That’s what I thought love would be like.
Reading Whitman and fighting the urge not to express your aesthetic superiority.
-Paul Beatty, Slumberland
Some passages about love in the books I’m reading lately:
From The Diary of Frida Kahlo, a letter to Diego:
Nothing compares to your hands
nothing like the green-gold of
your eyes. My body is filled
with you for days and days. you are
the mirror of the night. the vio-
lent flash of lightning. the
dampness of the earth.
…All my joy
is to feel life spring from
your flower-fountain that mine
keeps to fill all
the paths of my nerves
which are yours.
From Franz Kafka’s Letters to Milena:
…love is to me that you are the knife which I turn within myself.
From Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay”:
To see the love between Law and me
turn into two animals gnawing and craving through one anothertowards some other hunger was terrible.
What is love?
My questions were not original.
Nor did I answer them.
From Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being:
But was it love? The feeling of wanting to die beside him was clearly exaggerated: he had seen her only once before in his life! Was it simply the hysteria of a man who, aware deep down of his ineptitude for love felt the self-deluding need to simulate it? . . .
Looking out over the courtyard at the dirty walls, he realized he had no idea whether it was hysteria or love.
From Paul Beatty’s Slumberland:
Do you love me?
I’d never been in love. I’d always thought love was like reading Leaves of Grass in a crowded Westside park on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, having to suppress the urge with each giddy turn of the page to share your joy with the surrounding world. By ‘sharing’ I don’t mean quoting Whitman’s rhythm-machine poetics to a group of strangers waiting for auditions to be posted at the Screen Actors Guild, but wanting to stand up and scream, “I’m reading Walt Whitman, you joyless, shallow, walking-the-dog-by-carrying-the-dog, casting-courch-wrinkles-imprinted-in-your-ass, associate-producer’s-pubic-hairs-on-your-tongue, designer-perambulator-pushing-the-baby-you-and-your-Bel-Air-trophy-wife-had-by-inserting-someone-else’s-spermbank-jizz-in-a-surrogate-mother’s-uterus-because-you-and-your-sugar-daddy-were-too-busy-with-your-nonexistent-careers-to-fuck, no-day-job-having California Aryan assholes! I’m reading Whitman! . . . I’m reading Whitman, expanding my mind and melding with the universe! What have you done today? . . . Have you looked a the leaves of grass? No? I didn’t think so!” That’s what I thought love would be like. Reading Whitman and fighting the urge not to express your aesthetic superiority.