September 21, 2010 § 3 Comments
My parents were born and raised in Denmark, just a few miles from each other in the countryside north of Copenhagen. Danes are secular and irreverent, heavy consumers of alcohol, tobacco, and pornography. My parents were both brought up as Seventh-Day Adventists, an austere sect of Christianity that was viewed with skeptical peculiarity in Denmark. They didn’t actually meet until years later in Michigan, where my Dad was finishing his PhD and teaching at a small Adventist college. My Mom had come there to further her nursing career. Less than a year after meeting they were engaged. This is the dimple in time when they met, and when my arrow in time began to stiffen.
July 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
In his recently published memoir, Christopher Hitchens wrote something that encapsulated all of the guilt I feel about my confessional writing. “For those I have loved, or who have been so lenient and gracious as to have loved me, I have not words enough here, and I remember with gratitude how they have made me speechless in return.” When I write, I have a recurring fear of betraying the loyalties of the people I write about. This is bearably nerve-wracking when profiling people or characterizing someone’s work or public opinions—a kind of writing I find painfully boring.
May 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
There’s one criticism of my writing that I’m especially sensitive to, the accusation of hyperbole. I’m happy to tangle with disagreement and often amused by personal insults and mockery, but when someone suggests hyperbole, I feel like I’ve failed in something essential. For the accusation to stick, it has to be demonstrated that the subject doesn’t actually believe what they’ve written. It’s an accusation of being disingenuous, having exaggerated a point beyond the limits of what the author really believes. It’s a devastating criticism. How can any writer expect someone else to believe a point that they themselves know is a whimsical untruth?
May 5, 2010 § 2 Comments
Last week something unexpectedly terrible happened. I was rifling though some links of things I’d written and discovered that every Nerve column had disappeared. The links, when sent out to the humming computer boxes housed in a high-rise office building somewhere in midtown Manhattan, found empty spaces where once had been mementos from my emotion-swollen brain. When I first started writing I was in the habit of reading my own work over and over again. There was no one who enjoyed it more than me. No one better appreciated the words whose etymologic thread had an especially lovely meaning, or which connected to some anecdote that hovered silently in between the lines. No one reveled more than I did in the circuitous conclusions I’d arrive at after wandering in the rhetorical murk for a thousand words. And no one, certainly, laughed louder at my jokes.
April 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
It’s sometimes unflattering to look back at the record of history one leaves behind. When I was twelve, I remember the mortification I felt when my dad brought home a video camera with which he intended to record one of his classes. He let me and a friend record ourselves yammering into the lens, and when we took the video tape out and replayed it on the television I felt like I was looking a poorly formed worm in a baggy t-shirt. My voice sounded somehow pig-like. The thrill I’d felt in seeing the glinting new piece of technology suddenly turned to resentment. “Get that stupid thing out of here,” I thought.
April 10, 2010 § 5 Comments
Poetry is a lost art that no one rightfully cares about anymore. Modern media offers many more powerful and direct methods for expressing the abstractions in our lives. The dusty old practitioners of word bending couldn’t keep pace with the rest of the world. It’s not that poetry is bad, nor that John Milton doesn’t matter anymore. It’s that there’s nothing left to build on in what remains of those old creations. You could listen to a song on your iPod, discovering the same colliding ideas held together across the semantic handholding of a linebreak, but now with the added embellishment of sound and performance. You could watch a montage of abstractly connected ideas held together on YouTube video streamed to your phone while waiting for the bus. The abstract surrounds us in new forms so much more than it did centuries ago, in an age of deliberate functionality and ceremonial human engagement.
April 8, 2010 § 4 Comments
One of the roots of the word “right” comes from the French “droite,” which is derived from “du rois.” In this way a right was neither inalienable nor innately granted but referred to a slip of paper that exempted someone from a royal tax or restriction by order of the King. It’s an exception from an arbitrary demand, not a defining quality that can be used to ennoble humanity. On the other hand, the word “rite” is a demarcation of something passed through, experienced, or survived.
I moved to New York one year ago today. I can’t say that means anything, but it has been an experience that I’ve never really had before. It’s something I’m grateful for and so I’ll commemorate that strange and lucky passage with this collage of all the sights, experiences, and surprising places that have been a part of my meandering arrow of time here. Whatever I’ve done over the last year, this has been the world that I’ve done it in. And done it for.
In chronological order, from April 7, 2009 to April 7, 2010: