I wish I had one of those electronic keyboards where you can plug in pre-recorded sounds that correspond to different keys. I’d compose an homage to insomnia— barking dogs and hammer blows and car alarms played over and over, the inverse of a lullaby‚ a score without a shred of respite. Try and get that tune our of your head. Or how about a nocturne for the aging body—the rumble of digestive juices, the motion of shoes that are pried from tired feet, the barely audible crackle of static as a brush is drawn through thinning hair. If only I’d had the foresight to rape-record every, interesting snippet of conversation I’ve overheard in my long lifetime, by now I would have accumulated enough cryptic remarks, brilliant quips, and pretentious asides to pound our symphonic octaves of talk. I could pepper the punchline so my father’s favorite joke— “. . . and the third nun says, ‘Move over girls, I’ve got to gargle,’ ” — with scales of his helpless laughter. Here’s an étude in which my absentminded mother keeps clearing her throat, and though she can't remember what she wanted to say, the ensuing silence is provocative, poignant, as sinewy and rich as a complex sentence.
Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Episode 22: “Form and Formlessness”
In an essay specially commissioned for the podcast, Aisha Sabatini Sloan describes rambling around Paris with her father, Lester Sloan, a longtime staff photographer for Newsweek, and a glamorous woman who befriends them. In an excerpt from The Art of Fiction no. 246, Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti discuss how writing her first novel helped Cusk discover her “shape or identity or essence.” Next, Allan Gurganus’s reading of his story “It Had Wings,” about an arthritic woman who finds a fallen angel in her backyard, is interspersed with a version of the story rendered as a one-woman opera by the composer Bruce Saylor. The episode closes with “Dear Someone,” a poem by Deborah Landau.
Rachel Cusk photo courtesy the author.
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