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Prologue! !

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The%past%rattles%through%my%consciousness%like%so%many%trains%running%on%errant%schedules.%They% arrive%unbidden,%coupled%together%by%association.%I%step%in%and%am%carried%back.%And%often%I%take% notes,%observing%how%it%was%and%how%I%felt,%but%from%a%new%vantage%point.%Sometimes%the% journey%I’m%taking%is%to%a%past%that%was%originally%described%to%me%by%others,%and%then%recalled%or% recreated%from%those%descriptions.%The%past%is%shaped%and%reshaped%in%ways%that%can’t%be% described%as%true—something%of%which%I’m%episodically%reminded%by%the%glances%and%outright% corrections%that%my%versions%of%events%draw%from%others.%Yet%the%past%is%my%subject—my%past,% true%for%me%at%any%moment%and%yet%subject%to%reconsideration%as%life%shifts%my%view%of%it.%% % In%the%summer%of%1960,%I%went%with%my%family%to%Normandy%to%visit%the%scenes%of%the%DYDay% landing%and%its%aftermath.%My%father%played%a%role%in%planning%the%invasion:%his%job%as%a%photo% interpreter%was%to%lay%out%for%the%invaders%what%they%could%expect%to%encounter,%where%trucks,% tanks,%and%gun%emplacements%were%hidden—a%moving%landscape,%yet%fixed%enough%to%be% charted.%In%his%twiceYdaily%letters%to%my%mother%from%London,%he%writes%only%that%“I’m%working% here,”%then%goes%on%to%describe%everything%else.%As%a%result,%he%comes%across%as%a%bon%vivant,% and%no%sense%of%his%actual%work%surfaces,%since%it%couldn’t.%It%was%clear%to%me,%being%with%him,% that%the%places%meant%a%great%deal%to%him—Omaha%Beach%itself%and%the%Normandy%coast%and% towns.%He%rarely%spoke%about%the%war,%but%once%told%me%that%he%was%very%good%at%what%he%did.%% % My%father%and%grandfather%saw%and%lived%so%much.%“Omaha%Beach”%is%drawn%from%my%own%life,% but%it%also%speaks%of%them%and%their%experiences.%If%I%am%my%own%best%subject,%as%I%write%in%“Sort% of%a%Memoir,”%the%lives%we%live%add%up%to%what%Zen%suggests%is%a%world%that’s%uniquely%ours,%but% consists%equally%of%everyone%and%everything%known,%set%down%and%given%back,%in%some%sense,% although%it%can%never%really%be%fully%shared,%can%it?%Writer%that%I%am,%I%can’t%help%but%try.%% % 31%December%2014,%Berkeley%


Omaha!Beach! % A%bedroll%out%on%the%sidewalk,%a%drunk% asleep,%my%father%noted,%building%smashed,% my%mother%jarred%awake,%the%Atlantic% between%them.%“Something%has%happened%to%George!% But%he’s%okay!”%her%story%repeated—% how%she%knew,%how%knowing%was%a%curse:% what%if%someday%he%were%dead?%She%would%know.% This%was%her%fear,%that%her%vaunted%sixth%sense% would%betray%her.%The%dead%make%that%last%call,% I%know,%like%my%late%friend,%gone%at%thirty.% Her%story%ended%happily%for%us—% our%lives%continued%with%the%survivor’s—% so%naturally%I%liked%the%story.% Where%would%I%be%otherwise?%Not%here.% % Blois! I%was%twelve%when%we%went%to%Normandy,% saw%Omaha%Beach,%Blois’%thriceYcurved%stairway,% ate%a%sevenYcourse%meal,%or%so%it%seemed,% with%a%family%my%grandfather%knew,%bourgeois.% The%old%lady,%lost%in%her%reverie,% wasn’t%lost%on%me.%Even%then%I%knew% where%memory%can%take%you.%It%must%be% some%remnant%of%my%past,%my%own%sixth%sense,% aware%what%burns%in%us,%what%flows—fire% or%river,%call%it%what%you%will.%He%was% manifestly%there,%Joe,%the%grandfather% who%waltzed%through%France%twice,%remembered%fondly.% This%was%my%twelveYyearYold%version;%the%truth% is%more%complicated,%or%maybe%not.% % Credos! In%war,%tomorrow%is%all%that%matters—% the%day%after%will%take%care%of%itself.% I%can’t%say%this%was%my%father’s%credo.% Perhaps%it%was%“live%for%the%day,”%but%that% lacks%his%optimism,%always%believing% that%he’d%manage%to%survive,%looked%out%for,% although%for%what%reason,%who%knew?%The%gods% were%not%to%be%questioned.%Just%go%with%it.% In%peace,%today%matters%more,%so%begin% by%setting%aside%whatever%can%be—% not%dust%from%the%road%but%motes%in%the%eye% that%blind%us%to%another’s%unfolding.% Living%in%time,%we%prove%as%mutable% as%Heraclitus’%river:%not%the%same.%


Reveries! Sometimes%the%wind%blows%the%curtains%outward% and%the%reveries%begin:%how%it%was,% how%it%was%whether%it%proved%false%or%true.% It%all%comes%back,%mocking%those%distinctions.% I%have%them%too.%Don’t%think%I%can%forget!% Did%my%grandfather?%Love%leaves%its%traces.% There%is%no%black%and%white,%to%me,%just%was,% just%was%with%its%smells,%sounds,%tactility—% its%fecundity%fulfilled%and%thwarted.% Reveries%leave%us%afloat,%not%yet%sunk% beneath%the%waves%with%no%apparent%sign% of%wreckage,%no%survivors,%a%true%end% or%so%it%seems,%yet%always%the%debris% washes%up,%bleached,%takes%on%a%new%meaning.% %

% % Embrace! The%trajectories%of%the%lives%we%lead% embrace%like%lovers%and%then%sometimes%don’t,% ripped%from%each%other’s%arms,%perhaps,%or%else% sacrificed%to%some%higher%truth%and%lost% to%another%for%a%time.%No%matter% how%long%or%short%it%proves%to%be,%point%is% we%unfold%along%with%life,%cannot%know.% Our%folly%is%to%pretend%to%ourselves% we%do,%pretend%we%are%exempt%from%this.% The%glancing%blows%we%suffer%in%consequence% are%from%the%outset%almost%guaranteed,% yet%we%persist,%%driven%on%by%longing.% Persevere!%This%is%our%human%fate.% There’s%no%way%to%know%except%to%embrace.% %


