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sunday post: it’s still sunday here if not in london

with 16 comments

1. Sitting outside at a cafe in Chapel Hill, where I’ve been sent (or is it taken) for a bit, Chapel Hill I mean not the cafe. The guy next to me in the smoking section outside is sitting with laptop open and a book positioned between his chest and the keyboard, taking notes.

2. What would it take to get back to work? It’s not of course as if I don’t do any – I imagine that I’m still, despite it all, in about the ninetieth percentile or so amongst academics, even if idiosyncratically so. The reviewery keeps falling from the skies of London, and I keep my deadlines or almost do. And for awhile there I was adding 2000 words per day to the novel, but even that was entre some very wavy lignes. I did 1900 today at a mall-lodged Barnes and Noble, after buying the Glen Beck novel with great embarrassment, all ready to explain that I want to write it up, negatively of course, for some very important foreign magazines. (Long readership prize if you can explain in comments what my angle for a comment piece – not a review obviously – on this book might be…)

3. Colleagues write and say that they like or even love the blog. Especially the darker bits. Ah hem. Don’t encourage me. What a slim membrane stretched between life writing and living to life write. (A question for a Barthes translator working on a text Barthes never wrote, or maybe even some that he did: why are the terms available in English for, um, creative writing (see?) so horrendously whimsical sounding or constrictively unabstract, just as our sex talk inebriatedly veers from the gutter to the sexual health clinic without stopping in the realm of the lovely and/or poetic?)

4. Want to stay here writing but my father will worry that I’m out drinking if I do. I won’t be able to finish this at their place, though, even though I’ve discovered today the snus. Not like I’m kissing anyone while I’m here, just in case you were worried…

4a. There’s a great bit in that new thing about Wallace by David Lipsky where, while on a plane, the former taunts the latter about his ability to enjoy nicotine enjoyment because of his dipping. Even better is the fact that he makes up an excuse for the flight attendant about having a plastic allergy so that she’ll give him a styrofoam cup rather than a clear plastic one, which would gross his fellow passengers out. I’d quote it if I were at home rather than sitting outside of Caribou Coffee in Chapel Hill.

4b. Snus requires no spitting at all. I tried it today and confess here on my confessional blog that I looked in the mirror to see if you could tell I had it in. Not to hide it from my parents, no, but rather with the thought that I might pop one in during long grad seminars. (Again – DFW prize if you mark the subtext in comments…)

5. I try to explain to my father why I have to write here and not there, now and not before or later, and under these conditions and not those, by saying that it’s like baseball – ticky, idiosyncratic, strewn with homespun and ad hoc mythologies and auto-gnomisms.

6. There are bugs walking around this sitting area that are so big that if I saw them in London they’d be mice, if not rats.

7. The fifth point was supposed to conclude on a different word, but I simply couldn’t remember it. It’s there but it’s simply not coming. The sensation of having a word but being not quite able to reach it, pull it out of the back of the mind. The fantasized geographies and topologies of the brain that one develops when this happens. Saw a horrible picture in the paper of a US soldier who had a third of his head blown away but somehow survived. One can’t help but wonder if certain words, turns of phrase, are missing. I imagine they are, along with much else, despite the redundancies and double wiring built into the system.

8. An engulfing, overwhelming fear of being alone and the way that the blog solves this so tantalizingly incompletely.

9. Horrible what enabled me to start writing this post. Fearful that it happens like that, terrifying my inability to learn easy lessons.

10. Is it America that makes me unable to write this in the third person that I normally take up in these?

11. A.O. Scott a few months ago in the NYT on Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask and the meme of “Generation X’s Midlife Crisis” in general:

Note the sudden swerve from world-historical grandiosity to consumerist banality; the attempt to camouflage sincere confusion with winking insouciance; the obsession with generalizing a personal experience.

