The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.
Grammar is a piano I play by ear. All I know about grammar is its power.
Aging and its evidence remain life's most predictable events, yet they also remain matters we prefer to leave unmentioned, unexplored.
Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean love in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.
I think we are all well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.
Character -- the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life -- is the source from which self respect springs.
She had to have a telephone. There was no one to whom she wanted to talk but she had to have a telephone.
California is a place where...the mind is troubled by some...suspicion that things had better work here, because here,beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.
Character -- the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life -- is the source from which self-respect springs.
New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and the perishable dream itself. To think of 'living' there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not 'live' at Xanadu.
The action is everything, more consuming than sex, more immediate than politics; more important always than the acquisition of money, which is never, for the gambler, the true point of the exercise.
Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.
In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here. How inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here is something else I could never afford to see.
No one who has ever passed through an American public high school could have watched William Jefferson Clinton running for office in 1992 and failed to recognize the familiar predatory sexuality of a the provincial adolescent.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle.
Joan Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be.
X was a woman with whom I had worked at Vogue. Seductive clouds of cigarette smoke and Chanel No. 5 and imminent disaster had trailed her through the Condé Nast offices, which were then in the Graybar Building.
It occurred to me almost constantly in the South that had I lived there I would have been an eccentric and full of anger, and I wondered what form the anger would have taken. Would I have taken up causes, or would I have simply knifed somebody?
I put the word diagnosis in quotes because I have not yet seen that case in which a diagnosis led to a cure, or in fact to any outcome other than a confirmed, and therefore an enforced, debility.
We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We live entirely by the impression of a narrative line upon disparate images, the shifting phantasmagoria, which is our actual experience.
I did consider marriage and motherhood extreme and doomed commitments. Not out of any experience of them as such, but it was simply the way I looked at things.
The devastation along the Gulf had an inevitability about it: the coast was reverting to its natural state.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it.
My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does.
People tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember. Writers are always selling somebody out.
Something I've always known about the screen is that if it's anything in the world, it's literal. It's so literal that there's a whole lot you can't do because you're stuck with the literalness of the screen. The stage is not literal.
And I have learned now to live with it, learned when to expect it, how to outwit it, even how to regard it, when it does come, as more friend than lodger. We have reached a certain understanding, my migraine and I.
Until now I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.
Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be. Otherwise they turn up unannounced.
It seemed that the marriage had reached the traditional truce, the point at which so many resign themselves to cutting both their losses and their hopes.
Sometimes an actor performs a character, but sometimes an actor just performs. With writing, I don't think it's performing a character, really, if the character you're performing is yourself. I don't see that as playing a role. It's just appearing in public.
I wanted to be an oceanographer, actually. It's a way of going underwater. I've always been interested in how deep it was, you know.
I learned early to keep death in my line of sight, keep it under surveillance, keep it on cleared ground and away from any brush where it might coil unnoticed.
Nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless itself.
I was relying on a kind of natural transition -- the transitions made by someone who is slightly deranged.
For however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable I.
Emergency, I continue to believe, is what happens to someone else.
I say that I continue to believe this even as I know that I do not.
Above all, she is the girl who 'feels' things, who has hung on to the freshness and pain of adolescence, the girl ever wounded, ever young. Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants them to or not, Joan Baez rarely leaves the Carmel Valley.
The impulse for much writing is homesickness. You are trying to get back home, and in your writing you are invoking that home, so you are assuaging the homesickness.
Becoming a parent is actually terrifying. A lot of people have that feeling about their dogs. And if you're the kind of person who's going to have that feeling about a dog you're definitely going to have that about a child.
I have an investment in not being crazy. I have a real investment in seeing things straight. This runs counter to that investment, so it required giving up an idea of myself, the idea being that I had control.
I've always been fascinated with marine geography and how deep things are. I was spellbound by the tsunami, for example, by the actual maps. There is just something about the unseen bottom of the sea that has always fascinated me, how deep is it.
I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.
I've come to a much more controlled idea about death and loss, but I don't think it's possible to come to that much more controlled idea until you've gone through the crazy part ... I don't mean that I'm controlled. I mean that I gave up the idea that I had control. That's the new control.
To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one.
