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Entries in tess lynch (4)

Friday
Apr292011

In Which We're Sorry We Had A Row Moonbeam

Emails From Your Boyfriend The Beatle

by TESS LYNCH

On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 8:45 PM, John Lennon<hrtbreakhotel@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey Babe.

I've bought a military jacket. I thought that you would find that quite amusing.

I'm writing to let you know, besides that I've bought a military jacket: I've decided to stay in my bathtub for a fortnight; now, now. I know. But I've a feeling that if I don't (stay in my bathtub for a fortnight), these awful wars will never end. It's dawned on me that a bathtub isn't quite so terrible a situation, especially not when compared with large-scale human suffering, so I've decided to fill the bathtub with river water from the Hudson. I've been carrying it up in buckets for a week now, leisurely. I heard of a boy who drank a teaspoon of water from the River Hudson and he became quite a maniac, really. Any interest in the tub idea? Could get ahold of some pharmaceuticals and make it quite fun!

Love,

John

On Thu, Nov 18, 2009 at 7:43 AM, Paul McCartney<thecuteone@gmail.com> wrote:

My Kitten,

First off: I'm sorry we had a row. It was a drag. And, you know, when I say it was a drag, I mean it was a terrible drag. A stone drag. I'm sorry, moonbeam. Look! I've writ you a poem!

Heloise, Hannah, and Joan
They can never dethrone
You, I'm blue, boo hoo.
Take me back! Heart attack!
Getting our love back on track --

Aw, love, it's rubbish. Even John won't speak to me. And he's usually quite a help with my poems. Look, perhaps you can stop by after work? Might you still have access to any pharmaceuticals? Even some shoe polish, distilled. That should jump-start things a bit, creatively. I'll stop scrumping that barkeep! I'll be true!

Yours Forever, Holding Your Hand,

Paul

On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 5:02 PM, Ringo Starr<snarkystarkey@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey, Missus Octopus,

Ringo here. I'm not sure your phone is working. I've sent you quite a few SMS texts? Ringo, from the bar? 

I was the one who was sipping a mai tai, slaying you with my wit?

Please,

Ringo

On Thu, Nov 17, 2009 at 2:00 AM, George Harrison<DharmaAndGeorge@gmail.com> wrote:

[silence]

[guitar solo]

hello love.

I've eaten six bags of jelly babies, shipped from the UK. I've still got one bag in the pantry, if you'd like to join me after yoga.

[silence]

[guitar solo]

love,

george

On Thu, Nov 20, 2009 at 7:43 AM, Paul McCartney <thecuteone@gmail.com> wrote:

Hello, Bird,

Do you like when I call you that? I've had a thought, lover. What do you think of this!: I'm going to re-write the lyrics "Michelle, my belle" as "Michelle, my bird." Or maybe "Michelle, ma bird," if I do go in that direction after all. But what rhymes with bird? Word? "These two things are go-together words." Oh, well, stumped again!

Love Forever,

Paul

On Thu, Nov 20, 2009 at 8:45 PM, John Lennon <hrtbreakhotel@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey Babe. 

I've gotten out of the bathtub. I didn't feel I was suffering at all, really. I kept refilling it when I caught chill -- I couldn't help it. I'm terrible at suffering. In order to improve, I'm going to try putting the bath on a barge, and then filling the barge with garbage and orphans, and sinking it into the River Hudson. After a dunk or two, I'll surely be a maniac, unable to fill my greedy mouth with candies. Are you coming along, my woman? I wish our human's skin was interwoven, like that peasant's basket from which we sampled the fruits of Jamaica.

Love,

John

On Thu, Nov 20, 2009 at 5:02 PM, Ringo Starr <snarkystarkey@gmail.com> wrote:

Well, hello, Missus Octopus!

Just a quick query as to why you have not responded to my emails and the SMS text messages I sent to your mobile? Feeling self-conscious (I'll admit it! Even I, a Beatle, sometimes feel just wee) about the last time we spoke, I thought I'd extend an olive oil branch in your direction. 

Please,

Ringo

On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 2:00 AM, George Harrison <DharmaAndGeorge@gmail.com> wrote:

[silence]

[guitar solo]

[burp]

excuse me.

today's lunch: almonds, apricots, prayer bread, and a chunky bar.

i'm curious what you had. it's a shame we have to eat at all, with all the starving children in third world countries.

what are the second world countries?

