Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ordinary Absentmindedness


There is the room. There is the fire in the grate,
sap fizzling out loose tentacles of steam
along the fluent borders of the burning,

its light diffusing as it grades away
to darkness an unwavering presumption
not of my somehow being here again,

but of my never having left. The way
each thing so certain of itself as mine
as I arranged it still assumes my seeing

with an ordinary absentmindedness,
the way the carpet's crushed pile signifies
the pressure of my heel, the dented pillow--

the posture and exact weight of a pleasure
that isn't pain subsiding but the body's
still undisproved belief that this is only

another evening after a long day,
a squandering on myself of instances
I have no end of. Even the calm implies

only the minor havoc of what might soon
disperse it: isn't there dinner to prepare?
couldn't the phone ring at any moment?

Where is my daughter? What is it I've forgotten?
Whose version of myself is this? Whose room
but yours, my dreaming brother? I see you now.

For you I bring my hand down through the fire.
It is for your sake that the flames rise through it.
What is it you are reaching out to hold,

to cling to, but your waking? Time to wake.
Time to embrace this, now your dreaming's over.
This is the nature now of all I am.

-Alan Shapiro
(The Dead Alive and Busy, University of Chicago Press, 2000)


The Lower East Side and Williamsburg in New York, Capitol Hill in Seattle, Silver Lake in L.A., the Inner Mission in San Francisco: This is where the contemporary hipster first flourished. Over the years, there developed such a thing as a hipster style and range of art and finally, by extension, something like a characteristic attitude and Weltanschauung. Fundamentally, however, the hipster continues to be defined by the same tension faced by those early colonizers of Wicker Park. The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.

New York Magazine, via Terry L. Kennedy


In the past year, I graduated from college, got a desk job, and bought an iPhone: the three vertices of the Bermuda Triangle into which my ability to think in the ways that matter most to me has disappeared. My mental landscape is now so altered that its very appearance must be different than it was at this time last year. I imagine my brain as a newly wretched terrain, littered with gaping chasms (What’s my social security number, again?), expansive lacunae (For the thousandth time, the difference between “synecdoche” and “metonymy,” please?), and recently formed fissures (How the fuck do you spell “Gyllenhaal?”). This is your brain on technology.

via Phil Bost

If you've got time, existential anxiety, and a smart phone, you should read the essay above (or if you just want to read a review of the new Shteyngart novel).


"I was there, and I damn-near broke my eye-sockets."--Shaquille O'Neal

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