Everybody who undergoes a death and finds themselves grieving is obsessed with -- or maybe overly focused on -- the idea that they can't display self-pity, they have to be strong. Actually there are a lot of reasons why you are going to feel sorry for yourself, but that's your first concern.
A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggest that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.
I ... have another cup of coffee with my mother. We get along very well, veterans of a guerrilla war we never understood.
Everyone was in scrubs. I noticed one man who was not in scrubs. Is this the wife, he said to the driver. Then he looked at me. I'm your social worker. And I guess that was when I knew.
That's something else to remember. If they give you a social worker, you're in trouble.
This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won't when it happens to you.
And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you.
That's what I'm here to tell you.
Most death now happens in hospitals. It's been medicalized. It happens away from where we deal with it directly. And that's a huge change. At the beginning of the 20th century most people died at home. Death was much more common.
Why did I think that this improvisation could never end? If I had seen that it could, what would I have done differently? What would he?
Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification.
Why do you always have to be right. Why do you always have to have the last word. For once in your life just let it go.
That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.
I know what the fear is. The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked doors. The fear is for what is still to be lost.
I myself love to read those Victorian novels which go on and on, and you don't read them in one sitting. You might read one over the course of a summer, but that isn't what I want to write.
Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.
As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs...The way I write is who I am, or have become.
Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of 'living' there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not 'live' at Xanadu.
Once in a while there were things in screenwriting that taught me things for fiction. But there's nothing in screenwriting that teaches you anything for the theater. I'm not sure I've ever fully appreciated before how different a form theater is.
I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.
When you lose someone, a whole lot of perfectly normal circumstances suddenly take on different meaning. You see it in a different light. You wonder if they knew. I wondered. Doctors have told me that people do have a sense of their own approaching death.
Throw yourself into the convulsions of the world. I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't believe progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it, to look at it, to witness it. Try and get it. Seize the moment.
I am an anthropologist who lost faith in her own method, who stopped believing that observable activity defined anthropos.
I use an IBM Thinkpad. I just use it like a typewriter, but when I started using it in 1987, I thought I won't be able to write anymore, so I thought I'd go back to the typewriter. But you couldn't go back to the typewriter after using the computer.
One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.
We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.
Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.
We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images.
I was in love with New York. I do not mean 'love' in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again.
The secret point of money and power in America is neither the things that money can buy nor power for power's sake but absolute personal freedom, mobility, privacy.
On the August night in 1933 when General Gerardo Machado, then president of Cuba, flew out of Havana into exile, he took with him five revolvers, seven bags of gold, and five friends, still in their pajamas.
The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past ... Here is the last stop for all those who come from somewhere else, for all those who drifted away from the cold and the past and the old ways.
Only the survivors of a death are truly left alone. The connections that made up their life -- both the deep connections and the apparently (until they are broken) insignificant connections -- have all vanished.
California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things better work here, because here, beneath the immense bleached sky,is where we run out of continent.
I was four or five, and my mother gave me a big black tablet, because I kept complaining that I was bored. She said, Then write something. Then you can read it. In fact, I had just learned to read, so this was a thrilling kind of moment. The idea that I could write something -- and then read it!
Aging and its evidence remain lifes most predictable events, yet they also remain matters we prefer to leave unmentioned, unexplored.
A pool is, for many of us in the West, a symbol not of affluence but of order, of control over the uncontrollable. A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the western eye.
I read so ravenously that I would read through whole categories. I was crazy about reading biographies. ... I think biographies are very urgent to children.
I dealt with it the same way I deal with everything. I just tended my own garden, didn't pay much attention, behaved--I suppose--deviously. I mean I didn't actually let too many people know what I was doing.
My writing is a process of rewriting, of going back and changing and filling in. in the rewriting process you discover what's going on, and you go back and bring it up to that point.
A young woman with long hair and a short white halter dress walks through the casino at the Riviera in Las Vegas at one in the morning. It was precisely this moment that made Play It As It Lays begin to tell itself to me.
Outside, a ceiling of pearly gray clouds coalesced over Manhattan, and the apartment had grown dark. It just keeps dripping. It's been like this all week, .. Rain would be a relief.
In the South they are convinced that they have bloodied their place with history. In the West we do not believe that anything we do can bloody the land, or change it, or touch it.