[guitar solo]

[silence]

love,

george

On Thu, Nov 21, 2009 at 7:43 AM, Paul McCartney <thecuteone@gmail.com> wrote:

Allo Allo Allo!

I know it's your birthday in a few weeks, and I've decided that instead of getting you things like diamonds and furs, all that wanky money stuff, I'd write you a poem. Poems are precious, like love, and ideas!

You are fun, and your love
is a lot of fun
And you say lots of fun things
(you know you do you know you do you know you do)
And of this ever-better world of which we speak of
Makes you want to say "Hi"

I've got a call in to John about the wrap-up bit. Hope you don't mind if he collaborates with me. It's my heart it's from. Don't forget who has the dimples, princess -- me. 

Love,

Paul

On Thu, Nov 21, 2009 at 6:45 PM, John Lennon <hrtbreakhotel@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey Babe.

They have Wifi on this barge. Can you imagine? There is literally no place in New York where I can suffer adequately. I've asked around, and it seems my only option -- the only way possible to peacefully protest the human tragedies of the world today -- is to wrap myself in sandpaper and roll about on the president's lawn whilst naked. Oh dear. I hope I'm not allergic to sandpaper. I think I might be allergic to contact paper.

The invitation still stands. I promise it will be texturally interesting.

Love,

John

On Thu, Nov 21, 2009 at 4:02 PM, Ringo Starr <snarkystarkey@gmail.com> wrote:

Hewoooo? Missus Owctopuwss?

Did you get the smoke signals I sent to your house? It's latitude 34.07, longitude -118.31...right? Could you read the special message I sent you? Don't tell the trees the secret things I said!

Please, please!!

Ringo

 

On Thu, Nov 20, 2009 at 2:04 AM, George Harrison <DharmaAndGeorge@gmail.com> wrote:

[silence]

[sitar solo]

i've just discovered a new instrument. ravi showed me. it's like a guitar, but it makes me sound much more intelligent. check it out:

[sitar solo]

[silence]

see you at yoga tonight.

love, 

george

Tess Lynch is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is an actress and writer living in Los Angeles. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about her favorite novels.

"You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" - Oasis (mp3)

"I'm Only Sleeping" - Oasis (mp3)

"Within You Without You" - Oasis (mp3)

Enjoy More of Those Four Headstrong Gentlemen on This Recording

Almie Rose on Revolver...

Eleanor Morrow on John Lennon and Bob Dylan...

Durga Chew-Bose on Rubber Soul...

It's so hard to be Paul McCartney...

The rest of our days with John and Yoko.

Monday
Mar072011

In Which We Develop A Radiant New Love For Literature

Our Novels, Ourselves

This Thursday, This Recording unveils our list of the 100 Greatest Novels. This will likely be the final word on the subject, and a key to the city will be presented to us in the shape of a novel. In order to broaden our horizons, we asked a group of talented young writers and artists to name their favorite novels. This is the first in a three part series.

Part One (Tess Lynch, Karina Wolf, Elizabeth Gumport, Sarah LaBrie, Isaac Scarborough, Daniel D'Addario, Elisabeth Donnelly, Lydia Brotherton, Brian DeLeeuw)

Part Two (Alice Gregory, Jason Zuzga, Andrew Zornoza, Morgan Clendaniel, Jane Hu, Ben Yaster, Barbara Galletly, Elena Schilder, Almie Rose)

Part Three (Alexis Okeowo, Benjamin Hale, Robert Rutherford, Kara VanderBijl, Damian Weber, Jessica Ferri, Britt Julious, Letizia Rossi, Will Hubbard, Durga Chew-Bose, Rachel Syme, Amanda McCleod, Yvonne Georgina Puig)

Tess Lynch

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien

This is a book about Vietnam. Please, sit down. Come on, it isn't really about Vietnam, it's about – just sit down for one second – the clashing of public and private life, when the demon-like personifications of every horrible thing you've ever done wage war with whatever good parts of you still exist; the plot consciously implodes on itself, leaving you feeling psychologically fractured and with nightmares about killing your houseplants with boiling water while screaming "Kill Jesus," just like you've always wanted.

Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie

Ignore the movie please. This was Beattie's first novel, and my favorite of hers, not only because there's a character in it who spends all of her time in the bathtub like I do, and not only because Sam is the fictional hot best friend I projected any and all fantasies onto during my formative years, but because it's a quiet study of the electrically-charged feeling of being in love operative-word-hopelessly. The desserts she cooked that you miss, the radio songs, the happy hour beers spent bumming. Too true, Ann, too true.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

You know what? Fuck Lolita. I take that back, don't fuck Lolita, she's too young, plus I loved that book. I loved this one more, though. The poem makes me disintegrate with feelings. I'd get all 999 lines tattooed on my face, but then I'd never be able to work in corporate America. John Shade's poem can be a bit of a downer ("how many more/Free calendars shall grace the kitchen door?"), so fictional editor Charles Kinbote comes in to offer up some zippy commentary from the imaginary land of Zembla. I thought Kinbote was supposed to make me feel better, that that was his purpose, but apparently Nabokov, in an interview, mentioned that Kinbote killed himself after publishing the manuscript. God, what a downer. I wish I'd never heard that bit of imaginary news; maybe there's no point to anything and I should go ahead and get that tat, do you think it would be pretty sickkk?

The Stand by Stephen King

This is my favorite Stephen King novel, and that's saying a lot, since I never leave the bookstore without some SK representation. The Stand is so long that if you get the uncut edition, you can step up onto it and get the bird's nests off your roof; even still, you feel depressed when you turn the last page. There's nothing like a story that begins with the end of most of humanity and then continues for about 1100 pages, peppered with the lyrically satisfying name Trashcan Man and lots of details about stomachs exploding. Life is gross. Books can be gross. You didn't want to finish those nachos anyway.

Tess Lynch is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here.

Karina Wolf

Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin

These days, Melmoth the Wanderer is more an allusion than a perused text. Nabokov named Humbert Humbert’s automobile after the damned nomad; Oscar Wilde took "Melmoth" as a pseudonym, perhaps because of his shared status as eternal outsider. Maturin’s 1820 gothic novel begins with a bequest – a young Trinity student inherits his uncle’s estate and a manuscript, which relates the tale of his ancestor Melmoth, who extended his life by 150 years, presumably by selling his soul to the Devil. The only out from damnation is to find someone to take over the pact. The novel consists of a rococo series of nested vignettes, wherein characters encounter the cursed wanderer, sometimes peripherally. The pleasure (and challenge) of the text is in its stylish excesses.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I re-visited Wuthering Heights when I taught at hokwan, a Korean cram school that aimed to stuff as many five dollar words possible into the minds of the foreign-born students. The odd task of reading Brontë’s novel aloud to a teenage boy (who loved it) made me appreciate its ingenious storytelling along with its elemental feelings. As a child, Brontë endured the deaths of two sisters and in response created Gondal, a detailed imaginary world that she sustained in letters and stories from adolescence to adulthood. Wuthering Heights retains a similarly corrective power; the novel is less a romance than a psychic outcry and self-assertion.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

The best children’s books are clever rejoinders to the early onset of life, primers for how to deal. Roald Dahl’s The Witches retains the violent menace of early fairy tales while offering readers a wry (and controversial) antidote to vanquishing the enemy, a kind of mass witch transformation and cat-led genocide. Dahl retains his spiky humor and incorrectness – also, his irresistibly charming prose. With lovely line drawings by Quentin Blake.

Karina Wolf is a writer living in New York. Her book The Insomniacs is forthcoming from Penguin. You can find her website here.

Elizabeth Gumport

I am too adrift from myself to know what my favorite novels are. If I could tell you that, I could tell you so many things! But like rats fleeing a sinking ship, my former selves keep escaping me. One of the few things I am sure of these days is that I am twenty-five years old, and so like a child I go around insisting on my age. But we can forgive a child for identifying herself by how old she is, since what else would she have done with those months and years except live them? I, on the other hand, ought to have more and deeper moorings. Instead, the first page of D.H. Lawrence’s St. Mawr looks like a mirror: "Lou Witt had had her own way so long, that by the age of twenty-five she didn't know where she was. Having one's own way landed one completely at sea."

