The other day I wanted to find the perfect pain au chocolat in Chicago. I went to Twisted Bakery in Old Town because I had been there once, shortly after moving to the city. I’d found the pastry to be authentic, perfectly crisp and flaky but melting in your mouth just right, the chocolate originally bitter but baked to almost sweetness. I like donuts and cupcakes just fine but I’d rather eat a croissant, plain, no jam or anything, lightness itself, butter submitting to a perfect state.
When I’m away from France I would rather be there than anywhere else in the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, this tendency of mine to idealize a place that was never mine to begin with. I’ve written a lot about my experiences there. It is easy to write about that life because it feels like somebody else lived it, another Kara in another language with another purpose. Her main goal was to be understood, and she equated comprehension with affection and even love. Her adopted country defined her role: “foreigner”. I think I long for this place because I long for familiar shoes to fill.
When I’ve gone back, though, it’s been a different story. I realize that I’ve grown apart from that experience. To associate myself with a place again, I have to become a sort of symbol. A “foreigner”. An outsider experiencing a city for the first time over and over again, irked by its apparent betrayals or overjoyed by its gifts. In embodying that symbol, I engage with it, fulfill it, begin to believe that it is the culmination of who I am. I take the train. I get lost in unfamiliar streets. I do something that is completely “unique” to whatever setting I’m in, and it makes me feel legitimate. Like I’m living the life prescribed, recommended, expected, approved, “liked”. The life from which I can create a fiction that everybody will like, but that will challenge few. The life with “This.” printed underneath it. A life I live out of an aching desire to create, but that I have displaced, blind, on what I can buy or sell or eat or drink.
Setting and mood are cardboard backdrops. Only character can drive a story. My story is not about where I live or what I consume but rather about who I am and what I choose to do.
17 Sep 2012 / 19 notes
Edvard Munch, Puberty (1895)
I always forget about Munch until autumn
17 Sep 2012 / 16 notes
16 Sep 2012 / 14 notes
New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.
I am very cold.
That’s a hard page and a weary work to read it.
Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.
This page has not been written very slowly.
The parchment is hairy.
The ink is thin.
Thank God, it will soon be dark.
Oh, my hand.
Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.
Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.
St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.
While I wrote I froze, and what I could not write by the beams of the sun I finished by candlelight.
As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.
This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say, “The hand that wrote it is no more.”"
Marginalized, notes in manuscripts and colophons made by medieval scribes and copyists
13 Sep 2012 / 6 notes
13 Sep 2012 / 3 notes
9 Sep 2012 / 8 notes
The work is bigger than you are. The work is bigger than you are.
More awful than a lie is an ill-gauged truth, delivered without consideration. There is something more important than the truth, and it is an elusive, beautiful thing.
Beware of getting stuck in a rut. It is too easy to write acknowledgments (“I have always known”, “I knew from the beginning”, “I finally understand”) without regard for your own previous struggle or, more importantly, the struggle of those reading. Yes, you feel you have been uniquely favored in friend, foe, frame of mind. But what I want to know about is your uncertainty. That is character.
Worry about something entirely, methodically, in one piece of writing: your forgetfulness, your body, your mind, your pain, your absolute and exuberant joy. Write your darlings, your enemies, your fantasies, your fears. Write them out of yourself. It is forgivable for a reader to return to the same story over and over, to replicate a mood, to nurse nostalgically at what they know or have known. Not so for the writer. Once you’ve written it, leave it. Move on to something new.
Dreams are the unselfconscious explorations of a pure soul.
8 Sep 2012 / 16 notes
Mary Oliver, “Morning Poem”
8 Sep 2012 / 47 notes
The smallest object that we can see, even under a microscope, contains millions of atoms. To see the atoms in a baseball, we would have to make the baseball the size of the Earth. If a baseball were the size of the Earth, its atoms would be about the size of grapes. If you can picture the Earth as a huge glass ball filled with grapes, this is approximately how a baseball full of atoms would look.
The step downward from the atomic level takes us to the subatomic level. Here we find the particles that make up atoms. The difference between the atomic level and the subatomic level is as great as the difference between the atomic level and the world of sticks and rocks. It would be impossible to see the nucleus of an atom the size of a grape. In fact, it would be impossible to see the nucleus of an atom the size of a room. To see the nucleus of an atom, the atom would have to be as high as a fourteen-story building! The nucleus of one atom the size of a fourteen-story building would be about the size of a grain of salt. Since a nuclear particle has about 2,000 times more mass than an electron, the electrons revolving around this nucleus would be about as massive as dust particles."
Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics
3 Sep 2012 / 12 notes