Sunday, September 23, 2007


n. The fact of being consciously the subject of a state or condition, or of being consciously affected by an event. Also an instance of this; a state or condition viewed subjectively; an event by which one is affected

Wonder at what
it is. There are so many changes, rearrangements that go on over the years. Petersburg is not static; yet the greatest, fastest changes happen to those who go there, and that experience is forever suspended in time in their own minds.

My questions arise: what do we talk about once the subject has been exhausted? If there is nothing in common; or if there is? Pauses in conversation, awkward silences (or are they only awkward to me?).

An attempt at definition.
Shared Experience. And then?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Writing, or Remembering:

from: "A Gesture Through Time" by Elizabeth Block

"Memory is so imperceptible. It is a skeleton of embodied experience gone by -- only to hit in a wailing voice crying for what is without. A tale includes a plot-like tease -- a plot-like disease -- yet its outcome eludes us. Like music. Perhaps this is why we listen to the same song over and over again. We listen, hoping for resolution, but it never comes. Only the event's vibrations and movements -- crooning crooning crooning. We seek those high E's and F's; a chorus feigns a flight from loss. Perpetuates some fantasy -- lets us believe the memory is really a present and living body.

But so much of living now is juggling all these instances of loss as they shuffle and interpret
the now. Where is this split?

If you had a choice between losing your hearing or your sight, which loss would you endure more comfortably? What if, after you lost, you changed your mind, not knowing for sure what life is without."
--p. 36
"The limit of fiction remains its inability to get out of 'the real world' as a reference for the work. Language buckles with psychological bounds and gags. Language is as conceptual as art gets." -- p. 42
Buy it. Read it. Pass it on.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Today I made a pilgrimage (v. a journey to a place associated with something well known or respected) to the Brooklyn Book Festival. It was the second annual, and I hesitate to write only. It was extremely well attended, though some of the main stages ran behind schedule after only the second readings.

I went to a couple of readings; the first was a panel of first-time novelists reading from their recently published. The second was called
Crack in the Facade, readings by Mary Gaitskill, Colson Whitehead, and Peter Melman. All were excellent, however...

I spent most of my time at the SLS/St. Petersburg Review table (if you haven't checked it out yet, this is my pitch: go find a copy of the St. Petersburg Review; this year is it's inaugural publication - it is an international literary journal of approximately 50% English speakers and 50% works in translation - mainly Russian translations in this edition). Spent time catching up with friends I met on SLS and pitching the Review to slyly glimpsing festival-wanderers.

Clearly, I cannot disentangle myself.

But this real world is also much different than the delusion of the White Nights. And are the people the same? Am I? And I miss it now, I do. And I don't know what to do.

The destabilizing force comes with reflection. Is time not enough? Distance? How far must I go - if I keep walking west, I will eventually end where I began. And then I anger myself and my preoccupation with things that happened, things that never were, things that were
only in Russia that I didn't even want, don't want now.

And I always feel as if I am outside: watching: waiting:

But the explanation always remains:
Only in Russia.

Friday, September 14, 2007


As when time stops. The distant chiming of the elevator
becomes more distant still. Writing as preoccupation in
suspended time floating from consciousness. Her voice
repeating as music (her medium) other words. Too similar
in the absence of delineated space. There are no boundaries
in the mind. Fewer or more between them?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a haunting.

“Seafood poisoning, a cigarette lit as the person is drifting off to sleep and that sets fire to the sheets, or, worse, to a woolen blanket; a slip in the shower - the back of the head - the bathroom door locked; a lightning bolt that splits in two a tree planted in a broad avenue, a tree which, as it falls, crushes or slices off the head of a passer-by, possibly a foreigner; dying in your socks, or at the barber’s, still wearing a voluminous smock, or in a whorehouse or at the dentist’s; or eating fish and getting a bone stuck in your throat, choking to death like a child whose mother isn’t there to save him by sticking a finger down his throat; or dying in the middle of shaving, with one cheek still covered in foam, half shaven for all eternity, unless someone notices and finishes the job off out of aesthetic pity; not to mention life’s most ignoble, hidden moments that people seldom mention once they are out of adolescence, simply because they no longer have an excuse to do so, although, of course, there are always those who insist on making jokes about them, never very funny jokes.”
-Javiér Marías, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

Monday, September 10, 2007


As we walk down Claremont, my friend N. tells me that "Petersburg" is a very green word to him; and I see this, I do. But I am also unable to disassociate this seeing from my experiencing: St. Petersburg is a very dark city (though N. then adds that New York is a very black word to him). There are no trees, it is a gray forest of cement. Intriguing, yet. The character fits, of course, the quiet strength of the people and their melancholy history. It is as if stepping into a time capsule, with the neurotic paroxysm of Time's Square dropped down in the middle.

"Drink today, you won't buy a house. Don't drink today, you won't buy a house"

This is what Andre Zorin told us in our Untranslateable Russia lecture, the one where I could hardly hear what he was saying through his mumbling and tried desperately not to fall asleep. Though afterward I reported enthusiastically to others that it was very interesting, very good.

I agree with N., and don't have the heart to explain to him fully the contradiction. Maybe it's the glow, the never-ending days, that lend it an intriguing brilliance amidst the gloom. And after you have left you say "Ah! That was what it looked like all along!"

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Now Playing on Broadway:

Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!

A man walks holding a bible in his right hand, raised next to his face. He is speaking loudly; not quite yelling, but loud enough.

Walking quickly, my three friends and I get caught behind a huge group of women. When we speed up and slip to the side of the sidewalk to go around them, A explains:

we were trying to avoid the cigarettes and heels

A few days ago I almost stepped on a dead mouse in one of those small island parks here in the city. The keyword is almost. I saw it just in time, and was relieved that this time, in this place, it was a mouse. But this in no way excludes other, more disturbing things that are seen here.

At a farmers market in Union Square, A. and I admired artwork that we could not afford. My favorite was a diorama containing a dolls head with a large button over the mouth; I wanted to look at it longer, but A. walked away. Why do these moments always pass too quickly?
There must be a reason for this discomfort

Sunday, September 2, 2007

To intertwine.

This is an attempt at cohesion.

A gathering up and into.

Both sides expanding; differently.

This side of my mind breathes through creation, opening and releasing.

The other breathes most literally, an increased oxygen intake through cardiovascular respiration brought on by sustained movement, opening and releasing.

Can I describe the one at the same time as describing the other?

Saturday, September 1, 2007


This only needs to be said once, in a loud, exuberant voice:


Laugh, scream, yell, jump for joy.
More to follow later.