Reading St. Mawr, the feeling I had was not of identifying with the character but of being identified by them. I did not “find”myself. I was found, as if by a carrier pigeon bearing a note. A few months later, it was The Wings of the Dove that saw me: James writes that Kate Croy “had reached a great age for it quite seemed to her that at twenty-five it was late to reconsider, and her most general sense was a shade of regret that she hadn't known earlier. The world was different--whether for worse or for better – from her rudimentary readings, and it gave her the feeling of a wasted past. If she had only known sooner she might have arranged herself more to meet it.”

My sense of being “found”by these books was heightened by how I happened to read them: St. Mawr did in fact arrive for me by air, in a package from Amazon. It was a gift from a friend – the same friend who several months later would be the one to recommend The Wings of the Dove. A truly personal recommendation shows you something you don't often see, which is the way you hold yourself out to the world. That is what Lord Mark offers Milly Theale in The Wings of the Dove, when he shows her “the beautiful” Bronzino portrait “that’s so like” her. What matters is not merely what you are like, but that you are like something – that the world knows what you look like, even when you don’t. When shown the portrait, Milly admits she doesn’t see the resemblance.

Knowing that a book exists is one thing, being made to recognize its existence by someone else another. It is the fact of Lord Mark’s showing her the portrait, and not the portrait itself, that so topples Milly: “It was perhaps as a good a moment as she should have with any one, or have in any connexion whatever.”A personal recommendation is not the same as one cast out to anonymous strangers on the internet.

I will try, therefore, to be as specific as possible: if you are my age, self-absorbed, and aimless but not hopeless, you should read these books immediately. Perhaps the figure sketched in them will impress you as your own, and perhaps it will resolve something for you. Sometimes books enter your life at exactly the right moment. It doesn't happen as often as you'd think: like people, they tend to appear too early, when you are too foolish to appreciate them, or too late, when they have been claimed by someone else.

Elizabeth Gumport is a writer living in New York.

Isaac Scarborough

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Amongst all of the fantasy novels I devoured as an adolescent, Tigana is the only that holds up through the prism of passed years and moderate maturity – going back and rereading it remains the same mind-bending pleasure that it was when I was fifteen. Not only is it – a rarity in the subgenre – genuinely well written, but it does what fantastical writing is truly meant to: it comments on our world today, in a way that would otherwise be impossible. The power of names and naming stuck with me, and if there’s a reason why I today refuse to spell Ashkhabad “Ashgabat” Kay may very well have something to do with it.

Making Scenes by Adrienne Eisen

The basic willingness to describe modern life’s brutality – from lists of food consumed and bulimiacally purged, to the absurdity of what passes today for courtship – sets Eisen apart; her willingness to describe without going somewhere is also laudable. Reading Making Scenes is an experience closest to voyeuristically watching that cute neighbor across the hallway, except that she has begun to leave audiotapes on your doorstep of her – just as you suspected – far too aware and intelligent inner monologue. This voice sticks around.

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

By and large, Dostoyevsky doesn’t do plot: throughout his works, there are simply long periods of hysterics and contemplation, generally circling around a heinous crime committed in the very beginning of the work. Demons is no different in this respect, but here the hysterics come first, and then the crimes – a set-up that avoids the disappointment with which both Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment end, and one that provides much more space for the author to develop his characters’ private insanities. And when it comes to madness, Dostoyevsky simply has no equivalent.

Isaac Scarborough is a writer living in Kazakhstan.

Sarah LaBrie

The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

A manifesto for young women destined to spend adulthood in a dimension just to the left of reality, the result of not having solidified quite correctly as children. The three teenaged orphans who guide us through Williams’ strange desert are peculiar but not precious, compelling in their very anti-Amelieness. It’s okay to be a genuine girl wacko, Williams tells us: if you’re smart enough to own it, you still get to win.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Fiction writers who start out as poets have an edge when it comes to building faultless sentences. Carson, a Classicist by trade, applies her skills as a translator of Greek verse to a novel about a monster named Geryon and his arrogant sometimes-boyfriend, Herakles. Building loosely on fragments of a poem by Stesichorus, Carson winds together scholarship and brutal wit to build a discomfitingly relatable love story.

The Counterlife by Philip Roth

In the autobiographical note that begins Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin discusses coming to the conclusion that, before he could produce anything else of substance, he had to write about what it meant to be black. Through the lens of Nathan Zuckerman, Roth offers a metafictional take on the same question as it relates to Judaism while experimenting with perspective, structure, time and form. Probably the most skillfully written examination out there on the bond between fiction writing and the desire for control.

