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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Goldblum’

No Known Remedy

December 1, 2015 | by

Illustration: Wellcome Library, London

 

 The flies have conquered the flypaper. —John Steinbeck

The thing about a flyswatter is, there’s a limited number of places you can effectively wield it. Sure, it’s easy enough to whisk the swatter and even to make contact with your target—but it’s surprisingly difficult to find a surface on which to swat cleanly. And make no mistake: by swat, I mean kill, ruthlessly.

Writing about the phenomenon of house flies a few years ago, the New York Times quoted the dipterologist Harold Oldroyd’s book The Natural History of Flies:

A house or other building is … no more than a large flytrap. It is found that the same building is infested year after year, while the house next door may be immune. At present there is no known remedy for these visitations except to move.

My home is, as I write this, benighted by flies; a neighbor said it was “because it’s getting cold” and that the flies come indoors to prolong their meager lives. Between seasons, and then all summer long, they’re an urban blight. They’re maddening in a way that feels personal. I bought the flyswatter and then some flypaper.

Your modern flypaper comes on a little spool, topped with a small red loop and fastened by a brass thumbtack. One removes the tack, unrolls the tape, and then affixes the whole business to the wall or ceiling (“wherever,” as the packaging puts it, “flies are a nuisance”). It’s very efficient and strangely beautiful: it looks like a coil of amber hanging there, all the more so when it ensnares an unsuspecting fly.

One small fly trapped himself almost at once, which was satisfying. An old boyfriend of my mom’s liked to call it “Jewish hunting.” I quickly swatted it dead and left the paper hanging—partly as a Spartacus-style warning, partly to attract this fly’s foolish compatriots, and partly because it seemed too extravagant to remove a strip of tape after only five minutes of use. But then the paper hung there with its single squashed corpse for days, and the flies buzzed in our ears, and it was not even worth invoking the devil or the Bible or Sartre or Jeff Goldblum, especially since I didn’t actually have anything much to say about them. They are, like bad weather, a banal nuisance. And besides, come winter, my husband and I knew they would all go away, and that we were, in any case, very lucky to be the humans. 

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.

The Beetle and the Fly

December 29, 2014 | by

We’re out until January 5, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2014 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

kafka metamorphosis

From the original cover of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, 1915.

I woke up one morning recently to discover that I was a seventy-year-old man. Is this different from what happens to Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis? He wakes up to find that he’s become a near-human-sized beetle (probably of the scarab family, if his household’s charwoman is to be believed), and not a particularly robust specimen at that. Our reactions, mine and Gregor’s, are very similar. We are confused and bemused, and think that it’s a momentary delusion that will soon dissipate, leaving our lives to continue as they were. What could the source of these twin transformations possibly be? Certainly, you can see a birthday coming from many miles away, and it should not be a shock or a surprise when it happens. And as any well-meaning friend will tell you, seventy is just a number. What impact can that number really have on an actual, unique physical human life?

In the case of Gregor, a young traveling salesman spending a night at home in his family’s apartment in Prague, awakening into a strange, human/insect hybrid existence is, to say the obvious, a surprise he did not see coming, and the reaction of his household—mother, father, sister, maid, cook—is to recoil in benumbed horror, as one would expect, and not one member of his family feels compelled to console the creature by, for example, pointing out that a beetle is also a living thing, and turning into one might, for a mediocre human living a humdrum life, be an exhilarating and elevating experience, and so what’s the problem? This imagined consolation could not, in any case, take place within the structure of the story, because Gregor can understand human speech, but cannot be understood when he tries to speak, and so his family never think to approach him as a creature with human intelligence. (It must be noted, though, that in their bourgeois banality, they somehow accept that this creature is, in some unnamable way, their Gregor. It never occurs to them that, for example, a giant beetle has eaten Gregor; they don’t have the imagination, and he very quickly becomes not much more than a housekeeping problem.) His transformation seals him within himself as surely as if he had suffered a total paralysis. These two scenarios, mine and Gregor’s, seem so different, one might ask why I even bother to compare them. The source of the transformations is the same, I argue: we have both awakened to a forced awareness of what we really are, and that awareness is profound and irreversible; in each case, the delusion soon proves to be a new, mandatory reality, and life does not continue as it did. Read More >>

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The Beetle and the Fly

January 17, 2014 | by

kafka metamorphosis

From the original cover of Kafka’s Die Verwandlung, 1915.

I woke up one morning recently to discover that I was a seventy-year-old man. Is this different from what happens to Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis? He wakes up to find that he’s become a near-human-sized beetle (probably of the scarab family, if his household’s charwoman is to be believed), and not a particularly robust specimen at that. Our reactions, mine and Gregor’s, are very similar. We are confused and bemused, and think that it’s a momentary delusion that will soon dissipate, leaving our lives to continue as they were. What could the source of these twin transformations possibly be? Certainly, you can see a birthday coming from many miles away, and it should not be a shock or a surprise when it happens. And as any well-meaning friend will tell you, seventy is just a number. What impact can that number really have on an actual, unique physical human life?

In the case of Gregor, a young traveling salesman spending a night at home in his family’s apartment in Prague, awakening into a strange, human/insect hybrid existence is, to say the obvious, a surprise he did not see coming, and the reaction of his household—mother, father, sister, maid, cook—is to recoil in benumbed horror, as one would expect, and not one member of his family feels compelled to console the creature by, for example, pointing out that a beetle is also a living thing, and turning into one might, for a mediocre human living a humdrum life, be an exhilarating and elevating experience, and so what’s the problem? This imagined consolation could not, in any case, take place within the structure of the story, because Gregor can understand human speech, but cannot be understood when he tries to speak, and so his family never think to approach him as a creature with human intelligence. (It must be noted, though, that in their bourgeois banality, they somehow accept that this creature is, in some unnamable way, their Gregor. It never occurs to them that, for example, a giant beetle has eaten Gregor; they don’t have the imagination, and he very quickly becomes not much more than a housekeeping problem.) His transformation seals him within himself as surely as if he had suffered a total paralysis. These two scenarios, mine and Gregor’s, seem so different, one might ask why I even bother to compare them. The source of the transformations is the same, I argue: we have both awakened to a forced awareness of what we really are, and that awareness is profound and irreversible; in each case, the delusion soon proves to be a new, mandatory reality, and life does not continue as it did. Read More »

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