Friday, January 28, 2011

Are you gonna eat that melancholy? Part 1, Nox

I f#%ing hate the word melancholy. It's like a fruit that can't admit it's a vegetable. And either way, you don't want it on your plate.

But here I sit, last at the table, in a staredown with melancholy and I can't stomach it. I want it to extract itself, move off the plate of its own accord so I don't have to eat that shit.

And there it sits. I've been sick. It's been cold. Couped up, cabin-fevered, little sunlight. And generally I'm an upbeat cat, but, man.

I've been sitting with three brilliant writers, muses really, who I am smitten with and shaken by, who are hip to some rough revelations about humanity.

Anne Carson (above). Joan Didion. C.D. Wright.

I've got some Buddhist in me. I fathom our transitory being, impermanence, non-attachment. But I have a rough time with death and our whole corporeal rodeo here.

Carson. Her book Nox. It's big. As a book and as a physical work of art and collage, yeah, but it is large in scope as well. The book is an elegy for her brother, who died and with whom she wasn't close in their adult lives.

She is thinking elegy, which leads her to history. She is a classics scholar, so history leads to Herodotus. Here is Carson's take on the Big Poppa of history:

Herodotus is a historian who trains you to think as you read. It is a process of asking, searching, collecting, doubting, striving, testing, blaming and above all standing amazed at the strange things humans do. Now by far the strangest thing that humans do--he is firm on this--is history. This asking.

This process, this asking, this is the kind of stuff that makes me tick. It gets me fired up. It's how I am wired, digging into the big questions. And Carson rightly connects elegy to history, and vice-versa, as they both run square into death. Yikes. Let me grab a beer here.

Carson being Carson, she digs into word origins, includes scraps of letters from her brother, mother, and juxtaposes some poignant, personal history with the broad historical sweep.

She looks the melancholy on her plate square in the snout (of course, it's not likely that a fruitgetable would have a snout, but it's a working metaphor, so play along), swallows it down and moves on to her potatoes. Meat and potatoes seem like something you should eat to balance your melancholy.

So there is this beautiful elegy/history construct in the form of Nox and Carson to deal with. That's part one of the mental malaise that's swirling at the moment, which is necessarily catching me different based on the winter, kicking the whole body cold, the getting older, the asking the big questions.

I need to go for a run, do some yoga, too snowy to hit the longboard. Get out of the house. Like maybe to Hawaii. That'll work.


Kelly said...

this is the best most honest post I've read in a long while. Fruitegable. Amazing. Grit is what's behind passion, and behind passion an incomprehensible lust for and love of life. And to love that much means swallowing some hard intolerable shit. You know? I'm about sunny as it comes til I have to look straight away at that fucking fruitgeable blocking out my sun. Dont make it any less true tho, any less part of life...

Michael Valliant said...

Indeed, Kelly. "Grit is what's behind passion..." I always dig your comments here, whether affirmation or conversation or debate. Many thanks for the props. :)