UD, a ‘thesdan hayseed, talks New York.

Although UD grew up right down the Amtrak corridor from New York City, she seldom traveled there; even as an adult, she’s visited shockingly few times. UD has spent more time in Ubud, Bali, than in NYC. Yet she notices that she has, over the years, developed a curious sort of home wisdom about one of the most prominent subcultures there.

These rough and ready truths of hers are not, of course, based on nothing; like many literate people, UD has been reading about that city and its inhabitants all her life; and from what she has gleaned, she has derived some modestly explanatory takes on some of its more notorious denizens.

Most broadly, she finds that firmly situating Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Charles Kushner, Marc Kasowitz, and many other Trumpish madmen — but especially Donald Trump himself — in New York City helps us understand them. It’s helpful to see them as emerging out of a particular ecosystem in which their behavior is perfectly normal.

On a lower yet still fascinating level, firmly situating two recent high-profile identity-fakers (Jessica Krug and Hilaria Baldwin) in NYC also helps us understand them.

Let me start with the lunatic White House.

New York City, let us say, rears, attracts, and encourages hyperdriven hypercompetitive crazies who just go all the way. Their nature is to charge into everything – money deals, marriages, parenthood, politics – with supermanic frenzy and without a thought – without one thought, I tell you – for the morrow. Bankruptcy? Divorce? Jail? Fuck it. Trump ran headlong into a ridiculous quest for the presidency and look what happened! NYC people simply keep breaking through – that’s the thing. They don’t think of life as a series of steps which will if you’re not careful eventuate in bad outcomes which will pain you and those you love and condemn you to hell or whatever — they don’t think like normal people. The Big Mo on steroids – that’s their thing. Competitive capitalism unbound. Competitive everything unbound. No shame, no fear, no brakes.

Did you see either of the films based on Madoff? In both films, if I recall correctly, someone at some point looks at him and says something like Why did you do it and why didn’t you stop? The why did you do it part has no NYC resonance; the not stopping part – not stopping until THE ENTIRE WORLD ECONOMY TANKED AND HE COULD NO LONGER PAY OUT REDEMPTIONS – is echt Trumpy NYC. If you’re a Trumpy New Yorker, only some form of global collapse will stop you. Recall that up to the moment of his arrest Madoff was a singularly respected, highly placed, and well-connected New Yorker. A pious New Yorker – Yeshiva University’s treasurer!

Hell, Trump’s the president. And in case you haven’t noticed, he’s not planning to stop being president. Susan Glasser writes:

… Trump has remained … obnoxiously unrepentant. … He does not want to let go, to cede the spotlight, to renounce his outsized claim on our collective consciousness….

And you know that at no point in the real Madoff story did anyone ask him why he didn’t stop – that line was edited in for hayseeds outside NYC like UD, cuz otherwise the film would make no sense in any moral world she and her like can imagine. No one around Madoff ever stopped doing anything lucrative or personally advantageous, no matter how sordid, and Madoff would never have stopped either.

Once Trumps and Madoffs are truly a spent force, once they decide it’s safe to slow down and decamp with their winnings (even spitfires get old and lose their fire), they make a purely lateral cultural move – to their house in Florida.


People look at Donald Trump as a singular, ab nihilo dude; they can’t fathom his past behavior and they certainly can’t fathom his present. But he and Giuliani are behaving exactly the way people pickled in their brine always behave: Advance, Advance, Advance and the world can fuck itself.

Central to NYC-style heedless advancement is lying. You misrepresent yourself; you misrepresent your financial worth; you misrepresent the value of anything you have to offer. And of course you lie about other people; you make up obviously jackshit stories about Obama being born in Kenya and George Soros controlling Congress and Joe Biden stealing a presidential election. Advance, advance, advance, lie, lie, lie. In your NYC world everyone’s obscenely on the make and everyone lies. Lie it forward. No lie is too edgy, absurd, out there, shameless. Bigger the better. Keep going. Seems to work fine in DC too.


Look at Harold Brodkey’s take on this slice of NYC culture. His perspective is that of an artist, not a crazed capitalist, but he evokes the same Trumpian world, one part mania, one part lying:

I was always crazy about New York, dependent on it, scared of it – well, it is dangerous – but beyond that there was the pressure of being young and of not yet having done work you really liked, trademark work, breakthrough work. The trouble with the city’s invitation was that you were aware you might not be able to manage: you might drown, you might fall off the train, whatever metaphor you preferred, before you did anything interesting. You would have wasted your life. One worked hard or not at all, and tried to withstand the constant demolishing judgement. One watched people scavenge for phrases in other people’s talk – that hunt for ideas which is, sometimes, like picking up dead birds. One witnessed the reverse of glamour – that everyone is jealous.

