Friday, January 13, 2023

Silence turns your attention away from yourself

How did silence get such a bad rap? Everybody these days things the world of their own voice, things that by raising that voice, they're doing something. Wrong. Nobody except you cares what you have to say. Silence does not equal complicity; silence equals humility and also practicality. Silence turns your attention away from yourself. Am I talking about the importance of listening? Yeah, sure, a little I suppose, but it's more inward looking, more personal than that. Just stop talking, stop posting, stop tweeting. Shut up. A lot opens up to you, to your mind and your senses, once you do that.

The narrator of Jonathan Dee's Sugar Street has as little social contact as possible, in the interest of self-preservation, but he is far from silent. There's a jarring meta moment about two-thirds of the way through, when the narrator admits to having always wanted to write a novel, and you think, there is no crime, he is not on the run, he is only disconnecting from the distractions of a banal existence so he can write, these are not his thoughts, they are his character's. 

Maybe he should just shut up. 

He's talking about radio when he says, "Something ugly is eventually released when you keep talking and talking with no idea who's listening to you." But I think the same principle applies to his output.

This novel came to my attention because it was long-listed for the 2023 Tournament of Books. For an overview of the setup, see Lionel Shriver's excellent write-up; the book starts much the way Hitchcock's Psycho does, which braces me for the potential stakes. The description, the mood, put me in mind of any number of Simenon stories, where a man walks out on his life. It felt almost fresh in its matter-of-factness, about crime, the state of the world, the inherent shittiness of people.

What a cesspool this world is. Democracy, capitalism, liberalism: all in the lurid end-stages of their own failure, yet we won't even try to imagine anything different, any other principle around which life might be organized: we would sooner choke each other to death, which is basically what we're doing.

I love my fiction with a dose of cynicism, but this book wore me down. Maybe because, still, I Need to Work, and rumours abound about mass layoffs. Maybe because it's cold and I'm tired. Maybe because he's right.

I'm not one of those people who Needs to Work. The whole culture of employment: what does it serve, really? It serves the cause of maintaining the world as it is. You're like a particle of blood circulating through the way things are, and the way things are is pretty fucking toxic, terrible, destructive, nasty, vicious, brutal, and corrosive. In exchange for some money? No. Not anymore. Pass.

So what is he doing here in the middle of nowhere, living a nothing life, without money, without people? What could have life been before for him to walk away from it?

He watches a public protest and wonders what these people were really doing.

"Well, at least we did something," everyone would feel afterward, when in practical terms they had done nothing, except to show themselves something about themselves that they wanted to see [...] so that they might later tell themselves a story about how they'd done everything they could.

Maybe that's what he's doing on Sugar Street, telling himself the same kind of story, that he did something, and that'll appease his his privileged white male conscience about the life he led until he left it.

The world is a ruined place, and that is our doing. Some of us much more that others. Still, it's a fantasy that you are somehow going to make this world better by adding something to it, bringing something to it. The only way to improve this world is to substract from it. Only subtract.

My Self in the making

I was engrossed by what I'd underlined. I read entire pages, struggling to recall the year I'd devoted to this book or that (1958, 1960, 1962, before marriage, after?). It wasn't the written conscience of the authors I was chasing after — they were often names I'd forgotten, aging pages, concepts by now no longer used in contemporary culture — but rather, my own conscience: What had seemed right to me in the past, my convictions, my thoughts, my Self in the making.

I wake up this morning and... (I woke up this morning!) think about opening my eyes, feeling the crusted remnants of sleep in the corners of my right eye and resisting the urge to bring my fingers to the socket. I feel the air glance across the slash of dried glue above my brow and wonder if I'll wince as the muscles start the work of pulling the lid upward. (It's almost a week since I slipped in the bathtub, the bruise shifting around my eye, starting to get comfortable.)

I lift my gaze slowly above the horizon of the foot of my bed, out through the sliding doors where the houses and alleyway drop away. A massive red orb hovers in the grey sky. (A bright drop of blood on a wide brushstroke of mottling.) This view won't last long. In the blink of an eye, the orb will dissolve in a flash of light. I love waking up to the sunrise here, slightly different every day.

I think to myself, I need to write today. For work. (Really, I need to produce something, to merit this paycheque.) But also for leisure. For pleasure. For me. At long last.

