YOU PRIVATE PERSON BY RICHARD CHIEM
i ordered this book in december before i went to america. i remember being in ben’s room when he handed me an envelope and i had forgotten what i had ordered and then felt pleased when i opened the envelope and saw this. i began reading it last week
i didn’t know what to expect or what this book was about / had not previously read anything by richard chiem / i like having no preconceptions of a [book] / author’s work / i also feel like, lately maybe, i ‘gravitate’ towards short stories over novels
remember feeling immediately pleased at what i was reading and took a picture of the first page (animals with expressions) & sent it to ben because i wanted him to know what it was i was reading
these stories to me feel timeless, by ‘timeless’ i mean the denotation of the word, literally i guess, not referring to any particular time. i was talking to someone the other day about how the ability for a [reader (or just me maybe)] to relate to a piece of writing depends on the ability of the writer to navigate between two extremes, that of ambiguity & details. i feel like these stories do that: give enough of the specific details required for it to have an identity of its own, while also somehow still retaining a sense of vagueness, time/place-less, which allows you to imagine that what you are reading is happening to you / allows you to identify & empathize with the characters. this quality seems rare to me but this book has it
another thing i felt was a reason as to why i liked this book was the way the situations / imagery seemed quiet & intimate. i like quiet books, i don’t think the ‘quietness’ of a book depends solely on the things that go on in the peripheral environment, maybe more the way the narrator responds to these things / how observant they are of the things happening around them. after reading the first story (which had a sequence of smaller chapters within it) i felt like the title was good, or described the nature of the stories well, private people, who keep what they are thinking/feeling to themselves. i value that a lot i think
also thought about something i said to another person the other day, when he tried to explain/seemed to want to justify the reasons for his behaviour towards someone else, i said ‘no one but you and her will know what happened between the two of you.’ felt like a lot of these stories were about these quiet/private/intimate moments. like lying down together skin only, or when someone touches your hair, how you want a specific person to touch your hair, or the way the room seems to expand when the person you like most enters / these seem like the things i remember most about relationships, how completely present in that past moment i begin to feel when i try to recall it, and how what i remember are the times spent when it was just me and that one other person / then i thought about a thing that tao lin wrote about almost transparent blue, which is something i think about often now / “I think that scene is ‘touching’ to me because—by seeming to have no purpose except to non-rhetorically relate what seems, to me, like a memory—it promotes, or is evidence, to me, that a single specific experience that doesn’t cost anything, and has no effect on anyone that isn’t involved, and that doesn’t have to be known by anyone else can be ‘worth more’ to a person than years of comfort or love or accomplishment or millions of dollars or the respect and admiration of thousands. That a single person, or two people, using only themselves and each other, can easily create an intense, unrecorded, unshared memory that is more emotional, memorable, and affecting than winning the lottery or getting a masters degree or even ‘falling in love,’ maybe, seems ‘beautiful’ and exciting and affecting to me.’ / this is what i want most from books i think, and also what i feel like i try to recreate in the things i write or photograph
i guess i like how ‘real’ (or true to what ‘reality’ seems to be to me) the emotions in the book seem, not only the emotions that seem commonly written about, like desire/long-distance yearning but also things i have been thinking about, like being aware that the person you’re in a relationship with is a separate person from you & you can’t ever assume his or her thoughts / hence never can assume that how he/she feels towards you will continue for always in spite of how strong it can be at a certain point of time / reminded again that the existence of a feeling can’t be taken for granted / and then, how that makes you feel
the first page i folded was this:
his text message will ask a poem:
(1/2) Are you working? There is a lot you can have by
wanting. In the light I made a bargain. Envisioning
a house where I never lived, you could not
convince me we’d spent but
(2/2) one life together.
HER: Are you awake? Describe the house to me.
mary is a girl that the character richard seems to be in a relationship with. somewhere else the narrator/richard says ‘you are the mary in all of these stories’ and i thought, ‘there is so much love in this book’, like when thom asks ‘so what does mary do’ and richard says ‘she’s an inventor’ and thom says ‘oh yeah? what did she invent?’ and richard says ‘everything, i think she invented everything. but no one gives her credit’
this book made me miss ben a lot / you are the you to me in all of the stories/poems i read/write
‘long-distance love-making is a bitch’. long distance relationships are like believing in God and do you want to believe in God again?
‘i thought, Who the fuck was this girl? where did she come from? she was so intimate and forward and surprising, it made me imagine a good romantic life. i started to see myself in the future surviving harder scenarios. i was getting beaten down by other men. i was in a small car accident. i could see myself near death and still wanting to be alive. there were scenes in my imagination where the only act that happens is her and i surviving and holding each other overlooking the neighbourhood.
she was so intimate to me so quickly, she felt like a time traveler or something. like she was my protector. sometimes we would ditch class together you know? and find a place to hide and mess around.’
i liked the longer stories most, like ‘sociopaths’ & ‘animals’. when i read these parts i thought ‘i would want to read a longer book by this person’.
going to re-read this book again, then lending it to mat & stacey because a couple of us who live in london were hanging out one night and i said what if we started a monthly book club and so now we are doing it. this month/first meeting we will be doing you private person, so i am excited about that, especially since i really liked this book
started: 9th february 2013
finished: 12th february 2013