The world is a vast, ambivalent space. I see it the way it appears outside my window, sometimes blurred, sometimes a fogless void . . .an endless tunnel of memories, imagined realities, parallels, recurrences and possibilities.
"Our bond with the site of our nativity is a largely one-way affair. It is an ambivalent bond borne out of a one-sided loyalty and a proclivity to possess, a desperate striving to belong, to lay claim to something that lays no claim in return. Severed from the womb and the body that bore us and hauled into the void of life and existence, we crave to attach ourselves to something, a moment, a location, an event; we crave an anchor which we readily find in the contours of the house of our upbringing, in the streets of our childhood, in the city of our birth. But the city has a different desire and a different response, for we need the city more than the city needs us."
James Wood explores the estrangement of voluntary emigration: the puzzling sense of losing the country you leave and failing to find another. Homelessness, in a word.
James Wood is Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard. His books include four collections of critical essays, of which the latest is The Fun Stuff, and a novel, The Book against God.
Grab the current issue of Tin House, turn to page 24, read Jess Row’s short story and thank me later. Hear him: ”I keep trying to write about these nice people who are having nice lives, not admirable lives, in all ways, but not shameful lives either. They don’t deserve to have anything bad happen to them. I really believe that. And yet I keep thinking about axes, hammers, and machetes” (p. 28).