“You have caused, over the years, varieties of unhappiness for which I have not, perhaps, been sufficiently grateful.”
Speedboat is everything people say it is. And even after reading its praises—by Hardwick, no less, and Sontag, and that silly pringle David Shields—I was not prepared for the line by live revelation of some other way of touching the world, be it with such manners, such common sense, such intrigue, such surprise. Etc.
Evan got me hankering to revisit Speedboat, which maybe uniquely rewards quick dips back in. I’ve lent out my copy, but someone was sufficiently taken to post a bunch of excerpts. I’d forgotten this:
At six one morning, Will went out in jeans and frayed sweater to buy a quart of milk. A tourist bus went by. The megaphone was directed at him. ‘There’s one,’ it said. That was in the 1960s. Ever since, he’s wondered. There’s one what?
I think in the passage below, even more than the drumbeat of syntax and rapid, syncopated jump-cuts, it’s the simultaneous transparency and opacity that gets me. Phrase by phrase it’s completely clear; cumulatively, it feels true, less in sense—little point in tracking the literal meanings—than in ordering, voluminousness, and tempered conclusion:
Sometimes I miss, or lose, the point. Late-sleeping utopians, especially, persist like mercury. I am a fanatic myself, although not a woman of temperament. I get nervous at scenes. I stole a washcloth once from a motel in Angkor Wat. The bellboy was incensed. I had to give it back. To promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—I believe all that. I go to parties whenever I am asked. I think a high tone of moral indignation, used too often, is an ugly thing. I get up at eight. Quite often now I have a drink before eleven. In some ways, I have overshot my mark in life in spades.