I once felt pretty shitty for several consecutive weeks. It was a relentless feeling like shit. Shit streaming down on me, as though some asshole, literally, had seeded the clouds with shitseeds, making them drop buckets of shit, as though I were a neglected field crying out for superstenchy fertilization. After more than forty days and nights of downpour, with the shit piled up to my neck and still coming down hard as nails of shit, I decided to cut everything out of my life.
I only ate pasta. I ate it dry. I didn't read. I didn't write. I didn't drink. I didn't eat anything besides sauceless pasta. I stopped the coffee intake. I stopped thinking. I cut everything out, except for water and pasta. I watched. I'd spend most evenings laying in bed, with one leg hooked over the other knee, tossing a basketball up and down, watching the shadows the ball made going up and down et cetera ad infinitum. I wasn't insane.
Maybe I didn't do this for a week. But I did do it for awhile. Then I brought the coffee back. I put some milk in the cup, but I didn't stir it in completely. I could taste the spirals of milk in the coffee when I took a sip. That night I put some grated cheese on the pasta. It tasted like grated cheese on pasta. The next night, drops of tabasco sauce. The next night, I went with the sauce. The next night I added a side of steamed broccoli, which wound up tasting like steamed broccoli. The next night I read. The next night I went out and had a good time. Et cetera ad infinitum. I forced myself to miss things and then brought things back. I felt better.
When I left my apartment at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2001, I put on some sneakers, changed the shirt I'd slept in, grabbed my camera, and placed a copy of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections in a bookbag. I figured I'd watch the fire for awhile, document a piece of NYC history, then go to the park to read until noon. But then I found out planes had hit the towers, not no Cessnas neither. Then one tower collapsed, then another. Et cetera ad infinitum - I'm sure you're aware of this - unless you live with a very thick bag of beef jerky over your head, with hunks of dried meat in your ears.
I carried that book, The Corrections, all day, forgetting that I had it, never once thinking "maybe pop into a West Village cafe for a mochachino, read a few dozen pages as the ambulances and cop cars race back and forth on Hudson Avenue." A few days later I read in the morning. It was good. I remembered what I was doing on Monday and the preceding weekend: reading a book. The Corrections, despite comparisons to Pynchon and Gaddis, is hardly a task: the pages turn, you lock into the characters, watch the story happen. You don't lose yourself in interpretative fun because it makes its subtexts clear. You read. You understand. You watch the sentences. You get involved. Everything takes care of itself. You don't have to work too hard. And it's worthwhile.
When I finally switched off the television and started reading again, I wanted the book to have the same sort of relevance music suddenly had. But it didn't. The Corrections is about a family, sort of like The Sound and the Fury seventy years later. There were no suicide bombings. No terrorists. Instead there was reading. A story. Characters. Sentences. The weird thing that happens to your head when you look at words for awhile and let them happen.
The Corrections, the book I carried the whole day for no reason last Tuesday, provided some consolation this weekend. That's all. It could have been any book. I wish I had the brain to go into The Corrections and bring back the goods, but whatver brain I have says it's not that type of book. The goods are on the pages. And the goods are good. Here's the New York Times' review.
I'm going to stop here. Maybe I'll add something to this throughout the next 24 hours. But when Thursday rolls around, there will be something to read on this site, something worthwhile, or really, something humble and timely in its irrelevance. Something that didn't happen. Something you can watch.
For a second there I was going to tie everything up tightly, but it's probably better if you do that, which is exactly what it's about, I think: YOU DOING YOUR WORK.
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