Versatile Perversions

For Marcel Proust

I am Sodom and Gomorrah, a horny horde perversely plotting the glorious defilement of angels. (I am habit’s eyeless vampires and memory’s myriad-eyed ghosts – guardian demons of slumbering ecstasies.) I am chance’s goblins gaily gambling on life and death with capricious dicethrows. (I am the compulsive duplicity of blind love disastrously pursuing ungraspable phantoms.) No, we don’t want your insipid angels – let them fly off and leave us to our devious search for reversals and inversions to syncopate our fateful falls into the tongueless mouths of time.

This change in the value of what we possess, like those old bundles which turn out to be priceless treasures, is one of the things that introduce most wonder, animation, variety and consequently poetry into one’s adolescence (that adolescence which, while gradually dwindling until it becomes no more than a thin trickle that often runs dry, is sometimes prolonged throughout the course of one’s life), . . . mak[ing] one’s youth as fabulous as the metamorphoses of Ovid or even the metempsychoses of the Hindus.

Whenever a self seemed within his grasp, a lover’s lie, a stranger’s casual glance, an ambushing memory would suddenly shatter his crystallizing identity.

On viscous days when his languid mind oozed from jaded hour to jaded hour, he missed the exhilarating, exasperating drama of adolescence – the vertiginous oscillation between selfing and unselfing – when a hiccough in time, an unexpected divergence in habit’s tight succession could sweep him out of himself into a groundless no-man’s land.

How could he be certain that he was who he thought he was and not a dying man’s hallucination or a twitching animal’s dream?

His proper name chafed him like an itchy ill-fitting shirt. (He’d always preferred shifty pronouns.)

Between the ignorance of the know-it-all and the ignorance of the always-astonished – a sea of difference.

There’s something truer about the truths of childhood.

Give me a writer and I’ll show you his cage.

Narcotics or euphorics, anaesthetics or hallucinogens, tranquilizers or amphetamines, habits are addictions, sometimes complementary, often contradictory, but always striving to persevere even at the addict’s expense, like those lethal viruses that kill their hosts too quickly and end up annihilating themselves. Is death the only antidote to habit?

How many lovers and writers have wished they could hear others’ thoughts? They could not have considered the horror of what they were asking for.

Just as . . .admirable and beautiful wives are always being abandoned by their husbands, it often happens that people who are ugly in the eyes of almost everyone excite inexplicable passions; for what Leonardo said of painting can equally well be said of love, that it is cosa mentale, something in the mind.

The lover, like love, is in the mind. (Who is this naked stranger lying next to me?)

Truth has always hurt me more than lies.

Happily, jealousy is alien to me, but sometimes I can’t help envying the emerald anguish of abandoned lovers.

What is the escape velocity of time? ∞

How many deaths does it take to see beyond the terrible emptiness of the self to the terrific spaciousness of life?

Since one’s ego lives by thinking incessantly of all sorts of things, since it is no more than the thought of those things, if by chance, instead of being preoccupied with those things, it suddenly thinks of itself, it finds only an empty apparatus, something which it does not recognize and to which, in order to give it some reality, it adds the memory of a face seen in a mirror.

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