I spoke to Poggioli about you, at Harvard. He would like to have you there for six months or a year, and this is an opportunity you should not refuse. Even though Harvard is not America, but a kind of Olympus containing the intellectual cream from all over the world, you would have the chance to see a bit of America traveling around. And one should not let slip any chances of “talking” to the Americans, of doing something to bridge this abyss which divides us, and it really is an abyss: this is a different world, as far from Europe and our problems as the Moon.
“Dash cams, as reported in Animal, have become ubiquitous in today’s Russia, where road hazards range from ‘insane gridlock’ to ‘large, lawless areas’ habited by ‘police with a penchant for extortion and deeply frustrated drivers who want to smash your face,’ and where courts rarely award damages without video evidence. A large percentage of Russian car crashes are thus captured on video and aggregated on a devoted LiveJournal page that gets more than four million views per month. The car-crash video corpus is a gold mine of piquant Russian slang, from the derogatory potsient—a hybrid of ‘[hospital] patient’ and ‘putz,’ used to denote crash victims—to the honorific zhelezobetonnoe ochkko—anus of concrete—for drivers who navigate deadly situations without losing their cool.”
- A Meteor in the Russian Sky by Elif Batuman
Writing might initially happen in a vacuum, but books emerge and live somewhere very different. To ignore all this is at best wishful thinking and at worse self-sabotage…Eugenides’s decision to ignore this vast reality is less troubling than another feature of his advice: that it comes from the Pulitzer Prize winner himself. After all, Eugenides can write inside his make-believe casket and enjoy the spectacle of his well-attended funeral, too.
I brush my teeth, get dressed, make the bed. I avoid conversation, as my husband knows. I am not yet in the world, and there is a certain risk involved in talking: the night spins a fine membrane, like the film inside an eggshell. It seals you off from the world, but it’s fragile, easily pierced.
In ancient times, there was a famous chef named Pao Ding, who was an expert at carving up cows. In modern times, there was a man who was an expert at sizing them up—my father. In Pao Ding’s eyes, cows were nothing but bones and edible flesh. That’s what they were in my father’s eyes, too. Pao Ding’s vision was as sharp as a knife; my father’s was as sharp as a knife and as accurate as a scale. What I mean to say is: if you were to lead a live cow up to my father, he’d take two turns around it, three at most, occasionally sticking his hand up under the animal’s foreleg—just for show—and confidently report its gross weight and the quantity of meat on its bones, always to within a kilo of what might register on the digital scale used in England’s largest cattle slaughterhouse.
… [DFW] characterizes his novel as ‘a tornado of characters,’ reminiscent of a comment he made to his editor Michael Pietsch, that writing ‘The Pale King’ was like trying to build a chicken coop in a tornado, itself a quote from Faulkner. Elsewhere, more aptly, he asks, ‘Tornado or stasis.’