While the terms on offer here seem intimately familiar to me, and likely to you if you read this blog, I on the other hand don’t fit the Gen X mold, at all, that Scott describes elsewhere in the piece. The slackerdom, the insolent refusal to grow up! I went straight from undergrad (where I took 39 separate courses while everyone else took 32, five per term except the first, while everyone else took four), went straight into my PhD, got my first tenure track job at 28, had my first kid at 28, got my second job at a more prestigious place and abroad at 32, had my second kid at 32, and hopefully (cross your fingers, or don’t at this point) will have two books out in 2011, at the age of 34. I am the purest child of meritocratic striving that you’ll ever meet, and now, sure, it’s starting to look a bit Greenberg at a premature age. Anyway…

11a. I was carded today buying cigarettes. The age to buy them is 18! What flattery. And the girl who did it said I never would have guessed you were that age. I wanted to respond, but didn’t, Well give it a few more years of this.

12. There’s a two-table outdoor smoking area at this cafe. I am seated in one of the tables. (The guy with the book is long since gone – actually he left last night. I’ve been writing this post for a long time now, albeit in the same place. Long enough that I actually remembered, earlier today in the shower, the word mentioned in 7, but it’s departed again. Stupid untrainable brain folds!) Just now, two young girls were seated at the next table. One of them said the phrase quotatation marks, then described herself in laughter as really really stupid, I just said “quotatation marks”!, and then caught my eye as I looked over. She must have thought this was a flirtatious move, on both of our parts. I was actually thinking, when I looked over, yes, you’re really stupid. Ah, the American South! Ah Southern girls!

13. Oh to be in London now etc.

14. What a malignancy this writing trade is. The psychopathology of house comparison, car comparison, that hovers like a fog over my parents’ community is nothing compared to New York Times Book Review anxiety, the anxiety that comes of seeing how smartly funny the start of Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask is.

15. A cockroach just ran up to my left foot. It’s getting near time to leave. I’m sure they have a different word for what that is, here in the South. Undoubtedly it’s a June Bug or something. But, reader, we know… A giant fucking cockroach.

16. If America is a nation of children, its sobriety renders it very adult compared to England. If England is a nation of adults, its inebriation renders it ominously childlike compared to America. And here I am, drinking coffee in the heat, about to roll home in a ridiculous car listening to satellite radio, worried that one of those June Bugs got into my bag, reeking of smoke but with mints in my pocket…

17. And there, as if on cue, are the fireworks…. Pictures of golf courses to be posted tomorrow or at least soon…

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 5, 2010 at 2:31 am

Posted in coffee places, sunday

16 Responses

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  1. Mints to mask smokey breath? So if you give up smoking that’s two more checks on the austerity list. Cameron and Clegg have a baby tax in the works, so I don’t recommend having any more kids in London. If money becomes really tight you could do black market tobacco smuggling I suppose.

    I was actually thinking, when I looked over, yes, you’re really stupid

    Yes but you have to say it or the moment is lost.


    July 5, 2010 at 3:22 am

    • I’ve been dipping into the Lipsky DFW book – what’s quite eye-opening in it is how much of it is about ambition, rivalry, success, from both of them (even though DFW is claiming to have overcome it, he obviously hasn’t). Seems very American, like when you realise they’re “pounding” diet sodas all day *and* drinking them with their meals (*shiver*).


      July 5, 2010 at 5:54 am

  2. David,

    Smokes is the last thing to go. Good news is they’re WAY cheaper here, so for the moment no need for austerity.

    And no of course I can’t say that – I’m a teacher for crissakes. But the residual Southern mating ritual that goes “I’m really really stupid – and thus the cute thing you’ve been looking for” is really annoying. Amazing that it doesn’t disappear, but what can you do.


    That’s exactly right. It’s a fantastically weird and interesting dynamic going on in the book, with DFW doing his admission / retraction / admission thing vis a vis Lipsky’s sort of deprecating undeprecation mirror work. I think it’s a more interesting book than many have said, though the interestingness is entirely inadvertent / symptomatic on Lipsky’s part.