Practice! “Won’t%repeat%them,”%I%was%told,%yet%mistakes,% like%the%rest,%are%never%quite%the%same% from%one%to%the%next.%We%blunder%anew.% Pointless%to%think%we%won’t,%although%we%do.% Life%admits%no%duality.%Mistakes% cohabit%with%perfection.%The%pure% lie%down%in%the%mud,%snort%and%roll%around% like%the%animals%they%are,%enlightened% for%blazing%moments%and%then%not%at%all.% When%you%ruled%progress%out,%I%read,%“Just%sit!”% “Just%sit!”%is%all%there%is.%Mind%lands%on%walls,% delusions%persist:%some%call%this%practice.% As%destiny%shapes%us%haphazardly,% don’t%expect%error%not%to%follow%suit.% % Hints! Signs%abound.%We%wonder%which%pertain%to%us.% We%know%the%telltale%ones%our%bodies%make,% stigmata%of%desire,%clear%or%hidden.% The%god%Eros%is%indiscriminate% and%we%have%only%hints%of%what%we%seek.% Mars%too%may%be%like%this,%strewing%the%beach% with%false%hopes,%each%abandoned%with%a%cry% amid%rattling%of%guns,%cannon%fire.% Alone%within%the%crowd,%they%beg%the%god% to%spare%them.%Thus%the%usual%process% is%narrowed%to%the%depth%of%a%beachhead,% and%when%it’s%attained,%there’s%no%turning%back—% those%who%live%press%on.%Above%the%beach% the%luckless%dead%lie%buried%in%long%rows.% % Curlews! Once%Karen%said,%“What%the%gods%give%us% cannot%be%rejected,%being%their%gifts.”% I%believe%we%have%some%hand%in%our%fate,% choosing%its%broad%outlines.%Perhaps%karma% does%this%for%us,%so%eventually%we% are%content%to%be,%accepting%as%given% life’s%real%nature%and%our%place%within%it.% Moving%in%and%out%with%the%tide,%curlews% haunt%the%beach,%not%questioning%its%bounty.% They%find%sustenance%with%alacrity% and%did%so%even%then,%despite%the%dead—% the%last%living%things%glanced%by%some%of%them.% We%often%affirm%how%lucky%we%are.% That%luck%begins%with%being%here%at%all.%% %


Sort!of!a!Memoir! %

! ! 3!January!2014! % Stendhal%uses%three%different%memoirYwriting%strategies:%in&media&res,%placing%the%reader%at% some%middle%point%in%the%life%from%which%the%years%that%led%up%to%it%are%recounted;%starting%from% childhood,%which%Stendhal%characteristically%uses%to%show%a%certain%authorial%selfYconsistency;% and%the%comingYofYage%recapitulation%that%gets%the%hero%from%mere%youth%to%the%beginning%of% maturity.%The%first%two%can%be%found%in%his%Memories&of&Egotism%and%Henri&Brulard,%and%the%third% in%the%opening%chapter%of%his%great%last%novel,%The&Charterhouse&of&Parma.% % Stendhal%wrote%Memories&of&Egotism%10%years%after%meeting%the%object%of%fixation%it%depicts.%She% dies%in%between,%he%eventually%reveals,%but%his%obsession%with%her%persists.%I%can%understand%this.% The%book%closes%with%an%account%of%an%assignation%that%he%and%a%friend%have%with%two%English% prostitutes.%Bringing%a%repast%of%food%and%wine%along,%they%make%a%party%of%it%and%the%women%are% charmed—their%English%clients%are%not%as%thoughtful.%Stendhal%praises%their%chestnut%hair,%his% spirits%momentarily%recovered.%The%impression%he%leaves%us%with%is%of%a%man%who%is%haunted%by% his%great%love%and%yet%clearly%and%observantly%in%the%world.%And%despite%his%faithfully%rendered% dayYtoYday%activities%and%distractions,%we%never%doubt%his%singleYminded%devotion%to%her.%


