In that noisy claustrophobic apartment with his parents and three sisters, he would hypnotize himself to get in a frame of mind to write. He said, “Writing … is a deeper sleep than death … just as one wouldn’t pull a corpse from its grave, I can’t be dragged from my desk at night.”

…[Kafka] confessed that he had “a boundless sense of guilt,” and one of his friends wrote that Kafka was “the servant of a God not believed in.”

…Not much of Kafka’s work was published during his lifetime. He had instructed his friend Max Brod to set his manuscripts on fire upon his death, but Brod refused, and instead edited and published Kafka’s work.

Mon, 12th Aug — 2 notes

brookehatfield:

“The question is, what do we do with it? What are we supposed to make of it? Its bad parts and its really bad parts, are inextricable from its good parts. It’s a burden and a blessing; it’s hard to pull apart our love and our deep, stinking frustrations. There are repairs to be done, repairs desperately needed for the sake of the whole structure, but so much to be done that it’s hard to know where to even start. We didn’t ask for this. But we have choices: We can live in it and do our best to make it better, or we can live in it and do nothing, or we can vacate completely, make it someone else’s problem.”

so rachael wrote some very good words about chik-fil-a and the south and how to love a place that’s flawed. i am so, so sick of reading about chik-fil-a, but as rachael points out, the fallout from dan cathy saying what we always knew dan cathy believed has occasionally veered into “well, that’s just the south! they like their gays ex- and their chicken carcinogenic!” 

i try to be a one-woman dirty south booster club, because i love the place that made me and so many people i love. like most anywhere, it’s imperfect and full of wonderful people and badass places and lots of ways to eat cheese. but when natives conflate standing in line for a fried chicken sandwich or driving a car with protest! that is harder to defend than the cheese thing! in that it’s indefensible, and frustrating, and makes me sad in my bones. but that doesn’t mean we should abandon this place, as several facebook friends proposed when TSPLOST failed. yeah, we have shitty traffic because no one wants to invest in trains! our immigration laws are outright antagonistic and shortsighted! this place exists! 

d.c. is a really liberal town, which i rather like; i love to see bus stop ads for LGBTQ smoking cessation groups, because that level of specificity is just wow. in a lot of ways it mirrors the ideal world i work towards in my head — progressive politics, public transit, legal gay marriage, lectures and museums as far as your bike can take you. but the gulf between the haves and have nots here is wide and tends to fall along racial lines, and hate crimes against gays still happen. things need to change here too. 

loving a place means fighting to make it better, not turning tail when its unsavory elements threaten to kick your soul’s ass. maybe i’ve chugged some pollyanna bullshit kool-aid, but i believe in the south because i believe in so many of the people in it. don’t you love this place enough to want to make it better? don’t you see that it is, though perhaps much slower than you’d like? i mean, abandon ship if you want, but imma be over here planting a garden and fighting for change with people i love and respect. it’s a challenge, but so is getting a fish off the hook, and do you know how good i am at getting a fish off the hook?

people like to throw “tradition” at things down here, and a lot of times that’s code for “systems and practices and policies that enforce hatefulness and foster regression,” as rachael writes. but let me tell you about some traditions i know about. my parents’ garden is a tradition. writing programs that make children of all ethnicities feel like they have voices to tell their own stories are a tradition. my friend ty’s sentient beard is a tradition. raucous, joyous porch parties across the street from piedmont park during the pride parade are a tradition. 

so maybe this is naive, but i’m all in, american south. you are going to disappoint me and nurture me, but you’re home, and you’ve got promise, kid. i see gold in them thar hills, and a fight worth fighting. and cheese. 

"like most anywhere, it’s imperfect and full of wonderful people and badass places and lots of ways to eat cheese."

Tue, 7th Aug — 12 notes

Interviewer: You have said that writing is a hostile act; I have always wanted to ask you why.

Joan Didion: It’s hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

Interviewer: Are you conscious of the reader as you write? Do you write listening to the reader listening to you?

Didion: Obviously I listen to a reader, but the only reader I hear is me. I am always writing to myself. So very possibly I’m committing an aggressive and hostile act toward myself.

