Literature is the record we have of the conversation between those of us now alive on earth and everyone who’s come before and will come after, the cumulative repository of humanity’s knowledge, wonder, curiosity, passion, rage, grief and delight. It’s as useless as a spun-sugar snowflake and as practical as a Swiss Army knife.
I was trying to describe to my friends the other night what it is about writing history that reminds me of writing fiction, and I said, “It’s light writing a novel, but there are all these other people who know the characters, too, and you can talk to them about it.”
Then today I thought, “And we are part of the story too, we just haven’t been written into it yet.”
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Town Band, Middlebury, Vermont(?), c. 1890
When I am missing Vermont a lot I google image search my hometown and look at places I recognize from growing up. Today I was doing just that, when I stumbled upon this gem. This isn’t, of course, what I saw growing up. But the more I look at it, the more it seems familiar in a weird way that Vermont sometimes felt to me, the way something I can now only call “the history of the place”—but which is much more present, and more alive in its weight than that sounds—was there in a field seen from a passing car, or in the foundation stones of a house.
Maybe one day you turn a corner, and Oh fuck, there is an entire 19th century town band staring at you, fronted by a toddler in uniform.
Maybe like that.
Columbia student will carry her mattress until her rapist exits school
September 2, 2014
While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.
“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”
Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.
So Sulkowicz joined a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, and she will will hoist that mattress on her shoulders as part savvy activism, part performance art. “The administration can end the piece, by expelling him,” she says, “or he can, by leaving campus.”
As painful as I know the constant reminder of attending school with her rapist must be, I’m glad she won’t be the only one forced to remember. I hope the rapist drops out immediately…or better yet, I hope he faces the justice he deserves.
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Coney Island did not disappoint.
We took the train out to Brighton Beach: the sea by the boardwalk was bright, and floating in it made everything seem perfect and right again.
I don’t know how to say it, though—standing out there, after the hotdogs, before the Ferris wheel ride, during the ice cream cones, listening to the people singing karaoke—in the sun at the end of summer—it was the best everything had been in a long, long time. We all felt it, in that peculiar way you sometimes do around people.
I had been anxious about so many things, lately, and I know I will be again. But it was one of those strange moments in a time and a place when everything was filled up with ordinary magic, and the world was infinite and remarkable again.
remember that the city is a funny place
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The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.
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