28 01 24

The year my father died, I read a story in school about a little boy who builds ships in the bottoms of bottles. This little boy lived by the maxim that if you could imagine the worst thing that could ever happen, you would never be surprised when it did. Not knowing that this maxim was the very definition of anxiety, as given by Freud (“‘Anxiety’ describes a particular state of expecting the danger or preparing for it, even though it may be an unknown one”), I set to work cultivating it. Already an avid “journaler,” I started penning narratives of horrible things in my school notebook. My first installment was a novella titled “Kidnapped” that featured the abduction and torture of my best friend, Jeanne, and me by a deranged husband-wife team. I was proud of my talismanic opus, even drew an ornate cover page for it. Now Jeanne and I would never be kidnapped and tortured without our having foreseen it ! I thus felt confused and saddened when my mother took me out for lunch “to talk about it.” She told me she was disturbed by what I had written, and so was my sixth-grade teacher. In a flash it became clear that my story was not something to be proud of, as either literature or prophylactic.

The Argonauts
Graywolf Press 2015