The Breakfast Table

Heaven Is One Long Postmortem

Oh, God–and also you, Dan–I thought and thought about whether to write “an historian” or “a historian.” I even called our mutual friend and superb grammarian Deb Futter for an answer. She was at lunch, so I went with the stilted “an historian.” What can I do to make up for it? Use “ain’t”? Or, just give you some cash? I find that a lump of money usually makes up for everything.

And now on to old business, my favorite kind because you don’t have to learn anything new. You ask what I meant when I wrote that I made some mistakes sleeping the other night. Nothing as suggestive as what you suggest. I meant only that I tossed when I was supposed to turj (that’s Swedish for turn), that I didn’t move my eyes rapidly enough during the REM portion of my sleep, and that my dreams weren’t symbolic enough. However, I have had a busy week socially. I say that so that you will ratchet me up a few notches in your assessment of me, just imagining how scintillating I could be if only I had had more time.

I infer by how many events you missed this week that you are a very important person. We both missed the Kurt Andersen book party. (Note to readers: Read Kurt’s book, Turn of the Century. It’s terrific.) Tonight I will be missing the Veronica Geng reading because I am going to the opening of a friend’s play. (I have been to two plays this week: When in New York, do as the New Jerseyites do.) I am most impressed that you missed the PEN Literacy dinner. I wasn’t even invited, though I did hear about it. Apparently, Salman Rushdie won over everyone by speaking a mere five minutes.

Do you agree with me that there is no such thing as an event too short? Even when I am thoroughly enjoying myself, say at a party or a play, I can’t wait to go home. “This movie is so good,” I think, “… when will it be over?” Here’s the reason for my impatience: I like the discussion afterward much better than the experience. In fact, sometimes I travel, go on a date, or go to a party just so that I can retrospectively analyze it with friends. My hope for the afterlife is that it will literally be one long postmortem. (“Can you believe what she wore during her 40s?!” “Think he used to dye his hair?” “Why do you think they stayed together all those years?”)

Which brings me to the news. But old news. The New York Times has an article today about how the secret of aging might be discovered by studying a certain worm gene. It seems that we might be able to live longer if we’re willing to hibernate. I would do that, even though, as you know, I am a bad sleeper. I think what they’re saying is that hibernation may offer you a way to extend your life, the same way that health clubs let you freeze your membership for a certain amount of time and then tack it on at the end. So far, scientists have not yet mastered this technique, though. God–and also, you, Dan–it really irks me that after I’m dead, they will figure out how I could have lived 200 years longer. They will probably figure the whole thing out the day after I die.

Till then,