way of seeing—every perfection, all the beauty of things, revives through contiguity this aphrodisiac bliss. (Physiologically: the creative instinct of the artist and the distribution of semen in his blood—)

The demand for art and beauty is an indirect demand for the ecstasies of sexuality communicated to the brain. The world become perfect, through ‘love’—”

Sammeln Sie Herzen? the cashier at the local supermarket wants to know: Do you collect hearts? I smile and shake my head to indicate the negative. She is slightly unnerved; to her it’s a straightforward question, but to me it causes me to stop and pause—do I?—after which it feels like a lexical assault. Treueherzen, Loyalty Hearts: an appropriation of love, and loyalty, for the purposes of keeping anxious, coupon-clipping housewives busy.

The earliest memories of the self, and how the mind retains them: a fleeting moment, a vivid, invisible color in the mind, nothing more than the stark perception of oneself in the world, the immensity of time, the distant certainty of death. The child who looks around in wonder and thinks to itself that the grandmother and grandfather were also, at one time, children: but does the child really believe this? It is a kind of theoretical knowledge that it accepts; after all, the child is reasonable enough to understand that, for instance, things fall from up to down, and hence the concept of gravity is plausible, useful for explaining numerous phenomena. But when the child compares its own perceived superiority to the limited worlds of the adults it sees around it, the constraint of their understanding concerning the simplest, most self-evident things, does it really believe it will ever be anything but a child? It is like looking at an old photograph and focusing one’s attention on some fleeting detail—the crisp shadow of a branch on a wall, a reflection in a water glass—and thinking this really happened this way, this was exactly so in this moment, but there is no way to understand this or to comprehend a past consisting of infinite such moments that happened in such a way and no other. Better to remain in the present, in the certain understanding of what one is: a child, forever or almost, while everything else remains pure speculation.

Destiny: a word that transmits little waves in all directions, some of them rapid and shrill, and some of them deeper, pulsing at the very edge of perception. A range of associations from bright and tinsel-like, like costume jewelry, to solemn and ancient. I once fell in love with a man who was mildly oblivious to my existence, who smiled to himself, as though he found me amusing. I was alone at the time, and in my solitude I became carried away by a fantasy that eventually escalated in my imagination. It would be easy to dismiss this love as infatuation, but what is it, really, to believe that one was meant to be together with another? What is it that makes the soul burn with longing, that induces one to inhale, to absorb another person into one’s perception to the point that one sounds like that person, resembles that person? I recall him smiling differently at times, too, coming up from behind me on a bicycle, for instance, pedaling amiably, having clearly enjoyed observing the movement of my gluteus maximus, my gluteus medius on the seat; having allowed that to suggest other activities to his imagination. I also recall his eyes on me at unexpected moments, when there was sometimes a pained expression in them. The Androgyne, two parts of a severed whole longing for each other, longing for completion. When I was very young, a sense of my own destiny would arrive at unexpected moments: walking down Seaview Avenue at the age of thirteen or fourteen, after nightfall, in awe at the terrible infinitude of the pitch-black sky above me, the terrible distances between the stars, listening to my shoes hit the pavement one after the next in a regular rhythm, connected to this Earth by the mere force of gravity and understanding myself to be entirely, irrevocably alone, and that I would always be walking in this way, listening to my own footsteps, with the beautiful, terrible nighttime sky above me twinkling with the ghosts of long-dead stars. An early encounter of the self with the self: a kind of knowledge that was impossible to describe, or convey, or articulate in any way; that had to do with me in the most intimate way.