FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE

From The Idiot by Elif Batuman.

“I wrote a research paper about the Turkish suffix -miş. I learned from a book about comparative linguistics that it was called the inferential or evidential tense, and that similar structures existed in the languages of Estonia and Tibet. The Turkish inferential tense, I read, was used in various forms associated with oral transmission and hearsay: fairy tales, epics, jokes, and gossip. I recognized that this was true, but had never consciously grouped those forms together or tried to articulate what they had in common. In fact it was really hard to articulate what they had in common, even though it was easy to follow the rule. One of the most common uses of the Turkish inferential, the book said, was in speaking to children. This, too, I remembered: “What seems to have happened to the doll?” The inferential tense allowed the speaker to assume the wonder and ignorance that children live in—that state when every piece of knowledge is basically hearsay. There were things about -miş that I liked: it had a kind of built-in bewilderment, it was automatically funny. At the same time, it was a curse, condemning you to the awareness that everything you said was potentially encroaching on someone else’s experience, that your own subjectivity was booby-trapped and set you up to have conflicting stories with others. It compromised and transformed everything you said. It actually changed what verb tense you used. And you couldn’t escape. There was no way to go through life, in Turkish or any other language, making only factual statements about direct observations. You were forced to use -miş, just by the human condition—just by existing in relation to other people.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR

From A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.

“I don’t understand.”

Deshi shook her head. Her romantic advice was worth a foreigner’s ransom, and here she was, giving it freely to a girl who couldn’t appreciate the hard-earned wisdom. “Just stay away from oncologists, okay?” she said, and led the girl to the waiting room. “If you just remember that, you’ll spare yourself the worst of it. Now, why don’t you get your notebook out and draw something?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Where would you most want to be right now?”

“My home,” she said. She thought the word meant only the four walls and roof that held her, but it spread out, filled in, Akhmed, the village, her parents, the forest, everything that wasn’t here. “A week ago.”

“And I’d rather be right here forty years ago, when they first offered me the job. I’d wag my finger right in the head nurse’s face and say, no, no, you won’t trick me, and I’d walk right out those doors.”

“It’s stupid. There are maps to show you how to get to the place where you want to be but no maps that show you how to get to the time when you want to be.”

“Why don’t you draw that map?”

“Only if you let me play on the fourth floor.”

“Child, if there was such a map, there would still be a fourth floor. Start drawing.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO

From “These things I know for sure,” by Andrea Zittel (via Jocelyn Glei).

2. Surfaces that are “easy to clean” also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.

7. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.

11. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.

12. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void—when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called “avoids.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY

Ai Wei Wei answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your favorite journey? My favorite journey is a journey which you walk alone but at the same time you know somebody is waiting for you at the end. It’s the perfect journey—it doesn’t matter how difficult, how dark, or how protracted, as long as you believe there is someone waiting for you there. That makes a journey different. Our life has no purpose unless we believe there is someone waiting there.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? I never did anything unforgivable. Whatever I did can be forgiven.