Oh, all the books I haven't written about.

I slide out of bed, make coffee. I can read the final four pages before I start work, the four pages I  couldn't keep my eyes open for last night, to find out how much they've resented each other, how little regard they had for each other, to find out what became of the cat.

You've finally made an unequivocal move. You didn't flinch before the judge's order, you did nothing to reclaim the fatherhood you kept invoking. You accepted that I alone would care for the children, disregarding the fact that they might need you. You've dumped their lives onto me, officially distancing them from your own. And because silence amounts to consent, these minors have been entrusted to me. Effective immediately. Bravo, you make me so proud of having loved you.

("Jerk.") It is a sad story, and it pains me to be reminded of certain chapters of my own life.

Ties, by Domenico Starnone, relates a trainwreck of a marriage, along the lines of Moravia's Contempt (oh, did I not write about that one?), but more direct, less internal, somehow breezier, they end up together after all, don't they? 

The story is told in three parts, from the perspectives of the wife, the husband, and the grown children, and by any of their accounts, there is very little redeemable about Aldo. Aldo's an immature, selfish prick, and Vanda has a harsh reality to contend with as a result. The mystery that pulls us through the novel is how they got back together, and why they stayed together. 

— I don't remember anything about us anymore.

I summoned the courage. I asked:

— About us when?

— Always: from the moment we met until today, until I'll die.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

That beautiful senseless morning

Whenever dawn caught him in motion, Gonzalo tended to feel like there was some kind of link between the birth of the light and the very fact of moving forward, as if the walker were somehow responsible for the dawn, or the other way around: as if the dawn generated the movement of feet over sidewalk. He was about to say this to Carla, but he wasn't sure he could explain it, he was afraid of getting tangled up, and he felt like anything he said could spoil that beautiful senseless morning.

We start the book believing the eponymous Chilean poet is Gonzalo, but later realize it could instead be Carla's son, Vicente. Or perhaps it is neither of them specifically, but rather a breed of poet, like the domestic shorthair, and the novel a study of the creature's history and environment, influences and influence.

(Why is there a cat on the cover anyway? Pru wants to write about the stray dogs Chile is overrun by, like the poets are dogs, and she is led by them, or maybe in fact poets are the opposite of dogs — tolerated, cared for, nurtured, loved. The cover illustration is credited to Laura Wächter and titled "Darkness," so it is clearly a portrait of the family pet, who did play a pivotal but not central role in the novel, so unless he's a poet, it's a surprising choice to feature him on the cover.) 

I was prepared to dislike Chilean Poet, by Alejandro Zambra, because it might not live up to Multiple Choice, or it would show it up for the gimmick it was and prove Zambra incapable of depth beyond gimmickry. Also, the opening pages felt very male, as if they could not have been written by anyone who hadn't been a teenage boy, and I thought, this may not be something I want to read right now.

But it's charming, that boy somehow charmed me, maybe the fact that he wanted to be a poet gave his character a layer of complexity, took the edge off the masculinity.

Usually Carla wanted to be where she was and who she was.

People say that's what happiness is — when you don't feel like you should be somewhere else, or someone else. A different person. Someone younger, older. Someone better.

It's a perfect and impossible idea, but still, during all those years, Carla generally wanted to be exactly were she was.

Chilean Poet is a love story, or two, or more. As an intergenerational drama, everyone's driven by different values, but they all simply want to get the most out of life. This novel is also a crash course in the country's literary tradition and the politics that accompany it.

"It's better to write than not to write. Poetry is subversive because it exposes you, tears you apart. You dare to distrust yourself. You dare to disobey. That's the idea, to disobey everyone. Disobey yourself, that's the most important thing. That's crucial. I don't know if I like my poems, but I know that if I hadn't written them I'd be dumber, more useless, more individualistic. I publish them because they're alive. I don't know if they're good, but they deserve to live."

"A lot of people say that poetry is useless."

"They're afraid of useless things. Everything has to have purpose. They hate pure creation, they're in love with corporations. They're afraid of solitude. They don't know how to be alone."

LitHub: Excerpt
Atlantic: A Fascinating Portrait of a Country at a Turning Point

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Where her body ends and the space around her begins

It's so much easier to know what Hashem wants for a man: not to be a woman. Unlike the blessing women say, in small print, the men's blessing appears in the regular, large typeface of the prayerbook. Blessed are You, Hashem, men say every day, Who did not make me a woman.

