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“Teaching writing is a virtual impossibility. Faced with the prospect of mentoring students intent on becoming writers themselves, Goetz arrives at the conclusion that the university is not there to promote, but to hinder the results of independent thought, to discourage and intimidate them. He goes so far as to say that the aim of the professorship he is in the process of accepting is to prevent texts from being written in the first place: ‘In certain cases one could even, perhaps, find reasons for this. But even these reasons are essentially uninteresting. What is interesting is that most texts are bullshit. First and foremost, of course, those that arise in front of one’s own eyes, one’s own texts: nearly always bullshit. Bad, weak, useless. Why? I don’t know.’”

Read the full essay and excerpts from Goetz’s lecture in The Brooklyn Rail. 

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What is there to say when a person you’ve loved stops loving you? When the reasons he gives you betray the thinking and vocabulary of someone else; when the eyes he sees you with belong to someone else. All at once, he perceives you as though you were a stranger: what was beautiful has flaws now, yet it’s not the flaws themselves that you find shocking, but his sudden perception of them, as though they had not already and always been intertwined with everything else that goes to make up the swirling arabesques and wobbly pirouettes of your unique beauty. To realize that he failed to see it in all its interconnectedness, the power and paralysis, the fear and the fortitude, saw only what he wished to see; that you mistook this selective perception for love. The body senses it first: an alteration in speech, in posture; the person who was at your side, drawn in by another orbit now and drifting away. You experience relief, the miracle of freedom and autonomy regained, until the internal monologue arrives and you see each moment of misunderstanding laid out clearly before you as on a tabletop, or a chessboard. There are no moves open to you that do not compromise him, imperil his Queen. You hold out your hand, speak in words as pure and unambiguous as any you’ve ever known, but it’s no matter now; he is no longer listening, or if he is, it’s with a filtered understanding, peering imperiously through armor acquired from past battles, past pain. And who can blame him? A perilous business, love: you worried about him, allowed yourself to begin dreaming with him, you nearly began leaning on him and finally broke down in front of him when the dissonance and disconnect became too overwhelming. To realize that Q. did not understand the reality of your anguish is to become aware of the level of manipulation he’s grown immune to, but this isn’t much help as you maneuver yourself to a safer place, and second person singular slips into third.

I wish I hadn’t been made this way, I wish I perceived a little less, less of everything, in fact—it would make things easier. But doesn’t each of us feel there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, something we devise ways to hide from the world, that sets us apart from everyone else, because everyone else seems quite “normal,” while we, glaringly, are not? There are days I wake up from confused dreams that in their very shifting shapelessness seem to hit the nail right on the head, to encapsulate the peculiar awfulness of me, the unique wrongness of everything about me, everything I’ve ever thought and felt since childhood, from the very moment of my birth and even further back than that, who knows. The peculiar awfulness that only I really know in full, that others catch a glimpse of now and again and more often than not keep to themselves, that peeks out on occasion but that I otherwise succeed in concealing, more or less (unless I am the victim of a colossal illusion), the awful private awfulness of thinking my thoughts and remembering my memories and, in general, being forced to be me, for an entire lifetime. But who hasn’t felt this?

You haven’t? Then you haven’t looked hard enough, dived deep enough. An entire treasure trove of infamy awaits you, my love. We have the Oedipus Complex, the Electra Complex, and if neither of those fit quite right we have the Messianic Complex, the Inferiority Complex, the Ego Complex. Take your pick! There’s the widely popular Guilt Complex, there’s even a Complex of Non-Love to Oneself. Personally, I am drawn to the Cassandra Complex, in which the subject suffers disproportionately from the grief, ignorance, and transgressions of others, but perhaps I am suffering from Grandiosity, who knows. We can certainly tailor a new one just for you, if need be.

