To type or write longhand. Ted Hughes weighs in from 1995.
Please Marry Me
by Charles Baxter
Please marry me. Your mother likes me.
—Line spoken by an unknown woman, in a dream
We are stretched out on a dingy sofa, and I think
I must be barefoot because a woman whom no one knows
Is massaging the ankle of one leg of mine and the instep
Of the other, all this toward morning, and I have that
Occasional epiphany one has while still asleep
That I am floating down a river
Because I am so happy and all the dismal issues
Have been made tractable at last, and so I say to her
That the late symphonies of Gustav Mahler
Are more lucid if you’re sitting close to, and above,
The orchestra, so that you can see the contrapuntal
Lines moving from strings to woodwinds
And then back again, whereupon this woman,
Sitting (I now realize) at my feet, says, in the full
Heat of our dream life, and in that happiness,
“Please marry me. Your mother likes me,”
And so I wake, not laughing, although my mother
Has been dead for over thirty years, but in wonderment
Over what quality this dream-woman must have owned
To have pleased my mother so that she,
My late mother, would have said, despite her ban
On ordinary pleasantries, that she had liked someone,
Anyone, who might have cared for me, and as I lie
In bed I think of the last movement of Mahler’s Ninth
When the melodic lines go quiet for minute after minute
In a prolonged farewell to music and to life,
Which my mother would attend to in her bathrobe
Late at night, the stereo turned up, blended whiskey
In her highball glass mixed with milk as a disguise,
Leaning back, hand over eyes, silent-movie style
Like Norma Desmond listening as Von Stroheim plays
The organ wearing his white gloves. No, it wasn’t
Mahler, it was Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht,
Moon-drunk music, mad and inconsolable.
I have never read Geoff Dyer, but I stumbled on these 10 tips and laughed, so that’s a good sign. Also: Jonathan Lethem describes him as “our leading master of the undefinable memoir-essay-perambulation on diverse topics: jazz, D. H. Lawrence, photography, travel, drugs, sex, et cetera.” Also a good sign.
Just stumbled on the most fantastic interview with Margaret Atwood by Chuck Wendig at TerribleMinds. It’s so fantastic I have to excerpt it, shamelessly, but you should all check out the whole shebang.
How to organize a bookstore if you’re Italo Calvino
- Books You Haven’t Read
- Books You Needn’t Read
- Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
- Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
- Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
- Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
- Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
- Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
- Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
- Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
- Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
- Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
- Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
- Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
- Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
- Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
- Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
- Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
- Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them
From If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
On writers vs. typists and autoerotic self-asphyxiation. With David Sedaris.
A lot of interviews with you seem to focus on the nihilistic views in your books. Does the focus on this aspect of your writing get tiresome?
Yeah, a little tiresome. Especially when I secretly know my work is very romantic, and ALWAYS about returning a lonely character to community with other people. There’s a BIG difference between “not caring” or being “nihilistic” about a topic and simply not being enrolled by the drama presented by other people. Just because my characters CHOOSE not to react in standard, socially-appropriate ways — that does not mean they don’t care. They just reject ordinary dramas.