Raizl is having a hard time of things: she's18 years old and refusing dates set by the matchmaker, so her mother sends her to therapy, where we learn about her porn addiction. For a Hasidic Jewish family, she's already been granted a lot of liberties — allowed to work to pay for her dowry, allowed to pursue accounting at college after earning a scholarship, allowed to use a laptop for her studies, but she has a niggling, she yearns for something more, something porn has opened her eyes (legs, mouth, mind) to but cannot satisfy.

She is somewhat resentful of men, but eventually realizes that although men live more public lives, they are not more free. Men are also bound by ritual and obligation, by family and expectation, by god.

Shmutz, by Felicia Berliner, is funny. And sad. And more than meets the eye. And there's a lot of Yiddish in it, glossary included (but as with A Clockwork Orange, I didn't realize it until it was over).

It is harder for Raizl to wear jeans than to eat bacon. She finds her place among the outsiders at school, the goths who appreciate her Hasidic sense of style. She learns to sound less Yiddish. But she never wants to be someone else. It's never a question of her walking away from her constrained life. Raizl struggles to accept her world as it is and her place in it, to reconcile her ways of thinking and of being to what her god wants of her.

While there's a match on the horizon, she finally learns compassion, and maybe something like love, above all for herself.

She enjoys herself in the mirror. In her new marriage-date clothes. There is no skin showing, no collarbone and no wrists, just her face and hands. What kind of porn would that be, a video of a fully dressed woman, a long-sleeved blouse with a cotton sweater over it, not even a tight sweater, and a skirt down to her boots, not even high-heeled? The modesty-porn video. She is walking, her skirt moves, her shoulders understand where her body ends and the space around her begins. All the porn is in her face.

See also
You can judge 'Shmutz' by its cover
The under-celebrated erotic power of… hamantaschen (Felicia Berliner)
Yes, there’s a reason hamantaschen look like vaginas

Friday, October 14, 2022

Tiny orange mushrooms

I could only see a small patch of sky, the part that was left open between the treetops of the forest around me. The branches seemed like a network that in some places almost obscured the sky. Once my eyes had adjusted to the faint light, I realized that the undergrowth was alive with all manner of things. Tiny orange mushrooms. Moss. Something that looked like coarse white veins on the underside of a leaf. What must be some kind of fungus. Dead beetles. Various kind of ants. Centipedes. Moths on the backs of leaves.

It seemed strange to be surrounded by so many living things. When I was in Tokyo, I couldn't help but feel like I was always alone, or occasionally in the company of Sensei. It seemed like the only living things in Tokyo were big like us. But of course, if I really paid attention, there were plenty of other living things surrounding me in the city as well. It was never just the two of us, Sensei and me. Even when we were at the bar, I tended to only take notice of Sensei. But Satoru was always there, along with the usual crowd of familiar faces. And I never really acknowledged that any of them were alive in any way. I never gave any thought to the fact that they were leading the same kind of complicated life as I was.

Another version of myself might've been bored by this novel. 

Sitting on the sand of an Ionian island, my friend rolls her eyes at her soap-operatic beach read, all amnesia and extramarital affairs. She's relating it to me in agonizing detail, sparing me the hardship of reading it for myself.

What's your book like?, my friend asks me. It's really nice, I say, nothing happens. 

But oh, the bartender has just invited them to go foraging for mushrooms.

Strange Weather in Tokyo, by Hiromi Kawakami, is a love story. Tsukiko frequents a bar near the train station, as does her old high school Japanese teacher. One evening they sit at the counter together, they have a moment of recognition, and the conversation begins. They share similar taste in food, but also a similar rhythm and temperament. They meet when they happen to meet; their friendship is outside of time.

I, on the other hand, still might not be considered a proper grown-up. I had been very much the adult when I was in elementary school. But as I continued on through junior high and high school, on the contrary, I became less grown-up. And then as the years passed, I turned into quite a childlike person. I suppose I just wasn't able to ally myself with time.

Sensei is some thirty years older than her, and in their interactions always assumes the role of the master. Many months pass before it dawns on Tsukiko that their shared intimacy is something like love, although I believe Sensei knew it all along.

