Last Saturday night, I was reading Joyce Carol Oates’s beautiful novel Little Bird of Heaven. JCO is probably my favorite contemporary author, and whenever I’m reading her books, my mind starts racing with ideas for my own fictive projects at a rate that few of my other favorite authors can match. I also read her books about nine times more quickly than any other books. It seems wrong to put them down, once they are begun.
While I was reading, I made this note on my iPad, a note for a novel that I am in the early stages of writing and whose shape I am still trying to figure out. The idea that this note addresses is not addressed explicitly in Little Bird of Heaven, but it evidently inspired me to think about it. I won’t say anything more for fear of spoiling the plot of LBoH. Here is my note as it appears in Evernote:
THEN! Last night, I went on Twitter and saw these two tweets from Oates:
And I proceeded to lose my mind.
As expected, JCO’s thoughts about this concept are infinitely, spine-tinglingly better than my own.”To underestimate is tragic while to overestimate is only farcical.” Yes. YES.
I am pissed that NYMag only considered Philip Roth and (vaguely) Don DeLillo in their Greatest Living Author feature. The answer is obviously Joyce Carol Oates, with Don a close second.
This is not up for debate.
1. If you wanted to, you could say Bob Dylan never got over the woman in “Tangled Up in Blue,” that she has been the inspiration for many (many) of his songs. I like to think so. Who’s to say? But the privilege of the music fan is that we’re allowed to think whatever we want. Sorry Bob! I know you hate that.
2. How to know when a relationship “just isn’t fated”? I don’t know, but Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige are pretty good at it.
3. If we could devote our entire waking life to a romantic dream, maybe it would actually happen, or so I always felt while listening to Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” as a teenager. If we give up, so the argument goes, we’ll have no chance. We forget that it is not our job to make love happen. But we have limitless energy to convince this person that they should be ours. Surely that is enough to make them ours!
4. Matthew Good’s relationships tend to be depicted as comets: beautiful blasts of cosmic energy that seem to die out as quickly as they appeared.
5. In “Tougher Than the Rest,” Bruce Springsteen doesn’t promise anything except that he will stick around, which made me realize, maybe for the first time, that this is actually a valuable trait. He is not “handsome” (well, he is), he is not “good-looking” (um), he is not “sweet-talking” (true). But he is “tough.”
This has been an abbreviated version of some thoughts on five rather uncomfortable love songs that mean a great deal to me.