The house, house repairs, cars and repairs,

whether or not to eat out, the pets, do we even have pets or did that one die, at least four nights a week away playing cards, whether or not to play cards on days when cards are not typically played, the holidays, the payments for the house and the cars and the pets and the holidays and the children, the beautiful glistening babysitter, the children, whether or not to have more children, do we even have children or did that one die.

Kristina Born, One Hour of Television


dating your mom

In today's fast-moving, transient, rootless society, where people meet and make love and part without ever really touching, the relationship every guy already has with his own mother is too valuable to ignore. Here is a grown, experienced, loving woman—one you do not have to go to a party or a singles bar to meet, one you do not have to go to great lengths to get to know. There are hundreds of times when you and your mother are thrown together naturally, without the tension that usually accompanies courtship—just the two of you, alone. All you need is a little presence of mind to take advantage of these situations. Say your mom is driving you downtown in the car to buy you a new pair of slacks. First, find a nice station on the car radio, one that she likes. Get into the pleasant lull of freeway-driving—tires humming along the pavement, air-conditioner on max. Then turn to look at her across the front seat and say something like, "You know, you've really kept your shape, Mom, and don't think I haven't noticed." Or suppose she comes into your room to bring you some clean socks. Take her by the wrist, pull her close, and say, "Mom, you're the most fascinating woman I've ever met." Probably she'll tell you to cut out the foolishness, but I can guarantee you one thing: she will never tell your dad. Possibly she would find it hard to say, "Dear, Piper just made a pass at me," or possibly she is secretly flattered, but, whatever the reason, she will keep it to herself until the day comes when she is no longer ashamed to tell the world of your love.

Ian Frazier, "Dating Your Mom"


Donald Barthelme reviews Superman III

Q: Is Superman III, then, the finest of the Superfilms, in your view?

A: Perhaps the second-finest.

Q: And the first-finest?

A: The first, I think. Or perhaps the second.

Q: You think the first might be the first-finest and the second also might be the first-finest?

A: When Clark Kent goes back to Smallville for his high school reunion, at which he re-encounters Annette O'Toole, the music playing, at one point, is "Earth Angel." I liked that a lot.

(August 1983)


Siegel and Shuster modeled Superman's colorful skintight suit

on circus-strongman outfits, with a cape and a symbol on the chest; every subsequent hero's costume is modeled on Superman's, to one extent or another.

Douglas Wolk in A New Literary History of America



...and the Queen, the Witch who lights her fire in an earthen pot, will never tell us what she knows, and what we do not know.

"After the Flood"



The secrets of the Egyptians were secrets for the Egyptians, too.




“I mean, I always suspected it, but I never asked,” said Sally Quinn, whose husband, Benjamin C. Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Post, was until Tuesday one of only four people publicly known to know the truth [of the identity of Deep Throat].

“There's been a certain mystique about the story that will not be there any more,” she added. “Everybody loves a secret that can be kept.”

The New York Times
May 31, 2005



A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

Diane Arbus



From the 1930s until 1964, Joseph Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker about people on the margins of New York—criminals, evangelists, con artists, the fishmongers at the Fulton Fish Market and a flea-circus operator. He was famous for writing about people without passing judgment on them. In 1965, he published Joe Gould's Secret. Joe Gould was a writer who told Mitchell all about the exhaustive book he was writing called Oral History, which was 9 million words long and based on 20,000 conversations. Mitchell eventually discovered that although Joe Gould was constantly writing, filling notebook after notebook, in fact he had intense writer's block. The Oral History was all in his head, and the notebooks were filled with the same few scenes, written out over and over.

After Joe Mitchell published Joe Gould's Secret, he himself never published another word, even though he continued to go to his office at The New Yorker. After he died in 1996, a colleague of his, Roger Angell, wrote: "Each morning, he stepped out of the elevator with a preoccupied air, nodded wordlessly if you were just coming down the hall, and closed himself in his office. He emerged at lunchtime, always wearing his natty brown fedora (in summer, a straw one) and a tan raincoat; an hour and a half later, he reversed the process, again closing the door. Not much typing was heard from within, and people who called on Joe reported that his desktop was empty of everything but paper and pencils. When the end of the day came, he went home. Sometimes, in the evening elevator, I heard him emit a small sigh, but he never complained, never explained."

The Writer's Almanac



From secrecy, which shades all that is profound and significant, grows the typical error according to which everything mysterious is something important and profound.

George Simmell



This is what demystification is all about, wanting the power of the mystery but without the mystery.

Michael Taussig



JW: All art shows are magic in a way, aren’t they?

TF: Yeah.

JW: And I wonder if talking about it gives away the trick in a way, even what we’re doing now. Real magicians will never tell you how they do the trick.

TF: I try to be incredibly obvious and straightforward, but this sort of conceals itself again. I’m trying to reveal the secret. It’s like a secret that everyone knows.

Tom Friedman in conversation with John Waters


Everybody called Gertrude Stein Gertrude,

or at most Mademoiselle Gertrude, everybody called Picasso Pablo and Fernande Fernande and everybody called Guillaume Apollinaire Guillaume but everybody called Marie Laurencin Marie Laurencin.

Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas