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Posts Tagged ‘A Moveable Feast’

The Escape Artist

January 11, 2012 | by

Graham Greene stole the title of my memoirs. Rueful and proud, ringing of a boastful confession, imaginary maps, and the magician’s exegesis, his Ways of Escape would have been a perfect header for my career of flight—from reality, relationships, and, finally, the country. It is a series of escapes in which Mister Greene, who made so seductive the life of an exiled libertine, is not entirely innocent.

But he needn’t take all the blame. At least part of the credit for my fleet-footedness is due to a childhood spent shunting between single parents and rival school districts (or is it the other way around?). I was always arriving, never staying too long, and, with another departure constantly looming, my relationship to home became abstracted to fungible goods, dispassionate.

As an only child, I spent a lot of time by myself. But I never ran with imaginary friends, opting instead to invent imaginary versions of myself. I dreamed constantly of flying (by mastering the basketball double pump), climbed ficus trees, and read Dragonlance books. Their rogues and wizards enchanted me, wandering far from their homes, always in search of a tree city called Solace.

In the fifth grade, I asked the girl I was crazy about to go steady with me, only to call back five minutes later to explain that I’d had too many Jolly Ranchers, and, unfortunately, it was over between us. I’ve left every relationship since—be it of five months or five years—in a similar fashion. It really isn’t them. It’s me, and I have to leave all that I know to get rid of him, to start over. Like a writer in the movies, with a pile of crumpled paper in the bin beside him, I am forever beginning anew. This next draft is going to be the keeper—the real me.

Meanwhile, I’ve inherited my father’s method for home improvement: moving. At the end of my chapters I pull up stakes like a fugitive and purge everything, from beds to furniture to collectibles and clothing. A stack of my first-edition Gavin Lambert books now lives in a baby nursery in Culver City, an espresso maker is in Echo Park, and a few dozen ties are reentering circulation from an Out of the Closet on Fairfax.

Jobs are no different. At least four times I’ve gone home from a day’s work without a word, never to return. I’ve left schools, left my position as starting quarterback for a college football team, and left this piece a half dozen times. My distinguishing feature is a pair of taillights. Read More »

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Apologizing; Glitz and Glamour

December 16, 2011 | by

How do you manage to apologize to someone when you think you also deserve an apology (but believe you are never going to get one, and the conflict remains unresolved)? Is there some way to prove a point while also expressing a sincere desire to be friends again?

The short answer, I think, is no. You probably can’t make your point and make up at the same time.

But it sounds as though—whatever went down—there were plenty of hurt feelings to go around. Maybe you can set aside the question of blame, and the unresolved conflict, and focus on the feelings. To start with: you feel rotten, and you’re sorry to have hurt your friend. If you own up to that, you’ll make it that much easier for your friend to let down his or her guard.

Don’t expect an actual apology—even if you do get an apology, it probably won’t be the one you want. We’re human, so we all feel our own pain more sharply than the pain we cause in others. Try to correct for that bias, if you can, and at least you’ll know you’ve tried. (Thanks to Geoff O’Sullivan for the sage counsel on this hard question. We’ve all been there.)

One of my students mistakenly believes the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers 1930s to be the pinnacle of American glitz and glamour. Aside from the obvious—Scott Fitzgerald, Midnight in Paris, A Moveable Feast, and the like—what ought I offer to open her eyes to vastly superior qualities of the Lost Generation and its Jazz Age?

If your student can handle a strong dose of decadence—sex, drugs, and experimental lit—give her Geoffrey Wolfe’s biography of the expat publisher Harry Crosby Jr., Black Sun.

Twist or shout?

A little of both.

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