On Spectacle and Silence

The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images. —Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle   1 We sat on the couch ...

The spectacle is not a collection of images;
rather, it is a social relationship between people
that is mediated by images.
—Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle


We sat on the couch together. The burble-voiced sportscasters, the referee’s whistle, “First down and 10.” I was, I am tethered to my father. His fingers twisted a long strand of my hair. Tight. Tighter still. Release. Repeat. I was there and not there. He used his own hair if I wasn’t around, but he preferred mine. It was longer and finer. A rope. My father was the one who put my hair in a ponytail before school. He also rebraided my Holly Hobby doll’s yarn hair when it came undone.

We share the same rare neurological condition. I inherited it from him, though he didn’t know what was wrong until a specialist in Toronto finally diagnosed me and began a successful treatment. Before this small miracle, I was often unable to walk, and falling asleep was a challenge because my muscles were so rigid that they cramped and seized. My father sometimes sat on the edge of my bed and coached me in breathing in and out in an attempt to relax them.

He made me a compartmentalized box out of scraps of cardboard for my rock collection.

In the mornings, when I could walk more easily, he took my brother and me to the bird sanctuary. When we arrived at the bird-viewing platform that overlooked the turtle pond, he took out a Hershey’s chocolate bar and split it into three equal pieces.

I scrolled through the Twitter feed for the protests in New York City following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. My kid’s dad, my ex, was there and he sent me pictures from the protest. FDR shut down! Manhattan Bridge closed! I thought a lot that night about the violence of not being seen or heard, and reread some of Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony. Wilson admitted, “And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. … The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That’s how angry he looked.” I noticed he repeats, “the only way I can describe it,” as if there really were no other mode of description. Wilson is in a crisis of imagination. This testimony is part of the violence of not being seen or of misrepresentation. Darren Wilson cannot see Michael Brown. He is not a person, but an “it.” I thought too about the narcissism of this act and the violence of narcissism—of what happens when we are so wrapped up in our own shit (racist and otherwise) that we cannot see anyone else. As I lay on my couch, I wished I were protesting instead of taking care of my kid, and I remembered the ways I’d come to protest and out of silence. The Women’s Center on campus freshman year where we sat in a circle and told our stories. The anti–Gulf War and pro-choice marches in the early ’90s, and, much later, dipping into and out of Occupy Wall Street. I wondered then and now about how to be a better ally.

Later that night, I rewatched the video of Officer Daniel Pantaleo choking and then killing Eric Garner. I saw violence in small spaces—the frame of my computer screen and of the cell phone camera that recorded the video—and the sickening intimacy of murder, a white man enacting an old wound on a new black body. I saw how violence becomes spectacle and felt the nausea of implication that my viewing brings with it.

A week later, I took my six-year-old to the protest against police brutality in Washington Square Park. I tried to frame the protest in a way that made sense to her. She knew about Rosa Parks, and often sang a song she learned about her in school, so I started there.

“We’re going to a protest.”

“What’s that?”

“We want to say that something is wrong.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, remember how Rosa Park protested on the buses, that black people couldn’t sit where they wanted?” She nodded. “Well, this is connected.”

“How?” she asked. I held up her mittens, in a desperate attempt to get her to wear them without using language to convey this wish. I have been trying to quit nagging because it bores me and doesn’t work.

“Well, the police are hurting black people.”

“But the police help people. We went to their office. They showed us the jail.” She ignored the mittens. She was referring to last year’s kindergarten field trip where students learned about “stranger danger” and why police officers carry weapons. She’d come home from the trip scared that she would be kidnapped, and with a detailed description of a baton.

“Some help, but some have things they need to work on.” I fell back on our shared language for our faults. I was “working on” not being grouchy in the morning. She was “working on” better listening. The police are “working on” not killing innocent black people. I’m not sure this is true. Nuance at six is a challenge. The police are both good and bad. Meh. Sure.

She shrugged. I dropped the mittens. I wasn’t happy with the way I’d framed the conversation, and our time at the protest was brief. We were packed tightly into the space near the fountain and while the chanting was pleasurably loud for me, it was too much for my kid. I couldn’t find the meet-up for the other protesters with kids, and so eventually we drifted off to the playground. I wanted her to know that protests happen and that people can and should take to the streets, and I vowed to take her to more protests. When she was three, her dad and I took her to Occupy enough times that, for several months afterward, whenever she saw a police officer in the street, she pointed and said, “Occupy?” This filled us with a twisted lefty glee.

