If in the first stage of a transition one is full of expectation and in the final stage the expectations are realized, then the liminal phase is marked by the twin emotions of desire and disappointment, which feed off each other cyclically. The Nasmertovs have desires that don’t correlate with the reality they must endure, but that gap alone is not what causes their disappointment. Their new reality appears riddled with an artificiality that causes a specific disappointment. Will their lives never regain the authenticity of the one they’ve left behind?
Last week, I pointed readers to a Page-Turner essay by Amy Bloom, whose new novel,Lucky Us, came out on Tuesday. Now, as part of the By the Book series in the Times, she talksabout her summertime reads, her first picture book and who she’d invite to a literary dinner party. (FYI, we’ve written about the series before.)
I’m wary of saying that writers have an obligation to do anything in particular — most often, you’ll find someone who doesn’t do whatever thing so beautifully that they redeem its absence — but it’s hard to imagine an essay that would be satisfying without complexity, and it’s hard to imagine complexity without some version of what we’re calling problematizing: the negative capability of holding multiple possibilities at once.
Now, I ask you, what if all along it was as simple as joining this company to fill the part of me missing? What if some deranged wiring or disease has forced me to isolate myself away instead of considering being part of a team like the one here at your company? I feel pretty good right now, and I’m not even officially part of anything. Just even filling out this application is fixing me.
It’s funny how as an author, I rarely notice what seems so obvious to other people: that I have obsessions and will write about them endlessly. Sad, lonely, self-loathing guy? Mid-20th and 21st century literature loves to write about that guy, and so do I. Reckless, self-aggrandizing, narcissist man? I like to write about him, too, though of course they are the same person. A person whose energy compels people to orbit him—family, friends, underlings, women.
Every state has their odd features, but Florida has lots of odd features. We’ve got hotlines to call for when there’s an alligator in your backyard. When I first left Florida, I would write stories for my MFA workshops and include details like that, and readers would leave notes in the margins about how weird that was. I’d think, ‘Really—you find that weird?’ That’s Florida.
"I think it is a project that is too easy to get wrong, too hard to get right, and with not enough room to experiment in between." On designing the cover of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
That’s the great American story [laughs]. It complies with the story of immigrants who came through Ellis Island: they were nobodies—half-human somehow. They had potential, but of course they couldn’t do anything with it over there, because it wasn’t America, so they came here, and suddenly they bloomed.
I don’t know the numbers, but roughly half of the people who came through Ellis Island returned home. They came here to make money, not to make history.
I feel like various dead writers are dear friends of mine — from Woolf to Plath to Duras to DFW — their lives and lessons and warnings and urgings are constantly informing my own, challenging my own.
"I always thought that the films people love the most are the films that are wise, that have simple lives, truths and ideas in them. All my favorite films growing up, like E.T., have that quality. Hollywood tends to dumb down things, and be incredibly formal and simplistic and paint-by-numbers. And I never thought that is what people actually liked. But why those big Hollywood films were so successful—why they make so much money, why they are so universal—is that they have big important issues and essential wisdom in them.”
- Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin