If This Thing Isn’t Going to Suck You Up

“If this thing isn’t going to suck you up, if it’s not going to kill you, the only way you can do it — even though it will irritate everyone, because you go so slowly — is to take one step at a time and do only what you know and feel secure about. The minute you do something that isn’t yourself, the minute you publish something you can’t stand, the minute you answer somebody faster than you want to, it’s all over. I’m positive it is.”

— Ingrid Sischy, describing how at age 27 she resolved not to be overwhelmed by her appointment as the new editor of Artforum.

I just found out that a lot of people make fun of Ingrid Sischy, so I’ll confess I really don’t know anything about her or how wonderfully wise she may or may not be. The quote, however, makes nothing but sense to me. It comes from an essay in Janet Malcolm’s amazing collection, “The Purloined Clinic.” I love running across passages like this, life’s random little breathing lessons. There are very few things as continuously important as reminding yourself to slow down and take the time to breathe properly. I’ve never read the Anne Tyler novel “Breathing Lessons,” by the way. I don’t think she’s quite my cup of tea, but I did have an Anne Tyler girlfriend once who made me read “The Accidental Tourist” which I liked a lot; the movie, too. And it occurs to me that that book is basically a case study of a Devastationalist.