Sarah LaBrie is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here.

Daniel D'Addario

England, England by Julian Barnes

In college, one of my mistakes was taking a class on comparative literature, after which I was left thinking that Britain or America could never produce a homegrown “national allegory.” Was I ever wrong! England’s image of itself is grist for this bizarre novel of ideas in which the nation is reassembled as a giant theme park for tourists—with a false king and queen and every famous Briton brought back to life. The novel questions the value of history and of myth—and despite its scorched-earth ending and brilliant dissection of the corporate profit motive, it does so with a bit of affection.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

Including Kazuo Ishiguro’s cloistered-England novel The Remains of the Day in my three favorites here felt a little unfair; it’s like being asked to choose among your children, when one is an ultra-sensitive genius. Instead I chose to include the instance in which Ian McEwan, predominantly a creator of tight narrative schemes, most closely approaches Ishiguro’s sensitivity to context (a past era’s very Britishness) and to character. For not the first but the most exhilarating time, McEwan’s games have real consequence: the fate of a young marriage.

Morvern Callar by Alan Warner

Novels with inert protagonists slay me, like Mary Gaitskill’s books, or Updike’s Rabbit series: watching things happen around characters is somehow more exciting and lifelike than watching characters conquer situations themselves (with the author’s help). The protagonist, the amoral Scottish girl Morvern, is glamorously inert; things happen around her as she observes and calculates. The scene in which Morvern, unmoved, lights a Silk Cut cigarette while staring at her boyfriend’s corpse is choked with an ennui Camus would envy.

Daniel D'Addario is a writer for The New York Observer. You can find his website here.

Elisabeth Donnelly

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn was a poet, and a good one, before he was a memoirist (shades of Denis Johnson), which is why his raw recounting of a fragile family stings with moments of sharp beauty and heartbreaking empathy. The plotline is relatively simple; when Flynn was 27 and working at the Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter in Boston, he comes into contact with his long lost father. The book is elliptical and non-linear, echoing Flynn’s memory, diving into blood and family legacy, Flynn’s father’s delusions of grandeur and his mother’s suicide, homelessness, forgotten people, the way cities and vice can chew you up, and the burden of the past on Flynn’s own life. It will knock you on your ass.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The thing that sticks in my mind about Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece is that it’s so… weird. The imagery that he uses to describe the cruelty of this world is unforgettable: the nameless protagonist in his basement with 1,369 lightbulbs, the Black youths forced to fight for gold coins on an electrocuted rug, the riot (and spear) that rips through Harlem thanks to the Invisible Man’s gift of speech. While the book is ostensibly a record of growing up Black in a divided America, Ellison defies expectations at every turn, putting his character through scenes that are consistently strange and always feeling new (which left a legacy extending from John Cheever’s short stories to Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle); and this surprise means that Ellison can cut sharply with the anger, satire, and moody magnificence that’s fueling his work.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

In the category of smart-girl-coming-of-age novels, Elaine Dundy’s American girl in Paris farce is particularly delicious. You’re in good hands with Dundy, after all, her biography was called Life Itself! (yes, with the exclamation point). The semi-autobiographical adventures of Sally Jay Gorce follow her as she dates, fucks, quips, and somehow makes a bad art film in the French countryside. It’s hilarious, and by the story’s end, proto-feminist Sally Jay is like a friend you don’t want to leave.

Elisabeth Donnelly is a writer living in New York. You can find her website here.

Lydia Brotherton

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

I was late to the Brideshead party – I only read it a couple years ago — but now I’m one of those people who owns the entire Granada miniseries and sort of goes on about gillyflowers and plover’s eggs too much. I can’t help it, and I’m not sure I can explain it without embarrassing myself: I really love this novel.

Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

When I first read Orlando, I was confused by its weirdness and delighted by its casually historical imaginings (there is absolutely no way to read fiction involving Elizabeth I that isn’t tacky except for this). And although I haven’t reread it in a while, I remember and misremember it like a tricky, particularly good dream. Maybe if there were an umami taste of novels, Orlando would be it.