It is not a joke, the great clang of New York. It is the sound of brassy people at the party, at all the parties, pimping and doing favors and threatening and making gassy public statements and being modest and blackmailing and having dinner and going on later. (Renata Adler used to say you could get anyone to be disliked in New York merely by praising that person to someone nervous and competitive.) Literary talk in New York often announced itself as the best talk in America. People would say, “Harold, you are hearing the best in America tonight.” It would be a cut-throat monologue, disposable wit in passing, practiced with a certain carelessness in regard to honesty. But then truth was not the issue, as it almost never is in New York.

New York City is also where we find the highest-profile imposters – people who, like fictive Manhattanite Jay Gatsby, lie all the way down to their corpuscles. Jessica Krug: White, Jewish, affluent; Gatsbyized black, hispanic, poor. Hilaria Baldwin: Offspring of people whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower; Gatsbyized a Spaniard with a strong accent and a shaky grasp of the English language.

Plenty of distinctions to be made amid all of this, I know. Hilaria (real name Hillary) ain’t much of a story. One… theatricalizes, mythologizes, oneself to be more interesting in the big city crowd. To stand out in hypercompetitive NYC. Baldwin is a strange woman, given to exhibitionism and self-praise, but who cares? Kim Kardashian for the west coast, and, for the sophisticated east, NYU-educated Hilaria Baldwin (though Kim comes by her exotic Armenianness honestly).

Krug’s far more insidious NYC tale carries ugly social implications having to do with the ideological corruption of universities and other institutions.

But both women share with the mad Trumpian lads that NYC thing: fake it til you fake it. Fake it more. Nothing exceeds like excess.

“[R]eality itself remains very dear. One wants glimpses of …

… the real,” wrote Harold Brodkey, days before he died, in his memoir This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death. In Saul Bellow’s novel, Herzog, his main character desperately wants to

live in an inspired condition, to know truth, to be free, to love another, to consummate existence, to abide with death in clarity of consciousness – without which, racing and conniving to evade death, the spirit holds its breath and hopes to be immortal because it does not live …

And in his poem, Note to Reality, Tony Hoagland, who has died, says much the same thing as Bellow and Brodkey, though in the wandering pastiche of poetry:

Without even knowing it, I have
believed in you for a long time.

When I looked at my blood under a microscope
I could see truth multiplying over and over.

—Not police sirens, nor history books, not stage-three lymphoma
persuaded me

but your honeycombs and beetles; the dry blond fascicles of grass
thrust up above the January snow.
Your postcards of Picasso and Matisse,
from the museum series on European masters.

When my friend died on the way to the hospital
it was not his death that so amazed me

but that the driver of the cab
did not insist upon the fare.

Quotation marks: what should we put inside them?

Shall I say “I” “have been hurt” “by” “you,” you neglectful monster?

I speak now because experience has shown me
that my mind will never be clear for long.

I am more thick-skinned and male, more selfish, jealous, and afraid
than ever in my life.

“For my heart is tangled in thy nets;
my soul enmeshed in cataracts of time…”

The breeze so cool today, the sky smeared with bluish grays and whites.

The parade for the slain police officer
goes past the bakery

and the smell of fresh bread
makes the mourners salivate against their will.


Nothing concentrates the mind like life-threatening illness; or so you’d think, but like most of us the poet’s “mind will never be clear for long,” so he must “speak now,” when his mind clears enough for him to write a poem. He addresses a love/hate note directly to what UD has always, in her own private lingo, called Mama Reality, that thing Bellow and Brodkey yearn toward, dream of, want to wake themselves from their dream of, so they can enter “clarity of consciousness” and leave the half-life their fear of death has settled them into.

Having overcome, for the moment, his customary half-awareness, the poet now sees that he has long “believed in you” – or he has at least believed in those manifestations of Mama Reality that involve the sheer pulsating amorally-triumphant proliferation of nature: cancerous blood cells overcoming the immune system; high grass overcoming January snow. Not abstractions, or even loud alarms, but the particularity of beetles (dung beetles, featured in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, represent another natural force that feeds on death) and honeycombs “persuade” the poet that reality exists, that life is not sheer dream, evasion, longing. Life is mad, often sweet and beautiful, but uncertainly meaningful, proliferation, as in the honeycombs, or in the piles of postcards of their work that the prolific artist-bees Picasso and Matisse generate.