"The Art of Fiction No. 71" / The Paris Review

Tue, 24th Jul — 4 notes

LISTEN TO ME

“We weren’t rich, but we always had enough. Thursday we baked bread, and challah and rolls, and they lasted the whole week. Friday we had pancakes. Shabbat we always had a chicken, and soup with noodles. You would go to the butcher and ask for a little more fat. The fattiest piece was the best piece. It wasn’t like now. We didn’t have refrigerators, but we had milk and cheese. We didn’t have every kind of vegetable, but we had enough. The things that you have here and take for granted… . But we were happy. We didn’t know any better. And we took what we had for granted, too.

“Then it all changed. During the war it was hell on earth, and I had nothing. I left my family, you know. I was always running, day and night, because the Germans were always right behind me. If you stopped, you died. There was never enough food. I became sicker and sicker from not eating, and I’m not just talking about being skin and bones. I had sores all over my body. It became difficult to move. I wasn’t too good to eat from a garbage can. I ate the parts others wouldn’t eat. If you helped yourself, you could survive. I took whatever I could find. I ate things I wouldn’t tell you about.

“Even at the worst times, there were good people, too. Someone taught me to tie the ends of my pants so I could fill the legs with any potatoes I was able to steal. I walked miles and miles like that, because you never knew when you would be lucky again. Someone gave me a little rice, once, and I traveled two days to a market and traded it for some soap, and then traveled to another market and traded the soap for some beans. You had to have luck and intuition.

“The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”

“He saved your life.”

“I didn’t eat it.”

“You didn’t eat it?”

“It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“What, because it wasn’t kosher?”

“Of course.”

“But not even to save your life?”

“If nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”

Mon, 23rd Jul — 4 notes

During a school trip to Amsterdam I heard the term ‘huisstijl’ or ‘house style’ (I think while visiting studio Lava or Solar Initiative). It might just be the Dutch word for visual identity but they used it in a new way, and this new understanding made me aspire to break out of a world confined by rules and grids and push to create designs based on a living, breathing system.

I’ve continued in this direction ever since, creating designs that open doors, instead of closing them. By designing systems that blossom instead of stagnating, my clients can actually grow with them after we’ve finished the project – maybe even redeveloping or improving them over time.

Mon, 23rd Jul — 0 notes
I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.

gordon parks, on the work of fsa photographers like dorothea lange who captured images of migrant workers in the dust bowl. (via brookehatfield)

Wed, 18th Jul — 4 notes
Marcus Samuelsson is a supremely important global voice in America, but that shouldn’t give him license to speak for Harlem. By catering to diners outside Harlem and talking down to the ones who live there—promising things like ‘elevated’ soul food—he treats the place like a museum exhibit. He speaks in stereotypes, desperately trying to capture snapshots of villagers dancing, praying, and bespoke-suiting to display in this playhouse of a restaurant.
Wed, 18th Jul — 0 notes
I was working for the city as a janitor in a neighborhood elementary school and, in summers, collecting litter in the park alongside the East River near the Williamsburg bridge. I felt no shame whatsoever in these activities, because I understand what almost no one else seemed to grasp: that there was only an infinitesimal difference, a difference so small that it barely existed except as a figment of the human imagination, between working in a tall green glass building on Park Avenue and collecting litter in a park. In fact, there may have been no difference at all.

— jennifer egan, a visit from the goon squad (via lazz)

Tue, 17th Jul — 7 notes
[If] you apply the logic of critique too consistently, you create this almost gnostic notion of reality, that the one thing we can do is to be the person who realizes the world is wrong. It may be incredibly rewarding intellectually, but it’s also a terrible trap. I always go back to Marx’s famous phrase from 1843, ‘Toward a Ruthless Critique of Everything That Exists.’ It was something he wrote when he was twenty-five, which is appropriate for that age. When I was younger, I felt that way, too. Now I feel that such ruthlessness has its price.

— David Graeber (via lazz)

