Category Archives: books

Simon is amazed by what he doesn’t care about.

You can find a lot of Barthelme on the internet, but you cannot find all of “The Balloon.” Part of it is here, but that isn’t all of it. I know because I once said that I found the ending of “The Balloon” spectacularly adorable, which was immediately misinterpreted, and that adorableness is missing from this excerpt. In any case

Here, Henry, take this package of money I have wrapped for you, because we have been doing so well in the business here, and I admire the way you bruise the tulips…

I’ve recently finished Paradise which is about a married architect who lives away from his wife and with three other women who insist upon offering him their nubile young bodies, often simultaneously. The back of the book calls it “a meditation on the melancholy of fulfilled desire,” how I often imagine most everyone.



Patron Saint of the Perpetually Unsatisfied

People often respond to Barthelme et al with a disgust at their lack of real characters, which I could not disagree with more vehemently [yes you could. you’ve never responded with violence, which would be vehement-est. even your self-characterization is a lie!] “Tim, the professional whistler, is a sad Saab of a man about thirty.” pg. 114 2005 Dalkey Archive Press edition. I have met that man.

The architect falls in love with a poet. Crafty. I have wanted to be an architect since I was born but am no good at math, at all. How nice it would be to make things you could live in. Barthelme’s sentences, though. Better than log cabins.

She holds out an empty wineglass. Simon pouring.



Barthelme’s father was an architect.

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It’s a book about a man who builds in order to feel

From Anthem:

I found a lot of similarities between Synecdoche and this novel, Remainder, by Tom McCarthy…

This script, for the record, [was] written before that novel came out. I saw a review of that thing [Remainder]; I was freaked out. I intentionally did not read it. I have not read it. I hadn’t made the movie yet, and I didn’t want to have any kind of influence [from] it. But like I said, this script was written before that came out. I saw it online and I thought, A) oh fuck, and B) this is a book that I would read, normally. This sounds like a cool book. But I won’t. And I haven’t. And I probably at some point I will, but I don’t know…now it might be awful to read it. It might be like, Oh, he had this great idea that I didn’t have and I cant do anything about it.

This is a really, really intense fear; by which I mean that he is terribly worried about authenticity for his film that is really authenticity-fear times a huge, huge number. I mean, you’ve had this idea about repetition and then someone repeats it. 

Do you remember that Improv Everywhere sketch? The one where they repeated the same actions over and over again in a Starbucks? 

Best line of the day from the old people: “You know, there’s another Starbucks right over there, I bet this is all happening there, too.”

In trauma theory it’s called repetition compulsion: the desire to repeat a traumatic event as a way to “master the overwhelming feelings of the traumatic moment.” For Kaufman and McCarthy it is, anyway, or was, until the traumatic thing is just your life and what it is is repetition fetish. But that’s why this sketch is so so very good and maybe a little terrifying, because it’s not working out something, or healing, it’s just a joke– like what would happen if you got stuck in some sort of time loop, and isn’t it a totally sane way to react to think that it’s probably happening somewhere else too? Like that question about Groundhog’s Day: I mean, it’s funny, right? But also something else maybe?

One of the things in Remainder is that when the character thinks he’s getting one of his re-enactments right he has a tingling sensation, in his body. Has anyone explained this for real? Heavy Metals! I think what girls told each other is that it meant someone was walking over your grave, or your future grave, or where your future grave is supposed to be. It’s been happening to me a lot recently. I can’t figure out my skin this week. 

For the Re-enactor in Remainder though, as Zadie Smith says, “the feeling is addictive.” That whole essay is really good, which I am willing to stand behind with the force of upwards of twenty-something September 11th novels at my back and an extreme appreciation for the accessibility and keenness of Smith’s writing. Which, though, it took me two hours to get through because everything I read reminded me of something else. Nothing more so than this:

Remainder went to Vintage Books in America and picked up a Film Four production deal.

Take your book about repetition and make it into a movie about repetition that we can have repeated viewings of. These are the kind of things that move beyond producing knots in your stomach to making moebius strips of your intestines. 


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Never getting older means stabbing people in the ear

Seems to me that reading quotation books is a little weird. It’s something you do solely for the purpose of collection, tiny personality-rhinestones to have and hold and maybe share if there is an appropriate occasion. (or tumble) I went through the Bartlett’s pretty faithfully in high school because high school is about personality-bedazzling, sort of. Out of all of the ones I underlined there are only two I can still remember, one remaining one of my favorite things ever written, and the other a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray:

The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.

My memory is basically awful but I know these sentences like something you could hold in your hand because I repeat them in my head for no reason. “Dry-goods! What are American dry-goods” asked the Duchess, raising her large hands in wonder, and accentuating the verb. “American novels,” answered Lord Henry, helping himself to some quail.

I rarely really want to read anything English and even more rarely want to read anything from the 19th century but last week I decided I wanted to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was only today that I found it because I don’t have bookshelves, but I’ve finally read it. Turns out that quote doesn’t appear until nearly the end of the book, leaving me thinking for most of the novel that I’d made it up. But it is there, a few pages from the end, and what it is is something written to Dorian in a love letter. It is followed by this:

The phrases came back to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself.

Eerie, a little.


The stereotype of Young People Who Travel is that they will inevitably fall in love with someone foreign. But it seems to me that when traveling you, more likely, fall in love with nearly everyone you meet. Really, I think it’s likely you would normally fall in love with nearly everyone you meet but only when you stop being in familiar situations do you actually pay attention. The number of times the word “exquisite” is used in Picture : 16 One of the many people I fell in love with on my trip was Felipe who would insist that his English was very poor and then use words like “epigraph” and “coordinates” in his emails. We met at a bar, where he told me he’d only really read one book in his life, but he loved it. It was The Picture of Dorian Gray. He also told me he’d read another book, but then he changed his mind and said he’d actually just gone into a bar once called Jekyll and Hyde. He made me laugh.

I would like to email Felipe and tell him I read it, though that would be sort of bizarre I think. I looked it up: exquisito in Spanish. He was moving to Córdoba, which I never wanted to pronounce with the right emphasis. I may have embarrassed him when I questioned his love for Eddie Vedder. I think he’s probably read more than one book.


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