How do we live with the damage we’ve inherited? How do we rewrite our own stories? For me, there’s a self-destructive drive that feels like a birthright, one that I’ve indulged freely in for most of my life. There came a point—around the time of “Engrams”—when I saw an opportunity to change, or to shift.
About a month before our Agha flew back to his old kaleh in Logar, he demanded that one of his three sons—preferably which ever one of us loved and respected him the most—buy him a metal detector. I tried to dissuade him, but Agha’s one of those OG Pakhtuns who’d argue with Allah over the nature of existence.
They must have seemed crazy—the first person to have done it. It must have seemed like a death wish, a sad madness, a suicide. I don’t mean the first person to decide to write a novel, but the first person to give themselves a vaccination.
The first thing I lost was my desire to die. A refuge of mine since childhood, private and voluptuous, akin to eating cold leftover noodles with my fingers in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Decadent.
I live in the clouds, in a beautiful apartment made of glass, in New York City. My husband is a tall, wise, epically handsome, highly successful man. My good fortune humbles me. I get tired of the things I say to him, though, and how I say them. “Might go to the gym,” I say. “Might pick up some vino.”
By the time they are half a century old, most books have ceased to be subjects of critical controversy. Their reputations are generally agreed upon: masterpiece or minor classic, obscurity or oblivion.
The Man Booker Prize, which started life as the Booker-McConnell Prize in 1969, celebrated its fiftieth year in 2018. Hardly the oldest British book prize (the Hawthornden and James Tait Black prizes both date from 1919), the Booker is nevertheless the most prestigious. It provides fifty-thousand-pounds and immediate celebrity to its winner; its deliberations are front-page news for months; and large sums are wagered on the outcome with Britain’s bookmakers.
Whereas Nature provides the seed that begets the tree that begets an infinite number of seeds over its lifetime, that beget forests of trees, that beget infinities of seeds, the metaphor we have in poetry is, well, metaphor, to plant in the ground of the poem and water with irony to yield the stinky, beautiful blossom of ambiguity.