Do Not Make Things Too Easy by Martha Baird
I’ve been obsessively cataloging my books for awhile now, and last year I decided to reacquire titles that I have lost to a previous relationship. It was quite a task, since A. and I were both voracious readers. The more I delve into my bookshelf the more I discover books gone missing. I can’t remember now if I gave them away because I loved him, or because I loved the books so much that I have made them a constant presence in his life: I wanted him to read them and see pieces of my self tucked in between the pages, written on the margins. We went through so many books while we were in love. Not only mine, but his, too, and sometimes, books that we discovered together.
When the relationship ended, a lot of these books went with him (along with a lot of my film and music collection, unfortunately). He broke my heart, I left, and I couldn’t bring myself to take any souvenirs. It’s one of my few regrets: those books were a huge part of who I am, and to have someone who used to know me well, who I let under my skin, keep them was unsettling.
Siri Hustvedt was one of the many that we read. I loved Auster’s The New York Trilogy, and he loved Hustvedt’s What I Loved, and before we were friends, at a party, he told me that the two are married and that I should read her. I didn’t, at least, not until we were together. And he made me read The Blindfold first. He told me he never believed that a real Iris existed until he met me, with all my migraines and perversions. I told him I suppose I should take that as a compliment.
The Blindfold is special to me, but I can’t seem to find the right words now explaining why and how. I reread it last night, in the dark, beside a tiny lamp. I couldn’t sleep, and I pulled this out by chance, and reading the first few pages felt like I have gotten a piece of myself back somehow. I can’t spare you my subjectivity; Hustvedt’s tone is a bit overindulgent (this is her first work) but I didn’t mind, and the different parts, even disjointed at times, is something I appreciate. A. said I was Iris walking with a blindfold, I was Iris hanging around a professor’s desk, saying everything and nothing. I told him I was the one whispering words to a machine, I was a green eraser left in someone’s hand, I was a diptych made out of stolen moments.
I’m glad I have this book again. I’m happy to have seen it randomly in a bookstore last year, and on sale, too, like a consolation. There would be more ruminations like these in the coming days, I suspect, as I make my way through my recently acquired ‘old’ books. It feels good to reread them after a few years have passed.
And now that I have talked about myself more than I should, here’s a poem from a long time ago, too:
Do Not Make Things Too Easy
Do not make things too easy.
There are rocks and abysses in the mind
As well as meadows.
There are things knotty and hard: intractable.
Do not talk to me of love and understanding.
I am sick of blandishments.
I want the rock to be met by a rock.
If I am vile, and behave hideously,
Do not tell me it was just a misunderstanding.