3 March 2023, around 16.12.
buttered bread and jam
meant lunch on a busy day
work’s forbidden fruit
limits of detection
6 March 2023, around 6.10.
You are the detective, searching out things to help you understand how to put the puzzle together. In telling the story, you open up your confusion as you cover terrain that needs exploring. But there is something about taking the inner thoughts of your mind and speaking them out loud that helps put things in order. It can be the temporary scaffolding that holds up the rocked structure of your world. Telling the story helps to re-create and rebuild structure.
—Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler (On Grief & Grieving, p. 63)
10 March 2023, around 4.59.
I have an excellent memory, and I always remember the next day what I would have said if my paper had been long enough. In saying this, I have no intention of making you believe that I think by rule, that my sentences are so exact that they resemble a circle, which you have no difficulty in completing if you have made a segment of it. No, on the contrary, my sentences have no regular shape. My arguments, if you will, are sometimes circular, but my sentences are very much out of the ordinary. They are like curious porcelain, which the lady of the house has extreme difficulty in matching, so as to keep her set complete, when by ill luck a cup is broken. The same difficulty in finding a match is observable among excellent things; and, truly, I have reason at least to doubt whether my sentences are not very fine rather than very odd. Oddity itself is sometimes a kind of excellence.
—James Boswell (Boswell in Holland, p. 80)
14 March 2023, around 7.45.
Οὐδὲ δὴ τὸ ἕκαστον ἅπτεσθαι τῶν ἀπείρων τὴν διάνοιαν οὐκ ἔστιν ἀριθμεῖν, εἰ ἄρα τις καὶ νοήσειεν οὕτως ἐφάπτεσθαι τῶν ἀπείρων τὴν διάνοιαν. ὅπερ ἴσως ἀδύνατον· οὐ γὰρ ἐν συνεχέσι καὶ ὑποκειμένους ἡ τῆς διανοίας κίνησις, ὥσπερ ἡ τῶν φερομένον.
Again, the process of the mind touching an infinite series one by one is not the process of counting, if indeed anyone supposes that the mind does in this way touch an infinite series. Perhaps this supposition is in itself impossible; for the movement of the mind does not take place like the movement of travelling bodies in continuous matter.
–[Aristotle] (On Indivisible Lines, 969a 32f., trans. W.S. Hett)
19 March 2023, around 17.30.
an evening turn
snow’s phthisis and rain opens
a window to spring
the new credulity
24 March 2023, around 9.20.
We reject without question the meaning the author gives his text. We declare that he does not know what he is saying. From our several centuries’ distance we know better than he and can correct what he has written. We even believe that we have discovered a truth not seen by the author and, with still greater audacity, do not hesitate to state that he provides us with this truth even though he does not perceive it himself.
—René Girard (The Scapegoat, pp. 4f., trans. Yvonne Freccero)
27 March 2023, around 14.23.
It is the itchy time of year, that small collection of days when one notices the dusty cobwebs gathered in the corner and along the picture rail, when the dirty streaks on the window vex a spot of sun that shines too brightly but does not linger long. The piles of books pulled out for winter need to be reshelved, refreshed with other fare, but there is nothing quite right, nothing that truly pleases, because everything is unsettled or unsettling. The dog sighs on the sofa, curled up because the heater has been turned off. The day has at last resolved on being overcast.
31 March 2023, around 4.43.
There are always other eyes seeing what I see, and imagining that other angle, imagining what these senses that are not mine could make out through my own sense is, all things considered, the best definition of love that I know.
Grief is the end of loneliness.
—Cristina Rivera Garza (Liliana’s Invincible Summer, Part IV)
The narrative in Liliana’s Invincible Summer appears to begin with a quest to track down a copy of a decades-old police report. That is the starting point. But it is not the promised end (or even a vision of that horror). It is the not real undertaking. It is not even the real starting point, which clearly came earlier – perhaps with the decision to track down the police report so many years after the events described in that report, perhaps with the decision to write about her sister’s life and death, perhaps with the decision to engage in that noble, bootless gest of sense-making. Perhaps all of the above.1 The answer is not clear, cannot be clear. Perhaps cannot even be. (Some questions are unanswerable.)
Οὐκ εἶναί φασιν οὐδέν· εἰ δ᾽ ἔστιν, ἄγνωστον εἶναι· εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ γνωστόν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ δηλωτὸν ἄλλοις.
He maintains that nothing exists; and that if anything exists, it is unknowable; and that if anything both exists and is knowable, it cannot be demonstrated to others.
—[Aristotle] (On Gorgias, 979a, trans. after W.S. Hett)
It is not, I would say, a book as such. It is an assemblage, a collection – the approach is curatorial rather than authorial and, fittingly, devotional rather than authoritative. It is a choice, perhaps meant to suit the subject’s own approach to living and recording, an attempt to be in the subject’s place, for whom ‘the urge to write and the urge to archive appeared at the same time’ (Part II). Liliana’s ‘archive’ is somewhat commonplace – drafts of letters, fragments of relationships – and her sister’s additions to this (transcripts of unrecorded interviews, etc.) do not present a clear picture, or a mosaic, or even a comprehensible collage. She notes, ‘Liliana’s deliberate opacity not only requires determination on the part of the reader, the willingness to read on despite obstacles, but also complicity. Even love’ (Part VIII). Like its subject, the book, too, requires determination on the part of the reader, but not enough is presented to inspire that determination or that complicity – and certainly not that love, which is perhaps more necessary than either.
Not that Liliana was not special – to her family, to her friends; not that her death was not a tragedy – to her family, to her friends; but there is not enough in the archive to make her a hero or a symbol or emblem or much more than a statistic to anyone other than her family and her friends. Her fears, her dreams, her character – the future she never knew – remain chimerical, a cypher. But grief finds its best expression in the counterfactual. The strongest parts of the book, those parts that seem most ‘real’ (that convey the unreality, the impossibility of the situation), are those that deal directly with the experience of grief and mourning, ‘in this other world of quicksand in which we have already placed our feet, sinking little by little’ (Part IX), because the grief is the author’s story to tell, while Liliana’s life never should have been – it should have been her own. It is thus an imperfect book. Incomplete because its true work is not something that can be finished for an audience – and will perhaps never appear to be finished at all.
- This is apparent from reading The Restless Dead or Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, which explore much of the same territory, but start in different places and use different strategies and are, for some of the same reasons, equally (dis)satisfying. [↩]