I had one of those evenings at a party recently that Vivian Gornick describes so well in her stints teaching in university towns, where it is so obvious that you are not connecting with the room, the energy, the furniture or even the food on the table.
You’re there craving intense, fast flowing, intellectual conversation, the kind that rolls off the tongue of each person you encounter, where you know you’ll learn something and go home smarter and more enriched in at least one small way. Not always so, is it?
As more of a New Yorker than not, I suppose I crave rich, diverse conversations with people who push my mind beyond my own limits, and those with dancing energizing eyes that draw you in and say, “c’mon in, get to know me, find out who I am, open me up, tear things apart, make me hunger for things I’ve not yet explored…..”
As a publicist and daughter of two natural connectors, I’ve never had a problem with chatter talk, the kind that is just there, takes up air and space, but doesn’t really give back to the universe in any significant way. They, like our largely tactical business exchanges, make up the majority of our daily encounters.
I smiled knowingly as I read this Gornick dialogue recount, one that drained rather than enriched. You know the temporarily mismatched hour or evening or day I’m taking about, where you “remain a collection of expatriates, isolated from one another, each of you hanging there in solitary southern space.”
“What a relief it must be to away,” he says.
“Not really,” she says.
“It’s great here, they leave you alone,” he says.
“I hate being left alone,” she says.
“How can you write with the literary Mafia breathing down your neck?” he says.
“I live below Fourteenth Street, the Mafia doesn’t leave mid-town,” she says.
“You see the establishment shit getting published all the time, it’s demoralizing,” he says.
“Everything gets published nowadays, not just establishment writing,” she says.
“You can’t possibly get a decent reading in a mainstream house,” he says.
“Are you kidding? Never before in the history of the world has so much writing gone to print, good and bad alike,” she says.
She writes of two categories of friendship, perhaps you can relate? “those in which people are enlivened by each other and those in which people must be enlivened to be with each other. In the first category, one clears the decks to be together. In the second, one looks for an empty space in the schedule.