Casual correspondence, circa 2003


I read through some emails from 2003-2004 today. Texting and facebook have done untold damage to once healthy online habits, and I mean my own as well as my friends’. Patience, focus, articulation, imagination… a willingness to invest time in the description of subtle, ephemeral phenomena? The effort of communication has been spread too thin. It’s ubiquitous, and we want respite from it, instead. Even day-dreaming has been replaced by almost manic browsing, from interesting what-not to interesting what-not. Some people may have a healthy distance from this thing, but my god, how I miss well-written casual correspondence.

This is just one of MANY letters I wrote, to friends, each month during that period. It’s a round-about discussion of a book that was getting rave reviews at the time… that, at least, was the opening shot. I am still somewhat in touch with the recipient, but we’ve not grown more efficient, in any elegant sense of the term, in our contacts in time, though we have grown more concise. We write nothing quite as expansive, these days.

The worst, coming away from this; worse even than how much I miss better contact with those I still consider close, is how much I miss myself.  To see who I no longer am. I’ve expressed doubts before, only to hear how we never truly lose such parts of who we are, that these are always within ourselves, somehow reachable if only. As if. It is denial. If she is “buried” “somewhere” “deeply” within, she might be exhumed, sure, but her remains aren’t recognisable and noone wants to join our forced danse macabre.

(The Grace of Faded Things) April 7, 2003

I still wish we had more time though I know even in living
together I take no further interest, “In passing,” that once
I’ve imagined these conversations, the desires,  “to have
anticipated them, that it can seem I have, that it has come as
no surprise in life, that is worse.”  To remind myself.
I do not look for new rituals.

( The same sectors are alive in the mind that
recalls as were enlivened with experience,
there is no distinction, and my imagination
is at least as strong as my will, that it
desires this indifference
despite better intentions. )

( Though, admittedly, ones thinly veiled. )

I know this isn’t what you meant. Regardless, I’ve read The
Hours. The book is fraught with metaphor, perceptive, but I
can’t agree with the consensus that it’s a work of great
compassion. (It should translate well into film, film can
suppress its weaknesses. Besides, Julianne Moore is amazing.)

Gnothi Seauton. Most do not enough to have but sung its praises.

Everyone refers back to that, astonished at his (Cunningham’s)
insight… but for me it is something of a smug popularization,
unnuanced and apparent. These women are precisely drawn, marked
by time, and in time too separate for the shared themes to not
seem superficial. The book doesn’t manage to encompass them.
They’re types, and, despite a crux of death and promise, in age
and in love, not universal:

A postwar wife & mother feels displaced, aware of how
circumstancial, how insufficient this life, her life or her
neighbor’s life, or marriage, has been, and that she
impersonates, that she’s well-intentioned, her longing living on
the surface of things, leaving her unfulfilled. “Until…”

An aged and independent lesbian, (another editor!), is
allowed her protracted reveries, a series of penetrating
moments, to appreciate the patina of place and time, to
appreciate the circumstancial quality that haunted Laura.
“Yet how easily this could have altered; here, and here…”

And isn’t motherhood a mystery? Still?

How many have already felt these things, most daily? This
isn’t exceptional, so I’m astonished he can hit upon much of
that mundane personal significance then string it together
indelicately, repeatedly, among the roses, chaste caresses
and missed opportunity. This “tapestry”, the simplification, its
unforgiving geometry could work, but as semi-biographic account
of, I don’t know, some transcendent sadness of women?
It is too strongly demarcated. Clipped, transposed, and worse;
it’s a tremendous faux pas, grandiose. You don’t take-up Woolf,
a tour de force, to reduce her, making an analogy to two
“ordinary women” at the grace of their respective eras, one a
modern surrogate for her most recognizable character.
This’s grossly equivocating. A gimmick.

“O! Those poor tortured writers” that have mainly enjoyed the
misfortune of serving as fodder for more profitable travesty;
what one has to look forward to once they can’t defend theirself
from any unremitting praise or “compassion”.

If only the book had left Virginia out, let alone that
persistent approximate style, because those two others, the mod
“Mrs. Dalloway” and the drowned Mrs.Brown, are almost sufficient
of themselves even if the ambitions of the author don’t
translate well between them.
(“Ah pretentiousness, how novel!”)
The critics have called it “mature”. A grave typographical

I’m sure the movie is good but. Christ. I don’t know how to
begin to address That. When I can only speak for myself.

And yes, Dave Cooper. Une peau humide….
“delicious” was a good idea: those luminous blondes with the
bulging limpid eyes, their bodies softly inflamed beneath
confectioners’ glaze, sweet jellies dissolving slowly in the
beds of our mouths…
Perhaps something cupped in a palm and dismembered.
Have you seen the vinyl figure? (I keep an eye on the Tin Man
so I knew about Dave’s pillowy delights.)

If “Beauty” is not to be viewed as an “alienation of desire”,
the living flesh I like cannot withstand zealous largess or
exaggeration, especially in women viewed from behind.
Knees together. The small waist that swells into full hips that
encompass her heavy, inverted heart of an ass; that space in
between and just underneath where the cleft parts “like palms
pressed together” and its arcs are echoed briefly along the
thigh before reaching the surrounding long, gently sloping lines
of lovely turned legs, again by the calves and knees, and at the
heel of each foot,
the cream of those soft curves blushing slightly.
But without the ass, nothing. Not that I don’t work blue, but
his forms make me think of slick swollen nipples; and the skin,
of curdled milk. Which is cute but I’m not left salivating.
(Isn’t it refreshing to have less in common?)

All the same I’ll still watch Anna Nicole.

How was the trip? I haven’t meant to add to any over-stimulation
but it appears I measure time very slowly and won’t write often.

I was in Columbia the first week of March and Charleston the
last week of February. (Drinking at the country club, talking
politics with old men, upstairs. The carpet is so thick I sway
when I stand anyway, and the grounds vast–I think we drove a
mile to the house past the gate, but that leaves it completely
in the open. It’s odd how easily I take to it when I have no
ambitions in this respect, or any indication of my stock ever
having been at home on a plantation, but I think I’ve missed a
calling. I should have been a maid.)
In town: I spent time with my youngest sister, K—, as well
as had an Aunt offer me up to several attorneys in her circle,
and RCPLibrary starts well over what I earn here.

I don’t know. “I don’t know, C—, I just don’t know!”

My past plays upon the present constantly, except with W—.
Who I don’t think of at all, or all the same with “he’s happy.”
Has to be. (Right.) That was the case for a while.
But my happiness hasn’t come easily and isn’t necessary, and
though I’m sure seeing him wouldn’t wreck my composure, he’s the
last person I want to rely upon any artifice with.
Not even so much as to convince him. Not even then.
And Columbia is so small. I hadn’t been thinking about it, had
not thought about it. And a friend said “Oh, guess what!”
And that convenient hope was exposed, the necessary lie.
It’s been such a long time.

It takes effort to think about it, now, away, so to feel, but
none to recognise. In my mind he may be all eyes and tongue but
he is not so little in life. And we both lose.
But better than blithely off my guard? It makes no difference,
“I hate and I love,” odi et amo, and neither enough to give in
to. That it desires this indifference, never to not know him.

“And went with half my life about my ways.”


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