A couple of weeks after the protest in Washington Square Park I got a Facebook message from an old writing workshop classmate. She’d read one of my essays online and was writing to congratulate me on its publication. Having started a blog
about raising more race-conscious children, she was interested in having me write about how I talk to my child about race. I told her I was failing, and she said I could write about that. But when I looked at the blog, I realized that my own language is vague and weird when it comes to talking with my child about race and violence, and that though I am increasingly comfortable writing about my public failures and humiliations, this one shames me mightily.

<i>Millions March, NYC</i>. Photograph by Saundi Wilson / Flickr

Millions March, NYC. Photograph by Saundi Wilson / Flickr


When I was a freshman in college, a friend and I got caught in the middle of a drunken fistfight between some white sorority girls and some black students. We had been at clubs and bars in the downtown of Binghamton, where we went to school. My friend and I piled in a taxi van with others to get a ride back to campus. Other than my friend, I didn’t know anyone else in the van. The details were hazy to me even the next day, but it began in the casual way that day-to-day racism often unfolds, and escalated quickly into violence. A sorority girl noticed that the black students were sitting in the “back of the bus.” She thought this was funny and made a joke about it, as if it were fitting, as if that were where they belonged. The black students objected, and one, a young woman, stood up to protest. Another sorority sister spit on her. The black woman reached across the seat. I don’t remember who threw the first punch. My friend and I shrunk down in our seats. We wanted to disappear. I remember the shame I felt about what the sorority girls had said, my fear of getting caught in the middle of something, and my decision to say nothing. I remember fists everywhere and covering myself with my arms and wishing it were over. I got punched in the head by one of the black women, and I remember the ringing feel of it. The cab driver pulled over and threw everyone out of the van. My friend and I scattered and ran through the woods while the fight continued behind us. We went to the campus police. We were asked to make statements, and the campus police officers interviewed us. They filed reports on everyone in the van. At some point, it became clear to us that they wanted to expel the black students. We stopped talking to them because they refused our accounts that the students had been acting in self-defense.

I felt wronged too. I wanted those young black women to intuit somehow that I was a “good” white person, even though I did nothing to support them. I believed that such a thing was possible. I suppose I still do—some dreams are harder to let go of than others. Goodness—a good wife, a good mother, a good girl, a good feminist, a good activist, a “good” white person—is deep ideology for me. I have to dismantle it every day.

More than anything, I was disgusted with myself. I’d been a coward. I tried to protect myself, and I believed I was somehow above the fray. I hid in all of the ways I’d been trained to do as a child, and then I ran away. Go to your room. Wait for your father. Get under the covers. Hide under the bed. Stay still. Don’t move.

Now I see that punch as the price of my silence. It was an early wake-up call. How can someone know you are on her side if you don’t speak up? How can you stand in solidarity if you don’t say or do something?


We sat on our beds. We were bad. Maybe one of us had lied. Maybe we’d stolen something. Maybe we’d ripped a hole in the back of the new corduroy armchair. Maybe someone else’s parents had called about something that had happened outside of the house. Maybe one of us had left a bike unlocked and it had been stolen. Maybe we’d mouthed off. We did the things that many children do—we broke shit, we made stuff up, we fought, and got caught some of the time.

His voice in the entryway. Her voice telling him. His feet on the stairs.

He told us to pull our pants and underwear down. Always. The shame of that exposure. He used a belt usually, but sometimes, if he was truly angry, a wooden spoon or the heel of a leather slipper. A hand was not enough for our badness. It lasted as long as it lasted. We couldn’t see his face. We heard him breathing hard, felt him winding up, the shock of contact. After, he said things about what we had done and not to do it again. He looked spent. His face was red. His hair out of place.

In the beginning we were punished equally, but when we got older something shifted. My father stopped hitting me. Maybe to him, I was already a broken body, and so he focused on my brother, who unlike me had taken to open defiance. I’d learned to keep my transgressions secret and to deny everything. I became a liar. To do this day, I can lie on a dime, manufacture a cover story in an instant. It shocks my friends. It’s not something I like about myself.

How can someone know you are on her side if you don’t speak up? How can you stand in solidarity if you don’t say or do something?

