Everything, All the Time

Talia Mailman

Feb 11, 2014

In college, I had a sex dream about T.S. Eliot.

Young Eliot

Vivid, alarming, tender. I remember the thin lips, the spindly arms. The small, round glasses he took off and placed on the bedside table. I believe I'd fallen asleep over "Prufrock" and was so enamored of those lines, I willed their creator into being. The dream, of course, wasn't about T.S. Eliot as he was, but T.S. Eliot as my nineteen year-old unconsciousness willed him to be. Something along the lines of what I found attractive at the time: a man too smart for his own good. A cross between a young Tom Waits and Elliott Smith. My "away message" was taken from the Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs:

The Love of Vermouth
I could dress in black and read Camus,

Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth

Like I was 17

That would be a scream

Maybe I thought T.S. Eliot would also be struck by such angst. Ten years later, I'm caught up with Camus and Hawthorne. It's as if surrendering myself to their sentences will get me to the bottom of a consciousness I have no access to otherwise.



Writing, as most of you know, is a lonely business. But language doesn't exist without addressing someone. It is that space which interests me. "Word is a two-sided act," says Bakhtin. By imagining myself closer to other literary imaginations, I allow myself to question them, to ceaselessly reflect on the power they have and don't have. The act becomes, not only one of desire (I desire to become like the author I desire), but one of social politics (as a woman author, I desire to distance myself from a male authorial tradition).

The generous way to achieve both ends, I feel, is to align myself so closely as to feel as if I am in intimate conversation with those writers I most admire. It is how I determine and assert my voice. That space between writer and reader becomes a secure vessel in which to make my ideas and my thoughts and my ambitions. These created relationships become a form of coming and going, of thievery and insight. It is a way of earning my words. It is a way of saying, with earnest and without malice, I want everything; I am demanding.