Chéri by Colette

One of the reasons I like reading Colette novels is that in addition to being evocative of summer holidays in France I’ve never had, they have the potential to read as little lyrical self-help books. To be honest, what actually happens in Chéri is less important than the life lessons I manage to project onto all that description of pale, beribboned wrists and afternoon weather: how to wear silk robes during the day and take up with younger men, why it’s nice to upholster your furniture in dove-gray velvet, and — maybe most importantly—how to grow older, and, in your increasing age, more glamorous, demanding.

Lydia Brotherton is a soprano living in Basel, Switzerland. You can find her website here.

Brian DeLeeuw

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

"Favorite novels" is a slippery idea. Favorite when? When I read it? Now, years later, in the memory of reading? I’m not sure I would even finish Danielewski’s novel today (this is saying something bad about me, not the novel), but its blending of pulpy horror and deconstructionist theory felt custom designed for where my head was at ten years ago, in the middle of college. I’ve never in my life been as consumed by the experience of reading a book. Probably I should try to read it again.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

One of the ways a satire can be judged successful is if a lot of people don’t understand that it’s satire. Another is if a lot of these same people get very exercised and moved to protest and write angry and self-righteous ad hominem reviews. American Psycho passes both tests. If there remain any doubters (after talking to some of my friends, I know they’re out there), the fact that Mary Harron directed the movie adaptation should be proof enough. This is the funniest book I’ve ever read, which makes it puzzling why much of Ellis’s other work is so unfunny and sometimes plain bad.

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill writes about complicated and uncomfortable emotional states with more precision and cold elegance than anybody else I have read. She’s most known for doing this in her short stories, and in some structural ways Veronica feels like a very long story rather than a novel. But those sort of classifications are irrelevant here. The book spares no one, least of all the reader. The prose itself is a representation of one of the novel’s central ideas: beauty is cruel, but no less beautiful because of it.

Brian DeLeeuw is a writer living in New York. He is the associate editor of Tin House and the author of the novel In This Way I Was Saved. You can find his website here.

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Our Novels, Ourselves

Part One (Tess Lynch, Karina Wolf, Elizabeth Gumport, Sarah LaBrie, Isaac Scarborough, Daniel D'Addario, Elisabeth Donnelly, Lydia Brotherton, Brian DeLeeuw)

Part Two (Alice Gregory, Jason Zuzga, Andrew Zornoza, Morgan Clendaniel, Jane Hu, Ben Yaster, Barbara Galletly, Elena Schilder, Almie Rose)

Part Three (Alexis Okeowo, Benjamin Hale, Robert Rutherford, Kara VanderBijl, Damian Weber, Jessica Ferri, Britt Julious, Letizia Rossi, Will Hubbard, Durga Chew-Bose, Rachel Syme, Amanda McCleod, Yvonne Georgina Puig)

The 100 Greatest Novels

If You're Not Reading You Should Be Writing And Vice Versa, Here Is How

Part One (Joyce Carol Oates, Gene Wolfe, Philip Levine, Thomas Pynchon, Gertrude Stein, Eudora Welty, Don DeLillo, Anton Chekhov, Mavis Gallant, Stanley Elkin)

Part Two (James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Margaret Atwood, Gertrude Stein, Vladimir Nabokov)

Part Three (W. Somerset Maugham, Langston Hughes, Marguerite Duras, George Orwell, John Ashbery, Susan Sontag, Robert Creeley, John Steinbeck)

Part Four (Flannery O'Connor, Charles Baxter, Joan Didion, William Butler Yeats, Lyn Hejinian, Jean Cocteau, Francine du Plessix Gray, Roberto Bolano)

Wednesday
Jan122011

In Which I Was So Much Older Then I'm Younger Than That Now

The Typing Cure (Or: Heaven Is A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens)

by MOLLY LAMBERT 

The internet is a glory hole for feelings. It is fundamentally changing the way human beings express themselves to each other. Email has made letter writing more commonplace than ever, but there is also instant messaging, facebook, twitter, tumblr. The deep human need to talk about what is going on inside you has endless outlets, and every boring day at the office is also a potential virtual Cassavetes film.  

