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Showing posts from January 2, 2022

On writing and obsession

  As a writer, I have as little talent for staying on topic as a Mexican jumping bean. This rather subverts my essays in generalization. I get philosophical, I get argumentative, I get distracted, I head straight for the wrong goalposts. However, as a writer, it must be said that there in one great thing about obsession: you don’t really have to worry too much about staying on topic – you will inevitably find your way back to the topics of your particular cancer. You will inevitably bump against the shore you are seeking, which will, unexpectedly, appear in Shakespeare, or a news story, or a burst of static on the radio. This is a good thing, until it becomes a very bad thing. The OED claims that obsession derives from the latin for sit opposite (ob -session). It is interestingly different from possession, with the idea that some devil is within the self, taking control. Obsession is the devil sitting outside the self, but fronting the self, always there in one’s line of vision. In

The spirit of the 1619 Project

  The spirit of a historiography that kicked over the Cold War consensus about America (United States of)   was codified in the 1619 project, which is why the latter drew such fire from such members of the old guard as Sean Wilentz. Wilentz goes on at length with his problems with the post-liberal framework in his review of two new books on the American Revolution and the antebellum American state in the NYRB. The critique is deftly summed up here:   “Two ambitious new studies,  Liberty Is Sweet  by Woody Holton on the Revolution and  American Republics  by Alan Taylor on the decades that led to the Civil War, examine far more than the history of American slavery and racism. Both take up the array of political and social transformations that shaped the nation’s growth from an aspiring republic hugging the eastern seaboard to a boisterous, even bellicose capitalist democracy that spanned the North American continent. Yet both books advance claims in accord with interpretations of wh

a slow weirdo drives a car

   I’ve been recovering from jetlag that last few days. As well, I’ve been recovering from another, less named lag – which comes from having driven about in a car intensely for a month, and suddenly stopping. I rather liked it, at first. We get to Georgia, we rent a car, I’m at the wheel, oh momma! But the day by day sitting in that seat and making with the acceleration and the braking and the lane changing and the lights, it began to wear on me. I felt like a much used pencil point – I leaked out my lead. Hmm, that sounds phallic, don’t it? Anyway, I was going through some journal entries from years ago, in California, when I also drove a bit, and found this account of hobbling about in the aftermath of an operation I had on my leg. It puts together the world of the slow and the world of the speedy in terms that I can’t improve upon. “One of my fave sequences in one of my fave films, Bella Tarr’s Satantango, concerns the village doctor. We watch him get drunk in his home, fall down in