Archive for April, 2012

metamaus, by art spiegelman

I don’t remember when I first read Maus. I think it was probably the year I lived in Ireland, when I went on my first big graphic novel binge, but it feels like I read it earlier than that because it has become so much a part of me. Did Marie Suchting put it in my hands? Seems like the sort of thing she would do. Bless you, Marie, wherever you are.[1]

Maus is kept in the same area of my memory where I keep Olga Horak, a docent at the Sydney Jewish Museum who told me the story of the blanket in which she was carried out of Auschwitz. Olga’s blanket is made of a mix of animal and human hair.

Olga said to me: “I survived Auschwitz. One day all the survivors will be dead, and then there will be only you: the people who have met a survivor. Now it is your responsibility to remember and to tell the truth about what happened.”

Because I stand in this once-removed relationship with WW2, I am as interested in Art’s story as I am in that of his father. You can’t be a sheltered white Westerner and read history without knowing the terrible price of your peaceful, privileged life.

And of course Adorno was right: no poetry after Auschwitz. You can’t engage with the death camps in any meaningful way and then walk away feeling hopeful about human nature, or God, or life, or anything else at all, really. Ask Primo Levi.

But you can’t despair, either. What you do is you become Schroedinger’s human, both hopeful and hopeless. Everyone is a potential genocidaire; I, too, am a potential genocidaire; therefore I must do my work and be kind to other people and raise my children well. Or as Beckett put it: I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

It’s the human condition. This is what MetaMaus is about. It is the story of the story of Art, and of art. It is the impossible poetry after Auschwitz.

[1] Oh, Marie. I’d been meaning to call. I am so sorry. I hope you knew what you meant to me. You did your work and you were kind to me and raised me well.

just like someone without mental illness, only more so, by mark vonnegut md

Imagine if you mashed up Hurry Down Sunshine with Mountains beyond Mountains and, oh, a liberal (haha) dash of Atul Gawande or Siddhartha Mukherjee. You’d get this book: a gorgeous wrenching memoir of someone who had three psychotic breaks, went to Harvard Medical School and became a pediatrician, and then had another psychotic break. It’s incandescent.

If you take good care of any disease by eating well, sleeping well, being aware of your health, consciously wanting to be well, not smoking, et cetera, you are doing all the same things you should be doing anyway, but somehow having a disease makes them easier to do. A human without a disease is like a ship without a rudder.

It’s a good enough book that you should read it for its own sake. I feel bad even bringing this up. But yes, his father is who you think he is.

When Kurt tried to sell Saabs, he usually did the test drive with the prospective customer in the passenger seat. I tried to tell him to not go around corners so fast, especially if the customers were middle-aged or older, but he thought it was the best way to explain front-wheel drive. Some of them were shaken and green. He didn’t sell a lot of cars.

“Maybe you should just let them drive,” I suggested.

why i call her the wife

The mister is off building a robot thunderdome with the downstairs neighbor, so I called the wife and invited her and our boys over for dinner. While she was here her phone rang and the ringtone was Weezer’s “My Best Friend.”

Me: sharp intake of breath. “That’s MY ringtone. You have ANOTHER best friend???”

Salome: “I am totally busted. It’s my default ringtone.”


We had BBQ chicken from a place on 24th Street with arugula and avocado salad and broccolini and brown rice. I made a compote out of leftover strawberries and we had that with cream for dessert. Salome and I got a little tipsy on limoncello from Lucca’s deli.

This is what my life is like now. Yesterday I was weeding our little front flowerbed and Colin the carpenter stopped by and we chatted about the shelf he is making for Claire’s yarn, because Claire took up crochet after Rose taught her how. Then Kathy came by on her way to pick up Julia and Martha from the math circle Vali runs in the place on the corner. It’s been difficult to blog these past few months because happiness writes white and I have never been so happy before in my life.

I showed the wife pictures of the house I grew up in.

“But it’s beautiful,” she said.

“I see that now. It’s a jewel of mid-century modern, and it was full of teak and Hans Wegner originals. My mother had flawless taste.”

“I pictured you growing up in a place with no light! Like, a dungeon!”

“But that’s what it felt like. I look at it now and all I can think about is how miserable I was back then. When I was a teenager I could not put together a simple declarative sentence about my internal state to save my life.”

“You were a bit like that when I met you.”

One of my catchphrases nowadays is that closure is bullshit. Scar tissue is what it is. I still feel the cold where the broken bones in my ankle fused back together. But the other California cliche, validation, is not so much bullshit. Having a third party acknowledge the you that has spent the last umpty years tunneling out from underneath all your own garbage: well, that’s not nothing, as we say. It’s a thing, as we say.

It’s even possible I will forgive her for her lies about the ringtone.

“what do you mean, someone took the kids for an unexpected playdate?”

“Call Peter the Rocket Scientist! We’re going to brunch like it’s 1999!”

Felt as if I’d died and gone to the Mission District.

frequent flyer

And then I went to Seattle and then I went to London and now I am back.

Took Rose and the girls to CuriOdyssey. River otters high-fived my dottirs.