For Christmas, my sister gave me a book by Nina Bouraoui, who is becoming one of my favorite authors. I told my sister that this book, called Mes Mauvaises Pensées (or “My Bad Thoughts”) was changing the way I perceive both the world and language. I also admitted that I had just had a huge cup of McDonald’s coffee. Attribute it to whatever you will, but as I was walking through Walmart the morning after reading a little chunk of the book, I felt like I was swimming in a world of untouched motives, of violences hidden inside violences, of new loves and old identities, of DVD racks, children’s clothing, and women buying children’s cough medicine.
I thought I’d translate a couple of passages to share some of what has been touching me lately in my reading.
…from Garçon Manqué (the Franco-Algerian protagonist’s reflections about an oppressive experience of aloneness at the beach while visiting her French family).
Who here will say: Are you okay, Nina? Are you figuring it out? It’s not too hard? What do you dream about at night? What are your images? Have you come to accept them? To live with it? With these moments? With what you brush against every day? With what defines you? And why this sadness in your eyes?
…from Mes Mauvaises Pensées (my favorite quotes about writing)
I’ve always wanted to run away from life; writing and love are the ultimate means.
* * *
With you, I am in life, in my life, within its folds, and it’s a way for me to rediscover writing.
* * *
I could write my own history book and make myself a subject with deep roots; books are like arms–I put myself to sleep in their warmth.
10. Living with a someone who collects black widow spiders and talked only about herpes for two whole months.
9. Throwing a soul-train themed birthday party. (And to his credit, the aforementioned roommate cleaned the whole house by himself in preparation.)
8. Leading worship at a conference and getting stuck on the way in a muddy ditch in the middle of a forest and having to trudge through both a rainstorm in the foothills and the blackness of night to get there.
7. Coming across the poem that opens with these lines:
Il pleure dans mon cœur
Comme il pleure dans la ville
“It rains in my heart/like it rains on the town”
6. These three related moments:
- The moment I told someone who lives in Chicago that Stockton has a thriving night life.
- The moment I said it would be hard to live anywhere else because I’d have to leave Stockton.
- The moment I told David I was having a midlife crisis, or so I hoped (because I didn’t want to live much past my forties.)
5. Learning about what Jesus’ friendship could look like.
4. Writing “This is me” in the margins of Daniel Deronda and Lord Jim. Like who from literature am I going to be next? Benjy Compson?
3. Meeting Brennan Seth Tracy himself.
2. Reading the final pages of Danny, the Champion of the World to my 5th graders, almost tearing up, and then listening to them share their thoughts about the meaning of friendship, family, and how good stories should end.
1. Going through my hashtag phase and coming out on the other side. #not
Mom: Someone should find out what station the ball drop in New York is on.
Me: Yes, and then we will shoot that person.
After some reflection, I have a more nuanced view.
When we’re bored because we have two and a half more hours to kill, and think about flipping on the TV to watch the performers my 5th graders know about, we will be thankful for the 3 minutes it takes to find the New York station. It’ll be another activity we can do to pass the time.
What are you doing for New Year’s? Come on over before the guacamole runs out! And help your father with the dishes!
I’m actually really looking forward to this.