- E: ALSO did you go through some of my bad oreos and take out the cream? otherwise some of the oreos don't have cream
- N: I left the top cookie on some
- E: omg thats what happnd
My boyfriend is escaping Miami for two days to survey the bathroom of a large home in the Bahamas—I don’t recall which island—I want to say Harbour; someone’s second home needs remodeling. On the map, it’s barely a stone, but on Google images—Eleuthera is all sapphires, or something less dark, a creamy, candy blue, the water lapping at white sandy shores—like the remains of an ice-cream bar. Horses roam the beaches. The homes are Cape-style (Bahamian?), with clapboard and swimming pools, picket fences, and tropical flowers grow along stone-paved roads as dense as weeds. I sent Nico to the airport with Speedboat, in an attempt to further colonize his literary habits. He finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie two weekends back and we had basically nothing to say about the book except he called me Sandy Stranger, for my small, pig-like, dark eyes. In Adler—what is necessary about Adler? Not least that Nico is going to an island (the “Islands” story in Speedboat is pretty dead-on, insofar as a taxonomy of island characters; having lived in the Keys for nine months, I can say, the “types” are real, prevalent, sexy and violent; I can also say I never got a good haircut on the island, and the ladies were so knowing about this condition of our exchange, that they had seemed to factor disappointment as a kind of surcharge); but I also think Adler says true things about displacement, about dashed expectations, about living in transit.
We’ve been reading her reviews in A Year in the Dark, and they sustain one’s attention for perhaps an hour and then ash away into dull patter. I tried to marathon through ten in a row on Saturday night but then got too disgusted to go on. One review begins: “Doctor Faustus, starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and members of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, is of an awfulness that bends the mind.” This is enchanting, of course. She zings again: “The Burtons, both of whom act themselves as carried over from The Comedians, are clearly having a lovely time ; at moments one has the feeling that Faustus was shot mainly as a home movie for them to enjoy at home.” What follows are a series of movies I’ve not seen or heard of (excepting Planet of the Apes and The Graduate, Adler take-down classics). I’ll probably get through the selection by next week, but the point is: imagine yourself as a 29-year-old, having the most coveted review-space in the country, and each afternoon demolishing, absolutely wrecking, the major studios’ sweethearts by shitting on In Cold Blood and celebrating Charlie Bubbles. Shelagh Delaney is owed her due, of course, and not just inside Irish studies departments.
But what I wanted to propose is the counter-biography, the stack of books that arise in the making of a man—which I am not, quite, yet. But the book stack is very tall (if also very slender), and all the gems are out there, for the take. Nico has a stack of Patrick Leigh Fermor memoirs; he wants to go back to Rome. I want to go back to a cornfield.
Lorin Stein wrote, “Adler should be required reading for M.F.A students, at the considerable risk of shutting young writers down for lack of anything to say. The rest of us can read her for pleasure.” I can’t tell if Stein is being tart and superior or just, you know, blathering as one does when recommending books? “Oh yes, the MFA set—they’ll quite enjoy Adler. Because she is so piquant. And her novels, so brief.” I can’t tell if he’s hoping she’ll stop MFA students dead in their tracks, make them better writers, resolve their affairs and ship to lonely Ireland, or what. I read her and did not resolve my affairs. I have been to Ireland, however, to County Claire, to Bunratty and Limerick, and it was as bad or worse than Adler’s time. At least she had money. At least she was old enough to rent a car. I had to take the bus, and the bus drivers over there tell you, “Oh go and fuck your bills! You haven’t got any fucking change? Not a fucking five!”
Speedboat is a thing. Adler is a thing. Like Geoff Dyer. Whose moment—for the love of Christ—never seems to pass, even as he’s boring and sappy and says the same god damn things about one photography exhibit/book and the next. I was at the Miami International Book Fair holding Out of Sheer Rage in my hands, wondering if I should purchase for the next day’s Q&A—and I got through a page before thinking, “This is piss.” Hot dogs in downtown Miami. Pretzels. Big gulps. D. H. Lawrence as handsome as a farmer. “Oh this whole fair is piss!” I said in Irish accent (even the McSweeney’s booth was piss!), and I walked through the screaming kids back to the People Mover. And because the Miami public transportation system is piss, I went two loops around the ransacked downtown before hopping off and walking back across the river to the financial district. I am not making piece with the city. Last week we drove through Coconut Grove, past the fairy-lights of restaurant courtyards, by the bay with its yachts, and what I most wanted was a sight of tulip poplars. “NO MORE PALM TREES” I said to the night sky.
With Nico leaving for the Bahamas, it’s me, sans pants, and two Easter lilies, as fragrant as pooled gasoline, and a glass—a second glass—of Tempranillo before eleven. I need to go for my mood-improving run. I lost my thread. This Tempranillo, by Tapeña, was ten bucks at Publix and has a twist-off bottle cap. It tastes of Wildberry Toaster Strudel and zinc.