And now we shift to a little narrative, a little memory, still in the key of morbidity and uncertain meaning:

When my friend died on the way to the hospital
it was not his death that so amazed me

but that the driver of the cab
did not insist upon the fare.

I note for the record, Reality, that to be grounded in you is to be hopelessly grounded in life – so much so, that once he died my friend was instantly less real to me than an anonymous, gratuitous, cabbie. That gratuitous gesture – not insisting on the fare – is all of us blindly driving forward to the next event, veering right away from the face of death. So here the poet is back to thinking about our customary half-sleep, our mainly unclarified consciousness:

Quotation marks: what should we put inside them?

Shall I say “I” “have been hurt” “by” “you,” you neglectful monster?

Why have you abandoned me to unreality, to the distancing abstractions of quotation marks rather than the direct expression that, as Herzog says, would allow me “to know truth”? You’re monstrously guilty of neglecting my yearning to be close to you; and at this late date I’m terribly ill – terribly hurt by your amoral proliferating processes – and I’m therefore very angry with you.

“For my heart is tangled in thy nets;
my soul enmeshed in cataracts of time…”

Here is another quotation. The poet draws upon biblical? Romantic? poetic traditions in another form of complaint: I can make this pretty if you like, but the obdurate outraging fact is my powerless implication in your unaccountable story of killing proliferation.

And now we end with brief present-time (real-time?) orientation:

The breeze so cool today, the sky smeared with bluish grays and whites.

The parade for the slain police officer
goes past the bakery

and the smell of fresh bread
makes the mourners salivate against their will.

Well, smeared. ‘Fraid we’re not making much progress out of unclarity, though, as with our response to all those Picassos, we retain aesthetic – painterly – responsiveness to the world. The earlier police siren, alarming us to danger, is now the accomplished death of the police officer; and, as in the narrative of the cab, reality seems to be that thing that hastens us on to the next fresh event, even in the immediate face of death. Rather than mourning, the paraders salivate at the smell of fresh bread.


It is an interesting question, you know – the extent to which our superior human consciousness can really lift us into a realm significantly higher than that of worker bees, enmeshed in cataracts and compelled – against our will – always to freshen and sweeten and proliferate our world until those compulsions turn morbid.

The coincidence of reading about Kate Spade’s suicide and the blockbuster new horror film, “Hereditary”…

… has had UD thinking about horror. So here is her sermon on horror.

This is Part One, because Les UDs are going out for a meal soon.

She begins with this text, from the novelist Harold Brodkey’s memoir, written as he was dying of AIDS:

Life is a kind of horror. It is OK, but it is wearing.

It is OK – that is, we can take it, we do take it; or we ignore it (“I have wondered at times if maybe my resistance to the fear-of-death wasn’t laziness and low mental alertness, a cowardly inability to admit that horror was horror,” Brodkey writes elsewhere.), or we – and this is where it gets interesting, if you ask ol’ UD – we cultivate that admission as an important awareness.

Brodkey rightly identifies his inability to admit that horror is horror as cowardly: Keep your mind in hell and do not despair is the epigraph to Gillian Rose’s early-dying memoir, and it goes to the ethical imperative, if you want to be a serious, reflective person, to evolve and sustain the double vision implicit in Saint Silouan’s famous statement.

Even our writers, though, seem reluctant to help us out here. In his essay, “Inside the Whale,” George Orwell points out that “ordinary everyday life consists far more largely of horrors than writers of fiction usually care to admit.”


Taking on board the horror means not merely acknowledging as fully as you can the first noble truth of suffering; it also means (I suppose this is a subset of suffering; but hold on, cuz my sermon wants to focus on our love of profoundly horrifying films) acknowledging how intimately, sickeningly, undone we are by the lifelong spectacle of just how enigmatically grotesque and grotesquely enigmatic are both grounded human existence and ungrounded cosmic reality.

I read somewhere (can’t find the source) that the best way to get through life is engrossed in “reasonably short-term, manageable anxieties.” Your kid needs to get a job; you want to pay off the mortgage in five years; you want to take fifty points off your cholesterol score. If you can manage, for most of your run, to keep your head down and contend not at all with the incommensurable violent isolating madness just over the atmosphere, bravo. Or maybe it’s cowardly. But anyway, it’s functional, and you’ll get by.

