Comparing Books And People


I think a lot about my emotional life, but ultimately I think I act first and ask questions later.

This doesn’t seem good. I become mean whenever anyone asks me to ‘be nice.’ I always overwhelmingly feel my language is being policed so I become sardonic. I lose my awe and vulnerability. And these are my greatest weapons, these are weapons I must cling to even in the face of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m not ‘keeping a straight face,’ I just don’t know how to move my face when people start looking at me. Anyway I prefer any emotional life at all, any human connection in all its brutal vitality and lovely coventry, to what I had before. I had essentially been locked away from ages ten to eighteen, reading books. It started with a program called Prep for Prep.

Look it up or something if you want to learn about it, the time to explain it isn’t now. Let’s just say the embodiment of my childhood is the turning of endless pages, not as something I was forced to do but as an escape from my horror at being alive.

My heart beats to the pace of your bookmarks, or something.

I still have a fetish for that crisp sound, I think. Even though I mostly read pdfs now. And for specific language patterns that I associate with a poetic sensibility. I fall in love with people from how they talk.

But what I really mean is I always liked books more than people and desperately (in this moment at least) want to change. But I think, maybe, that I am changing. Feel like I am always changing without giving myself consent. Am realizing how I mostly use words to hide my ugliness, to make others feel ugly and small-yet-fat with me. People don’t deserve to feel like this though.

People deserve me in my fullness, which is a nothing and then lots of hurt.

Maybe embodiment doesn’t have to be that harsh though. But I don’t ‘get’ anything. All of the subtext. Everything in the world puts me on edge. Going outside feels like stagefright. Real talk. Like I feel confused about free will etc. Like I feel myself making decisions, but it doesn’t feel like I’m making decisions, you feel me?

Everything feels like a skin that The Moment puts on me. It tugs sometimes when there’s too much of me. The body has some bundle of responses and The Moment selects a few to make an outfit for me.

My choice is in there somewhere like an augmented reality with bad design. In that it’s not fully immersive.

Bad sci-fi metaphors seem like textbook symptoms of alienation. Seems fine. I am a liar but at least I try to be accurate.

Reading books for me has always been a kind of meditation. And meditation, which I do daily, is a kind of retreat. By simply observing my body’s reactions to a specific context— like a sky upon which affect, like always-changing clouds, is inscribed —I can achieve a distance very close to my own body. I can let myself be free to do nothing. And yet there’s the thrill of finishing with a book. Of either running out of words to read, or deciding in one’s fullness, ‘No, this book is not for me.’

It is cruel to snub books just like that. The glee of that is cruel too.

Seems even crueler to ‘finish with’ people. People are not like books. Seems like if I’m going to compare the two I should do away with the glee of ‘finishing with’ books and instead seek to compare human interaction to, like, ‘starting a book that won’t end for a long time, and has a narrative that will be wholly unfamiliar to you except in the pain that it might cause.’ Seems like books can’t cause me pain like people can. I don’t know if any of this makes sense.

Impending comparisons between mindfulness and the editing process in writing. Actually nah.

Or what I’m thinking of is the way Finnegans Wake turns reading into a failure-of-reading. People are like Finnegans Wake, then— trying to read them is failing to read them. And I have to start loving failing. That seems like a good thing.

It’s because the Wake isn’t in any of the languages spoken by the readers approaching it, since Joyce made it up. This seems like what people seem like.

If Joyce had died twenty years after the publishing of the Wake instead of two, would he have looked back on it and been unable to read it, the way I’m unable to look at myself and read anything except an alien object?

Other people seem like this. But I fail to read other people in general. And there seems to be glee in this failure, since being around certain people makes me feel good at certain times. And my failures seem to teach me the most about myself. But it seems like I always fail to learn quickly enough.

image – Eneas