Saturday, January 16, 2016

New York missive no 139 - adidas eggshells and The End of the Tour

CMH has a pair of black and white Adidas eggshell sneakers, very small of course as he’s only three and half. Utterly impractical also, as they have laces. On the plane to London for Christmas, both boys slept most of the journey and when we began descending I had to gently get CMH’s eggshell sneakers back onto his feet as he slept. He remained oblivious. He didn’t stir as I leant across his seat and gently lifted a floppy foot and squeezed the shoe on and tied it up, and repeated for the second one.

Planes always get me emotional. I think it’s because of the quiet. The enforced stillness gives the mind time to glide uninterrupted for a while, which in turn allows buried emotions to surface and breathe. (Makes you realize how unhealthy the permanent distraction of busy lives is).

Rather than doing the sensible thing and sleeping on the flight while the boys did, I had made the most of the peace and watched “The End of the Tour”. The film is based on a few days that the Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky spends with David Foster Wallace just after the publication of Wallace’s Infinite Jest to great acclaim. The reporter is also a fiction writer.

Through their conversations – some in a car while driving from one of Wallace’s speaking engagements to the next – the film reveals the tensions between understanding and envy, perceived and lived “genius”, and between the lofty ideals of art and mundaneness of reality, as they order fast food or watch a horror movie or go to an amusement park with two women with whom the conversation never ventures beyond the superficial.

It’s as if Wallace latches onto the mundane. He clings to it either because he believes – has to believe - that that is where beauty lies, or because it provides some level of protection against the abyss of loneliness. The film opens and closes with Lipsky’s reactions to Wallace’s suicide by hanging at the age of 46.

So...the shoes were on, we gathered our piles of scattered stuff - toys, books, magazines, flight freebies - and stuffed it into backbacks and queued behind the other passengers to leave the plane.