The Problem

She writes a pamphlet railing against the use of the word project to accurately describe the work of the poet. He writes a book railing against the use of the novel to accurately render the reality of our lives as we experience them. The polemic is in love with accuracy. The problem is it’s the enemy of art.  



The Problem

The microphone is too sensitive, picking up the movement of saliva in his mouth during the interview. He’s a famous writer, famous for his novelistic memoir, for rendering truth with a literary flair. I’m not making this up. The problem is ongoing. It sounds like he’s masticating his answers. When he’s finished speaking, the sound continues.


The Problem

If he sleeps with the windows open, the noise of morning traffic wakes him several hours too early. If he sleeps with the windows closed, the heat of the stuffy apartment makes for a restless and difficult night. Between these two options, as between the unconditional love of two exemplary and devoted parents, the problem sleeps like a baby.


The Problem

First, there were a lot of gods. Then there was one, but a lot of ones. Can I tell you that what I most admire about the arachnid is the mechanics of so many legs in motion? After a while, the problem adds up to something infinite. And then, then there’s just us counting it.


The Problem

Her lover tells her that his grandfather used to spit incessantly, each time excusing it as Christ’s way of returning sight to the blind. The problem, after all, is not ours, but the way we see it.


The Problem

My landlord installs a new banister on the front porch which from this chair obstructs my view of the faces of those who pass. My wife, it turns out, dislikes aphorisms, although I’ve written one for her: ethics is always a voyeuristic endeavor. The people pass, but they’re no longer “the people.” When I say dislikes, I mean vehemently, but I’m not even talking here. It’s like a birdsong to a bird. The problem is purely evaluative.


The Problem

The poster depicts a toy gun painted black and a real gun painted red. “It’s not the one you think,” it reads. The problem keeps changing color. It’s not the one you think.


The Problem

Between a woman who wants to retrieve her hiking boots from the sun porch where several wasps are hovering expectantly and a camp counselor who attempts to stifle his amusement with the teenage girl’s complaint about what she calls a scorpio in her cabin, the problem oscillates continually, refusing the finality of a decision, no matter how ominous or innocuous. In this way, it is like a Dutchman who doesn’t know French, who speaks a little English but certainly can’t read it, and who happens to be staying at a decidedly Americanized hotel in Paris, watching what turns out to be a Dutch film that has been dubbed into French and given English subtitles. Even in his uncertainty he seems so relaxed and sure of himself. To the west the sun begins its slow descent. The wasps deposit themselves on a window. Mercury is in retrograde.


The Problem

He feels a strange, superficial obligation to say hello to his neighbor when they cross paths on the porch, pass on the stairway, stand, amazingly, at the front door together, keys awkwardly in hand, walk by each other in the back alley, exiting the laundry room, taking out the trash, picking up the mail, anywhere, really, just on the periphery of public space, in those transitional places between the private security of one’s apartment and all the exits and entryways it abuts, all the blurred edges around what constitutes being at home, but never, no matter what, and herein lies the problem, never when they’re both out on their respective balconies, even though only a slight partition—a two-foot tall railing really—separates them, even though they could almost touch, almost be page turners for the symphonic quiet of the personal space they’re both intent on maintaining. But maybe I’m wrong; maybe it isn’t a problem at all. Maybe they’ve exchanged pleasantries on numerous occasions, even become fast friends, sharing chitchat and dinners, commiserating, drinking, eventually moving in with each other as lovers. I couldn’t say for sure. I say hello when I have to, but only in passing, only outside, near the front door, or the steps, but never out here, out on the balcony, where the treetops are so close, so goldenly comforting.  


The Problem

All this talk about problems in the singular, about their uselessness and futility, about our utter inability to work them out, suggests to the average, engaged reader a sort of rarified, refined, even ostentatious approach to our lives as we live them. Such problems are not real problems. Such sentences are simply statements. As against this, an actual problem must be something utilitarian, servile, unrefined, obsequious, humble. It must be an absolute entry point for our individual problems to open to an equally absolute plurality. It must be the opposite of a statement, but one that staunchly refuses ossification into the rigidity of a question. The interrogative mode in which we attempt to account for our place in the world is so much fodder for flimsy, mutable, and unending answers. This is the problem, or, more poignantly, this are the problem.
 

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