What I Read This Week - 17th February

Still winter, though sunny outside. I'm fed up with winter, so we stay inside, where it's warm and the light's collected in bright little pools. We have smoked salmon and bagels and bitter coffee for breakfast and I read Sophie Dahl's The Man With the Dancing Eyes, which makes me want to buy flowers for some reason, even though I usually find buying flowers frivolous.

- Letter from Berlin: In the Cut (Zeke Turner at The Paris Review)

I got the idea that being in your early twenties was a great time to do incongruous things with your body. I’d spend the whole morning at the gym and the rest of the day smoking cigarettes with a break to go running with Louisa in the afternoon. I’d go for a long swim before a long run before a long night out that turned into a full day dancing in a club.

These things aren’t as different as they seem anyway. To run far with someone is to change your body chemistry together (to push each other towards a distant high while honing the very sinews of your body!); it’s not so different from the chemical-induced intimacy that comes with taking drugs with a stranger. Because you share one experience together, you get the illusion that you share much more. Sometimes you actually do.

- The Cult of Donna Tartt (Hannah Rosefield at Prospect)

The novel’s narrator is Richard Papen: 19, gawky, insecure and anxious to fit in. He’s an Everyman, or at least an Everyteenager. Like Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited or Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, both obvious models, Richard is a vessel for the reader.

I'd already read The Secret History a few times before I realized it was a thing. Like Rosefield, the first time I read it I was 14. I very specifically remember that it was springtime in California, that I had acquired, or was in the process of acquiring, my first "boyfriend", that I was listening to an EP by The Get Up Kids a lot on repeat, particularly the last song, "A Newfound Interest in Massachusetts", and dreaming of an east coast life: of falling leaves, crisp air, sophisticated friends. My copy of The Secret History was borrowed from a friend. It looked a bit like a cheap airport paperback, and the cover had fallen off completely. I wouldn't read The Great Gatsby until the following year, or Brideshead Revisited until the year after that, so in a sense Richard Papen was my prototype vessel, not the other way round: but interesting that these are all books that I return to again and again, books I feel a particular affinity with or affection for. (Later I re-read The Secret History as an undergraduate in Boston; I'd just moved into my first off-campus apartment, it was early September, warm, and I spent a whole weekend with it, lying on my low futon bed, with the windows open to let the fresh paint smell escape, listening to the rustle of the still-green leaves on the trees outside. My east coast life was not at all east coasty, in the Secret History sense; my friends were no more or less sophisticated than I was, which is to say, we were all as foolish as each other, we knew where to buy fake IDs, we had sensible plans to grow up and graduate and start Real Life - which made the book even sweeter, in a way).

- Annals of Mobility: On Youth, Adventures, and the Territory of Adulthood (Sonya Chung at The Common)

Should the restlessness of adolescence necessarily be scorned by the intelligent, moral-minded adult? Is the impulse to be in motion, to seek change and renewal, at any age, an “irresponsible” one?