It was summer or winter. Muggy or the dry hot of radiators. I’m not sure. I was in my room with the door open. My brother had been drinking the night more, maybe. I don’t know. His door was closed. My parents were fighting about his punishment upstairs. My father wanted to hit my brother, to teach him a lesson, to show him. My mother was against it, said he’s too old; in these last years of their marriage she had turned more openly against him. I heard him on the stairs. He shut my door without looking at me. I got up and listened at the door, but I didn’t open it. There was a scuffle in my brother’s room, a smaller body being chased by a larger one in a small space, an animal trapped in a cage, desperate to get out. My father yelled and my brother cried and whimpered. There were sounds of contact. That slipper again. Hand against flesh. A scrambling sound.

I didn’t do anything. I didn’t protect him. As his older sister, shouldn’t I have? I was trained in witnessing. Bystanding. A useless silence. It lasted as long as it lasted. My mother came down the stairs. She pushed open the door to my brother’s room. She said to my father in an accusing whisper, “Are you done now? Do you feel better?”

About a month ago I finally got around to reading Alice Miller’s groundbreaking book, The Drama of the Gifted Child.1 I was drawn to it because it’s a big part of one of my favorite graphic memoirs, Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. It was my ex who gave Miller’s book to me. He said that it’s a great parenting book and that it explained a lot of our struggles with our own parents. We were those gifted children. We were trained to be good and to take care of our parents. Our marriage started to fall apart when we both realized we were tired of being caretakers to adults.

I don’t know what happened in that room for those muffled couple of minutes. I am unsure of my memories, even though I write from memory nearly every day. We called it a “spanking” then, but often when I speak to close friends about the details of it, they tell me that it wasn’t a spanking. A quick Google search reveals that in the 1970s, nearly 90 percent of parents “spanked” their children. I don’t know how many of them used weapons. I am inclined to make excuses. I am inclined to call it abuse. It depends on the day. Miller warns, “Sometimes people are convinced that it was just their siblings who suffered humiliation. Only in therapy can they remember—with feelings of rage and helplessness, of anger and indignation—how humiliated and deserted they felt when they themselves were mercilessly beaten by their beloved father.”2 I think I remember all of my beatings. I am too ashamed to ask my brother about his, though we regularly text back and forth about my father and begin and end most of these text conversations with “Fuck him.”

I wonder how authority gets beaten into our skin at an early age. I believe that our parents make the first marks of the police state on us—their relationship to authority and how they process their own anger gets written onto our bodies. If we are beaten by our parents, will we become docile under the batons of the police later in life? Miller warns, “Oppression and the forcing of submission do not begin in the office, factory, or political party; they begin in the very first weeks of an infant’s life.”3 What is the relationship between domestic violence and racist violence? I keep pulling at this thread. A police state needs some of its officers to be angry victims and willing agents.

I do know that our “spankings” made us into shifty, secretive kids and adults with a lot of baggage. Ready witnesses and victims and, on occasion, confused instigators and agents.


Maybe it was 1982. I was 10. Jamestown—the dying Rust Belt town in Western New York where I grew up—had one small mall, a low-slung 30-store affair whose centerpiece was Woolworth’s. I went to Woolworth’s for the pets. I liked to stroke the fur of the guinea pigs, which darted around in a pit of wood shavings. I stared at the drama unfolding behind the glass wall where they kept the puppies and kittens. My brother pressed his palms against the python cage and tapped the lizard case until its occupants stepped off their hot rocks.

I didn’t do anything. I didn’t protect him. I was trained in witnessing. Bystanding. A useless silence. It lasted as long as it lasted.

My love for the Woolworth’s pet section was at odds with my hatred of the mall itself. At 10, I was deep in the throes of a then-undiagnosed neurological disease called dopa-responsive dystonia. My pediatrician thought I had cerebral palsy. A specialist in Buffalo offered up Friedreich’s ataxia, a debilitating, life-shortening disorder with no cure. At the time, all that mattered to me was that by the middle of most days, I couldn’t walk. My muscles were rigid—my left hand curled tightly inward; I had to drag my left foot behind me to move forward. The highly buffed concrete floors of the mall were a challenge and to “walk” from Woolworth’s to the fountain at the center of the mall took considerable effort and time. And people stared. Kids often laughed at me. Some of their parents shushed them, but some did not. Sometimes people pointed at me, other times they whispered. I longed to move about unseen or unnoticed, but I often felt like a small-town spectacle, noticeable in my difference—a curiosity, an unknown, a freak.