4!January!2014! ! The%year%after%I%got%my%BA,%I%worked%at%the%oldest%private%library%west%of%the%Mississippi,%as%it% styled%itself.%My%colleagues%were%older%women,%like%characters%from%a%Tennessee%Williams%play,%I% thought%at%the%time.%The%men%among%the%couponYclipping%oldYmoney%patrons%were%often%drunk% after%lunch,%smelling%of%onions%and%alcohol.%I%couldn’t%help%but%take%these%things%in.%Cautionary% tales%are%useful%when%you’re%young,%showing%you%what%to%avoid.%I%remember%thinking%this%later% when,%having%lunch%with%colleague,%I%saw%two%old%businessmen%sitting%near%us,%both%veritable% rhinoceroses%in%appearance%owing%to%decades%of%eating%the%same%fare%we%were%consuming.%% % The%most%beneficial%work%I%did%between%undergraduate%and%graduate%school%was%as%a%termY paper%ghostwriter.%To%make%a%decent%hourly%rate,%I%had%to%write%every%paper%in%six%hours%or%less,% so%I%developed%a%method%and%also%honed%my%writing%to%the%bone.%In%one%case,%I%had%to%write%five% papers%on%different%topics%for%the%same%class,%so%I%varied%my%tone.%Every%paper%got%an%A%from% whoever%was%grading%them%at%Stanford.%When,%six%weeks%into%the%job,%I%was%offered%work%at%an% architecture%firm,%I%quit.%It%turned%out%I%was%the%ghostwriting%shop’s%only%writer,%and%they%closed% down%after%I%left.%The%benefit%for%me%was%that%I%lost%my%awe%of%academia,%or%whatever%you%call%it,% and%gained%the%ability%to%write%quickly%on%any%topic%handed%me.%That’s%served%me%well%ever%since.%% % My%method%was%straightforward.%I%found%a%general%source%that%gave%me%the%basic%plot.%Volumes% of%the%1920sYera%Encyclopedia&Britannica,%on%which%Wikipedia%is%supposedly%based,%were%great% for%this.%Then%I%would%find%two%or%three%plausible%current%sources,%quickly%absorb%their%theses% and%grab%some%quotes%and%added%references—sometimes%found%near%them%in%the%stacks,%which% is%not%something%that%could%happen%easily%today.%Then%I%would%write.%It%helped%that%I’m%a%fast% and%accurate%typist.%I%never%polished%the%papers%too%thoroughly,%which%lent%them%authenticity.%% % The%termYpaper%mill’s%one%sop%to%ethics%was%to%make%the%students%propose%their%own%theses.% This%was%a%mistake—they%were%often%completely%wrong%and%I%would%have%to%argue%in%the% negative,%since%I%couldn’t%change%the%thesis.%This%I%did%with%evident%success:%onYtheYjob%rhetoric.%% % Later! ! To%want%to%live%parallel%lives%is%in%keeping%with%our%human%sense%of%self.%We%embody%different% roles%without%much%difficulty,%navigating%life’s%predictable%contexts%in%a%manner%that%more%or%less% meets%each%one’s%expectations,%so%it%seems%reasonable%to%push%this%idea%further.%One%problem% we%encounter%is%the%inelastic%nature%of%time.%It’s%true%that%time%slows%down%in%certain%situations,% but%this%is%not%the%same%as%having%more%of%it%at%your%disposal.%% % We%often%push%the%idea%further%because%we%want%our%lives%to%be%bigger%or%fuller%than%they%seem.% The%opportunities%to%do%so%arise%with%what%appears%to%be%uncannily%good%timing.%If%they%didn’t,% they%would%be%easier%to%resist.%My%own%experience%suggests%that%our%ability%to%lead%parallel%lives% is%limited.%What%we%really%want%is%separate%lives—a%life%here,%a%life%there,%with%time%and%space% between%them.%That%would%really%be%ideal,%not%to%say%convenient.%Some%reputedly%arrange%their% lives%in%this%manner,%but%I’ve%never%been%able%to%pull%it%off.%If%we’re%honest%about%it,%what%we% really%want%is%a%life%that’s%both%fluid%and%frictionless.%We%want%the%usual%boundaries%to%come% down.%It’s%a%child’s%view%of%things,%I%think,%in%which%“choosing%sides”%is%all%part%of%the%game.%To%a% child,%the%point%of%living%is%to%play,%alone%or%with%others.%We%go%to%school,%of%course,%and%clean% our%rooms,%but%our%hearts%long%to%make%up%stories%or%get%a%scene%going.%And%this%persists.%%


! ! Separately% % My%daughter%came%over%this%evening%after%writing%me%a%long%note%in%answer%to%a%question%about% the%impact%of%travel%that%I’d%posed%the%night%before:%How%does%it%affect%her?%We%talked%a%bit% more%about%it.%I%said%that%place%to%me%is%a%totality—conveyed%in%talk%and%writing,%as%well%as% experienced%directly—of%how%specific%things%look%and%feel,%and%are%cherished,%neglected,%or% reshaped,%and%how%people%are%(or%were),%as%we%experience%(or%experienced)%them%there.%% % Over%the%course%of%my%life,%I’ve%seen%a%great%many%places,%uniquely%themselves%in%a%way%that%felt% intrinsic,%become%“like%the%rest.”%As%business%and%tourism%continue%to%search%for%stillYdistinctive% places,%I%imagine%they%are%as%endangered%now%as%the%elephants%that%roam%the%African%plain.%%% % 5!January!2014% % While%an%element%of%bossiness%floats%through%life,%mandatory%is%a%broad,%resistible%category%for% me,%taking%in%other%people’s%ideas%of%how%I%should%spend%my%time%and%even%the%consequences%of% my%earlier,%positive%decisions%to%attend%parties,%openings,%concerts,%dinners,%and%other%events.% Travel%also%creates%a%sense%of%dread%as%the%date%of%departure%looms,%not%out%of%any%fear%of% traveling,%but%from%a%countervailing%desire%to%stay%home.%Knowing%that%I%will%invariably%resist,%I% try%to%will%myself%through%it.%I%think%this%resistance,%this%sense%of%dread,%relates%to%the%desire%to% lead%parallel%lives:%events%seem%appealing%in%prospect,%and%are%of%course%the%source%of%all%that%we% draw%on%in%retrospect,%but%we%have%to%live%through%them,%experience%them,%to%gain%it.%Despite% their%allure,%there%are%times%when%we’d%prefer%that%someone%else%went%and%did%the%living%for%us.% (I%believe%V.S.%Pritchett%made%this%same%point%about%writers%in%general—their%bifurcated%lives.)% % At%the%urging%of%a%colleague,%I%once%took%the%MeyersYBriggs%personality%test,%learning%that%I’m%an% INFJ,%the%least%numerous%of%its%types.%One%trait%was%familiar:%craves%company%and%then%flees%it% unexpectedly.%That’s%not%resistance,%I%thought%when%I%read%it;%it’s%selfYpreservation.%%%


