Monday, April 12, 2010

This is one of my favorite...

...literary passages of all time.  It's from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.   I read this book while I was in college (while I should have been focusing on assigned reading), and because I was in the literary hotbed of Boston, MA, I attended a free Jonathan Franzen reading in an auditorium at the Boston Public Library.  Sadly, I don't remember much from the reading, I just remember laughing a lot and feeling really cool that I was at a reading, in Boston.  (Side note, and something I may blog about later: lately, my lack of cohesive memories has really been bothering me--I stare up at my bookshelf sometimes, at books I list as some of my favorites of all time, and cannot totally remember their plot lines.  Same is becoming true of some childhood memories that used to be very lucid; even college is beginning to blur.  It doesn't scare me so much as make me feel like I've lost something--namely, essential elements of my being.  That said, maybe it's not so much the experiences themselves that make up our "essential being," but the effect of those experiences upon us, which means that only with time--and by extension, forgetfulness--do we achieve a measure of our true selves.)

Anyway, here's that passage from The Corrections.  I don't know what made me think of it last night (talk about a strange memory), but a quick Google search of "the corrections depressed person tv" brought it right up on Google Books.  By the way, if you haven't read the book yet, I envy you such joy on the horizon.  It's about a crazy (therefore typical) family.

Earlier in the day, while killing some hours by circling in blue ball-point ink every uppercase M in the front section of a month-old New York Times, Chip had concluded that he was behaving like a depressed person.  Now, as his telephone began to ring, it occurred to him that a depressed person ought to continue staring at the TV and ignore the ringing--ought to light another cigarette and, with no trace of emotional affect, watch another cartoon while his machine took whoever's message.
That his impulse, instead, was to jump to his feet and answer the phone--that he could so casually betray the arduous wasting of a day--cast doubt on the authenticity of his suffering.  He felt as if he lacked the ability to lose all volition and connection with reality the way depressed people did in books and movies.  It seemed to him, as he silenced the TV and hurried into his kitchen, that he was failing even at the miserable task of falling properly apart.
--Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections

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