Think of all those great books about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Most people would prefer to be John Roebling, totally engrossed for decades in iron probes, than doomed, metaphysical, Hart Crane.

You probably don’t get Chartres or the Brooklyn Bridge built if, like John Koethe, you spend extended time wondering this:

What feels most frightening
Is the thought that when the lightning
Has subsided, and the clearing sky
Appears at last above the stage
To mark the only end of age,
That God, that distant and unseeing eye,

Would see that none of this had ever been:
That none of it, apparent or unseen,
Was ever real, and all the private words,
Which seemed to fill the air like birds
Exploding from the brush, were merely sounds
Without significance or sense,
Inert and dead beneath the dense
Expanse of the earth in its impassive rounds.

Horror vacui is a place many of us have been, and fine, because the capacity to entertain the possibility of nihilism is, I think, a mark of a sensitive, educated person.

But there’s also horror plenitudinis, no? That moment in our lives, wrote Rilke, where

the pure too-little

is changed incomprehensibly -, altered

into that empty too-much.

And this is where the horror film comes in.


My opening text on that subject is this one, from one of many excited reviews of Hereditary:

Despite the challenge of watching the film, reviews so far have been almost universally glowing. Critics have lauded Hereditary’s ability to get under their skin, noting that it’s the kind of movie you just can’t shake, as much as you’d like to. The feedback suggests that people turn to films like Hereditary because they want to be fucked up

Bad Writing + Umbrage = Bad Outcome

Scathing Online Schoolmarm has told you and told you and told you that good writers have their prose and their emotions under control. Helen Vendler cites Yeats:

Yeats, in “The Fisherman,” thought a poem should be “cold/And passionate as the dawn” — that it should embody, along with the rising passion of inception, the cold inquisition of detached self-critique.

Passion and chill: You might say this about any good piece of writing, as in, most lately, this consideration of body radiation by Christopher Hitchens.

But I do remember lying there and looking down at my naked torso, which was covered almost from throat to navel by a vivid red radiation rash. This was the product of a month-long bombardment with protons which had burned away all of the cancer in my clavicular and paratracheal nodes, as well as the original tumor in the esophagus. This put me in a rare class of patients who could claim to have received the highly advanced expertise uniquely available at the stellar Zip Code of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. To say that the rash hurt would be pointless. The struggle is to convey the way that it hurt on the inside. I lay for days on end, trying in vain to postpone the moment when I would have to swallow. Every time I did swallow, a hellish tide of pain would flow up my throat, culminating in what felt like a mule kick in the small of my back. I wondered if things looked as red and inflamed within as they did without. And then I had an unprompted rogue thought: If I had been told about all this in advance, would I have opted for the treatment? There were several moments as I bucked and writhed and gasped and cursed when I seriously doubted it.

Hitchens learned how to write from the master, George Orwell, here describing his own encounter with pain:

[T]he doctor and the student came across to my bed, hoisted me upright and without a word began applying [a] set of [cupping] glasses, which had not been sterilized in any way. A few feeble protests that I uttered got no more response than if I had been an animal. I was very much impressed by the impersonal way in which the two men started on me. I had never been in the public ward of a hospital before, and it was my first experience of doctors who handle you without speaking to you or, in a human sense, taking any notice of you. They only put on six glasses in my case, but after doing so they scarified the blisters and applied the glasses again. Each glass now drew about a dessert-spoonful of dark-coloured blood. As I lay down again, humiliated, disgusted and frightened by the thing that had been done to me, I reflected that now at least they would leave me alone. But no, not a bit of it. There was another treatment coming, the mustard poultice, seemingly a matter of routine like the hot bath. Two slatternly nurses had already got the poultice ready, and they lashed it round my chest as tight as a strait-jacket while some men who were wandering about the ward in shirt and trousers began to collect round my bed with half-sympathetic grins. I learned later that watching a patient have a mustard poultice was a favourite pastime in the ward. These things are normally applied for a quarter of an hour and certainly they are funny enough if you don’t happen to be the person inside. For the first five minutes the pain is severe, but you believe you can bear it. During the second five minutes this belief evaporates, but the poultice is buckled at the back and you can’t get it off. This is the period the onlookers enjoy most. During the last five minutes, I noted, a sort of numbness supervenes. After the poultice had been removed a waterproof pillow packed with ice was thrust beneath my head and I was left alone. I did not sleep, and to the best of my knowledge this was the only night of my life — I mean the only night spent in bed — in which I have not slept at all, not even a minute.