    July 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

  3. Erh? What are you doing in the States, at “Harvard of the South,” no less?

    PS the “snus” creep me out. Perhaps because the word reminds me of the Schmoos? Maybe Benjamin wrote on both of them…


    July 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    • Sisyphus,

      Complicated what I’m doing here! And sorry about the snus. I’m doing what I can to stave off withdrawal.


      July 6, 2010 at 4:48 am

  4. (Long readership prize if you can explain in comments what my angle for a comment piece – not a review obviously – on this book might be…)

    No prize wanted, I’ve determined that I have ‘not left London just as I began to taste it’, and this post is constipated. You need to think about this term ‘constipated’, as it is the reason I could never condiser servicing you under any cirucmstances, and it ruins all your purest ambitions, because you are determined to keep as many irons in the fire as possible, and you can’t become an artist that way (you’ve sometimes given the impression that that’s what you’d want to be in your heart of hearts, but it seems you cannot get beyond being bumptious.) Who cares? Not me. But maybe you do. I’m sure there are amny people who’d like to meet you. I’m just no longer one of them.

    Lady Teazle

    July 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    • Sorry for the champagne lunch typos, but you really are probably an okay bourgeois type guy, just not everybody’s sort. You are at this point just not making up your mind about what you want, and that really only interests those with short attention spans.

      ‘snus’ is of no interest, because it just means you can’t discover various potentials, although I no longer am sure you have them. Not that you care what I think, and why should you? I don’t care what you think. Maybe you write provocative posts, but they’re still not living up to what I thought you had before you went totally self-indulgent and solipsistic. Fine if you’re getting a lot of real publishing, but you’re not saying anything that isn’t pretty much stereotyped. You’re TOO cautious, and that is never what ART is.

      Lady Teazle

      July 5, 2010 at 10:31 pm

  5. I only read a third of this post, it was that bad. Make up your fucking mind, at least about something. It won’t do me any good, god knows, but it might do you some, and I usually don’t have time to fool with you any more. You’re too old to keep up the ‘coy number’ if you’re really such a ‘true alpha male’. Come on, man, quit being such an asshole or learn how to get fucked.

    Lady Teazle

    July 5, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    • P,

      Thanks for your comments. You have no idea how much I look forward to life coaching sessions from you.


      July 6, 2010 at 4:44 am

      • Not bad. You know how I get off on terse.

        Lady Teazle

        July 6, 2010 at 6:11 am

  6. In Soviet USA, psychopath stalk YOU.


    July 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    • You’re old news, and took way more time than it was worth.

      That makes the waiting list for the Life Coaching Sessions shorter. I’m still probably the only person who ever visits here who doesn’t know his real name (yes, it’s hard to stalk someone when you’re too lazy to dig through the net, and somebody said they found his name without much trouble (that was probably you, master of nerdistry), and am eagerly awaiting the Marxisistic post-pseudonymous moment to be greeted with a display of Fireworks, not seen since either the Charles & Diana Forced Marriage or the Queen’s Jubilee, whichever was more elaborate.

      I doubt he’s terrible in person at all. After all he’s Catholic and Arpege thinks he’s ‘cultivated’. These are both stellar qualities, even if I don’t think Arpege is comprehensive enough in her generosity.

      My niece is just up the street, Ads. Rich as holy hell, too, maybe you could tap her for some money (we all always need more, and I have a feeling she might just prefer you to her husband, although you both have way too many morals.) Enjoy.

      Lady Teazle

      July 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

  7. I’m pretty sure I prefer her husband to me.

    (Had you there for a sec? Betcha thought I was gonna say something else….)


    July 7, 2010 at 4:50 am

    • Indeed am I speechless. You are very treacherous, monsieur…

      Lady Teazle

      July 7, 2010 at 7:07 am

  8. this is awesome. but lady teazle is even better. does she have a blog? and can i get her niece’s digits? although one thing that puzzled me – what if we don’t care whether you’re a ‘bourgeois type’ or an ‘alpha male’ or ‘washed up’ and just want to see where the story goes…? is that allowed…?


    May 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm

  9. ps also are people really spending days digging through the net to discover your identity??


    May 13, 2012 at 11:14 pm

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