To fall in love with a book, in that way that I and so many others have fallen in love with Ferrante’s, is to feel a special kinship with its author, a profound sort of mutual receptivity and comprehension. The author knows nothing about you, and yet you feel that your most intimate self has been understood. The fact that Ferrante has chosen to be anonymous has become part of this contract, and has put readers and writer on a rare, equal plane. Ferrante doesn’t know the details of our lives, and doesn’t care to. We don’t know those of hers. We meet on an imaginative neutral ground, open to all.
-Alexandra Schwartz, "The 'Unmasking' of Elena Ferrante"


“I’ve spent the past week—as I’ve spent much of the past few years—wanting only for the world to go away, for all engagements to be canceled, and to have more time with my family ... “It’s almost as if the desire for community is a nostalgic one; and the reality, with time’s winged chariot hurrying near, is that one longs increasingly for simple affections, for space, and calm, and time to work. What contradictory beings humans are.”

-Claire Messud, in an email


"When I was younger, I used to meet people at dog tracks and pot farms and other such places and do my best to describe them from the inside out. What we had in common was that we were all in on the same joke about the gap between stories and life, which is a name for a chaos that unfolds according to no given set of narrative conventions. To make sense of the unstable lives of these characters, I imagined them as figments of a much bigger story that could only be gestured at, a big novel whose quasi-religious valences would strike me with great force in the middle of the night as I slept in my one-room apartment in the West Village with my head right next to the oven. The fear to which my idea of some larger metanarrative applied was less about the tracklessness of existence than about what might happen to the particular space we shared, which was the imagined place where writers talked to readers. An onslaught of data-driven technologies coming out of California was replacing the imaginative work writers did with algorithmic outcomes, which would guide a reader’s choices and feelings based on the choices of large numbers of other people who had also interacted with the machines according to pathways laid down by the algorithms. As felt life was mediated and altered in this way, the vast encyclopedia of literary feelings and techniques that had once acted as a kind of thickening agent for writers and readers alike would become progressively obsolete, and reality would come to feel thinned out. Self-censorship would become the rule, even among those who retained the impulse to think and feel beneath a smothering blanket of anticipation and categorization whose only true aim was to keep any stray sunbeams of disorienting newness or weirdness from shining in through anyone’s window."
-David Samuels, "Weirdos"


It feels a little strange to come back to this space after having been away from it for so long, or at least after having used it as quote-storage rather than as a place where I actually dispense my own thoughts. But in an effort to combat both a writerly and spiritual malaise that has set upon me in the past few weeks, I've begun to devise ways to get myself back into the habit of spinning a yarn of words, the discipline of articulating a thought and following that thought to its end.

Distraction is settling for fragments, clipping thoughts and actions before they've run their course. Sometimes fragments can be useful as a form; they allow you to ricochet from one idea to another, a process from which other ideas can spring up, and this is a freedom that allows the complexity of the mind to reveal itself. But at other times, not completing a thought merely reflects a lack of self-discipline. It takes patience, constancy, and a willingness to be mired in the discomfort of not knowing in order to sink into a deep meditative state.

Of course, the technology in our lives complicates our efforts to prolong a thought, to finish a task in a slow and steady way. All the pings and quips and headlines that pop up on our screens, the convenient access to tabs and hyperlinks, the endless stream of notifications — these do not make it easy to remain in one mode for very long, at least not for me, someone who is very prone to distractions. It has been a point of despair and shame that I now often find myself forgetting what I have set out to do, just 30 seconds after I set out to do it. It is all too easy to lose myself in something of little significance, something so banal and frivolous that my attraction to it is certainly a moment of weakness, a lapse in judgment. I need more structure to anchor myself to activities that matter; these structures will hopefully act as a stopgap measure against the paralysis of self-loathing, which I inevitably fall into when I let myself float among the debris of the Internet / social media / etc...

I will also use this blog again as a place to collect my own thoughts rather than as a vehicle solely for collecting the well-articulated thoughts of others (though that will surely continue). Even writing a full sentence, whether in email or in a lonely chamber like this blog, feels like a tiny feat.


"A certain comfort with vulnerability might be the most prominent aspect of Hill’s personality. At lunch, he gets the hiccups. He warns me that his face sweats a lot, but that the rest of his body produces a normal amount of sweat, and he occasionally mops his forehead as politely as anyone can mop anything using a napkin that he has folded into a tidy mopping rectangle."
-What I have in common with Jonah Hill