Do ye nae see that great writing – prose or poetry – is not the shriek, but the shriek mediated by consciousness? The mind at the same time registering and reflecting on experience? Compiling the metaphors and physical details that will generate in the reader the mood of the writer — the world of the writer? Not simply shrieking I HURT MAN but patiently, perceptively, gathering in the details of the material and social and psychological world in which consciousness moves?

I am offered a final scratch on any of a dozen itchy spots from hairline to toe; the Bi-Pap breathing device in my nose is adjusted to a necessarily uncomfortable level of tightness to ensure that it does not slip in the night; my glasses are removed…and there I lie: trussed, myopic, and motionless like a modern-day mummy, alone in my corporeal prison, accompanied for the rest of the night only by my thoughts.

The late Tony Judt, describing the bondage of his last illness.

I could go on. But note in all of these great writers a sedate, almost stately, pace; an embroilment in the world around them rather than in their feelings; a stoical disposition that takes anguish for granted and sets about getting some leverage over it by thinking and writing about it…

One may be tired of the world — tired of the prayer-makers, the poem-makers, whose rituals are distracting and human and pleasant but worse than irritating because they have no reality — while reality itself remains very dear. One wants glimpses of the real. God is an immensity, while this disease, this death, which is in me, this small, tightly defined pedestrian event, is merely and perfectly real, without miracle — or instruction. I am standing on an unmoored raft, a punt moving on the flexing, flowing face of a river. It is precarious. I don’t know what I am doing. The unknowing, the taut balance, the jolts and the instability spread in widening ripples through all my thoughts. Peace? There was never any in the world. But in the pliable water, under the sky, unmoored, I am traveling now and hearing myself laugh, at first with nerves and then with genuine amazement. It is all around me.

Yes, yes, I’ll stop. I wanted to toss Harold Brodkey into the mix. This was written days before he died.


In the recent dust-up between Rita Dove and Helen Vendler over what good poetry is, we see what happens when you go with the shriek rather than the mediated shriek. In choosing poems with lines like

We want poems
like fists beating niggers out of Jocks
or dagger poems in the slimy bellies
of the owner-jews. Black poems to
smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking
Setting fire and death to
whities ass.

for the poetry anthology she’s edited, Dove prompts the question of poetic standards. In including this poem, she has given me access to an angry consciousness. Poems should be blades and fists with which to kill people; but they are also smears, which confuses me. The enemy is smears – red jelly, slime. To call the poem also a smear is to mix up the low sliminess of the enemy with your side’s high slashing quality. You’re hard; they’re soft. If you’re also a smear, the sides get mixed up.

This isn’t a surprising outcome, because when your writing is a spew, it’s likely to be a mess. Ralph Ellison’s narrator in Invisible Man is equally rageful, but the writer chills the passion with his prose… which has the effect of making Ellison’s rage far more powerful and disclosing than Baraka’s. The very fact that Ellison has gone to the trouble of removing the rage from one singular consciousness, and placing it a larger, accessible world, makes his writing ramify out to an audience in a way Baraka’s simply cannot.

So this, Vendler points out, is a bad poem, and there are too many others like it in Dove’s anthology – flat, propositional, linguistically dull statements of rage and suffering and celebration and love.

“One wants the contemporary poets of Dove’s collection to ask more of their language, to embody more planes of existence,” writes Vendler; and this is because readers of poetry want the same “more capacious regard for the world” that everyone engaged in aesthetic experience wants, not an encounter with a singular shriek.


What about the umbrage in this post’s title?

That’s Dove’s, in her unfortunate response to Vender’s dislike of her anthology.

See, raw emotion doesn’t cut it. Writing is a cool medium, and if you can’t be cool, you make a hash of things.

Michael Sandel’s Ongoing Reith Lectures…

… at the BBC, titled A New Citizenship, allow UD to pause in her daily irrepressible point-making and remind you why she does what she does on University Diaries. (“I do what I do, I think what I think, and to hell with the rest of it,” wrote Harold Brodkey in the last days of his life, in This Wild Darkness; “you don’t actually exist for me anyway — you’re all myths in my head.”) The lectures allow her to shut up for a moment about university coaches and university medical faculties and PowerPoint professors and laptop students so as to refresh your memory as to what ma blogue is all about.