As%a%child%in%Singapore,%I%used%to%move%through%the%adultYfilled%garden%of%my%parents’%parties.%I% was%small%for%my%age%and%my%vantage%point%was%low%enough%that%the%adults’%legs%were%like%tree% trunks,%their%upper%torsos%like%spreading%branches.%Their%attention%meanwhile%was%at%eye%level.%% % (When%I%think%of%these%parties,%I%think%of%the%women%in%their%long%dresses,%the%men%in%their%white% suits%and%uniforms,%and%the%Chinese%lanterns%aglow,%strung%across%the%garden.%Once%I%talked%an% intoxicated%RAF%pilot%into%giving%me%his%wings.%To%my%dismay,%he%came%sheepishly%back%the%next% day%to%reclaim%them.%I%think%my%mother%explained%to%me%that%he%couldn’t%fly%without%them.)% % Nowadays%at%parties%I%try%to%float%in%and%out,%departing%as%quietly%(and%quickly)%as%possible.%This%is% in%no%way%a%comment%on%the%parties%themselves,%which%are%perfectly%fine.%% % Separately! % Each%person’s%nature%is%distinct%from%every%other’s,%yet%we%generalize%constantly%about%how% people%fall%into%categories%and%how%the%categories%differ.%These%generalizations%are%both%true% and%false.%Since%we%chalk%a%lot%of%behavior%up%to%them,%believing%in%their%truth%must%be%part%of% our%socialYnavigating%apparatus,%a%heuristic%that%keeps%us%from%stopping%every%five%minutes%to% figure%out%what%just%happened.%% % To%me%(and%also%to%Borges,%I%read%recently),%distinctiveness%is%all,%especially%in%the%closer% relationships.%The%beloved%one%has%these%specific%qualities%of%self,%and%every%time%I%catch%a% glimpse%of%her,%I’m%reminded%of%every%other%time%these%qualities%were%evident.%The%thread%of%her% distinctiveness%is%visible%whenever%it%appears.%I%see%it%and%remember,%“You%aren’t%like%anyone% else.”%The%best%gift%of%self%that%we%can%give%each%other%is%our%distinctiveness.%% % Later! % I%read—V.S.%Pritchett%via%Russell%Banks—that%death%is%a%mark%of%seriousness%in%literature.%It%is%the% “great%matter”%according%to%the%Buddhists.%I%believe%they’re%talking%about%our%coming%to%grips% with%mortality,%a%dance%that%began%for%me%when%I%first%realized%that%I%would%die.%I%was%14—pretty% far%along,%that%is,%before%the%“terror%of%our%situation,”%as%Gurdjieff%put%it,%became%real%for%me.% How%one%contends%with%death—that%is,%with%the%unavoidable%fact%of%it—varies%with%one’s%age.%At% my%age,%the%imagined%perils%of%getting%older%are%more%dreaded%than%death%itself,%which%can%start% to%look%like%a%relief.%(Borges%notes%this,%saying%that%the%old%get%impatient%for%it.%Recently,%I%stood% and%watched%an%aged%neighbor%hobbling—there’s%no%other%word%for%it—to%her%front%door,%a%task% that%for%her%has%become%Herculean,%like%climbing%the%Alps.%I%wanted%to%rush%over,%but%sensed%that% this%would%be%unwelcome,%that%each%one%has%her%Alps%to%climb,%that%climbing%them%is%the%point.)% % Uchimaya%Kishio,%a%20thYcentury%commentator%on%the%Soto%Zen%of%Eihei%Dōgen%(1200Y1253%ad)% explained%what%mind%means%in%Zen.%Our%world,%Uchimaya%wrote,%lives%and%dies%with%us.%Mind%is% everything%that%ever%existed%for%us,%accumulated%across%our%lifetime.%No%one%else%can%experience% it%as%we%did,%so%reading%it%written%out%is%like%encountering%the%residue%of%the%spray%on%a%seaYfacing% window%in%some%cottage%we%happen%to%visit.%You%can%get%a%sense%of%the%pounding%waves%or%the% way%the%sea%smells%at%a%certain%distance,%but%how%it%was,%beyond%these%images,%and%what%it% meant%to%someone%else,%is%limited%by%the%medium,%the%intent,%and%the%impenetrable%boundary% between%the%other’s%world%and%yours.%A%memoir,%like%poetry,%tries%to%bridge%this%distance.% %


Is%love%not%also%a%mark%of%seriousness?%Love%involves%play,%but%play%takes%in%death%as%well,%long% before%we%understand%that%death%applies%to%us.%From%the%start,%love%is%a%serious%game:%our%life% depends%on%it.%It%exposes%us%to%the%perils%of%misunderstanding%and%the%limits%of%our%ability%to% shape%events%to%suit%our%desires.%It%plunges%us%into%unhappiness,%almost%from%the%outset.%% % Still!later! % It’s%characteristic%of%me%to%play%the%same%music%again%and%again.%Right%now,%it’s%Angela%Hewitt’s% version%of%Bach’s%Well>tempered&Clavier,%especially%the%second%half%of%notebook%one.%Before% that,%my%favorite%was%Keith%Jarrett’s%recording%of%some%of%Handel’s%harpsichord%suites.%My%life%is% organized%in%a%habitual%way,%so%that%even%my%variants%from%habit%soon%become%habitual.%% % Friends%occasionally%express%amazement%at%the%way%I%cram%culture%into%short%trips,%but%this%too%is% a%habit.%I%pack%my%days%with%activity%because%otherwise%I’d%get%depressed.%When%this%happens,%I% become%lethargic—when%I’m%really%depressed,%I%hardly%stir,%which%is%difficult%to%pull%off%when% traveling,%as%everyone%wants%you%to%circulate%and%of%course%you%have%to%get%up%and%go%out%to%eat.%% %

% % My%life%was%organized%for%me%very%early%on.%Whenever%a%structure%is%provided,%I%fall%right%in%with% it.%Where%it%isn’t,%I%have%to%create%one—a%slow,%trialYandYerror%process.%Weaving,%which%I%do%on% most%Saturday%mornings,%is%an%example%of%success%in%this%arena.%I%have%to%extend%it,%I%tell%myself,% thinking%of%everything%that%isn’t%getting%done,%isn’t%habitual,%and%needs%to%be—an%old,%old%story.% % One%characteristic%of%contemporary%life%is%that%its%disruptions%erode%my%habits.%Bookstores% where%I%used%to%go%have%vanished.%Music%arrives%in%ways%I%can’t%fully%fathom%(and%most%of%it%isn’t% the%music%I%want).%I%have%to%decide%and%decide%again%which%parts%of%“the%new”%really%pertain— and%learn%and%relearn%how%to%navigate%the%subtle%ways%the%everyday%is%altered%over%time.% % % %


