Tuesday, April 26, 2011

beach reading

I am always resolving to be friendlier to strangers. In Tulum, I felt uncharacteristically open. I smiled and sung "Hola!" to nearly every person I passed on the street. Mysteriously, "hola" is more difficult for me to say in English.

On the beach, I read things, though not necessarily in this order:

1. "Freckled skin ages prematurely." -- Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad

2. "The people who knew David least well are most likely to speak of him in saintly terms. What makes this especially strange is the near-perfect absence, in his fiction, of ordinary love. Close loving relationships, which for most of us are a foundational source of meaning, have no standing in the Wallace fictional universe. What we get, instead, are characters keeping their heartless compulsions secret from those who love them."--Jonathan Franzen, "Farther Away"

3. "The first Europeans to see Tulum were probably Juan de Grijalva and his men as they sailed reconnaissance along the Eastern coast of Yucat√°n in 1518. The Spaniards later returned to conquer the Peninsula unwittingly bringing Old World diseases which decimated the native population. And so Tulum, like so many cities before it, was abandoned to the elements." --guidebook.

4. "And when did we just, like, throw in the towel? I'm surrounded by adults wearing jammiez and eating Chips Ahoy." --personal correspondence

5. "The curious thing about David's fiction, though, is how recognized and comforted, how loved his most devoted readers feel when reading it. To the extent that each of us is stranded on his or her own existential island -- and I think it's approximately correct to say that his most susceptible readers are ones familiar with the socially and spiritually isolating effects of addiction or compulsion or depression -- we gratefully seized on each new dispatch from that farthest-away island which was David." --Jonathan Franzen, "Farther Away"

6. "Monotony collapses time. Novelty unfolds it." --Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein

7. "come home soon!" --personal correspondence

On our last day in Tulum, I was chatting with one of the hotel employees.

"What do you do for a living?" he asked in flawless English. He'd lived in Santa Barbara for 18 years.

"I'm a librarian," I said.

"You don't look like a librarian."

No one has ever said that to me before.