There is always a point in the writing of a piece when I sit in a room literally papered with false starts and cannot put one word after another and imagine that I have suffered a small stroke, leaving me apparently undamaged but actually aphasic.
We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.
Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true. The tension broke that day. The paranoia was fulfilled.
There's a lot of landscape I never would have described if I hadn't been homesick. The impulse was nostalgia.
I tell you this true story just to prove that I can. That my frailty has not yet reached a point at which I can no longer tell a true story.
A good part of any day in Los Angeles is spent driving, alone, through streets devoid of meaning to the driver, which is one reason the place exhilarates some people, and floods others with an amorphous unease.
It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. ... The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.
I bought new strings of colored lights. This served as a profession of faith in the future. I take the opportunity for such professions where and when I can invent them, since I do not yet actually feel this faith in the future.
Making judgments on films is in many ways so peculiarly vaporous an occupation that the only question is why, beyond the obvious opportunities for a few lectures fees and a little careerism at a dispiritingly self-limiting level, anyone does it in the first place.
It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city for only the very young.
Webley Edwards was on the radio, they remember that, and what he said that morning again and again was This is an air raid, take cover, this is the real McCoy. That is not a remarkable thing to say, but it is a remarkable thing to have in one's memory.
It is hard for me to believe that Cornelius Vanderbilt did not sense, at some point in time, in some dim billiard room of his unconscious, that when he built The Breakers he damned himself.
California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension.
Going back to California is not like going back to Vermont, or Chicago; Vermont and Chicago are relative constants, against which one measures one's own change. All that is constant about the California of my childhood is the rate at which it disappears.
The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion will live here in only the most temporary way.
We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. as we were. as we are no longer. as we will one day not be at all.
To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything.
To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference.
The child trying not to appear as a child, of the strenuousness with which she tried to present the face of a convincing adult.
To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed.
To those of us who remained committed mainly to the exploration of moral distinctions and ambiguities, the feminist analysis may have seemed a particularly narrow and cracked determinism.
To make an omelette, you need not only those broken eggs but someone 'oppressed' to beat them: every revolutionist is presumed to understand that, and also every woman, which either does or does not make 51 percent of the population of the United States a potentially revolutionary class.
In many ways, writing is the act of saying 'I,' of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying, 'Listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.' It's an aggressive, even a hostile act.
It was clear, for example, in 1988 that the political process had already become perilously remote from the electorate it was meant to represent.
My mother 'gave teas' the way other mothers breathed. Her own mother 'gave teas.' All of their friends 'gave teas,' each involving butter cookies extruded from a metal press and pastel bonbons ordered from See's.
We imagine things -- that we wouldn't be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive. We have no choice, so we do it.
New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.
When I went to San Francisco in that cold late spring of 1967, I did not even know what I wanted to find out, and so I just stayed around a while and made a few friends.
A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the western eye.
The West begins where the average annual rainfall drops below twenty inches. Water is important to people who do not have it, and the same is true of control.
The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way.
Not many people were speaking truth to power in the '80s. I had a really good time doing it -- I found it gratifying. It was a joy to have an opportunity to say what you believed. It's challenging to do it in fiction, but I liked writing the novels. I liked writing 'Democracy' particularly.
Not much about California, on its own preferred terms, has encouraged its children to see themselves as connected to one another.
I never had faith that the answers to human problems lay in anything that could be called political. I thought the answers, if there were answers, lay someplace in man's soul.
A lot of the stories I was brought up on had to do with extreme actions -- leaving everything behind, crossing the trackless wastes, and in those stories the people who stayed behind and had their settled ways -- those people were not the people who got the prize. The prize was California.
It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.
I have a theatrical temperament. I'm not interested in the middle road -- maybe because everyone's on it. Rationality, reasonableness bewilder me.
I can remember, when I was in college, irritating deeply somebody I was going out with, because he would ask me what I was thinking and I would say I was thinking nothing. And it was true.
I don't really get things very... intuitively. I mean, I don't immediately understand things. The only way I really get it is by writing it down.
All of these things we do without children, and suddenly we don't do them anymore, and it comes home to us in a real way, that it's very different to have the responsibility of a child.