Tue, 17th Jul — 19 notes
In the end nothing matters but the work. You can’t control how it’s taken, and the act of telling a story always involves a gap. Sometimes confusion is the risk of ambiguity–I say that to students all the time. It’s true at the fireside and it’s true in the parlor, and it’s true in made-up towns and New York. Two humans face one another, words come out of one, words go into the other mind through the ears and eyes of the listener. It’s a story. It’s simple. The gap is the thing. Make sure you build the bridge.
Tue, 17th Jul — 5 notes
The world can be a horrible place at times, but we don’t have to participate in this, we don’t have to harden our hearts as we’re taught and told to do, in order to survive or be sexy or attractive lovers or perfect parents or interesting people. We do not have to make ourselves into mysterious gifts, waiting to be chosen or read or understood by those who will earn us, unwrap our secrets, and then what? We can be something more authentic, and speak from a different place, a different planet. This is why I like being a writer, because what it demands is both simple and incredibly hard. To be a human being. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Why don’t we allow for mess? Why are we so afraid of it? What do we expect from the veils we pull down over our eyes, our minds, our hearts? How can we possibly connect if we never let people see what we truly are and what it would take to make us free? Now, when I can’t fake a single emotion I don’t feel (or at least not for long), I wonder how I’ve lived this long being any other way. Maybe it’s that I haven’t really been living, and that now I am like Adam, like Eve, my feet still wet from being newly created, awkwardly learning how to walk on dry land.
Thu, 12th Jul — 18 notes
Perhaps, in some ways, being lost is the perfect condition for a work. Safe from the clumsy efforts of restorers, protected from being badly lit or hung against the wrong colour, it becomes indestructible by being destroyed.

— ‘a work’ used loosely | +++ (via lazz)

Wed, 11th Jul — 3 notes
Food is not meant to be scary. We get a table of City chaps to come in and they say, ‘Who’s going to have the scariest thing on the menu?’ It’s not what we’re about. It’s all meant to be delicious. We don’t want our menu to be scary. And I’ve got this reputation for cooking offal, and that wasn’t really ummm…well, it just seemed like common sense to cook the whole beast.

— Fergus Henderson

Mon, 2nd Jul — 1 note

Still, many immigrant restaurateurs have resisted formulas and won recognition by following their traditions. The chef at the Las Vegas landmark Lotus of Siam, Saipin Chutima, is a Thai-born former domestic worker who won a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest, the same year as Mr. Ricker.

It wasn’t easy. Twenty-four years ago, when Ms. Chutima and her husband, Bill, opened their first restaurant, they served food as she had learned to cook it in Thailand. “There weren’t foodies yet,” said Pennapa Chutima, the couple’s daughter and spokeswoman. Customers knew pad Thai, she said, but when the offerings veered too far from that, “they’d say, ‘This isn’t Thai!’ ”

“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “Mom would cry day and night. She opened the restaurant to have more security, not less.”

The family refused to alter the food. Instead, Mr. Chutima talked with customers to discern their likes and dislikes, and helped them order. Eventually, the nationally known critic Jonathan Gold wrote them a glowing review, and the foodies started showing up.

“It was difficult,” Pennapa Chutima said. “But all great things take time to be appreciated.”

"Cuisines Mastered as Acquired Tastes" / Francis Lam / The New York Times

Mon, 2nd Jul — 0 notes

As for my own schedule, best to call it like it is: crazy. Those who have shared my bed—when I am in it to share it, anyway—have observed my nighttime habits with reactions varying from indulgence to incredulity. (Almost all of them have been stellar sleepers: not something I actively look for in a partner, but, given my lifestyle, terrifically convenient.) It starts, as I said, around 10 p.m., when something ticks over in my mind, as if someone had walked into a shuttered cabin and flipped all the switches in the fuse box to “on.” For the first time all day, I get interested in writing. As a corollary, I get a lot less interested in everything else. My normal indiscipline, the ADHD-ish inability to keep my head inside my work, finally drops away. For the next few hours, I write steadily, cleanly. If my body is producing a drug during that time, it is a natural methylphenidate—a dose of pure focus, side-effect-free and sweet.

Then, around one in the morning, something shifts. My brain gets funnier, in both senses, and much more associative, and about a hundred million light-years from sleepy. If the 10 p.m. shift is a trip to the wilderness—quiet, expansive, a solo hike with mountain views—the 1 a.m. shift is Six Flags. I get loopy and voluble, like a kid mid-birthday-party, hopped up on sugar and something like glee. It lasts about two hours, this new drug—crack to the quieter shift’s Ritalin—and then it dips, just slightly, sometime after 3 a.m., and that’s the Rubicon. If I put my work away and go to bed, I will fall asleep almost instantly, and can be up and functional again at nine. If, instead, I cross the 3:30 a.m. threshold, I will write all night. Eventually I will start to hear birds and the whistle of trains coming down from the north. The sun will fill my bedroom, and I will close my laptop and cover my eyes, and sleep maybe two hours, from six to eight or eight to ten—I have lost, alas, my childhood ability to sleep till noon—or sometimes not sleep at all. Either way, I will be awake the rest of the day, and utterly destroyed.

Mon, 4th Jun — 5 notes