Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Friday, May 08, 2009

Failure of the Day: Enter Sandman

I have seriously never had this many people interested in discussing my needs in my entire life. People are appearing out of thin air and asking if we can discuss my needs. I get emails and phone calls daily now from people who want only to know what my needs are. I have a neurologist, a dermatologist, a gynecologist, a dentist, and an internist, and not a single one of them is 1% as interested in my needs as any given real estate agent in San Francisco.

Let me tell you what I need: Sleep.

I haven’t slept through the night since last Saturday. I thought I saw a big black bird swooping through my office two times yesterday. This is the condition in which I am supposed to make a decision that will affect the next 30 years of my life.

Thing is, I don’t feel stressed. I’m exhausted and I have what I’m pretty sure is hysterical diarrhea, but I don’t feel scared or on edge or tense. I feel like I’m thinking clearly, making fine decisions, and performing perfectly fine acts of deductive reasoning. So yeah, real estate agents, I would like to discuss my needs in more detail with the whole lot of you. But I’m not hiring any of you yet, not until I know I have to, and not until one of you strikes me in just the right way.

But seriously, did no one else see that bird? It’s gone now but it was just there.


  • At May 13, 2009 10:41 AM, Blogger John Proctor said…

    I have spent nearly an hour catching up on your blog and it reminds me why I, or anyone, for that matter, should be in love with you. Beauty, wit, pathos and unavailability - an intoxicating cocktail, to be sure.

    Congratulations on your home search, continued health, marital bliss and newfound football jones.

    I did come here for a specific reason though. I wanted to ask - "No Children" by Mr. The Goats - is it an emotional Rorschach test, like Morrissey once was? If you can hear it and not laugh aloud, indeed, if you actually get mired in its sadness and hoplessness, does this mean you are depressed? Or is it really not funny at all?

  • At May 15, 2009 1:47 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    Thanks for the kind words and flattery, and for your eyeballs on my page!

    “No Children” is pretty complicated matter. As a standalone song I think you kind of have to laugh—it’s so over-the-top bitter that you recognize yourself and your own ridiculousness in it. We’ve all flared up in that way, haven’t we? But in the context of the whole album, in which each song explores one of that terrible couple’s many facets, and their genuine—and genuinely poisonous—love for each other, it’s devastating.

    Do you know the story of the Alpha couple in Darnielle’s work? He’s been writing about this alcoholic married couple for years, and they are finally fully fleshed out in Tallahassee. I could write 10,000 words on that album, seriously. They spend the first half of the album drowning and the second half on fire—not just in agony but entirely aware that they possess the means but not the will to bring about their own salvation. It’s awful.

    My reading of that song in context is that the man is on a serious mean drunk and seeing his marriage in the worst—and possibly most-honest—light. Just a few songs earlier the same man says of the same relationship: “I am not going to lose you/ we are going to stay married/ in this house like a Louisiana graveyard/where nothing stays buried.” Contrast that with “And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out /You'd stay the hell out of my way” in No Children. You have to ask yourself which is the more clear-eyed perspective.

    So I guess in the end I have to say no, I don’t think it’s an emotional Rorschach. There’s too many ways of reading it, all of them appropriate for some context or another.


  • At May 19, 2009 11:20 AM, Blogger John Proctor said…

    I admit I am less familiar with Darnielle's work than you are, which is why I came to you for enlightenment. If "No Children" is not meant to be funny, then I am uncertain whether I'd be able to survive Tallahassee, as the one song plunged me into a deep and the black hole. Until the giggle fits started, when I thought about a ten ton bus killing the both of them.

    Do you know from where the story came? It seems awfully true to life, though Darnielle doesn't seem all that scarred when he performs the song.

  • At May 19, 2009 2:12 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    What I know about Darnielle is that he’s an ex-junkie who spent the bulk of his childhood getting the shit kicked out of him by an alcoholic stepfather. But that said, he’s a fiction writer—the autobiographical material didn’t start emerging until a later album, The Sunset Tree, which is my all-time favorite Mountain Goats record. So I don’t read the alpha couple as based on a true story.

    Either way though, you’ll need a healthy appreciation for equal parts beauty and pain to listen to any Mountain Goats record. There’s loads of seriously painful stuff in there, although some of his earliest songs are funny enough to almost be novelty tunes—“Anglo-Saxons” on the compilation CD Ghana is a good example.

    In retrospect the jokey songs remind me of how funny Kurt Vonnegut was (apparently) in person. Funniness is scab over a massive wound just about 100% of the time, and I dated enough stand-up comics in my day to know that for sure.


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