But who cares about all that, and anyway, don’t they get it all wrong, these professionals of the private mind, of the human malaise, these self-appointed experts with their own dirty little neuroses and the clever little ways they keep them carefully under wraps. They have taken the poetry out of melancholy, the painful beauty out of lost love, the aching, eternal truth out of grief. Their mission is to level the very excesses of emotion that make us human, to medicate them straight out of us. I say give me your odd and idiosyncratic, give me the irrational impulses with which you hoard your pearl-like truths, give me your longing to die one day and your exuberant, brilliant joy the next. Meet me in that unnamable place where you’ve lost your coordinates, or your will to live, where you fail to uphold the veneer, to play the game, where you stumble over your good manners and blurt something out that is embarrassing for what it reveals. Where your adult voice is unexpectedly, disturbingly usurped by an adolescent fury and frustration, where your nerves are raw and your feelings have run haywire. This is the dungeon where our unprotected selves will make love; this is where we will inhale the sulphurous breath of a dragon we will never slay—before we rise to escape to a beautiful, new freedom.

I have taken to my bed, and I’m not quite sure why; is it fatigue, or a kind of incubation? Each night I resolve to wake up early the next morning and to remain awake, to begin work, to turn this nocturnal life around into something that more closely resembles the lives of those around me. And each morning I rise with the alarm, make breakfast, and then slip back beneath the covers after my son leaves for school. Only another hour, I tell myself, but I know that I’m lying, know I won’t make that ten-o’clock-appointment, and even still I willingly believe the only-another-hour story and pull the covers closer to my body. Only an hour, only another hour, I chant, and then I drift off into blessed sleep.

Is it the medication? I have another month to presumably sleep through before I speak to the doctor about reducing the dosage. I could sleep, sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep, there are no limits to the hours I could spend in bed right now with a cat at my side and another at my feet. I’ve found my new world: crouched under the covers, the window open wide, I can have my comfort and fresh air at the same time—what more do I need? To think that only a year ago I jogged five kilometers each day is not only startling; it seems like a blatant lie.

We talk nearly every night now, we never run out of things to tell each other, but sometimes we lie there with our eyes closed and remain silent, each of us in our own bed, nearly a thousand kilometers apart. I am pupating, resting on the threshold between one phase of my life and another. When will I wake up, and what will I be?

I hadn’t been outside in over five days; on the way to a reading on Tuesday I stopped at the bank to make a cash withdrawal. I typed in my PIN, but it was wrong; I typed it in again, wondering how I’d made a mistake, wrong again, and stupidly, instead of pausing to think—but why is the number wrong?—I typed it in a third time. By this time, the sequence of four numerals had begun to feel strange, as unfamiliar as a word one turns over in the mouth again and again until it’s sucked clean of meaning; I had begun to doubt myself, my own memory, only five days and already my PIN, as familiar to me as my own birth date, was dissolving in my mind like a mirage. Wrong for the third time: the automat informs me that I can no longer use my card.

That was three days ago. For three days I have been planning to get to the bank to correct this problem. In the meantime, it came to me like a flash, the correct number materialized in my mind, and it didn’t seem strange in the least—I’d transposed the first two digits, that was all—and once again I felt reassured that the world I live in is indeed familiar, hasn’t mutated in my absence. Although it occurs to me that I couldn’t remember my neighbor’s name recently, a name I’ve said hundreds of times. I was about to insert it into a sentence—and it was gone. My mind groped around the cubbyhole reserved for this particular neighbor, felt the sides, the bottom and top. I knew her name began with the letter S, but the cubbyhole was empty and remained empty for what felt like a long time.

I am not old enough for this to begin happening. I meant to tell you this, but forgot. Is it a side effect of the medication? Is this what it feels like to have your life crumble away from you? One name, and then another, and then the dates start to go, telephone numbers, numbers you haven’t had to write down in decades, numbers you have to search for but cannot find because they aren’t written anywhere, they’re too obvious to write down, as obvious as the names of friends too close to require a surname in your mind—but what if you’ve forgotten the name, what do you do then? And what if you’ve forgotten your own? Like the class photos from grade school: I still remember thinking that I would remember my classmates forever, thinking how stupid adults must be who look back on their youth and can no longer remember the name of the boy in the third row, second to left, or the girl next to him. How can you forget your own life, I used to wonder in disdain.

I was recently contacted by a woman on Facebook; she claimed we’d graduated high school together. She had a clear memory of me: who I was at the time, the things people thought about me, said about me, the places they’d imagined I’d go one day. Nearly twice my entire lifetime at that time has passed since. She attached a photograph of herself: tweezed eyebrows and eyeliner, blow-dried hair, an Italian-American name like thousands of others on Staten Island—but I could not, for the life of me, remember her. And how many of them have forgotten me?