An exerpt from Salter’s “Via Negativa”, found while perusing The Paris Review’s astounding archives:
There is a kind of minor writer who is found in a room of the library signing his novel. His index finger is the color of tea, his smile filled with bad teeth. He knows literature, however. His sad bones are made of it. He knows what was written and where writers died. His opinions are cold but accurate. They are pure, at least there is that.
He’s unknown, though not without a few admirers. They are really like marriage, uninteresting, but what else is there? His life is his journals. In them somewhere is a line from the astrologer: your natural companions are women. Occasionally, perhaps. No more than that. His hair is thin. His clothes are a little out of style. He is aware, however, that there is a great, a final glory which falls on certain figures barely noticed in their time, touches them in obscurity and recreates their lives. His heroes are Musil and, of course, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Bunin.
“I would get up early, eat breakfast in the square, and arrive at the library when it opened. I ate lunch in the square when the weather was good, in the members’ room when it was bad; I smoked cigarettes on the embassy steps; in the evenings, I drank at the Red Lion on Duke of York Street around the corner (a pub with an interior so ornate—cut mirrors and drunken, drooping gargoyles—that the architectural historian Iain Nairn said that were he forced to choose, it would be the only building in London he would save). On Sundays, when the library was shut, I was listless. Days among my own books and those of my parents felt inadequate, less nourishing; I longed for Monday to arrive and for my explorations to begin again.”
Read the whole piece here.
From a harrowing and heartbreaking essay by Sarah Manguso in the Paris Review called “The Guardians”, an exherpt from her forthcoming book of the same name that is an extended elegy for her friend Harris:
“I wrote my obituary soon after my college graduation. It seemed as necessary as knowing my Social Security number. I edited it from time to time, adding the names of books and towns. I also wrote the note that would be found with my corpse. For years I saved it in my file so it would be there when I needed it, but I don’t need it anymore. Now I save it to remember how far I have traveled from that place where no help comes.”
“I am no longer moved to write poetry, but I traded poetry for a longer life. I knew I was doing it.”
The book is available for pre-order here.