Despite their familiarity, their minds are still not fully knowable to each other. As Tsukiko notes of other relationships, "it was precisely because we were close that we couldn't reach each other."

What I see in the mirror is not my own lithe, naked body, more than necessarily subject to gravity — I'm not speaking to the me who is visible there, but rather to an invisible version of myself that I sense hovering somewhere in the room.

I think of all the versions of myself, the ones I talk to when I'm alone, the ones I dare show other people, the versions that have yet to materialize, the versions that past versions have grown into. They are all alive and present and always with me, not just on this rock swelling out of an azure sea.

I think of the man who might've been my Sensei. This book, and recent mythic landscapes, stir ghosts of him, I see him encountering other versions of myself in places we'd never been.

"It grows because you plant it. That's how love is. If the love is true, then treat it the same way you would a plant — fertilize it, protect it from the elements — you must do absolutely everything you can. But if it isn't true, then it's best to just let it wither on the vine."

(What do you do when you've left it to wither, and despite harsh abandonment, still all the world is green?)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Is this what I want to be carrying in my body?

"In Japan, they say that when you can't sleep, you must be awake in someone else's dream."

Who is dreaming about me every night? Perhaps it is several people in rotation. Do they queue up to dream about me? Is it a cabal of dreamers conspiring to keep me from being rested, a kind of torture, to keep me restless? Is it true that they say this in Japan? Is it actually true, if you're dreaming, or not sleeping, in Japan? (This goes some way in explaining Haruki Murakami's novels.)

It might have something to do with the conservation of energy. Keeping the cosmos in balance.

The Wagers, by Sean Michaels, is about luck. Kind of. Luck is posited to be an actual physical substance, much like sand. Or pixie dust. Some people don't even know they have it. Others mine it and hoard it. 

After a run of luck, or coincidence, or statistics, Theo stumbles into a life outside the family grocery business. He lands a job as a processor. Luck, he learns, is all about beating the odds — in positive and negative ways. The  renegade band of weirdos across the street is determined to redistribute it.

"Processing is passive, procedural. It does not require independent thinking. At least it shouldn't! If you're thinking independently, you're doing it wrong."

[I think of all the processing I do. Events. Emotions. I think of it as active, intentional, conscious. Perhaps it's because I'm not sleeping. I should be processing my waking hours in my sleep.]

Theo definitely has some processing to do. His mother has just died. His niece won big at the track, allowing the family business to grow in different directions. He continues to flounder as a stand-up comic. And the woman he fell in love with went on retreat in the Sahara, and keeps delaying her return.

Lately I've been trying to retrain my fingers. I can still feel the habits when I lay them flat on the table: scroll, swipe. CTRL-C, CTRL-V. Open new tab. All this high-tech muscle memory, and none of it relevant to my yurt. It's useful knowledge, you'd say. Utility isn't everything, Theo. These days I ask myself questions like: Is this what I want to be carrying in my body? The itch to manipulate a web browser? To scroll and tap on a screen? I'd rather my body carried worthier impulses. What else could I carry in the places I carry smartphone swipes and copy-paste? How much more patience, self-knowledge, compassion?

So I'm retraining. You could do it too. Try. Lay your hands flat on the table, feel your fingers stretch. Palm. Knuckles. Skin. I tell my hands to forget what they aren't, and feel what they are. To feel what I am. Aches and scars, blood pulse, tremor. Fascia tautening with age. Our hands hold traces of everything we've ever touched, a thousand handshakes and caresses. Sometimes I think about my grandmother's hands. The way they felt when she clasped my hands in hers, the strength. Our bodies aren't just shapes we're wearing, clothes we put on. They're chronicles. They're wiser than we are.

[This is a good lesson and I know it to be true. I learned it while learning to sculpt clay; my fingers know things. It is good to be reminded, and to notice what they know. (I keep thinking I should go on retreat.)]

One of the charms of The Wagers is the city it roots itself in — Montreal. I swear I've shopped at Theo's store. I know those hills, and that water tower, and the cartoon logo of an elephant-turned-vacuum-cleaner. And it is magical.

We don't get to choose what we want, he thought. Only what we pursue.

