Art of the Day: Richard Selzer, excerpt from “Diary”, Yale University Press (2011)

  March 1st, 2011

    I’ve been using the “Art of the Day” template to cover visual arts mostly, but it’s been my aim for some time to open this up to all forms of human creativity, highbrow, lowbrow, eternal, ephemeral, edible, forgettable, video games, macramé. Whatever happens to slingshot an acorn upside my head that particular day. Unfortunately, I haven’t much followed up on that promise to myself — I’m just so damn used to babbling on about a great painting or sculpture that I (mostly) haven’t let myself try other things. Trying to change that with my first Art of the Day on something texty: in specific, this jawdropful bit that I came across in the March 2011 issue of Harper’s:
“Asked by M. if I fear death. No, I don’t. He who doesn’t desire anything can let it all go. My hopes of being a little old bald tubby man with money enough to eat oysters every day are shot. There is all this pewter-colored hair that sits like a cap on my skull, and I cannot afford oysters. Eyesight fading, I’m as nearsighted as a sturgeon fumbling along the bottom with its whiskers. I have heard no laughter in years. Certainly none of my own. Now my dream is to have nothing whatever to do and make love to a fat girl.”
    The author? Richard Selzer who, according to Harper’s, is a “former surgeon and professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine”. The piece speaks for itself and I’m embarrassed to appendage it with commentary but, well, that’s the point of this damn site right now, so on to it.
    The brutal candor of it all kills me. The Prufrockian resignation too. And how that death’s-door apathy is offset by such choice & unforgettable sensory details, the unmistakable evidence of someone who is still richly involved with life, who is still in it despite the buddhist undesirous flatline: the little ol’ tubster waddling around slurping hama hamas from the shell, beaming; the pewter bowlcut; the haunting spectacle of the slow oceanfloor-grubbing sturgeon; the obliging fat girl sighing into his embrace. That’s what kills me — I mean, the bleak economy of the man’s insight into his condition, desires, and mortality would have been enough, but then you combine that with this heartbreaking sliver of remaining tether to the world — his many-times reduced aspiration to do nothing but loaf & love a fat girl — and I just shake my head in disbelief. Astonishing prose.
 Please head over to Richard Selzer’s NYS Writers Institute bio page here for more about the author.

Thanks also to Optic Nerve for saving me the trouble of typing out the Melzer text from my copy of Harper’s. Check out Optic Nerve, great site.
All writing unless where noted © copyright C. Way / 2011

[posted by C Way at 10:14 PM]


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