I’ve found that small, isolated towns like the one I grew up in encourage staring. Aberrations are especially noticeable, and gossip is a way to pass the time.

“Beth says she saw you walking across the bridge.”

“I saw Genevieve coming out of the butcher shop with a big bag.”

“Those boys just sit there all day in front of the record store.”

“I heard on the scanner that she fell off a ladder while changing the light bulb.”

There’s less staring now when I go home to visit my parents. More people are lost in their cell phones. But even though my disease is treated and not all that visible anymore, I still notice that if I am crossing at an intersection on foot with my daughter, the driver of the car at the light leans forward and stares. When I asked my mother why this happens, she said impatiently, “Of course they’re staring, they don’t know who you are!”

Staring. Spectacle. The voyeur. A looked-at thing.

When my first-year college students are at their grouchiest and most passive, I usually give them an excerpt from Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others.4 In it, she warns that, while we may feel “obliged” to look at images and photographs of people in pain, we should also consider “what it means to look at them.”5 What Sontag objects to most strongly is our inclination to merely sympathize, because this distances us from what we see, and allows us the fiction that we are not involved or implicated. She pleads with us to examine our own privilege in relation to those who suffer, and to use that knowledge to take action. My students respond to this text because it remains contemporary, postmodern even, in its understanding of the way we’ve come to experience so much of what we see. We are far too often passive sympathizers and disinterested consumers. They get it, but they ask why Sontag doesn’t tell us how to be active. What in particular should we do? I tell them her essay is a form of activism. They are skeptical about this, and I understand why.


I am working on this very essay and have been taking Lexapro for three days. I am foggy and nauseous from it, and this combination of symptoms reminds me of my pregnancy. Like then, I am expectant, but for a whole new set of things. I want to feel better. I want less anxiety every day. I want not to wake up in the middle of the night panicked and sweaty, and yet I feel the drug is a last resort. My psyche has finally won. I’m almost 43, I cry “uncle.” My neurologist gave me the prescription last summer, but it took me eight months to fill it. A now-ex-boyfriend was vehemently against it, and I see, now that we are broken up, that I was very much under his thumb. I myself was ambivalent, but then something shifted. My therapist said, “Why not?” When I started to talk about it with people I know, it seemed a lot of them had tried it or were on it. My neurologist calls it “a homeopathic dose.” She is the kindest doctor I have ever had, and yet she responds to my anxiety as a purely chemical situation. She doesn’t believe in podiatrists and therapists, though she is glad I have a therapist I like.

And so I am trying to write in a very particular fog. First, I am distracted by Karl Ove Knausgaard’s essay in the New York Times Magazine about driving across parts of the US in search of the Vikings.6 I am also reading book two of My Struggle,7 and I am in awe of him and of how he makes the everyday, with its parenting failures and shame, a part of the work. I do not believe his work would be published if he were a woman and an American, and still I love him and he gives me courage. He makes me want my fog to be visible to you, and so I will name it here. I am foggy, and still I think and do. I write and I parent and I teach. I wonder how much I can know from this particular drug-addled haze. I am trying to believe in it as I once believed in what I could learn from tripping.

I am also distracted by poet and essayist Ronaldo Wilson’s recent posts on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog, “Obliteration Excavations.”8 Ronaldo and I got our MFAs together and we’ve stayed loosely in touch. I remember him as a benevolent, funny presence in workshops where my work was regularly ripped apart in ways that made me want to hide it from the world. He is writing about black bodies, making drawings from lynching postcards, Adrian Piper, Roland Barthes, Mark Wahlberg, Kara Walker, dancing, driving, and a black poetics. I am in awe of him; it’s similar to how I feel about Knausgaard, but heightened. Ronaldo and I are peers. I think I need to get smarter and read more theory, but this is an old female feeling that I try to both acknowledge and push away. I’ve seen Ronaldo dance and read poems out loud and rap, and I know his essays for Harriet have this same movement in them. I believe some of what he’s writing connects with parts of what I’m getting at here in this essay, but the Lexapro fog makes me too stupid to tease out the thread. I get stuck on this passage about Mark Wahlberg’s racism and Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety”:

Walker’s work enacts a process that fills in the space where I am digging through this old paper, caught in the new realization of Wahlberg’s urge for freedom, to be absented from his past, but a past so entrenched with a violent history, that it burns, no matter what he does, no matter what he says, no matter what he wants.9

I see Walker and Ronaldo as excavators, artist-historians of particular instances of violence against black bodies, and Wahlberg as the white man who wants to walk away from his violence. I see this essay as my own excavation, a return to my own past violence. Some of us burn more than others in our violent histories, but shouldn’t we all excavate and dig?

