The voice instructed us to inhale slowly through our noses, then to exhale slowly. To focus on our breath. I kept breathing, but nothing happened. No calmness swept over me, no tension released from my tight muscles. Nothing. Ten, maybe 20 minutes passed. I started getting annoyed and a bit resentful that I’d chosen to spend my evening inhaling dusty air on the floor of an old Victorian house. I thought about getting up and leaving, but I didn’t want to be rude. Then something happened. I wasn’t conscious of any transformation taking place. I never felt myself relax or the swarm of nagging thoughts leave my head. But it was as if I’d been taken from one place and deposited somewhere else. It happened in an instant.
I’m not a particularly picky eater, and at some point in most meals I mix my food into an unrecognizable — but delicious — pile of intermingling flavors and textures. Yet I find something about these weird plastic dividers deeply soothing. They’re a reminder that while I am neither child nor parent, I can do whatever the hell I want during this global crisis, and what I want is to eat like a baby. Suddenly, I find myself longing for the OG food-separating device, which has been putting in the work for decades: the cafeteria tray.
Researched over the better part of a decade, Nicholson Baker’s new book, “Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act,” chronicles his efforts to confirm whether or not the United States used biological weapons during the Korean War.
At least, that was the first impetus behind the book. But when Baker (“Vox,” “The Size of Thoughts”) came up against documents that were more redaction than text, “Baseless” became — in his words — a book “about life under the Freedom of Information Act.”
In taut, agile essays which braid anecdotal yarns around steady, multi-angled excavations of writers like DH Lawrence, Marguerite Duras, and Colette, the book builds a case for re-visiting one’s own personal canon and seeing what was either skipped the first time round or negligently missed. Valorising effort, labour, and the “life-long project to see oneself primarily as a working person,” Gornick positions re-reading not as a regression into nostalgia or narcotic reassurance, but a form of active confrontation with our prior reading, thinking, multiple and estranged selves.
Object permanence: something my dog doesn’t think
I possess. She sits on the ball when she no longer wants