More Diary Salvage

‘You are not like other Russians.’ He considers her across the table. ‘Something’s lacking. Ah! I know. It’s The Big Brother.’

***

Vardan’s conversation always seemed to me superb. I think it was because of his way of holding a pause, without the faintest unease or rushing to say something. He liked playing with his name, translating it (vart is Armenian for ‘rose’) into ‘Rosario’.

***

Geoffrey Madan’s notebooks. ‘Victorian novels where hero renounced everything and somehow ended by being made an archdeacon.’ ‘It is monstrous and yet so feeble — like a sea-monster on a milk diet.’

***

The curious gestures made by clock hands at different positions.

***

My love, she laughs like the flowers, Valentines can’t buy her.

***

That something in me that is absolutely independent of conditions of upbringing, economic and political circumstances, the elements of fate — that’s the only guarantor of free will. I can be more or less in touch with that something that is a calm, ironic and imaginative witness. And being in touch with it is the source of the greatest pleasures in life, including those occasioned by art. If I find myself reduced to protesting my circumstances, consumed by demanding greater freedom, it must be that I am no longer free. The good life, the life of freedom, must contain something other than just protest, resistance to regimes, fighting for justice. If my life is reduced to fighting for freedom, I am no longer free and mine isn’t a good life. Those who must spend their days fighting for freedom should be honored but they should not be mistaken for models of what a good life should be — freedom is not in fighting for freedom, it must be realized in other ways if it is not to be a determined, unfree existence. If I found myself consumed by watching the cabinet bandits in order to jeer at them on the social media or go shaking a fist on some appointed afternoon that would be the definition, depending on scale, of a bad time, a low point, or a dark age. We should not lose sight of what we are living for as we ‘fight for it’.

***

The little infanta looking like a neatly turned chess piece.

***

Cats are so wonderfully free of irritability. I pet Pedro in his sleep — he wakes up, and purrs.

***

Tschichold writes that the place of a dust jacket is the same as that of a cigarette carton — in the waste paper basket. Times have changed.

***

My dream. The white cockatoo who was me: it crawled into a hollow beneath the dropleaf tabletop, to die. I found its soft, warm, feathered body still breathing quietly and tensely.

***

A lucky adult: she that has a toy-box for her tool-box. An unlucky child, with no toy-box but only a tool-box.

***

A woman who is unafraid of her beauty makes me afraid.

***

Slept, drank, and watched movies till late: a sui-generous kind of day.

***

What surprises me is the sight of my fellow Americans acting like utter old hands at resisting a mediocrity with totalitarian leanings; to my Eastern eye, they seem to positively relish this chance of a really exciting time playing Cossacks and Robbers. Even more astonishingly, everyone knows exactly what to do. To me, this is one of the most worrisome or laughable (depends on the way you turn it) things in today’s public discourse. The degree of certainty about opinions, convictions, and prescriptions that are poured forth is frightening: if it were the whole story, it could only mean an utter absence of thought, lack of creativity, and zero potential for finding a way out of the morass. Creativity — or innovation, to use the gaspy word — begins with the perception that one’s first and second take aren’t good enough; thinking begins with uncertainty and doubt. Yet who, in this culture of assertiveness, might volunteer to disclose anything resembling thought? Very few, and hardly the loudest voices.

***

Annals of misreading. On a spine of a children’s book: Monster Goose.

***

I have thought at times: what a shame that I didn’t marry X. Now I think: what luck that I didn’t marry him. He pre-imagined the whole scheme of our life together into which I only needed to fit — that plan had a Procrustean underside.

***

In the first weeks after my son’s birth, I spent many hours recording the kinds of new thoughts that came pouring through my mind, and new feelings, prompted by the parturition. I think I had filled many pages, but next summer, as I was out on N. Street, having a lunch alone at …, someone reached into my tote and ran off with my laptop. My notes were among the many documents and photographs that I had never backed up. I would like to try to reconstruct them, some of what went on in my mind, like the strange weeping, the fears I felt for the baby, or the sudden admiration for the dairy cows.

***

Imagined my heels licked by a black flame, neither hot nor cold.

***

Some welcomes are about as welcoming as ‘Arbeit macht frei’ or ‘All hope abandon ye who enter here.’

***

It’s not that unusual to be comfortable in hell.

***

The problem with me is that I like the men around me to be on their toes, like ballerinas.

***

Luciano liked feet. She was going to wear closed-toe boots to the New Year’s party, but her roommate said that the sandals would look better. He fell for her toes. They went to a bar and sat across a table with their drinks. ‘I would like to suck on your toes’, he said to her in a moment of boldness. ‘If you would like to suck my toes, you have to do it now’, she replied, and rested her foot on the tabletop. He leaned over and gave her a toe-job.

***

Dreamed that I had an upstairs tenant, a tall man who began to complain that I sleepwalk every night into his apartment and behave strangely.

***

To be in Adho mukha śvānāsana, with your cat clawing at your behind and your young son blowing soap bubbles in your face.

***

‘You have changed. Something has changed. It’s as if you are a different genre. You used to be Tragedy, and now you are Pastoral.’

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