February 2009

* In the same episode of This American Life there is an act dedicated to the modern practices of pig farming.


She was almost unrecognizable. She had put on weight, and in spite of her make-up her face looked worn, not so much by time as by frustration, which surprised me, as I never really that thought Clara aspired to anything. And if you don’t aspire to anything, how can you be frustrated? Her smile had also undergone a transformation. Before, it had been warm and slightly dumb, the smile of a young lady from a provincial capital, but it had become a mean, hurtful smile, and it was easy to read the resentment, rage, and envy behind it. We kissed eachother on the cheeks like a pair of idiots and then sat down; for a while we didn’t know what to say. I was the one who broke the silence.  I asked about her son; she told me he was at daycare, and then asked me about mine. He’s fine, I said. We both realized that, unless we did something, the meeting was going to become unbearably sad. How do I look? Clara asked. It was as if she were asking me to slap her. Same as ever, I replied automatically. I remembered we had a coffee, then went for a walk along an avenue lined with plane trees, which led directly to the station. My train was about to leave. We said goodbye at the door of the station, and that was the last time I saw her.

Clara, Roberto Bolano

Soon after that, I left her, but this time I decided to call every so often and stay in touch with one of her friends, who could fill me in (if only every now and then) . That’s how I came to know a few things it might have been easier not to know, stories that did nothing for my peace of mind, the kind of news an egotist should always take care to avoid.

Clara, Roberto Bolano

Thee depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror.


The approximately half-dozen friends whom her therapist — who had earned both a terminal graduate degree and a medical degree — referred to as the depressed person’s Support System tended to be either female acquaintances from childhood or else girls she had roomed with at various stages of her school career, nurturing and comparatively undamaged women who now lived in all manner of different cities and whom the depressed person often had not laid eyes on in years and years, and whom she called late in the evening, long-distance, for badly needed sharing and support and just a few well-chosen words to help her get some realistic perspective on the day’s despair and get centered and gather together the strength to fight through the emotional agony of the next day, and to whom, when she telephoned, the depressed person always apologized for dragging them down or coming off as boring or self-pitying or repellent or taking them away from their active, vibrant, largely pain-free long-distance lives.

The Depressed Person, David Foster Wallace

*Memories don’t live like people do/ they always remember you/ whether things are good are bad,  DJ Honda f/ Mos Def

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a mater of misplaced self-respect.


To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

On Self-Respect, Joan Didion

*But were afraid to ask

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