Return! ! François,%duc%de%la%Rochefoucauld%is%another%great%French%commentator%on%intimate%life% between%men%and%women.%His%own%experience%of%women%was%one%disaster%after%another,%but% then%he%finally%met%one%smart%enough%to%make%a%friend%of%him,%not%a%lover—or%not%purely%one.%% % If%lovemaking%is%a%kind%of%conversation%(between%two%souls,%Borges%asserts,%quoting%another% poet),%why%does%it%always%blow%up?%Is%there%a%way%to%sustain%it?%These%are%the%questions%that% arise.%It%should%be%simpler,%but%both%parties%have%to%see%it%that%way%first.%% % The%one%psychic%I%know%told%me%that%relationships%between%men%and%women%have%children%as% their%trajectory%when%fecundity%is%in%the%picture.%Children%are%where%it%wants%to%go,%whatever%the% conscious%feelings%of%the%participants%may%be.%I%think%there’s%some%truth%to%this,%based%on%my% own%experience.%Getting%older%is%therefore%potentially%liberating,%freeing%relationships%to%take% other%directions.%(When%I%look%back%at%them,%I%wish%they’d%been%friendships%solely,%and%I%don’t.% What%I%really%wish%is%for%friendships%to%emerge%that%preserve%their%intimacy%in%new%forms.%Later% in%life,%possibly,%something%like%this%can%be%regained,%but%I%don’t%know%yet.%What%I%do%know%is%that% love%can%emerge%within%friendship,%and%sometimes%does.%The%reverse%surely%takes%time%and% commitment—you%each%have%to%become%someone%else%to%the%other,%yet%still%close.%Then%a%true% friendship%may%finally%emerge.%Whether%it’s%materially%different%than%it%might%have%been%had%you% never%become%lovers%is%a%question%that%can’t%be%resolved.%It’s%one%of%love’s%questions,%however.)% % Separately! ! When%I%read%Claudio%Naranjo’s%Enneagram&Structures,%I%saw%that%my%enneagram%number%is% seven.%I%thought%I%was%a%five%or%a%nine,%but%he%showed%me%that%I’m%a%seven%through%and%through.% The%flaws%of%this%character%type—my%character%type—are%to%want%to%live%anywhere%but%in%the% present%(and%especially%to%live%in%the%future),%to%be%dependent%on%personal%charm%to%dodge%the% bullets%of%interpersonal%relationships,%and%(a%related%trait)%to%avoid%anything%remotely%painful.%% % (I%told%a%friend%recently%that%Naranjo%and%A.H.%Almaas%have%written%the%most%useful%books%on%the% enneagram—complementary%books%that%reflect%their%respective%involvement%with%Oscar%Ichazo,% with%whom%Naranjo%studied%at%Arica,%Chile%when%Ichazo%expounded%on%the%enneagram.%The%book% of%the%Jesuit%Don%Riso%is%good%if%you%know%your%type,%but%less%helpful%if%you%don’t.%The%several% books%of%Helen%Palmer%are%useless%although%people%have%said%that%her%workshops%were%good.)% % 6!January!2014! % Some%time%ago,%I%dreamt%I%was%walking%in%the%middle%of%a%curving,%residential%London%street,%the% kind%that’s%lined%with%shade%trees%and%row%houses.%There%was%no%traffic.%Looking%down,%I%saw%a% thin%gold%ribbon%embedded%in%the%pavement.%I%picked%it%up.%In%darkYblue%letters%against%the%gold,% it%read,%“You%are%an%editor.”%I%didn’t%argue.%It%also%made%me%realize%that%I’m%a%writer%of%a%specific% type.%I%write%well,%and%this%ability%has%served%me%my%whole%career,%but%I%don’t%think%I’m%capable% of%writing%anything%longer%than%a%chapter,%and%most%of%what%I%write%is%much%shorter.%When%I%look% at%what%I’ve%written,%I%see%a%miniaturist,%a%belletrist.%This%means%that%I%have%to%treat%many%topics% as%fragments,%if%I%can%treat%them%at%all,%while%others%are%perfectly%suited%to%their%small%frame.% ! % %


The%diary%form%of%this%“Sort%of%a%Memoir”%exemplifies%how%I%drag%content%onto%the%page.%It% reflects%my%lifelong%tendency%to%plunge%in%without%much%if%any%prior%design%beyond%an%intuition% of%what%might%emerge.%(Fiction%is%much%harder,%perhaps%because%I%don’t%really%believe%in%it.%The% fiction%I%enjoy%clearly%emerges%from%life%experience,%projected%on%to%the%subject,%as%with% Penelope%Fitzgerald’s%The&Blue&Flower.%The%book%is%about%Novalis,%but%with%a%sensibility%honed%by% her%own%life—a%sensibility%with%which%Novalis%resonated.%She%depicts%the%poet%as%a%human%being% whose%Bildungsroman%falters%on%the%rocks%of%fate,%time,%circumstance—all%that%conspires%to% keep%the%things%life%seems%to%promise%him%from%happening.%For%Fitzgerald,%the%big%event—the% lucky%break—was%to%live%on%to%write,%to%live%out%and%fulfill%her%destiny.%It’s%no%small%thing,%shared% with%Lampedusa,%although%he%died%without%knowing%it,%and%Stendhal,%writing%on%despite%every% indication%of%a%failed%life.%Borges’%modesty,%his%superstitious%wariness%of%hubris,%reflects%his% knowledge%that%luck%is%luck,%but%that%in%the%end,%we%have%to%write,%“just%write”—and%keep%on% writing,%because,%as%with%fishing,%something%good%may%eventually%strike.%It’s%the%only%way.)% %

% % (In%the%photo%above,%taken%by%my%daughter,%I’m%reading%for%the%first%time%and%with%astonishment% the%poems%of%Wallace%Stevens,%in%the%house%of%Simone%and%John%Opalak,%30%minutes%by%car%from% Bayonne,%France—the%house%where%I%started%“The%Barn%Partitas,”%the%sonnet%series%collected%in% Common&Place&6.%The%poem%that%particularly%caught%my%eye%was%“Peter%Quince%at%the%Clavier.”% On%that%same%trip,%at%Daunt’s%in%London,%I%believe,%I%bought%a%copy%of%Sylvia%Plath’s%original%edit% of%Ariel,%with%its%remarkable%opening%poem,%the%first%line%of%which%made%me%wonder%at%the%depth% of%her%suicidal%depression,%the%terrible%grip%of%ego%and%narcissistic%grief%and%rage,%which%I’ve%also% experienced%in%a%greatly%reduced%form,%sufficient%to%understand%it%and%eventually%get%through%it,% see%it%for%what%it%is—for%which%thanks%especially%to%A.H.%Almaas,%whose%book%The&Point&of& Existence,%while%coy%about%his%patented%path%to%enlightenment,%is%very%clear%about%the%territory% of%ego%and%narcissistic%grief,%how%it%appears%to%be%the%real%and%telling%thing,%but%is%not.)%


While%I%occasionally%have%ideas%for%stories,%I%can’t%see%where%a%story%should%go%next.%And%where%it% usually%goes%is%a%blind%alley,%which%is%frustrating.%I%feel%that%my%story%has%been%hijacked,%that%its% protagonists%wouldn’t%go%there,%and%yet%clearly%I%took%them%in%that%direction.%It%takes%more%work,% in%other%words,%than%I’ve%been%prepared%to%give,%so%hats%off%to%the%real%writers%of%fiction!% % Separately!% % What%are%my%actual%topics?%They%probably%begin%and%end%with%me.%As%Christopher%Isherwood%put% it,%“I%am%a%Camera,”%but%the%camera%is%holographic.%My%topics%are%meaningful%to%me,%resonant.% This%doesn’t%mean%that%other%topics%don’t%figure,%but%how%to%work%them%in?%When%I%think%of% another’s%distinctiveness,%I%could%cite%the%most%specific%details.%In%fiction,%this%might%be%useful,% but%in%other%kinds%of%writing,%even%poetry,%it%feels%gratuitous%and%indiscreet.%Some%of%my%photoY collages%get%into%this%territory.%Art%and%fiction%blur%identity%or%subsume%it%to%make%a%different% point:%not%her%but%this.%A%fictional%narrative%could%be%useful,%but%my%version%of%reality%has%been% challenged%often%enough%to%make%me%wonder,%with%Hayden%White,%if%every%narrative%isn’t% fictive?%Certainly%every%narrative%is%subjective.%(As%White%notes,%none%of%them%are%“true.”)% % Also!separately! % In%2005,%a%Sephardic%friend%in%Tokyo%suggested%that%my%father’s%family%was%Sephardic.%I%don’t% know%if%it’s%true,%but%certain%things%argue%for%it.%My%surname%derives%from%a%city,%which%is%how% the%Sephardim%named%themselves.%(An%artist%friend%in%San%Francisco%also%noted%this,%but%I%didn’t% know%the%history%of%Jewish%migrations%in%Europe%well%enough%to%take%her%remark%to%heart.)% Parma%had%a%large%Sephardic%community,%granted%the%freedom%of%the%city%but%then%attacked% invidiously,%enviously,%by%others.%History%suggests%that%my%family,%who%were%bookbinders,%part%of% the%burgeoning%printer%trade%that%swept%north%and%south%in%Europe,%left%Parma%in%the%1560s,% traveling%first%to%Germany%and%then%splitting%up,%some%going%to%Denmark%and%Norway,%and%others% to%Finland.%The%family%bible%records%that%“they%were%bookbinders,%arriving%in%Odense%in%1620.”% Everyone%after%them%is%named.%My%sister%and%I%always%thought%this%was%strange.%I%read%an%essay% by%Peter%Drucker,%written%toward%the%end%of%his%life,%on%the%history%of%printing,%a%200Yyear% trajectory.%My%family%headed%north%because%the%jobs%were%there—the%technology%was%taking% hold,%far%from%major%printing%centers%like%Parma.%They%came%as%experts.%When%they%got%there,%I% imagine%they%said,%“Hello,%we’re%Italian.%You’re%Lutheran?%What%a%coincidence.%So%are%we.”%When% I%look%at%my%family%in%Norway,%some%look%entirely%Nordic,%but%others%look%like%the%portraits%of% Modigliani—faces%that%could%be%from%Italy%or%Andalusia,%elongated%by%Nordic%intermarriage.%%% % My%daughter%lived%for%almost%three%years%in%the%Alpujarra,%the%region%of%mountain%towns%and% valleys%that%extends%south%from%the%Sierra%Nevada%Mountains%behind%Granada.%When%I%visited% her%there,%I%had%an%impulse%to%settle.%I%love%Madrid,%a%more%likely%destination,%but%something% about%the%place%felt%like%home.%If%true,%this%must%be%a%genetic%memory.%Is%that%possible?%% % 12!January!2014%% % A%friend%posted%a%short%essay%asserting%that%a%memoir%isn’t%really%an%autobiography.%Her%real% point%was%that%you%shouldn’t%expect%accuracy%from%a%memoir.%Nabokov%also%made%this%point,% revising%Speak,&Memory%after%his%sisters%complained%about%certain%“facts.”%(“We%were&too%in% Nice,”%they%complained.)%Reviewers%often%complain%that%memoirs%are%“unreliable,”%that%other% evidence%contradicts%them.%But%life%happens%in%real%time.%No%one%sees%things%the%same%way.%


