Friday, October 4, 2013

Self-Absorption, Tolstoy, Mark Twain and Happiness

Leo Tolstoy and his wife, Sonya Behrs

I really couldn't have that picture of myself yesterday at the top of the blog anymore. Imagine what people would think if they hadn't been here before? The fact that I also posted a photo of myself in a Tinky Wink costume on Facebook must mean something other than complete self-absorption. The truth is that I feel a little crazy of late, like I'm closer to tipping off the edge than doing the customary pirouette. Surrendering to humor, to self-derision is probably just a defense. Behind all humor is sorrow, said Mark Twain, and I believe that. I flip the date on my Alhambra Poetry Calendar and read a poem called Nihilism that has entirely too many explanation points after words like gloom and tomb and hollow. It made me feel like shit, and I'd rip it off the calendar, light a match to nihilism and watch it burn into the blue sky of Los Angeles if I didn't feel a modicum of respect for Mr. Lionel Johnson who lived a short thirty-five years in the late nineteenth century. Here's the final stanza of his poem:

For all the things I do, and do not well;
All the forced drawings of a mortal breath:
Are as the hollow music of a bell,
That times the slow approach of perfect death.

Good lord, the drama! I like to imagine that living in another century I would have taken to bed with a draught of laudanum on days like today -- and yesterday, and the day before. Or I might have been in attendance to a great bearded writer, ministering to his own dramas, bearing his thirteen children and secretly aware that his fame was completely dependent on myself.

Yes, I'd say, as he picked up his quill, yes. All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.


  1. Good-bye, Tinky Wink. The fun never lasts, does it. There. That's my nihilism for the day.

  2. I have a beard. I write. Would love eleven more children ... LOL

  3. Just for the record- I've never agreed with that quote of Tolstoy's. I don't think any families are alike, happy or un-.
    But. I do think this is a marvelous post. Wish we could still get laudanum.

  4. I totally don't agree with Twain, or with Tolstoy. And now I'll scroll down to That Picture, and I know I'll find a better quote - by you.

  5. I just laid down "Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy" before turning on the computer! I agree with Ms. Moon. I'll have to ask my husband what the substitute is for laudanum. I hope the sun shines for you soon.


  6. I love this post, but I think it would have been even better if you'd incorporated the "Jesus Christ is Lord" ad below the comment box. WTF?

  7. I agree with Pauline- or is the picture in the ad of you after you've gone over the edge- right into the land of christianmingle? I think I detect a bit of blue eyeshadow under that sweep of blonde hair.

  8. Can we even get laudanum anymore? What IS laudanum? Some kind of opiate, right?

    Anyway, Mr. Lionel Johnson sounds a little too nihilistic for my taste. :)

  9. I'm with Ms Moon, I'm not sure I agree with that Tolstoy quote either.

    The ad on my computer is encouraging me to stock up on pizza rolls. Which then made this thought pop into my head: All healthy families are alike; each unhealthy family is unhealthy in its own way. Something to ponder as I down my coffee and toast slathered with Nutella.

    Lovely post.

  10. This is fantastic. So are you.

    I agree with Twain but not with Tolstoy, his declaration has always seemed so ridiculous and paternalistic to me. Pontificating over families while never spending time with his own. As for Twain, I often think that comedians are the saddest, underneath.

  11. Self absorbed here as well and taken to bed with laudanum for a week now.



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