Chapter 1
From Chapter 3

BOMB A Surfeit of Wondrous Things: Sean Michaels Interviewed by Tobias Carroll

Saturday, July 23, 2022

You want to be a positive nothing

But how does a person learn to see herself as nothing when she has already had so much trouble learning to see herself as something in the first place? [...] You have been a negative nothing, now you want to be a positive nothing. 

— from "New Year's Resolution," in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, by Lydia Davis.

He asks me about my summer, have I taken vacation. I mumble noncommittally. 

I feel the nitrile graze my lip as he positions his fingers inside my mouth. My lip reacts and I suppress my lip from reacting, it is like being touched without being touched, there is no tenderness but it is a gentle sensation.

I tell myself to relax the muscles of my face, around the corners of my mouth, and at my left temple. I wonder how good he is at reading faces. Can he read trepidation? Does he see pain? Has he learned to ignore it? Does he respond to it, does it influence his examination? Maybe he leans into it, tries to extrude it like a fleck of debris with his scaler.

I feel a twinge deep in the gum above an upper canine, I think I am reflexively wincing, I tell myself not to wince, I don't actually feel pain, I don't want him to see pain, there is no pain. It tickles a little.

The motor doesn't sound so loud, like I'm hearing everything through a woolen sock, only the sock is lining the inside of my head. 

I think about how like it is to the rotary tool I have to sand and finish my sculptures. He is polishing the enamel, and I am like stone, stone flesh with detached nerves, a soft core deep inside wondering how much can the body bear, when will the outer shell crack. But the vibrations are almost delicate — am I so inured, or so removed?


I receive in my inbox an excerpt from "Night Bakery" by Fabio Morábito. It begins thusly:

During my time in Berlin I just walked around and didn’t read a single book. In a way I replaced reading with walking.

I think about this for days, while walking cross my new neighbourhood. It's not mine yet, I haven't fully inhabited it. This is a temporary state. I am hovering above the world, above life, before alighting.

I think about all the nonreading and nonwriting, and this unsatisfying nonwalking, the wondering without concluding. I decide to order this book of stories — it takes what feels like hours to find this line again, to find the newsletter, to trace it to its source, to pinpoint the thing that is affecting me — but am dismayed to learn it will not be published till next spring. Time enough for me to write my own stories. I think all fiction is speculation.

I stumble across a list that looks like the bibliography of my writing project of the last two years. "The books in this list explore, inhabit, and investigate physical hunger." Is it physical?


One day I need to run an errand in the old neighbourhood. I have coffee before setting out, and browse headlines on my phone. I realize the NYRB fiction issue is out, and I think I should pick up a copy. (I want to be the kind of person who picks up the fiction issue. Do I want to be seen or known as the kind of person who picks up the fiction issue? I believe the being seen and being known are not important to me, it's the being that's important, but I can't be sure.) 

My errand becomes two errands. The original errand is crucial and time-sensitive, other people rely on its completion for their comfort and well-being, but the new errand born of impulse and frivolity becomes the day's focus.

I finally find a copy and am relieved that it feels right and familiar. This is the kind of person I am. (I know these books reviewed by authors of other books I know.)

I have not read it cover to cover. I skim the review of Batuman's Either/Or and check my hold at the library; it will easily be September before I read it, my daughter will have started university. (While on the library site, I realize I am #1 on 0 copies of a book that is not available and wonder how I was allowed to reserve it.)

I glance at the piece on Gainza'a Portrait of an Unknown Lady and hope that when I read it later it will enlighten me. What is it about Gainza's books, which I don't particularly enjoy, that inspire me to stubbornly poke and prod at things I don't understand, which — the poking and prodding — I also don't particularly enjoy?

And here, there is a review of Jacqueline Harpman's I Who Have Never Known Men, which title stops me in my tracks.

This mesmerizing oddity opens with a prefatory couple of pages about something—some sort of memoir or testimony—that the narrator has just finished writing:

I was gradually forgetting my story. At first, I shrugged, telling myself that it would be no great loss, since nothing had happened to me, but soon I was shocked by that thought. After all, if I was a human being, my story was as important as that of King Lear or of Prince Hamlet that William Shakespeare had taken the trouble to relate in detail.

I spend days thinking about the title, and thinking about what my story is, it's not one story, it's a multitude. I spend those same days reminding people around me, and myself, that while we may be the hero of our own life, we are not the centre of other people's universes. 

