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Marbles

by James Guida


Every day he renewed the belief that people understood his full nature from the sight of his face alone.

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I wake, rub my eyes, get out of bed, and head for the shower. Then the struggle with matter.

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“Cunning, an attribute of intelligence, is very often used to compensate for a lack of real intelligence and to defeat the greater intellectual powers of others.” This extraordinary observation of Leopardi’s might be complemented by noting that enthusiasm, while not essential to intelligence, is often a catalyst for it, through sheer persistence and the lessons of self-awareness.

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There are no edges or grooves on the man’s face, nothing at all on which to hook a gaze.

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There’s a ladder of social esteem which we begin as nonentities and end by actually winning people’s indifference.

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When the news came—that from the Sublime, Ridiculousness might be reached by a single step—an assembly was called, and it soon reached a decision. A great wall was to be built in front of the Sublime. Ahead of the wall, in turn, would be a sharp ditch. A flag would mark the boundary.

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A man sometimes seems annoyed when another man sits down beside him on the train. The thought seems to be: “I was saving that for an unknown beautiful woman!”

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The whole affair threatened to make adults of us all.

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In binding and gagging a platitude, cynical people sometimes wrench the life out of the actual thing connected to it. I can weary of remarking on the weather too, but I wouldn’t for a second pretend that it’s boring in reality.

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The man is at once a slug and the salt that will set himself writhing.

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She has that wonderful exasperation, impervious to any fact or argument, that comes purely from a love of being exasperated.

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Awkwardness is collaborative.

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Then the stewardess, adopting an almost poetic air, made an announcement. “We will now be turning off the lights”—here she paused as if withholding some extremely appetizing news from us—“standard practice while flying through the hours of darkness.”

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Nothing less interesting than the conversation meant to be overheard.

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There is a quiet willfulness some people have, a kind of graceful readiness. Their energy passes out of them like tissues from a box, each act drawing a successor, giving the impression of serene limitlessness.

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Sending an email can be like letting go of an animal.

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Often the book I like turns out to be a jack-in-the-box, the head being a strange self-portrait of the author.

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It’s a staple of skateboard videos to include a segment devoted wholly to the blunders and accidents of the riders. A strange combination of the comical and the devastating, a slam section records the falls and terrible persistence that preceded the flawless execution of tricks in the rest of the video, the separate feats which, accomplished, compiled, and edited, finally helped to create the illusion of mastery in each rider. Imagine an analogous procedure with regard to books—not an early draft, but a compact anthology of the author’s most spectacular lapses, all the intellectual cuts, scrapes, and bruises. In the videos these mishaps can be as compelling as the tricks themselves.

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Rarely do I make the same mistake twice. I make it a little differently each time.

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Forgive me, it was the turn of phrase that made me do it.

 

James Guida is an Australian currently living in Brooklyn. He has worked in publishing, most recently as an assistant editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The musings here—his first published work, with more to come in Raritan—are excerpted from a longer collection of aphorisms entitled “A Bag of Marbles.” (4/2008)


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