DeLillo • 27 December 2009

Greetings from Middle Earth.

Don DeLillo is everywhere. I drove in to Phoenix/Scottsdale, the romantic apocalypse of his Underworld and the site where a rescued couple builds a beautiful life out of the desert. Echoing the “they made salads” that he uses elsewhere to signal halcyon days, in Arizona, “they made bookshelves.” So too my friends in Scottsdale, mavens of Amazon Prime.

Libra is a Texas book; and after I picked up my brother at El Paso, we drove in that state for three days and three nights (with excellent stops). In Libra, Oswald the justified paranoiac repeats: “There is a world inside the world. There is a world inside the world.” And in Texas I realized, there is a blog inside the blog. ((0v0)). A private space.

DeLillo lost me when he wrote The Body Artist, a spare short story that never should have been a book. I read it on a Saturday afternoon next to a fire out on Alki beach—Seattle’s little wind-beaten peninsula. Much of The Body Artist is a single opening scene, a woman who has left the city, for some reason, and moved in with her distracted lover. It’s an old house on a remote, wind-pummeled beach on the west coast. In the first scene, the two are quiet in the kitchen, as DeLillo stupidly describes the way the woman pours her cereal. It turns out that her art is bizarre, grotesque but graceful contortionism; and once she moves in to the near-abandoned location, she spends long hours in a back bedroom, stretching and binding her body. She is visited by a feral boy that DeLillo seems to have stolen from David Malouf’s tale of Ovid – some abandoned soul or piece of her own psyche. The story is immature and uselessly sketchy: his editors’ rush to publication dressed up as minimalism. But nine years later the image of that weatherbeaten house, and the nature boy who comes out of the woodwork, returns with unexpected strength.

Anyway. A paragraph about the weather. Today we had freezing rain, though it is presently a balmy 28 degrees. No sun. Seven hours of hazy light. I dislike owning anything that can be measured in bulk, but for now am making an exception for the following materials: silk, cashmere, and down. I also have a new electric blanket, made of synthetic fibers soaked in fire retardant and laced through with electric cables. It’s turned all the way up and wrapped around me right now.

My parents just got on a plane bound for Montana, a thousand or so miles directly to the west. They are roughly a million times happier visiting Ann Arbor than Los Angeles. My mother cooked comfort foods, which in our family means sugar bombs disguised as main dishes. I partook: at least she didn’t decide to cook some animal in the new kitchen. My dad, a feral creature with the energy of a young boy, surprised me with advice for living with other people’s transference. Then he went back to drumming absently on the furniture, slamming doors, and running up and down the street.

The energy of going it alone—and here—is so different. On which, more presently. I’m entering a phase of learning by doing. I’m leading a class in the morning a the Quaker meeting house—something Tim arranged—and may put out a few more tendrils in coming weeks, before departing for Mysore in the New Year. Incredibly, my travel Visa did arrive yesterday: wasn’t sure that would happen, since my nomadism makes it difficult to convince the Indian consulate that I’m a legitimate traveler (i.e., someone with a permanent address).

The drive east was breathtaking, and so joyful. I spent time talking and practicing with Karen and then with Liz, and got very high quality sleep in both their homes. It would be inappropriate to write about how much I adored them in person, and what solace I found in their presence. We sometimes flatter each other on the internet; and surfacy connection comes easy here. So I’ll not try to overcompensate with words.

Time to brew some tea.