It's many more days before I read the review of Harpman's I Who Have Never Known Men and determine that I should read this novel, even while the review is less about the book than it is about the violent and mysterious age we find ourselves in, as Deborah Eisenberg puts it, "our current, very alarming moment." I find myself nodding. 

I am the kind of person who picks up a copy, thumbs through it, sets it aside, packs it in her bag to have something to read while waiting, opens it and refolds it, flips back to find that one sentence that caught her eye, thinks about making time to read it later. 


There is blood, as usual. I wonder how normal the bleeding is. I don't talk to people about it because I am ashamed. It is a moral shortcoming that I don't floss as often as I should.

Can he sense the tension in my jaw, or see the effects of my teeth clenching? He tells me I should take a vacation, I deserve it. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The pain is part of the whole thing

The other evening I sit with a friend on his balcony having a glass of wine and sharing insights into our hearts and brains and those of our lovers and those whom we'd like to have as our lovers and those who will never be our lovers, and about what happens between flirtation and expectation and reality, and he said something to me about how quick we are (I mean, not us, but people in general) to back away, as soon as any perceived flaw becomes apparent, as soon as our exacting standards are snubbed by the actuality of the flawed human being before us, because they just aren't worth the effort. 

How easy it is to say no (or sometimes nothing at all), how much easier than compassion, than to accept someone's authentic self and engage in the exercise of knowing them, really knowing them, even especially biblically.

I think about how I could've said no to the man, a recent lover, whose behaviour I am now dissecting with my friend on his balcony. It's easy to say no, we have so many reasons to say no, I could've said no because of, well it doesn't matter the many reasons why, but the brave thing is to say yes, to be open to yes. I could've said no, but I said yes, but after some time he said no, I don't know why.

I don't tell my friend this, but I try to say yes as often as possible (unless it's to do with work), and for this I am proud of myself. Carpe diem and all that. The yes is almost always worth it. The yes is the good stuff, the stuff of deathbed reminiscences. Nothing is permanent, everything is temporary. Yes.

I come home late, a little drunk, but lighter, and smiling, and I fall into bed, too alive to be sleeping, I open The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. I read something about something liminal as the character was trying and failing to fall asleep, while I am falling asleep, drifting between Davis's words, feeling the mostly natural chemicals coursing through my blood, feeling these words were written for me in this moment. 

And the next thing I know it's the end of the story, and there's another one, right there on the next page, "He's trying to break it down," and I urgently feel the need to break down what he's breaking down, and it reminds me of how I rationalize buying the expensive shoes, that really, if I wear them on most workdays during the shoulder seasons and then as my indoor shoes through winter, and they're quality shoes, I expect them to last, they're classic, I won't tire of them, every time I wear them will cost me barely a dollar to feel like a million bucks. And it reminds me also of Calvino, that story of the trajectory of the arrow. Only "Break It Down" is about the cost of a weekend getaway, no, it's longer than that, wait, is she a paid escort?, no, it's love, he's breaking down the relationship, he's breaking down the cost of love, he's breaking down, and oh my fucking god. 

I guess you get to a point where you look at that pain as if it were there in front of you three feet away lying in a box, an open box, in a window somewhere. It's hard and cold, like a bar of metal. You just look at it there and say, All right, I'll take it, I'll buy it. That's what it is. Because you know all about it before you even go into this thing. You know the pain is part of the whole thing. And it isn't that you can say afterwards the pleasure was greater than the pain and that's why would do it again. That has nothing to do with it. You can't measure it, because the pain comes after and it lasts longer. So the question really is, Why doesn't that pain make you say, I won't do it again? When the pain is so bad that you have to say that, but you don't.

Only, a lot of people don't remember that pain, they promptly convert it into armour, and they don't do it again, they've developed an aversion, it's not learned, it's conditioned. 

We forget how painful childbirth, for example, is, because nature wants to ensure we do it again, fulfill an evolutionary imperative. Love is an unknown compared to childbirth, it is not a process with defined stages, certainly it's not as obviously physical, love is nebulous. The experience of it rewires our brains and hardens our hearts in less predictable ways. In this way, many people learn to avoid love. I am learning to embrace it, over and over again, to go into the pain, therein lies the greatest pleasure.

I'd love to tell my friend about this story, it's brilliant.