I’ve driven in the fog and I’ve walked through it. The trick is to let go of seeing too far ahead, and isn’t that the trick to life too? I like to look back, but not ahead. I can read the past, but the future isn’t even foggy. It’s a blank, a vast unknown. I tell myself I like this, but that’s a lie.


How long does it take to come to a political consciousness? As long as it takes. It’s probably too much to claim that a punch propelled me into black history and women’s history. Maybe poetry did it, or graduate school, where I began to study the history of feminism and the work of black civil rights activists. Deep friendships with queer folks and people of color have made me see what’s at stake in the day-to-day. I’ve learned how to listen, but I’ve also had to learn how to speak up. I still struggle to articulate what constitutes a useful silence or when I am merely copping out. In my research for a dissertation about teenage girls who published articles, short stories, essays, and letters in Seventeen magazine I was surprised to find that even this mainstream fashion magazine once had quite a bit of activist writing in it—during the Civil Rights era, Seventeen published first-person accounts of life in the segregated south by African-American girls and sent girl reporters to cover national conventions—and that helped me understand that even mainstream capitalist texts are complicated objects and that there are small resistances in even the most repressive spaces. And I remember two books that changed me and taught me how institutional forces shape personal lives—Angela Davis’s autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.10

Still, I am unsatisfied with my activism. I teach a course on activism and the history of youth-led subcultures, but I fail at activism every day. I have too many jobs and a kid and in my free time I am lazy and tired, and still I am trying to fail better at activism by at least being present for it. Attending protests, reading the literature, teaching students about it, telling my story if it matters.

But mostly I teach essay writing, and I’ve come to believe in the power of storytelling as a vehicle for political change, but only when story moves outward and into history and theory. I teach students to connect their daily struggles to larger political movements, but it is hard work and doesn’t have much of a space in academia.

In a recent essay in the New Yorker, “The Long Road to Angela Davis’s Library,” my friend the poet and essayist Dawn Lundy Martin asks, “Who’s to say when the turn from girl to woman happens, or what’s in between, in that fold, which one might also call a fount?” From there Dawn proceeds to chart, in her raw and deft way, her own path from Hartford-born straight black working-class environmental activist to queer San Francisco–based poet and scholar of black history. Her road to activism opens up a whole new world of texts and conversations. The essay is about the complex ways in which money, race, and power collude to keep people of color and particularly women of color believing they are failures. And yet it’s also about Dawn’s parents and reseeing her mother as a figure at the center of her struggle for justice. Near the end of the essay, Dawn asks another gripping question:

What, in the end, is politicization? Is it when you recognize that things are wrong and unjust in the world, or is it when you understand how powerful the powers are that seek to prevent you from changing anything? We learn, over time, that social and political change is made so incrementally that the present can look exactly like the past.

The essay ends with an image of Dawn slipping her mother’s hand into her own and the claim that “politicization” is a series of “newly illuminated rooms in the imagination.” I am drawn to these images of founts and rooms, and to the idea that politicization is in part a reseeing of one’s parents and childhood. If knowledge is a house that is constantly under renovation and construction, where do we locate ourselves? In what rooms do I currently reside? Where do I stash my parents, my failures, my shame, or the moments where I got something right and emerged from the fog? Perhaps this essay, with its multiple sections—each part is a room—functions as the house where I currently reside. I take you from room to room. This is a tour of sorts. We—you and I—are under construction. Perhaps we will renovate this house. Maybe it’s just another New York City apartment we will eventually leave behind. We are renters, after all. But we walk around. I point to this wall. You notice a crack. We move to the kitchen to sit down.


Last fall, during a short visit to New York City, my father told me he’d joined a Facebook group for people with Asperger’s syndrome. He sat on my couch while my stepmother and daughter worked on putting together the Lego Cinderella castle he’d brought as a gift.

“How was it?” I asked.

“I had to quit.”

“Why? Because you don’t have Asperger’s syndrome?” I stared over at the hundred-odd Lego castle pieces spread out over the countertop, at my stepmother and daughter bent over the building instructions.