Like Sandel — like Christopher Lasch, like John Kenneth Galbraith, like Mickey Kaus, like a lot of people — UD‘s distressed by what Sandel calls the drift “from having a market economy to being a market society.” Sandel argues that the post-communist triumphalism of American culture has meant a complacency about morality, about civic values that transcend materialism.

The public life of democratic societies is not going all that well… [T]he momentum and the appeal of markets [has made us forget that] norms matter. [The problem is that] markets leave their mark on social norms…

Some of the good things in life are corrupted or degraded if turned into commodities…. How [do we] value [non-market] goods[?] [I have in mind things like] education…

These are moral and political questions, not merely economic ones. We have to debate the moral meaning of these goods, and the proper way of valuing them…. [We must] argue about the right way of valuing goods.

Sandel provides straightforward examples of public activities degraded by commodification — one of his examples, close to UD‘s heart, since she’s a longtime donor, is that of blood donation — but he also mentions education, a far more complex instance of civic decline.

Complex enough, in fact, to keep a blog devoted to the commercialization of universities — the transformation of endowments into hedge funds, complete with managers who, although they work at a non-profit institution, take home thirty million dollars a year; the transformation of campus athletics into a money-driven, money-losing corruption machine; the transformation of medical research into farcically compromised corporate hucksterism — very busy indeed.

I think it’s crucial, when talking and writing about the degradation of civic life into cynical materialism, to avoid platitudes. Not everything in America has declined in this way, and the problem with some writers on the subject (Lasch in particular) is that they exaggerate things. But if we confine ourselves to universities, if we irrepressibly focus on what they’re turning into, I think we make Sandel’s point for him. In abundance.

John Updike’s Last Poem, Titled “Requiem.”

It came to me the other day:

Were I to die, no one would say,

‘Oh, what a shame! So young, so full

Of promise – depths unplumbable!

Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes

Will greet my overdue demise;

The wide response will be, I know,

‘I thought he died a while ago.’

For life’s a shabby subterfuge,

And death is real, and dark, and huge.

The shock of it will register

Nowhere but where it will occur.


A nice unexciting final piece, which reminded me, in its last lines, of Harold Brodkey’s last lines in This Wild Darkness, written also just before his death. These lines, though prose, are more poetic than Updike’s:

One may be tired of the world — tired of the prayer-makers, the poem-makers, whose rituals are distracting and human and pleasant but worse than irritating because they have no reality — while reality itself remains very dear. One wants glimpses of the real. God is an immensity, while this disease, this death, which is in me, this small, tightly defined pedestrian event, is merely and perfectly real, without miracle — or instruction. I am standing on an unmoored raft, a punt moving on the flexing, flowing face of a river. It is precarious. I don’t know what I am doing. The unknowing, the taut balance, the jolts and the instability spread in widening ripples through all my thoughts. Peace? There was never any in the world. But in the pliable water, under the sky, unmoored, I am traveling now and hearing myself laugh, at first with nerves and then with genuine amazement. It is all around me.


Life’s a shabby subterfuge. Reality remains very dear. One wants glimpses of the real.

Death is real and dark and huge, writes Updike. Yet these vague words don’t work as powerfully as the precision — the gorgeous, bizarre precision — of Brodkey’s fevered mind, which finds, even as it shuts down, a glorious image through which to convey the gradual fading away of physical integrity as one floats off into death.

Both writers evoke the shabby subterfuge of life, the noontime show of reassurance we make; and our sense, as day lengthens, of our self-deceit.

It’s hard to convey…

… on the morning after a dark violent snowstorm, precisely how precise the beach, ocean, and sky are now. The effect one sometimes has in this apartment of being on an ocean liner is more intense than ever – there’s even a sense of motion.

The white of the breaking, spraying tide merges with the white of the snow on the little dunes, and, with a full sun and cloudless sky shedding light so strong I can’t get a good picture of it from the balcony (this is a picture from earlier this morning), it’s … what? Pearlescent?

As for what one consciousness feels gazing at it — I’m thinking of a line from Harold Brodkey’s memoir:

Perhaps you could say I did very little with my life, but the douceur, if that is the word, Talleyrand’s word, was overwhelming. Painful and light-struck and wonderful.

Latest UD posts at IHE