The Breakfast Table

Worm Genes and Marxian Epistles

Right about now I know exactly how you’re feeling about wanting things to be done with before they are. (To revise Yogi Berra: “It should be over well before it’s over.”) Don’t take offense–I could read your stuff all day; it’s the writing my stuff that I wish was done with right now. Do you know how conclusive I (and no doubt our readers and maybe even you) wanted that last period to be? But for my $5.50 I feel I have to mill around just a little more.

I wasn’t invited to the PEN Literacy thing either. Or I was, but so late in the game as to be obviously on someone’s T or U list. So I am not an important person–this breakfast may be the most important thing I’ve ever done. I haven’t discovered a worm gene, I didn’t write Kurt Andersen’s book, I wish he had written mine (which you have been so kind about; thank you again), I never made more than one mistake in a night. I did read that worm-gene thing, though. Your passage on hibernating reminded me of the guy in Catch-22 who tried to remain as bored as possible so that his life would seem longer. I am sure they’re going to figure this death thing out–read Richard Dooling’s piece about immortality in the current Esquire–but if it’s going to be too late for you, imagine how much more too late it’s going to be for me! This is a terrible situation–the only one that I can think of that I don’t want to be over right away.

You see, Patty, at my age, for the most part we want things to be over sooner and then even want the talking about them to be over before it is. That’s how bad it gets. My blood has cooled even more than the coffee on the table between us, my tie is stained (the No. 1 indicator of serious aging in men), and merely since the beginning of the week, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ lustre has dimmed a little for me. You have many miles to go before you don’t sleep, but I have only a few. But I’ll take the memory of this breakfast with me all the rest of the way–it was special, it was pure, it was fun. It’s been virtual, really. And now I have only to buy an old letter from Karl Marx from someone who no doubt stole it from a French château to make my Marx correspondence collection complete. Karl, Groucho, Patty–two great humorists and one first-rate beard.

Ah, I grow weary. My keyboard has cherry-Danish filling in it, like the croissants before us, my japes and jests are stale. I must leave the field–and the tipping–to you, and totter down to the Veronica Geng reading, which I hope will end just a little on the early side.