— Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
I live with Margaux Williamson. We’ve lived together for quite a few years now. We’re very happy together.
For a long time in my life, I didn’t have serious girlfriends that much. It was something that in the abstract I always thought I should do.
I had certain ideas about what kind of person my girlfriend might be. I met Margaux and I was pretty fascinated by her. She’s a remarkably unusual person. She doesn’t really think like anyone else. She doesn’t really act like anyone else.
I was with her for a while and I kept thinking, This is so not like the person I’d imagined. And at the same time I thought, once the relationship got at all serious, Well, I’m kind of stuck, because there’s no way in the world that I’m going to be able to find someone who’s sort of like Margaux but better, because there’s no one like Margaux.
I love Margaux tremendously, and I’m very happy to have her in my life. There’s no way I could have seen her coming. It’s not like there was this Margaux-shaped hole in my life. There’s no way on earth that I could have invented her. She’s just too unusual. She came as a real surprise.
I think the way I’d always thought this sort of thing worked was that you had some sort of imaginary person in your head and then you’d meet someone who was pretty close to that imaginary person, but it turns out that what worked out for me was meeting a person who didn’t correspond to anything in my head at all but was something new that came from the world.
— Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti, The Chairs Are Where the People Go
— Jon Caramanica, "United by Their Rough Edges," NYT
Summer break, finally.
'Coromina is right!' says Enric Frigola, with his customary mix of timidity and coldness. Frigola is a landowner who has lived in the United States. He is the languages teacher at the town school. He adds: 'Poverty brings few advantages, evidently, but it does bring one: the need to listen to people. I don't mean you must listen to everybody. You have to listen to the right person. And you better listen carefully or at least look like you are. You must appear to be genuinely fascinated by the person who is speaking. Your thoughts may be elsewhere but you must look like you are being attentive and hanging on every word. That's easy enough: Keep an alert eye, and wear a warm and friendly expression, nod your head in time to the ideas your interlocutor is formulating. And from time to time add: “Would you be so good as to repeat what you said a moment ago? Would you be so kind as to clarify that concept you elaborated a second ago?' Men like being listened to. They like it more than money, women, good food, and wine. A man with an audience becomes a total show-off. It's also true that when men realize they have an audience, they weaken. These moments of frailty are cracks in human granite from which shards of generosity may fall. A poor man may be in luck. If he doesn't know how to create such moments or benefit from them, then he really is in a bad way indeed. Men and women have naturally established a system of parasitic existence based on flattery—on the sheer physical pleasure of being flattered—and the most common, most surreptitious form of flattery is knowing how to listen discreetly but actively. Act natural, which is easier to do if you aren't so stupid as to let on about anything you might know. You have to hide your own knowledge on the matter in hand—presuming you have any—but without going so far as to highlight your stupidity.' Frigola speaks very quickly, and his hands shake slightly, though he never actually gesticulates. He is embarrassed to speak, so he blushes and then grins sarcastically.
'You see,' he continues, 'the art of listening is incredibly exhausting and it is worth having an income to spare yourself having to practice it. To my mind, the most tangible, pleasant form of independence is being able to live without being forced to listen to anyone. The strongest men, with robust biological resources, usually don't listen to anyone. They make a big impact. They hurl themselves into projects blindly, unthinkingly, relying on their instincts, or on highly idiosyncratic, very obscure calculations of their own. They never heed other people. In the Old Testament, the strong, powerful, dominant characters act without a trace of forethought, without caution, swept along by the impetuous ebb and flow of their temperaments. It is astonishing, the lack of of awareness and sheer lunacy that spurs into humans into actions that are then deemed to be important.'"
— Josep Pla, The Gray Notebook
— Tavi Gevinson, on life after high school (New York)
— David Remnick, "Watching the Eclipse," NYer
— Rebecca Mead, "The Scourge of ‘Relatability’," NYer
— Carlene Bauer, on Ellen Willis (NYT)