I am profoundly tired – exhausted in ways I don’t think I have ever been. Most days I get lunch in a town that hated me when I was a teenager. I take comfort in the fact that I am physically unrecognizable now – I am literally half the size I was, and never as unhappy. They have no way of knowing me now. I am sometimes seeing a boy who on our first date brought me flowers he picked himself. We walked along the river, barely talking. Yesterday I pressed three of those flowers between the pages of a vegan cookbook because I did not before then feel silly enough. During the day he sends me pictures from his job – small horses, goats, fields of flowers and butterflies. I file papers, answer the phone, sigh deeply. Tonight we are going to the planetarium. I am still constantly in pain.
Life is what it is, and it is often new and more than a little strange.
THE CRACK-UP by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation—the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
…now I wanted to be absolutely alone and so arranged a certain insulation from ordinary cares.
It was not an unhappy time. I went away and there were fewer people. I found I was good-and-tired. I could lie around and was glad to, sleeping or dozing sometimes twenty hours a day and in the intervals trying resolutely not to think—instead I made lists—made lists and tore them up, hundreds of lists: of cavalry leaders and football players and cities, and popular tunes and pitchers, and happy times, and hobbies and houses lived in and how many suits since I left the army and how many pairs of shoes (I didn’t count the suit I bought in Sorrento that shrank, nor the pumps and dress shirt and collar that I carried around for years and never wore, because the pumps got damp and grainy and the shirt and collar got yellow and starch-rotted). And lists of women I’d liked, and of the times I had let myself be snubbed by people who had not been my betters in character or ability.
—And then suddenly, surprisingly, I got better.
—And cracked like an old plate as soon as I heard the news.
Would I talk about the nature of being a writer, of presenting a public face to the world in a culture that is absolutely obsessed with authenticity, a culture that doesn’t seem to respect the expansiveness of the imagination? I wanted to convey to young writers that no single comment on a line in a poem, no workshop or advice, can offer more guidance than simple contact with a creative soul: an arm around a young writer’s shoulder; an encouraging comment; a crazy ramble about beloved poets. Those were the moments that a young writer absorbed and from which he learned.
The day after I received the news of Denis’s death, during a break in my daughter’s festivities, I called Darrell in L.A., and we talked and cried about Denis. He told me a story about how Denis hated a theremin that was used as a musical accompaniment to one of his plays during rehearsals. He couldn’t stand the sound and argued with the director, who refused to get rid of it. One day, the theremin went missing. Denis proudly declared that he had thrown the device into the Chicago River. Darrell was speaking to me about the real man, the body and mind that had lived in the world, and as I looked at my daughter and son sitting nearby, to try to get back to the reality of my everyday life, which is kept apart from the world of my fiction—as, I assume, was Denis’s—I was thinking about what would live on in Denis’s name. He left instructions on how to imagine, how to see, which he gave to us through the lives of his fictional characters. Those are the lives that will touch us forever—lonely and often isolated like the rest of us, struggling to figure it out.
With all of this curious wiring, Roth intends to create a sort of underground retreat that transforms our media-born anxieties into something therapeutic. Lavender has long been used to soothe the mind and encourage better sleep in addition to healing physical wounds; the more these select politicians and pundits fire tweets, the stronger the scent to the installation’s visitors. Of course, not all retweets will relate to Trump, but many of them likely will, considering the fact that controversies are currently flowing out the White House.