Take it easy, but take it.
– Woody Guthrie
Some things from the week.
Armoured and alarmed my CV. Looked for a job. Made some “calls”. Disarmed my CV.
Fell over onto some stupid rocks, twisted my ankle.
Thought about the future. Stopped thinking about the future.
Went for a ride. Puffy ankle rippling in the wind.
Thought about what it is you notice first about a person, and what that says about you, if anything.
I had a flatmate who, when the time came to interview new prospective flatmates, told us all to pay close attention to the shoes, and also the teeth: “Look at the teeth first and then the shoes. You don’t need to know anything more than that.” An old flatmate of his had told him to pay close attention to the shoes and the teeth, and now it goes on. Related to the shoes: the walk. How fast, how much bounce or mince it contains, whether the chest puffs out, whether the arms hang loose or are transported stiffly. Or it’s the hands – whether they fight with or retract whatever the voice is saying, or provide momentum, and what they do when the person is standing idle. Or if there’s anything visible sticking out of a jacket pocket. A lot of the time it’s the hair though, isn’t it?
Consoled a friend who was worried about getting older, and in particular about the livery blotches coming up on his hands.
Got crashed into by a running man on the narrow path in the Mount Victoria tunnel.
Physically recoiled on seeing a photo of myself.
Remembered being shocked by a photo of Roald Dahl as a young man. He was so handsome. There was something scandalous about it.
Other notable author photos: Frank O’Hara (crooked nose from a boxing accident, and mostly handsome); Lorrie Moore (one hand in her hair); Gregory O’Brien brooding in a flowering shirt in a corridor; Damien Wilkins in shadows on the back of Chemistry; Joan Didion, hollow-eyed and shrunken on The Year of Magical Thinking; Janet Frame – slightly leathery, bright-eyed, under her hair halo. Kiran Desai on the back of The Inheritance of Loss (very beautiful), and then the cruelty of my lecturer during a talk on book marketing in which he showed the class a series of photos which revealed Desai to have a weak chin and crowded teeth. And of course he showed us the one of Jonathan Franzen with multiple sweating chins.
I guess you can’t talk about author photos without talking about Jonathan Franzen. You have to talk about the chin. The lush mouth. The artfully out-of-place hairs, and you have to talk about the proliferation of photographs of Jonathan Franzen. Time magazine noted in its 2010 article “GREAT AMERICAN NOVELIST“: “Franzen is pleasantly boyish-looking, with permanently tousled hair. But his hair is now heavily salted, and there are crow’s-feet behind his thick-framed nerd glasses.” Maybe this is all good, healthy frankness, but it seems gratuitous. I doubt the ageing would’ve been mentioned if Franzen hadn’t looked so pleasantly boyish in his early author photos. (Then again, maybe I’m irritated because the Time writer keeps drawing an analogy between Franzen and a sea otter. “The otters may not be worried. But Franzen is worried enough for all of us.” And so on. I’m just not sure it works.)
Anyway. Remember when his glasses were snatched off his face? God, it was terrible.
Idea: no author photo, but a different reader photo on the back of every book. Who are the people reading this book? Why have they come here? Would we sleep with them? Black and white film. Instead of sitting at a desk or in front of a bookshelf – the reader is lying dishevelled in bed or on the couch, or sitting on the carpet in the library with their socks showing. Or they’re hungover on the train.
Saw a lady schlepping down the driveway carrying three big silver trophies. (Swimming, I think.)
Was overcome with happiness at the sunshine when out on my bike, and tried to engage another cyclist in conversation at the lights. Fellow cyclist made a show of adjusting helmet – the equivalent of moving a book closer to your face. I don’t know. Can’t we just agree it’s a good day? We don’t have to talk about our lives. (But also, I understand.)
Tried and failed to come up with titles for a “journal of new writing”. Latest suggestion, The Burning Wreck.
Searched for ways to drag myself out of a funk. But if you’re not quite sure what the funk is or why you’re in it, it’s hard to know what dragging mechanism to use. Some kind of shock, or shake, or big ruinous mistake, might do it. Roaming around the web I came back to Woody Guthrie’s wonderful “New Year’s Rulin’s” (“KEEP RANCHO CLEAN. DON’T GET LONESOME. STAY GLAD”). And Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments (“Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. … Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.”)