FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX

Sarah Gerard via The Creative Independent.

Do you think stories are things that exist empirically in the world?

Yes. I think they’re already somewhere in the world waiting to be discovered and told. They’re like independent, autonomous beings. I’m a medium. [laughs] Yeah. My editor’s partner is a neuroscientist. He can separate out an individual neuron, or a series of neurons, and make them do something. He can send an impulse through them. If he stimulates them in the same way each time, he gets the same reaction. So he has this very input-output view of the brain. I don’t have that. I think of my brain like a pasta machine.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR

Takashi Murakami via the Creative Independent.

“It’s always easier to think about it as an analogy with the game of baseball. Think about a baseball player hitting a home-run after standing at the batting mound for just a few seconds. To achieve something in those few seconds they train every day. They train and meditate and try to shut out the noise of other players and the audience. Athletes are training their spirit and body and completely organizing themselves so that during those few seconds when they are at bat, the body automatically moves and in that moment, they can achieve something great. I think it’s also the same for an artist. I have to create that condition. So it’s not just about painting with a brush for hours and hours, it’s about creating that athlete’s few second condition where an artist can generate something new.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY ONE

From “Infinite Exchange” by Geoff Manaugh, found in full on David Masel’s website, reprinted from Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, Steidl, 2013 (and originally discovered via Jacob Remes).

In a 2011 paper on the medical effects of scurvy, author Jason C. Anthony offers a remarkable detail about human bodies and the long-term presence of wounds. “Without vitamin C,” Anthony writes, “we cannot produce collagen, an essential component of bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Collagen binds our wounds, but that binding is replaced continually throughout our lives. Thus in advanced scurvy”—reached when the body has gone too long without vitamin C—“old wounds long thought healed will magically, painfully reappear.”1

Given the right—or, as it were, exactly wrong—nutritional circumstances, even a person’s oldest injuries never really go away. In a sense, there is no such thing as healing. From paper cuts to surgical scars, our bodies are mere catalogs of wounds: imperfectly locked doors quietly waiting, sooner or later, to spring back open.

 

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE

From Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

“What was it like to live with genius?

Like living alone.

Like living alone with a tiger.

Everything had to be sacrificed for the work. Plans had to be canceled, meals had to be delayed; liquor had to be bought, as soon as possible, or else all poured into the sink. Money had to be rationed or spent lavishly, changing daily. The sleep schedule was the poet’s to make, and it was as often late nights as it was early mornings. The habit was the demon pet in the house; the habit, the habit, the habit; the morning coffee and books and poetry, the silence until noon. Could he be tempted by a morning stroll? He could, he always could; it was the only addiction where the sufferer longed for anything but the desired; but a morning walk meant work undone, and suffering, suffering, suffering. Keep the habit, help the habit; lay out the coffee and poetry; keep the silence; smile when he walked sulkily out of his office to the bathroom. Taking nothing personally. And did you sometimes leave an art book around with a thought that it would be the key to his mind? And did you sometimes put on music that might unlock the doubt and fear?

Did you love it, the rain dance every day? Only when it rained.”

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.”