I finished reading Jonathan Lethem's essays last week, so I thought that I’d stop referencing them in my posts, that I’d start quoting from Miranda July’s lauded debut collection of short stories, No one belongs here more than you. (I have the yellow version, but no yellow blouses, what's a girl to do?)
I rarely cry in movies, but a scene in her 2005 Me and You and Everyone We Know—when the two awkward would-be lovers finally touch—brought me to tears. I even went on a pretty odd, but interesting, date with a guy because he did the programming for the film's IM chat graphics. But I have to admit; I am not infatuated with her stories. Like in her film, the language is beautifully striped down and relationships are mismatched, but without her redemptive golden-hour visuals, they leave me a bit depressed.
An example, from It Was Romance:
We walked down the hall and entered the auditorium just in time to help stack the chairs. There was no system for stacking, so we accidentally made many substacks that were too heavy to lift and join together. The stacks of various heights stood alone. We gathered our purses and walked to our cars.
But back to Lethem. I though it was pretty cool that while I was reading his essay Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn: Doom and Romance on a subway platform (available to Harpers subscribers here), which is conflates memoir and a history of the partially-abandoned station, once bustling with four tracks and filled with shops, the C train I was riding pulled alongside the aforementioned platform. It was one of those moments that romanticizes the grimiest of places—a half-lit subway stop, that one spot of Brooklyn that seems to resist the gentrification taking place around it.
And I mention the subway, because in a strange coincidence, I met architect/photographer Chris Payne and he told me about his 2002 book, New York's Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway.
From the PAP website:
All over New York City, hidden behind unassuming historic facades, sits the gigantic machinery of the power stations that once moved the subways. For over a century, the 125,000-pound converters and related equipment of the substations remained largely unchanged, but in 1999 the last manually operated substation was shut down and since then they have been systematically dismantled and sold as scrap.
Payne documented the stations in drawings and photographs. He is currently at work on a new project and I am meeting up with him tomorrow to hear more about it.