Now every fairy-tale princess and superhero has to be drenched in blood, watching a city collapse in a fake orgasm of C.G.I. overload. Standup comedians these days are more likely to plumb the depths of their emotional dysfunction than they are to wear trick costumes or do imitations. Yankovic is comforting in the way of Bugs Bunny, or early Steve Martin.
But you will know the difference between those friends and these old friends, these primal friends, these friends as entrenched as bone. You will know the difference even though you can’t articulate it. You will just know that when they get together, whenever that is, the cadence of their speech changes, their laughs go up a register, they throw their heads back and shake their hair and that laughter comes unbidden, and at surprising times, and about things you don’t think are funny.
I look back on it with compassion and gratitude. It is a gift to be able to love that deep and feel that much. You learn so much about yourself every time your heart breaks, because every time it happens, you have to become someone else—it’s evolution! It is true that time heals all wounds, and also that heartbreak is what made every great piece of art. We should be thankful that we can finally understand what they are all talking about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier, but you just have to keep pushing on. Humans have been through this for centuries, so rest assured that our bodies and souls are made for that shit. We can handle it.
In Perec’s world, absence takes on the same contours as presence. Nothingness draws in everything it touches — decorated window frames, mercury barometers, Frankfurt School philosophers, the letters of the alphabet, postcards coming through your mail slot, literary theory, Tierra del Fuego, black-and-white movies, kissy-wissies, crossword puzzles. In Perec’s studio, all the world is gathered, displayed, and accounted for. At first glance, it seems everything is there. But once you look at it through Perec’s eyes, it quickly disintegrates. Our entire world is revealed as horreur vacui.