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Day Job - Page 40

for a few hours of real work; you labored so far into the night that the next morning you could barely drag yourself back to the office or kitchen or ditch. The cycle was constant and increasingly enervating, a losing battle. Laundry piled up, appointments were missed, one skimped on meals and exercise and risked one's sanity and health. What are called, in an exemplary generic coinage, "relationships" also suffered: lovers felt they had to compete against art for your attention, however much you tried to reassure them, and you tacitly resented their demands for your time; intimacy itself had to enter the strictest economy. You learned not to take trips or wish for a better apartment or attend films or buy new clothes because every dollar could be invested for a few free months later on, before you had to submit to the next day job. A thousand petty tasks and distractions staged endless raids on your energy and attention, until it seemed that art itself was at war with everything else. The pitiable heroism of each momentary victory--each painting or poem finished--was belied by the triviality of its manifestation in a world in which, after all, a poem is merely a poem, and therefore a sign that a much more pervasive defeat had already occurred. You came to hate those born wealthy enough to avoid this struggle, although you also tried to persuade yourself that their work must be impoverished because they did not have to come into daily contact with the hard common truths of a world that, in this instance, you decide to call "real," as if these grotesque burdens could still be seen as sources of enlightenment; you also hated those romantic demons like Van Gogh who (you told yourself) were more committed than you, willing to sacrifice more, to suffer more, to give up their last few francs for tubes of paint even though they were starving. In either case, accusations you continually brought to bear against yourself for having to live an ordinary life in the midst--in "spite"--of grander aspirations.

[34] The horror of the day job was thus the violence of life divided in half, a violence that cut through art itself and lent it a shadowy existence, made it the ghost, the phantom limb of what you might have accomplished, had you only been able to devote yourself to it entirely. The awful dissymmetry of this arrangement summons up a variety of analyses, most of them passing through historical marxism. The deadly drudgery of alienated labor is there grasped

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