“About Competition”

By Charles Bukowski

The higher you climb, the greater the pressure

Those who manage to endure learn that the distance between the top and the bottom is obscenely great.

And those who succeed know this secret: There isn’t one.

***

Moving past the election, though I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to comment upon, I’ve been reading a lot. And all over the place. In the past week and a half, I’ve continued reading “Here I am” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I like, especially now that some semblance of action has begun; Of course, there’s the journalism that is calling for doom and gloom over the next four years; Then, online and print journalism.

We don’t watch much TV these days, with the exception of the Patriots football on Sundays, and college basketball, and the I’m-not-sure-if-its-good This is Us. Our consumption of media is largely print-based.

I forgot, much to my disappointment, how much I enjoyed a book of poetry. It’s not that accessible an art form. In my day, I was reading a lot of poetry and trying my hands at some pretty awful verse. And so when I picked up “American Places,” a collection of poetry, it was enjoyable to be whisked away not only to a different place in the way literature does, but taken on a trip to a person I used to be. I’d read these poems before, been affected by some of them. It was like a short vacation to a place I once knew, a person I once knew.

When you drive to someone’s house for the first time, you’re commute is dictated by a map, or, I guess if we’re in 2016, a cell phone connected to Google Maps. You don’t look around much. You just kind of follow that voice. Turn right. Stay straight for 3.5 miles. Take exit 14. You will arrive to your destination on the right in a quarter mile. We don’t look around. We don’t take in the scenery.

But the second time, you notice certain elements of the trip. There’s the gas station we turned at. There’s the lake he mentioned. Oh, I remember this green house, his house is nearby.

And the third and the fourth time you visit, you don’t need the GPS. You don’t need physical markers. You can look around. You notice the clerk smoking a cigarette by her car at the gas station; You see a red-tailed hawk on the trees by the lake; You take note of the Massaratti in the driveway of the green house.

It’s like that with books. The first time, we care about getting to the end. We, upon a third or fourth reading of anything — poetry, fiction, non-fiction — , can look around the prose and appreciate everything else. Sometimes it’s nice to be lost, and to look around a completely fictional world.

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