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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in linda eddings (27)

Tuesday
Oct312017

In Which We Would Absolutely Die As John Keats

An Awkward Bow

by LINDA EDDINGS

I am ashamed of writing you such stuff.

The last days of John Keats involved a great deal of wishing for death. Indigestion plagued his stomach, and the severity of his symptoms from tuberculosis drove him to leave England for Naples, where it was thought that a better climate would enhance his prospects. Because of his illness and general low mein, none of Keats' friends wanted to accompany him to Naples. Instead an acquaintance would go.

John Keats by Joseph Severn

The young painter Joseph Severn had little in the way of money, so he took on the job of caring for Keats. Storms prevented them from going any farther than Northampton at first, and Keats was deeply bothered by a female passenger suffering from consumption. He had observed years earlier that "Milton meant a smooth river."

Keats had already left his previous life behind when he boarded the Maria Crowther. He penned goodbye letters to his sister and fiancée, both of whom were named Fanny. On board the Crowther he could not even muster the strength to masturbate and regretted never having sex with Fanny Brawne. "I should have had her while I was in health," he complained to a friend.

She contrived to disappoint me in a way which made feel more pleasure than a simple kiss.


Because of an outbreak of typhus in London, the Crowther was quarantined for ten days. Keats described his chest as burning with the fire of hot coals, and continued to regularly write letters to his friend Charles Brown. Penguin has put together the best of Keats' letters in a single collection, and although some are childish, others contain the best writing of the period.

He understands many a beautiful thing, but then, instead of giving other minds credit for the same degree of perception as he himself possesses, he begins an explanation of such a curious manner that our taste and self love is offended continually.

After his ship was again quarantined outside of Naples. Keats moved to Rome, into an apartment at the Piazza di Spagna. "The very thing I want to live most for will be the great occasion of my death," he explained somewhat insincerely in one of his last letters. He spit up what Severn noted was "fawn-coloured phlegm," and Keats' doctor predicted diarrhea. Their plan for daily walks through the plaza was now out of the question.

Severn gave up the responsibility for administering opium to Keats' doctor, because he was giving John too much of the substance. Dr. Clark hired a nurse because Severn would stay up all night sketching the poet to keep him company, never bothering to sleep. "He talks of a quiet grave as the first rest he will ever have," Severn wrote.

Severn had never eaten so well in his life as he did by Keats' bedside. He served Keats bread and milk every day, because it was all the man could keep down. For himself he had fish or meat, and always pudding afterwards. He loved the convenience of having fresh produce in Italy. Keats finally feel asleep for good one night in Severn's arms.

Casts were made of Keat's face, hands and foot. Doctors found in the autopsy that his lungs had been entirely devastated for the past two months. Despite not really knowing each other all that well, Severn and Keats are buried next to each other in Rome's Protestant Cemetery. All of Keats' friends in Italy put daisies on his grave.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Friday
Sep082017

In Which We Leave Our Loved Ones In An Enviable Position

Red Dust

by LINDA EDDINGS

Office hours begin at three. Who knows how long they'll last?

I run into my therapist at the opening of a local juice bar. She does not see me, but I notice that her hair is done in a completely different fashion than what I have come to expect. I am so shaken I have to sit down.

On a bus downtown, a man carries a thousand little parcels and packages, attached to each other by string, cord and tape. A teenager asks him if it is an exhibit or something. The man opens one of the packages and inside is a business card.

My friend Stacy is a major theme of this essay. She has a very useful test that I have sort of made my own. If she meets a new person, she has these two restaurants that are very easy to confuse and not far from each other. She shows up at one, and if he doesn't, well that's just too bad.

Instead of finding out what someone is like when they are really, truly angry, make them a little angry.

My therapist recently discovered some of the things I had written about her. She says, "Your depiction portrays me as sounding weird." She says, "Self-expression is the most innocent form of flattery," and then she rotates a mug in her hands upwards of ten times. I say, "Your hero is Kafka? Your summer palace is on the Rhine? You say you have questions for me?"

In Agata & Valentina, Emmy Rossum asks an employee for aspargus. My dad called to tell me to watch the full moon tonight. "Did you ever think there were so many types of lettuce?" he says. His version of being retired is like a bird who has had a wing repaired, but doesn't know it.