I made long eyes with a handsome man at the intersection of Ponce de Leon and Miracle Mile. He looked into my Tucson, into my eyes—I looked back. The Dream Thieves was playing quite loud because I can’t concentrate on audiobooks in the car unless they are screaming. We held each other’s gaze, broke off, resumed gazing. It was incredibly sexy. He smiled and I smiled, and the light turned green. The fibers of our beards seemed to intertwine. He was probably in his forties and wearing basically my outfit—slim slacks, pointy shoes, simple button-up, only turned out for several hundred dollars more—and that fresh haircut. Less hungry dilettantes would slam the brakes and say, “Get in!” after he’d turned around again and begun to walk backwards, but I really wanted pizza. I had a fantasy of crossing paths with him later in the evening, and his buying me pizza. I texted Nico, who’s in New York City for the weekend, “At a stoplight i made the most sumptuous eye contact with older dashing otter.” He texted back, “Ee.”
I parked outside the ring of pay-to-park in the centre of Coral Gables, beside a Catholic elementary school, on a crooked lane under a banyan tree. The roots of the tree have buckled the sidewalk and the road, and even at night I feel my car is safe under it—shades of Fern Gulley. I walked to Books and Books. Much to my chagrin, a colleague I actively avoid was giving a reading this evening. I hid in the paperbacks—hid—trying to read a Simon Leys essays on Waugh, and listened to my colleague order an espresso. “I need a jolt before I give my reading,” he said, and the staff said, “Aww!” and gave it to him for free—which is as it should be. I was capitulating on my glamourous plan of Wednesday night to purchase another Janet Malcolm book, but the colleague was reading his poetry in Books and Books. A big to-do. Sebastian Junger, B.J. Novak, Hilary Rodham Clinton—all have read at Books and Books, or a so-sponsored venue. In January, Allan Greenberg lectured over his CV in the paperbacks room, showing slide after slide of classical projects, while Nico espied from the corner of a glass cabinet and the crook of some woman’s arm and I sat, in the far arts room, petulantly reading a tiny New Directions Yoko Tawada. But tonight apparently other faculty would be present.
As an adjunct, I’m not even sure these folks are my “colleagues”—some do talk to me, however. One professor has a semester-long project of getting his students to submit canned goods with their assignments. If they turn in a paper and canned goods, he does some kind of grade bump. He collects non-perishables because, he says, students on our campus are going hungry, and he wants his office to function as a food pantry for the hungry. He ran out of office space, so now puts his food donations in our adjunct office; our shelves are deep with green beans and corn, with peaches in syrup and small water-logged sausages, and he has invited me to take home some food. I did not take this as a joke; I don’t think he meant it as one. He asked if I minded his using our office as an extension of his folly; I said, “Free food!” and we laughed. Then two weeks ago I nabbed a package of Top Ramen (Chili flavored—probably not vegetarian).
This professor was not in attendance at the poetry reading. Or I did not see him, anyway. I did run into the department secretary. She said, “Oh! Are you here for ——’s reading?” and I said, “I was! But, oh, I’ve been called away.” And she said, “Mm, that’s too bad,” and I pointed in the direction of the reading’s room and then hightailed it to Barnes and Nobles, some two blocks down, electrified by my insousiance. Later, when I realized I had no one to celebrate my freedom with, I wanted to return to the reading—but there was no way to lie suavely twice, and I am not a suave liar to begin with, and I didn’t want to sit reverently, I wanted to uncrinkle the gold foil from a Leffe and read on my own outside in the cool Miami night.
The Barnes and Nobles didn’t have any Janet Malcolm, either, despite holding Iphigenia in Forest Hills three weeks ago. Bookstores do not stock Janet Malcolm. And the rich gentleman of my fantasies never did reappear to buy me pizza, despite my obscene stroll in front of the glass of the four or so blocks of high-end restaurants. And on the drive back I realized I still hadn’t bought toilet paper and would be using, for a second day, a diminished stack of Chipotle napkins. So then much later I witnessed a beautiful Publix cashier get in a fight with a dashing Metro security officer, refusing to speak Spanish with him. She called him a rent-a-cop and he protested, saying he carried a gun and had a badge. When she did speak Spanish to him—she was vociferous in saying, “I WAS RAISED,” etc.—it was to tell him it was the language she reserved for love. There was an awkward pause. Then she told him his card was declined! It was just a joke—”You thought you’d lost it all!” she said—and he left the supermarket blushing and inspired for pass three or seven, or wherever they’re at on the attempts toward a common tongue.
After class this evening I pulled off US1 in South Miami onto Ponce de Leon Blvd, near the Maserati dealership, and drove through the crushing neon and chromium and finning palm shadows to Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile. I turned right. I drove very slowly in front of Barnes and Nobles, where I know they have a copy of Iphigenia in Forest Hills. I got nervous about the parking situation so then I cruised on by. But for about ten minutes I had a very glamorous plan, and for nine of those minutes I stuck to it.