The Temptation to Grip and Hold Closely


The morning began with an ordinary ritual of eating: I had just finished eating an initial repast of a slice of sourdough toast, one half of it slathered with peanut butter and the other with jelly, accompanied by about two-thirds of a cup of coffee. The remainder has been sipped at as I thought about and typed the following:

As I looked at one jar each of peanut butter and jelly on the kitchen counter, I considered leaving them out. It’s not as if they took up a lot of space and would hinder Linda from making her own breakfast. Yet as soon as I picked them up and turned towards the refrigerator, I noticed that the counter seemed disproportionately “empty,” which is to say that objects take up more perceptual than actual space. An art exhibit suggested itself: two rooms, one with a table and a peanut-butter jar atop it, perhaps in the lower left-hand corner, and another with only the same model of table. (It should be a table and not a desk, since a desk would have drawers and would suggest that other objects are present, but hidden.) In the room with only a table, a photograph of the cup should be projected, off-center, on each of three walls. A print version of the photograph should be on the inside of the door leading to the second room. The door should remain closed, except to allow visitors to enter and exit.

Title: The Temptation to Grip and Hold Closely

Something like this has probably already been done, more than once.

I am certain that I am not alone in recording the sensory displacement noted in the second paragraph.


Last night, I dreamed once again that I was in my old apartment in Ocean Park. The dream was as palpably real as the feel of these buttons on the keyboard as I type. I touched the walls. The apartment was in a state of transition. I was being allowed to live there for a few weeks. I felt very happy. I walked both up and downstairs. The old green rug was still on the downstairs floor. This is the second time that I have had a dream about this apartment in the past month or so.

Yesterday evening, Linda and I went to a party on Roycroft Street at a house owned by a woman named Barbara. Apostrophe Books was having a private celebration for Suzanne Greenberg’s new novel, “Lesson Plans.” Linda and I spent time with Lisa Glatt and David Hernandez, who were talking with Anna Mavromati when we first arrived. After Lisa and David left, we had a chance to talk with Anna, who is one of the most promising young fiction writers I know of. It may be ten or fifteen years before she writes the novel or collection of stories that makes her work well known, but she will surprise future readers with her quiet mastery of tone and droll notations.

She is not alone in displaying this potential. Just as a generation born after World War II had to rise to the contingent occasions of its youthful turbulence, so too is a generation born since the first economic collapse of the late 1980s (the so-called Savings and Loan debacle) beginning to describe a new density of cultural regurgitation. This new generation may be slower to ripen than the baby boomers, but its resilience should never be doubted: it has already been challenged by a global economic collapse, and I admire how it is still willing to undertake the perils of an imaginative life.

For each generation still present, however, the lessons from that collapse should be closely held to, especially as we can see how it has played out locally. Santa Monica, for instance, seems to have become the domain of people who have only begun to live there in the past decade, but who feel that the city is theirs to saunter about in by right of privileged economic status, as if somehow they had built it all themselves, or that all along it had been built with just them in mind. The spatial squeeze on Fourth Street, for instance, in recent years has had a genuine impact on the ability of those who are aging to use the bus system. There is no longer a bus route on Fourth Street between Ocean Park and northern Santa Monica. One must trek to Lincoln Boulevard or to Main Street, both of which involve hills that will be challenges for those who are aging in apartments abutting Fourth Street. This kind of alteration in public transportation is symbolic of the slow eviction of the generation that transformed the culture of this beach-front city between 1960 and 1980.

An absent bus is idling at the corner of Fourth and Hill….