My brother is getting married in the fall. I am very happy for him, the way you go to one store in a strip mall, and another store is celebrating their grand opening. You wish and don't wish the attention was elsewhere. I am so tired of the concept of attention. It seems like a modern conceit, maybe the only modern conceit. One that demands we be observed or acknowledged.

Stacy has a boyfriend now. When she tried the restaurant trick on him, he said he doesn't like to meet women at restaurants. Stacy says that it's because he feels uncomfortable eating in front of other people, like he is a pig at the trough. Do you see the connection between this anecdote and the line about attention? Would you even notice if the moon in the sky was upside down.

Lately I have been doing a lot of whispering. Nattering quietly to myself is the function of living alone, in the apartment I am renting. It was just built, and so no one in the building expects anything to break. I'd like to own a place, but not in New York City. Maybe somewhere upstate.

My therapist wants to know my evaluation of her. "I love how available you make yourself," I begin. "Once I saw you in a juice bar... Never mind, never mind! I think that you are great at staying internally consistent. Sometimes I wonder if you are remembering what I said or remembering what you said. Then I think, what's the difference? If you hear one side of the conversation, you can probably reconstruct the other! It will be as if one person is there, and the second participant exists only as a shadow of the initial act." She says, "I'm not a shadow of you, Linda," and sips Tropicana.

Last night I walked along 60th at the bottom of Central Park. Rats sprang out of the greenery to feast upon all the leftover horse feed. They are mad to be satiated, wild with abandon. In order to start a new thought, it takes more than simply matching the taste to the palate.

Stacy thinks she is in love with her boyfriend. "He's kind of a weird guy," she confesses. I ask if it something other than his apparent eating issues. She says that when they went to the movies the other night, she found herself massaging his temples and touching his dick. I ask if he told her to do that. "It seemed implied," she says, cutting celery into the smallest possible pieces.

I want you to know that standing there is no more than an affectation.

My dad asks me to choose a color. He's painting my old room. "What goes on in there now?" I ask. "Mostly the same stuff as when you were here," he says, even though that was very long ago now. "Self-loathing. Pride. Catnaps. Sometimes I come in here when your mother is snoring." I say, "Imagine being invisible only at night." Half the shades he forces me to compare I can't manage to see any difference. I imagine that for a god, the variation between the worst human being and the best would be this kind of tiny shift in color.

For example, have you looked at the Periodic Table of the Elements lately? Has there ever been a more outright obvious scam?

I ask my therapist about Stacy's boyfriend. "They were in line at Starbucks," I say, "and someone stepped in front of them. He got all up in the guy's face and smacked down his coffee cup." She says, "So?" I say, "Isn't that kind of reckless and unwarranted?" She lets out a sigh that could inflate a balloon.

Full moon tonight. I whisper it and text everyone I know (the list is not long – as I get older it is more difficult to meet new people, and even when I find someone I like, the context is always wrong). In my text I detail how much more fun it will be when we are all wolves. Imagine the licking alone! I crow and cackle. Feeling like I could run up the face of a mountain, I start crumpling up all the useless pieces of paper I keep around here. Everything made or unmade was with my hands.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Tuesday
Aug152017

In Which Kathy Acker Eliminates Our Need For Other Sustenance

Saint Kathy

by LINDA EDDINGS

Bangled and sewn up, it's just hair. 

Oakland, 1999. I meet Kathy for the first time. She tells everyone else she is a novelist, but she tells me another word for it. She is gone but still around someplace. 

When she used to live in San Diego, she knew a bald man with different colored eyes. It took me a long time to realize her descriptions of this man matched her almost completely.

Before we are about to die, Kathy says, we see ourselves completely different from how we were before. Worse. "Cancer is big business," she wrote. There is a lot that she put down that I do not believe. 

I read Kathy to keep my spirits up. I don't have access to her most depressing texts. In her novel about high school, Kathy writes of a woman having sex with a man, but it is a man having sex with a woman more so. The accompanying pictures of penises illustrate the point. 

"Language begins with desire," she has Colette explain. OK. 

Kathy wakes up. It is 1984. Her mornings always take place at Gold's Gym. Is it possible she is there now? She was a woman who desired men sexually, and then wrote of them as they were. What is so wrong with that?

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

When she was a stripper, she found that tattoos suited her lithe, semi-nude form. Take any behavior in private and make it public. Then sell it, trade on it. I know why people do not like pornography - it is not the same as hard drugs, or the murder of animals. It is something they themselves have to address when they robe and disrobe, and they are ashamed. 