“No,” my father sighed. “Those people are a mess. They just complain and complain.”

I nodded. Careful in my silence.

“Mama, we can’t do the castle without you!” my daughter called out. I walked over to the kitchen, happy for the interruption.

Still, I am unsatisfied with my activism. I teach a course on activism and the history of youth-led subcultures, but I fail at activism every day.

A couple of years ago, in an effort to explain to himself why his relationships with his children were so damaged, and why he had so few friends, my father took an online quiz to determine whether or not he had Asperger’s. He scored highly, though he never followed up with a visit to a neurologist for confirmation. His self-diagnosis gave him an easy way out and followed a trend, particularly among overachieving men, of autism self-diagnosis. In a recent New York magazine article, “Autism Spectrum: Are You On It?,” Benjamin Wallace notes that the recent spate of self-diagnosis is often a cover for men who are sadistic or just jerks and who use the label to claim victimhood. I’m not a bad father. I have a disease. I am not responsible for the relationships I have mangled. I am, ultimately, misunderstood.

I saw this move toward victimhood as the police turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio during the funeral for the slain Officer Rafael Ramos. I saw it again in a story that a friend, a public middle school math teacher, told me. Two detectives met her outside of her car recently and brought her down to her local police precinct for questioning about her role in the recent protests against police brutality that shut down the Brooklyn Bridge. She told me that one detective tried to explain to her what it was like for police officers during the protests. He said the police felt outnumbered and overwhelmed. He asked her who was watching out for the police. I’m curious about the kind of thinking that erases power realities. I’m wondering how he forgets the police have guns and jails and grenade launchers and tanks at their disposal. I see too in these moments that the police don’t feel seen or heard, and how easily that can turn into claims of victimhood.


When I am feeling open and forgiving I can see my father as a little boy. The cruelties he suffered at the hands of his own father, who was a colonel in the army, and his mother, who emigrated from Cuba in the early ’40s to marry an American 13 years her senior. There’s the story of him being tricked into the back of the station wagon full of fiberglass insulation while his father rolled up the windows and cranked the radio to drown out his cries. My father and his brother, who later became a junkie and died homeless in Golden Gate Park, were made to strip naked in the front yard every spring to have their heads shaved. Afterward my grandfather sprayed them with the garden hose and left them to shiver. My father once told me, after I spent the afternoon at my grandma’s house practicing Spanish and eating leftover pork chops, You have no idea what that woman is capable of doing. I was 16. He described a beating with an electrical cord and how she used her fingernails as a weapon. I remember not believing him. I felt he was trying to poison my relationship with her and keep me from her love, which I badly needed at the time. I can envision my father struggling to walk to school in the hot desert under the Vegas sun. He is sick and no one believes him. His father tells him over and over, Stop dragging your feet, and eventually forces him to enroll in the US Naval Academy, where he will be made to stand still for hours and march in lock step. I am not really sure how he survived this. In his first year at the Academy, he will cycle through 14 roommates. He will want to study literature, but his father insists on physics. For years, he’ll dream of the life he could have had if he’d become a literature professor and gone to Berkeley. He’ll marry my mother, who admits that she cried on her wedding day because she knew she’d made a mistake. They’ll stay married for nearly 20 years, even though they often can’t stand to be in the same room together. He’ll raise two children whom he loves dearly, but can’t understand. He’ll never go to therapy, but he’ll construct elaborate theories of the world based on his deep reading. Darwin and Seneca will be his favorites. icon

  1. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, translated from the German by Ruth Ward (1979; Basic Books, 2007).
  2. Ibid., p. 78.
  3. Ibid., p. 105.
  4. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003.
  5. Ibid., p. 95.
  6. “My Saga, Part 1,” New York Times Magazine, February 25, 2015; “Part 2,” March 11, 2015.
  7. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Archipelago, 2013).
  8. “Obliteration Excavations 1: ‘Para’ to ‘Para,’” January 12, 2015; “Obliteration Excavations 2: Back to the Bodies,” January 22, 2015; “Obliteration Excavations 3: To Not Make It,” January 30, 2015.
  9. “Obliteration Excavations 1.”
  10. Random House, 1974; translated from the French by James Kirkup (World Publishing, 1958).
Featured image: Kara Walker: A Subtlety. Photograph by gigi_nyc / Flickr