Maggie Nelson on the Pleasure of Walking Out

I’m enjoying Maggie Nelson’s smart, probing The Art of Cruelty. Here’s one passage:

[I]n my own life, I know I generally feel very alive and emancipated when I choose to walk out on something. After all, you walk out when you realize that whatever it is you’re watching, for whatever reason, simply isn’t working. Walking out reminds you that while submission can at times be a pleasure, a risk worth taking, you don’t have to manufacture consent whenever or wherever it is nominally in demand…. The fact that the exit door isn’t barred, the feel of the fresh air on your face when you open it — all this serves to remind you of how good it feels to angle the full force of your body and attention toward that which seems to you a good use of your short time on the planet, and to practice aversion towards that which does not. These are freedoms that life does not always grant…

This brings to mind a trip with friends years ago to see a play, a student production almost an hour out of town. I thought I might be the only one hating it, and certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone else to leave at intermission, but thought I owed it to myself at least to hint vaguely at the possibility of cutting our losses and leaving. Seconds later we were all on our way out. Yes, “the feel of the fresh air on your face” when you walk out of that theater– she really captures it.

This also reminds me why I found so silly the premise of this recent piece– here it is, “Finish That Book! You suffer when you quit a story midway through—and so does literature.” Nope, completely wrong, the freedom to toss a book aside — even if capriciously, even if for no good reason — is basic to the pleasure of reading.

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7 Responses

  1. “Nope, completely wrong, the freedom to toss a book aside — even if capriciously, even if for no good reason — is basic to the pleasure of reading.”

    Yes. It took me quite a while to get to that place–I used to force myself to finish books (because I’m no quitter, you know). But not anymore. If it’s not doing it for me after a reasonable effort, then out it goes.

  2. Entirely agree, Bev!

  3. I will walk out of concerts if I am not feeling it. Good bands too. I go by myself so it is no big deal. It does feel great to just walk out into the cool air.

    “The Art of Cruelty” is good. Funny how easy it is too look up obscure video art on your phone.

  4. Especially carpriciously

  5. Capriciously, pardon my language, I’m from Pennsylvania. The Appalachian side

  6. Invaluable post , I learned a lot from the info , Does someone know if my company can acquire a fillable ATI Rate Confirmation document to edit ?

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