19!January!2014% % One%morning%I%visited%a%close%friend%of%longstanding%who’s%being%treated%for%a%serious%illness.%It% took%a%toll%on%him,%from%which%he’s%gradually%recovering.%Observing%that%his%life%has%become% more%bounded,%he%said%he%wanted%to%find%things%to%do%that%fit%this%new%reality.%(Almost%a%year% later,%I’m%happy%to%report%that%he’s%back%on%the%circuit.%Habits%of%a%lifetime%are%hard%to%break.)% Weaving,%which%I’ve%done%for%several%years,%is%an%example%of%what%he%meant.%I%understood— many%of%the%things%I%do%are%essentially%domestic%arts.%(My%character%is%phlegmatic,%although% leavened%with%sanguinity.%This—the%temperaments—is%yet%another%means%of%characterizing%our% species,%the%third%I’ve%mentioned%here.%I%wrote%a%sonnet%about%mine%in%“The%Barn%Partitas,”% mocking%my%tendency%to%wait%passively%and%contemplate%life%more%than%live%it.%This%is%true%and% not%true,%of%course—a%phlegmatic%temperament%tolerates%contemplation%more%readily%than% other%types,%producing%insights%that%are%mixed%with%a%healthy%dose%of%blankness.%Yet%there’s% something%crocodileYlike%about%my%type,%springing%into%action%when%inspiration%finally%strikes.)% % Later! % I%read%an%article%in%the%Financial&Times%about%longYlived%Japanese%men%and%women,%and%the% doctors%who%tend%to%them.%The%goal%is%a%good%quality%of%life,%said%one.%They%cited%a%term%that% roughly%translates%to%“live%life%to%the%fullest%and%then%die%fast.”%One%person’s%full%is%not%another’s,% I%thought.%When%I%sum%mine%up%at%the%end%of%the%year,%there’s%an%illusion%of%activity,%but%it% reflects%my%way%of%being%here%and%there,%trying%to%maintain%it.%It’s%a%comical%process,%especially%in% company.%Owing%to%its%repetitiveness,%the%everyday%is%supposed%to%have%less%resonance%for%us% than%unusual%events,%yet%I%crave%the%everyday.%Perhaps%its%resonance%for%me%is%a%deeper%one.% % Postscript! % The%original%version%of%“Sort%of%a%Memoir,”%written%a%year%ago,%ended%on%the%note%of%ambiguity% above.%In%editing%it,%I’ve%added%some%parenthetic%thoughts%that%arose%as%I%went%through%it.%Soon% I’ll%be%68—reaching%the%end%of%my%68th%year,%as%someone%else%reckons%age,%and%beginning%the% final%year%of%this%transitional%decade,%the%sixties,%which%is%arguably%the%vestibule%of%true%old%age.% In%Conversations,%edited%by%Osvaldo%Ferrari%(Seagull,%2014),%Borges%says%that%what%separates%us% from%other%living%things%is%our%foreknowledge%of%death.%I’m%not%sure%I%agree.%Late%in%2001,%I%saw%a% menagerie%shared%by%several%fish%restaurants%on%an%island%in%Hong%Kong%Bay.%It%was%immediately% clear%that%all%captive%life%there,%even%the%shrimp,%were%aware%of%their%doom.%What’s%terrible% about%capital%punishment%is%the%terror%that%attaches%to%it.%Death%within%life%has%its%terrors,%but% it’s%different,%I%think,%part%of%life’s%warp%and%weft,%the%last%part%that%we%reach%at%the%other%end,% inevitable%and%in%some%sense%welcome,%especially%in%the%case%of%a%long%life%well%lived.% % When%you’re%my%age,%you’re%more%aware%that%your%existence%is%no%longer%assured.%The%Zen%idea% of%“getting%breakfast%on%the%table”%becomes%more%useful%as%a%prod%to%go%on%living,%to%contribute.% “Who%else%would%do%it?”%the%old%monk%asked%Dōgen%when%he,%a%young%student%at%a%Chinese% monastery,%asked%if%the%man%wasn’t%too%old%to%be%gathering%firewood%on%a%hot%day.%This%is%what%I% do,%the%old%man%said—these%are%my%roles%in%life,%my%purposes,%how%I%pay%for%my%upbringing.%This% discipline%took%hold%in%me%early%on,%yet%I%still%accuse%myself%of%laziness.%It%seems%best%to%write%a% memoir%along%the%way,%I%think,%even%if%the%plot%has%further%twists%and%turns.%One%can%add%to%it% episodically,%if%there’s%more%to%get%down,%but%meanwhile%there’s%a%marker:%“Made%it%to%here.”% %


Miscellany! ! Looking%again%for%a%poem%written%long%ago,%apparently%lost,%I%found%typedYout%extracts%from% a%20Yyear%old%diary.%It’s%always%a%question%what%to%take%from%them,%but%I%agree%with%Nassim% Nicholas%Taleb’s%observation%that%a%diary’s%immediacy%gives%it%a%faithfulness%to%unfolding% events%that’s%missing%in%postYfacto%accounts.%We%live%among%others%who%may%observe,% comment,%write%down%what%they%saw%and%thought,%even%about%us,%and%perhaps%recount% some%of%it.%Diarists%do%this,%and%I’m%one%of%them.%I’ve%tried%to%protect%the%innocent.% % Rudolf%Steiner:%“Fully%mature%human%beings%give%themselves%their%own%worth.%It%not%pleasure% they%seek,%handed%to%them%by%nature%or%by%their%creator%as%a%gift%of%grace;%nor%is%it%some%abstract% duty%they%fulfill,%recognized%by%them%after%they%have%stripped%away%all%striving%for%pleasure.%They% act%as%they%want,%that%is,%in%accordance%with%their%moral%intuitions;%and%they%experience%the% attainment%of%what%they%want%as%their%true%enjoyment%in%life.%They%determine%the%value%of%life%by% the%relation%of%what%they%have%attained%to%what%they%have%striven%to%achieve.”%(Early%1991)% % I%think%the%thing%I%want%most%of%all%is%to%be%energetic%and%enthusiastic%about%what%I’m%doing.% What%do%I%really%want?%Success%without%effort,%an%income%without%work,%freedom%to%do% “nothing,”%I%say%in%all%honesty,%recognizing%their%total%impossibility.%But%maybe%this%is%also%a% period%of%“becoming,”%a%transition%from%one%way%of%being%and%thinking%to%another.%And%this%new% way%is%not%yet%formed,%thought%through,%or%understood.%In%my%dream%existence,%I%write%3.5%hours% a%day%like%Virginia%Woolf,%and%learn%and%master%new%arts.%In%my%real%existence,%I%squander%time.%I% seem%to%“unlearn”%and%have%no%real%calling%or%motivation.%(6,%7%and%13%September%1993)% % Margaret%Duras:%“Between%men%and%women,%imagination%is%at%its%strongest.”%(February%1993)% % My%neighbor%described%a%planned%exhibit%on%William%Wurster.%What%one%wants%to%know%about% him,%I%thought,%is%his%context%and%history—like%Joe%Esherick’s%sister%who%died%of%pneumonia% because%she’d%never%turn%the%heat%on:%the%details%and%ephemera%that%rise%and%fall%around% architects%and%their%buildings.%Since%I%saw%Venice%a%second%time,%I%only%think%of%buildings%in%a% contxtual%sense,%and%the%lives%of%architects%interest%me%purely%as%lives.%So%I%imagine%that%an% exhibit%on%Wurster%could%up%the%ante%on%the%importance%he%gave%to%the%Bay%Region—what%it% meant%to%him.%I%remember%visiting%the%art%museum%in%Gothenburg%in%late%1977%and%being%struck% by%that%city’s%cultural%selfYsufficiency%in%the%late%19th%century—a%selfYcenteredness%that%allowed% it%briefly%to%flower.%(This%is%the%same%epoch%that%Ingmar%Bergman%depicts%in%the%Stockholm%of% Fanny&and&Alexander.)%We%had%it%here,%as%well,%even%when%I%first%arrived,%but%then%we%lost%it.%%% % So,%for%all%these%reasons,%I%want%to%know%what%Gardner%Dailey%thought%about%as%he%plunged% toward%the%bay,%and%to%see%on%the%wall%a%series%of%photographs%that%show%how%Esherick’s%three% daughters%resemble%him%and%each%other,%despite%their%several%mothers.%Like%the%adherents%of%a% cargo%cult,%I%imagine%that%these%rituals%of%remembering%may%reverse%entropy,%revive%the%corpse,% and%bring%a%newly%rebirthed%Venus%floating%to%our%shores.%As%I%write%this,%I%see%what%I%meant% when%I%noted%earlier%in%my%diary%that%I’d%like%to%write%an%essay%on%the%impossibility%or%extreme% difficulty%of%regionalism.%Perhaps%a%region’s%moments%in%the%sun%are%a%just%flukes,%momentary% delusions,%or%acts%of%discovery%or%rediscovery—by%outsiders,%inevitably—that%bring%the%region% suddenly%into%focus,%only%to%decline%back%to%lethargy%or%indifference.%Of%my%generation,%Stanley% Saitowitz%alone%fulfills%this%role%of%outsider,%addressing%the%region%from%the%standpoint%of% discovery,%in%the%same%way%that%Esherick%and%Chuck%Bassett%did%before%him.%(25%July%1993)%


