I read this today from Louise Erdrich's new novel The Night Watchman:
And Patrice thought another thing her mother said was definitely true -- you never really knew a man until you told him you didn't love him. That's when his true ugliness, submerged to charm you, might surface.
On Friday night I joined a virtual silent reading that I heard about from my beloved friend, poet Heather McHugh. The thing originated at a hotel somewhere in Seattle and was a yearly affair where you basically showed up, I think, at the hotel bar, alone with a book. And then that was it. You sat at the bar or in the bar at the little tables and just read your book. Alone. For two hours. While a man played the piano. You could drink and eat little plates of food, but mostly you read and looked up and around at the other solo people reading and what they were reading. And then back down at your own book. So, this year given The Pandemic, the Silent Reading was virtual. I signed up, paid a small donation and joined the Zoom thing at 6:00 on Friday night with nearly 300 people. Reader, this is the kind of thing that makes me truly and perfectly happy. It's the ultimate reading dream. I made myself a plate of sheep's milk cheese, crackers, soppressata, french fries, olives and a glass of wine. I read The Night Watchman and I read from Sharon Olds' new collection titled Arias. I peered at the tiny thumbnail portraits of all the people sitting in their homes reading. I lay my head back on my chair and closed my eyes and listened to the piano music that poured out of this guy for the entire two hours. I saw Heather's smiling face in early evening light and the book she was reading, something by Borges and once again felt overwhelmed by her beauty and what she's brought to my life since I've met her. Understanding. Humor. Caregiving. Poetry. She's got a fabulous new website/podcast thing going in anticipation of her new book of poems, Muddy Matterhorn. Check out her sound files here.
What else? I guess the usual -- vacillating between a strange ennui and ridiculous industriousness. Noticing everything that is ugly and stupid and false about our country in particular and so not anything like or ever has been shining on a hill even as the oak hydrangea flowers chartreuse, the acacia tree leafs out, the succulents thrust their onanistic blooms three feet in the air overnight and the hummingbirds clash with one another in irritation or ecstasy who knows but the bees are profuse and there's a Coopers hawk nesting in my neighbor's tree, the Orthodox family next door has five laughing screaming children and the Los Angeles sky is empty of planes. A loved one misunderstands who I am or confirms again that I am not known, digs around in an old place only just barely buried under dark dark earth. I worry for my sons, vacillating like me between ennui what's the point, confusion, and the delight of new recipes (a lemon-parmesan emulsion for pasta!) Their dark brown eyes. I imagine how the world might use two incredibly beautiful men with hearts as big as the sky. I dream of firemen not doctors.