People create a divide between their real selves and their internet selves. Everyone is always surprised to be treated in real life the way they present themselves on the internet. My favorite English teacher from junior high, the one who told me I should be/am a writer, would always say "we become what we think other people think we are," and then Tess and I would argue about whether we believed that or not (She did, I didn't. I might now!) and then we'd talk about if the teacher was hot or not (She did. I didn't. I still don't. He was ginger!), and whether a person could become attractive through sheer force of their personality. He was a really great English teacher and he let me play a Steely Dan song in class once because it had an allusion to The Odyssey.

I passed notes to Tess during passing periods because text messaging didn't exist. Some people had pagers, but I'm fairly sure you could only send numerical pages. We pretended that other people could tell we felt like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page when we were hanging out together and that anyone who couldn't best to RAMBLE ON

We drew lots of little cartoons and wrote lists of things we liked, what songs we were listening to a lot and what boys we had crushes on, how much we hated school and what we should try to do that weekend. Tess once described our first meeting as being like a spotlight coming on, and that is how I think of all important first meetings and memorable events and other moments in Na'vi. The goal of life is to find all the people in the world where you can really understand each other when you express yourself. 

The internet makes people act drunk. Because the internet doesn't feel real, people disregard almost everything they do there. Because of this, they let their guard down a lot in a way that rarely happens in real life, except with a lot of alcohol. Nobody talks about it in real life, because the internet fourth wall largely stands, but people are getting weirder and looser about it. If it was the fifties when we started IMing, it is definitely now the sixties. We are firmly on the road towards nineteen seventies key parties (truth or dare videochat orgies? Paging Rachael Bedard for dungeonmaster.)

The most intimate thing you can do in an email is not sign it.

Sometimes not signing an email is actually the least intimate thing you can do. As with anything else, it is entirely based on the individual circumstances.

Gchat is checkers. Texting is chess. Twitter is Scrabble. Email is Monopoly.

People say things online they should tell a licensed therapist. Usually something deeply fascinating that reminds you that you are not a licensed therapist and shouldn't just dole out advice like you have any fucking idea what you are talking about. Not like I even think licensed therapists have any idea what they are talking about either, and really they just listen, and the internet always listens. Mostly it feels good to tell. 

I have gone through long spells where I didn't feel like writing anything, and I usually get out of them by writing something on the internet. Because of this "not real" feeling, it is much easier to write something and post it and not feel like it now lives in a library where you can be permanently judged by it. Because yes, you could still go back in and move some words around, or even delete it if you felt like it. But it's an illusion, because the internet is every bit as much of a library as a real library. 

Being freed from the tyranny of the physical sheet of blank paper allows you to take useful risks you might not take in ink or a Microsoft Word document, the same way people will try new things on vacation. You are freed from the tyranny of the idea that what you are doing is ever permanent, freed from context and the idea of yourself in the context of a continuing permanent self, from the illusion of any permanent self.

It is why we're so obsessed with journals and letters at This Recording. People write differently for a theoretical audience of everyone than they write for specific people and themselves, but the internet splits the difference. It is the most intimate least intimate thing. Sometimes (much of the time) people overshare, it's par for the course. 

Autobiographies are often not that interesting because they tell you how a person wants people to see them, like a facebook page; the illusion of no insecurities or certain insecurities emphasized to disguise the lack of discussion of embarrassing actual insecurities. Journals tell you how that person really sees themselves. 

Online presence isn't correlated with real life presence. Some people make great albums but have no live show. Some of the best live performers can't figure out how to translate that energy back into great albums. The record of a thing is never going to replicate the thing itself, it can only reflect it back and remind you of the experience.

In real life we are always surprised when we say something that is different than the way we actually feel and people believe us, because being looked at makes you feel emotionally transparent. On the internet there is the ability to go into sudden death, to switch topics abruptly in a way that is not socially acceptable in real life, and then discuss it in a way that would never be sanctioned in a face to face conversation.

For whatever thought experiment reason people are tremendously likely to tell you the actual truth online if you ask them something flat out. This is also known as real talk. I try to avoid doing this too much because sometimes you go over the line and wish you hadn't or if it's an actually important thing you feel like it deserves better than virtual resolution. Real talk is much more intense in real life because being looked at during anything heightens the experience in a way the virtual can never approach.

You learn a lot about people from their internet presences, but very little about their actual selves. Mostly you learn about how people present themselves and how they desire to be perceived. Internet personas usually go too far towards self-aggrandizement or self-deprecation. As with everything else on the internet and in real life, it is based around exaggerating certain truths and totally omitting others. Citizen Zuckerberg is a genius for allowing you to untag yourself from unflattering photos.