I%dreamt%last%night%that%I%was%talking%with%an%architectural%historian%I%know,%waking%up%just%as%I% was%saying%to%her%that%the%1940s%and%1950s%looked%forward%to%the%future,%but%this%optimism%was% destroyed%in%the%1960s.%From%then%on%we’ve%looked%backward.%This%last%decade%especially—the% 1980s—was%a%“bracket”%to%the%century.%On%waking,%it%seemed%like%a%truism,%but%in%my%dream%I% said%it%with%great%feeling—great%enough%at%any%rate%to%wake%myself%up.%(8%August%1993)% % In%a%conversation%over%coffee,%I%was%told%that%I%was%selfish%and%that%my%diary%was%replete%with% references%to%money—evidently%my%central%preoccupation.%She%asked%repeatedly%if%I%was% offended%by%these%criticisms,%and%interjected%that%I%was%also%generous,%but%that%what%wrecked% things%was%the%need%to%schedule%every%encounter.%“I%could%never%just%see%you!”%Of%course,%I%could% only%agree%with%this.%Then%I%mentioned%the%text%of%a%postcard%I%sent%her%while%she%was%away,%in% care%of%her%old%aunt:%“Maybe%we%would%have%gotten%along%better%if%I’d%been%a%woman.”%She%halfY screamed%and%said,%“You%wrote%that?%I%hope%no%one%can%read%your%writing!”%(8%August%1993)% % I%thought%last%night%of%a%novel,%set%Woolf%style%in%a%single%day,%called%“The%Marriage.”%It%follows% the%protagonist%through%his%day%as%lived%and%through%a%series%of%flashbacks%that%illuminate%his% current%situation%and%his%own%part%in%it—a%satirical%novel%in%which%I’m%the%object%of%satire,%in%fact.% The%novel%would%chronicle%my%many%contributions%to%my%current%semiYunhappy%state%of% ambivalence%and%to%some%extent%of%sorrow.%(16%August%1993) ! I’m%the%sort%of%man%who%cries%at%The&Nutcracker,%moved%at%the%sight%of%the%young%women,%and% who%falls%in%love%in%the%midst%of%a%conversation,%undone%by%a%helpless%empathy.%I%read%about% angels%and%would%like%to%believe%in%them,%perhaps%do%believe%in%them,%since%at%heart%my%beliefs% are%almost%animistic.%//%“Tales%of%the%Middle%Classes”:%a%possible%title%for%a%book.%//%An%idea:%to% write%microYessays,%one%a%day%or%at%any%rate%one%at%a%time,%in%succession.%//%Going%back%through% old%diaries,%I%realize%that%the%entries%are%like%letters%to%myself,%to%be%read%later%in%order%to%“see% what%I%mean”%with%the%benefit%of%distance.%(21%December%1993)% % Designing%a%life,%dealing%with%the%limitations%of%time%and%space—time%“now”%and%time%“out% there,”%with%its%finiteness%and%its%impact%on%me%and%on%those%I%love:%Duncan%Grant’s%“cultivation% of%independence.”%Needed%but%difficult%to%attain:%a%disciplined%life%that%makes%time%for%writing,% relationships,%children,%place%making,%travel.%I%torture%myself%perpetually%about%not%writing.%I% found%a%note%that%my%oldest%son%left%on%my%desk,%expressing%the%hope%that%I%would%finally%write% the%brilliant%thing%he%believed%me%capable%of%writing.%(March%1994)% % In%Venice:%The%woman%stares%out%of%the%painting%at%the%viewer.%She%holds%her%baby%to%her%breast,% and%though%a%piece%of%cloth%lends%modesty%to%her%upper%torso,%her%belly%is%exposed,%with%a%roll%of% fat%that%speaks%to%a%recent%birth.%The%Virgin%sits%at%her%desk%and%reads.%The%angel’s%red%sandals% are%wrapped%around%his%feet,%his%robe%elaborately%folded,%almost%defying%gravity.%(2%May%1994)% %

! COMMON%PLACE%No.%7% Except%as%noted,%text%and%images%% ©%2015%by%John%J.%Parman% http://complace.j2parman.com% www.j2parman.com% j2parman@gmail.com%

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