8 Jul
Posted in: Books, Travel, Writing
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Reading about Wanting

Here is a drawing I made of the chair in my room in Castiglion Fiorentino, where I sat to read the book I’d brought for literary inspiration: The Folded Clock, by Heidi Julavits. I thought I’d be inspired because it got rave reviews in the New York Times, and because the structure of the book is both mundane (it’s a diary) and yet it’s not (there’s no discernible order). Each entry starts with a date, which seems to have no chronological connection to the entry before, and with a sentence that begins, “Today…”

For example:
May 5. Today I met for lunch a famous German artist, the one who violates the homes of others with her personal possessions.
August 30: Today we climbed Blue Hill.
June 8. Today I flew home from Italy after living for a month with a ghost.

So you can see, this is no ordinary diary.

From a literary point of view, it was very inspiring. From a personal point of view, it was mostly disheartening.

On August 16, she writes about wanting. The entry begins: Today I browsed for skirt suits online. She ends with a beautifully written riff on wanting, which I think captures something of the delusion that keeps her (and others) forever looking for SOMETHING, always anxious, unsettled, and unhappy:

I recalled being a kid and my mom taking me to a plant nursery called Skillins. I hated Skillins. As a child I was gifted at finding objects to desire. To take me to basically any store was to court my begging for items I had no business wanting. It was desire for the sake of desire. The plant nursery, however, confounded my meta-desire mechanism. I tried and tried, but I could never find a single thing to desire at Skillins, not even in the room with the ceramic frog planters. I didn’t want anything, and because I didn’t want anything, Skillins made me anxious. In Skillins I experienced what it was to desperately want to want something, and to find nothing to want. Even as a kid, this struck me as the worst possible way to feel. I sometimes think this is why I became a writer. Here was a way to regularly exercise my desire. I could desire to do this thing that no one does perfectly, and by doing it and doing it I could learn how to desire more, and better. Here was an activity that would always leave me wanting. When I want something–that to me is not youth exactly, but the opposite of death. That to me is a way to always feel like I am nowhere near the end.” 

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