What would Kathy be now I wonder? She wrote the movement, was the movement, transcended any movement. It still would have been difficult to be her. Her mother was an awful woman, you understand, and when she fled this country for Germany, it was partly to rid herself of nasty associations. 

It is painful to read any more about Kathy. I want to ride the motorcycle of someone I respect. I don't give two shits about their influences. 

1918: Mankind emerges from the shadows. Womankind follows afterwards, a picture of resentment. There is a general conclusion that before now, nothing really counted. In a quarter-century, Kathy will be born to confirm this view.  

She never knew her father, and I have met people like that. They think about what might have been a lot, and I don't blame them, only I wish they wouldn't. 

Try writing like Kathy instead. Try working into every conversation that you have emerged from a literary fatalism. It is intellectual fear-mongering, primarily. I don't know what to think about what to think. 

There is this old story about when Saul Bellow went to interview for a job with Time. I'll tell you later. 

Kathy wakes up, goes to the gym. Now it is time to write, so instead of formulating a plan, she is astride a chair the way a bat looms on some fucking stalagmite. I'm so empty in the morning. 

I love you. 

I know a friend who puts together her syllabus, and she thinks of what her students will hate the most, and she makes it 40 percent of their grade. When the papers come in, she shudders, because she hates it too. 

Kathy wouldn't understand that. She did not need to manufacture this feeling of displacement. It was like, in your computer, sometimes you have a separate graphics card, and other times there are just integrated graphics which use a portion of the existing memory. For Kathy, there was no separate angst. She was the angst; the feeling was integrated. 

Kathy leaves Brandeis for San Diego. She takes a plane or she drives. She has to get far away. 

I love you so much that I can't think of anything else besides your lipstick on my towels, Kathy Acker

Render the future meaningless, like the past always was. There is no memory of the dead, just the imposition of the present on everything, drowning the rest out. A principle of natural selection. 

Portland, 2003. Every single person on the street is writing their own memoir. The titles of the memoirs are as follows: The Restitution, Tits and Grits, My Banana Pancakes, Bats in Stalactites, Kathy's Braided Hairstyles, Way of the Nomad Prince. The dedications are to the same person: she is not the son of God. I mean he might have had a daughter, but not mentioned her out of respect. 

Kathy writes: "I used to ask, 'Do you love me?' Well, I asked him once and learned better. He replied, good old journalist that he was, what I feel about you is my business and what you feel about me is your business. Pay attention to your own business. I learned a lot from that one. If you want to get fucked up the ass, go do it. (I’m sure you do.) It’s not your problem, is it? Me, straight queer gay whatever and where do nut cakes like me fit in who like getting fistfucked whacked and told what to do?—the only things that appall me are babies."

So Saul Bellow goes to interview with Whittaker Chambers. They wanted someone on book reviews at Time magazine. (Is there still a Time magazine?) And Whittaker, Kathy bless him, well he asks this stolid Jewish man-in-training what he thinks of Wordsworth. And Saul says, "I always thought he was a romantic poet." And Chambers just shakes his head like this is a dogshit answer and the man is not fit to breathe the same air as him. 

When someone dies there is this profoundly unappealing saga of remembrance. "Everyone dies of something," a doctor once explained to Kathy, which she could only fathom in one way: she had been given a sentence, only not the kind she usually wished for. She had, weeks previously, begun to feel small dense packets of tissues in her charming breasts. 

The year 2043 is paved with good intentions. 

When I die tell someone else you miss me. Don't tell me that because I already know. Don't tell my mother. 

2019, I am still reading My Mother: A Demonology. She could not let go of the woman. "My parents were horrible," she writes, by which I intuit they used a lot of homonyms, smoked clove cigarettes, and read the nautical novels of Patrick O' Brian. In some cases — and I believe this is one of them — you heartily desire to put the past behind you but you are smart enough to know you never will. 

Saul Bellow was right, about this and so many other things. (What Whittaker wanted to hear, though, was that Wordsworth was a former revolutionary turned monarchist.) Do you feel divorced from literature? Do you feel like the only thing it has to say anymore is its age?

I miss Kathy, but I still have her books. I miss you. I miss you a lot but I don't have any of your things, maybe a few cards you sent me and the gifts I bought for you but never delivered. I would give them to Goodwill but I can't stand seeing all the clothing grouped by the same color. Some part of me knows that's wrong. 

I wake up and I go to the gym.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing here.