Smileys do soften me. I also always go "really?" that a person my age is using one, and then I do smile because they're so funny. So they kind of do work exactly the way they are supposed to. I use them to soften really ridiculous statements, especially when I am asking for something I am not sure I can get. The closest thing we have to tonal indicators in straight text are : D and sarcasm italics. There is no shame in using them. Maybe slight shame. But it's a funny kind of shame and will you loan me ten bucks : D

I stopped enjoying talking on the phone when I started to really enjoy IM. I probably enjoy instant messaging because I am a primarily word based person and I like being able to self-edit, but probably also because I am ADD and get distracted by everything when I'm on the phone. Alex says he now has to turn all the lights off to talk on the phone. He is The Night Caller. Facebook chat is the lowest form of communication. 

In high school Tess and I chilled on the phone for hours after-school playing songs that we synced up together and reading the sex scenes aloud from books like Forever and The Godfather. It was like being in a car on a roadtrip together. When I talk about sismance I am often thinking of Tess. I have never once tried to make out with her, although we've spent a lot of time in beds together over the years and I get a really strong urge to scream that James Blunt song "You're Beautiful" at her sometimes.

I will never forget the time in ninth grade that we played truth or dare in Tess's bed while our friend was fingering our other friend under the blanket and we both had no clue except that our friend started talking kind of weirdly while she told a story.   

When people bring up something I wrote on the internet in real life positively, sometimes I get Taylor Swift surprise face and then I worry like it might seem dishonest, but I'm really just as excited every single time. When people bring up something I wrote in real life or online and are negative, a little dark gray lightning cloud suddenly appears over my head to electrocute you like in Mario Kart.

Texting is the weirdest thing ever invented. If the new Scream movie doesn't open with a text message that says "Hello Sidney" it is advance dead to me. 

I usually stop thinking about a thing the second I click post. I put all this energy into it, obsessing over it and changing sentences and rearranging words until the last possible second, and then I click post, and it is like letting go of a balloon. Sometimes I write a thing and click post and still can't stop thinking about it afterwards, and I just get deeper into obsessing and thinking and end up writing about it even more.

You genuinely forget that anyone can read the internet. You forget that when you write something somebody can read it, and that if they can read it they might possibly remember it ever. It is a perfect demonstration of mind-body splitting.

I recently reread all my old Mad Men reviews going back to the pilot and it was like hearing my past self give my present self advice. My present self does not understand how my past self obtained these insights into my present self and it felt like a science fiction short story to think about. It felt as close to reading my writing from the perspective of somebody who is not me as I have ever come. Super fucking weird.  

Rereading This Recording on wordpress I barely remembered anything I wrote. It made me feel insanely nostalgic to realize I have a permanent record of a time period I never had any interest in commemorating while it was happening, because I was pretty certain that it sucked more than anything since junior high. And now when I read the record of it knowing full well that it sucked and was often painful, it all just seems too wonderful. We danced like nobody was watching and loved like we'd never been hurt.

Tess and I still talk every single day. We were discussing Blue Valentine, and why it is that people always seem so excited for movies that are about relationships falling apart, which is a thing you would think nobody would want to relive. She said people like to realize that the experiences during which they have the most intensely isolating feelings possible are all universal experiences, laughably adherent to key clichés. 

There is a kind of distanced admiration of your terrible feelings, where you end up romanticizing the worst feelings you ever had from your current more neutral point of view. It is comforting to realize that you got over it, that you don't feel that exact way anymore, that even though it felt like you might die a bunch of times you never did.

There is also a distanced admiration for your best feelings, for personal triumphs and ecstatic experiences, times you really felt understood, so that they can remain the benchmarks for the highest and lowest points of your feelings. If we are interested in pushing the highs higher, naturally we might also sometimes want to push the lows as low as possible, even though it is perverse to want to feel bad. Maybe it is because it seems like there is a point at which one naturally and inevitably becomes the other.  

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She's on twitter and runs GIF PARTYJPG CLUB, and Google Image Search.

"Waterloo Sunset" - The Kinks (mp3)

"Lola" - The Kinks (mp3)

"All Day and All of the Night" - The Kinks (mp3)