1. This video of a young Goran Ivanisevic confronting a chair umpire about how to correctly pronounce his name. And my tenderness for it. For the shifts in his face, between weary, wry bemusement and offended pride. For his distinctive left lateral incisor—which, from the latest images Iâ€™ve seen of him, he still has. He hasnâ€™t had it fixed.
2. My partner, telling me why he liked Ivanisevic so much as a kid. Because he was passionate, charismatic, volatile, easily frustrated, always compelling to watch. “Because he was known for aces in the second serve.” And why is that special, I said; already knowing the answer, wanting to hear it out loud. “Well, obviously most players will do something safe for their second serve. He usually didn’t. Of course, that’s why he would also often double fault.”
3. Ivanisevic who in 2001 became the only wild card entry who ever won the Wimbledon menâ€™s singles title.
4. Coincidentally, he won against Patrick Rafter, the same player against whom Ivanisevic is playing in the video above.
5. I talked about years that have vibrations around them for me. 2001 has a vibration around it. This vibration having to do with something like: innocence, or the longing for spontaneity. I was sitting in a classroom, moving too slowly through teenagedom. The world was going to end, and then it didnâ€™t, and then.
6. Ivanisevic, upon whose Wimbledon win that romantic comedy with Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, Wimbledon, was based.
7. Of course, the movie transforms the Croatian player into an English one, gives him a sassy golden American love interest.
8. To have a British player finally win Wimbledon; well, that’s one use for movies.
10. I loved Paul Bettany as Chaucer in A Knightâ€™s Tale. His funny-sad liquid sexuality. The way he enters the film stark naked. His charm, which was entirely in his talking, which extended to his every gesture: how even his body seemed to be talking, all the time.
11. The way he watches Shannyn Sossamonâ€™s Jocelyn enter the tent of an injured Heath Ledgerâ€™s William/Ulrich. Injured because she ordered him to be injured. Having now come to fuck him better.
12. The way Bettany/Chaucer then murmurs to himself: “Guinevere comes to Lancelot.”
13. In ChrÃ©tien de Troyesâ€™ Le chevalier de la charrette, Guinevere (GueniÃ¨vre) ordered Lancelot to be injured, too. (It’s what the whole sequence in A Knight’s Tale is based on.) To perform at his worst during a tournament. To destroy his pride for love.
14. Of course, he complies. The entire romance is already about how their transgressive love makes Lancelot a willing outcast: disgraced, exiled. Stripping the protection of society and sociality from him. Making him, in fact, a criminal. Le chevalier de la charrette knows there are upstanding citizens, and then there are lovers.
15. Lancelot, ou le chevalier de la charrette. Your real name, or your bared self.
16. The charrette is a cart, a pillory. Itâ€™s something criminals are transported in, for public humiliation. Often towards their death on the stocks. You step inside it and your you-as-social-being is annihilated. Especially if youâ€™re a knight.
17. Lancelot and Gawain (Gauvain) are on their way to save Guinevere, who is being kept prisoner in a land where everyone is being kept prisoner. They encounter a dwarf, pulling the eponymous cart. Lancelot wants news of his lady, the queen. The dwarf, in a mocking tone, invites Lancelot to get in. Getting in the cart will hasten Lancelotâ€™s journey; the dwarf promises news of her situation the next day.
18. Lancelot hesitates for a few steps, then jumps into the cart.
19. (Heâ€™s punished for that hesitation, later. If you’re going to be a lover, be a lover, lover.)
20. Speaking of names: throughout the romance, Lancelot refuses to give out his real name when it is demanded of him, even with the intention to praise or thank him personally.
21. The first person who reveals his name is, of course, Guinevere.
22. She reveals it to another maiden, just as Lancelot is gravely wounded, losing a fight, about to die. The maiden calls Lancelotâ€™s name and tells him to see just who is watching him. The name, and the sight of Guinevere gazing at him, brings Lancelot back into the world. Into the fight.
23. Thereâ€™s something of the orgasm, of jouissance, in the long-awaited-for calling of a real name.
24. Itâ€™s why Rihanna and Drakeâ€™s â€œWhatâ€™s My Name?â€ holds me so much. Am I the only one who finds this song deeply melancholy and wistful? The genre of song being: erotic melancholy. One of my favorite genres. Something erotic and melancholy about: â€œSay my name, say my name—wear it out.â€
25. And that music video. Something wistful about an interclass and interregional relationship (â€œCan you go downtown with a girl like me,â€ downtown having the customary oral sex meaning, but also: literally downtown. Rihanna in the Lower East Side, Drakeâ€™s UMASS sweatshirt). Something wistful about recovered hope; about being opened up, finally or once again, after not believing it to be possible anymore.
26. The way Rihannaâ€™s abbreviated stockings give the impression of two tones of flesh. Masked flesh and revealed flesh.
27. And the videoâ€™s utopian vision of New York. A communal New York. A New York you fall in love with, and in. It’s telling that neither Rihanna nor Drake are Americans; American-dreaming being the province of immigrants.
28. The video’s New York looks like the New York my brother permanently left his family and country and university for, at eighteen. Madly in love. The New York I met him in years later, when I was a kid and he was in his early thirties. When he still had a Queens accent. When he was still a lover. He and my father—who was his father, too, the only parent we shared—took me to Coney Island. We fished. I think I may have caught a fish myself. Later I was fed something very sugary, with a texture like mattress foam.
29. I realize only now that it must have been a marshmallow.
30. Shortly after that trip, the three of us went to the Philippines together. Did my brother know that I was being taken there with the intention of never returning to the States, that I was being kidnapped? He never let on, and I didnâ€™t, either. I was somewhat willing to be kidnapped. Ready to quit being an American, ready to be a rich girl, until I met the other rich girls in my family and realized I loathed them all. Realized I couldn’t quit being an American, no matter how much I was ready to. Because I knew how to rollerblade, how to beat up a boy. Because I cursed. Because of something imperceptible stitched in my clothes, my skin, my voice.
31. One weekend we went to an island in Palawan, part of the Hundred Islands. My brother, with his Queens accent, declared the island my own. Although now I’m alarmed at my baby colonialist self, at the time I was very pleased with my island, which was tiny, mostly abandoned, with hot white sand and clear water, through which darted tiny silver fish.
32. I donâ€™t remember the original name of the island, which was scribbled large on the face of a rock wall, in white paint. It may not have been the name of the island at all, but the name of a tourist just passing through. The name of a lover. The name of a person someone wanted the future to remember. I think the name was either Stella, or Hella. I touched the name with my hand. It would not wipe off.
33. On this same trip to the Philippines, I met my other older brother, for the first time. The responsible middle brother. The born-again Christian who had never left family, country, university. He actually lived in Palawan, but he picked us up at the airport in Manila. In the middle of a warm downpour. I sat in the front seat. You couldnâ€™t see anything for the smog, steam and rain. He didnâ€™t have any windshield wipers on his car, so he just stuck his arm out of the driverâ€™s side window and began frantically-comically wiping the rain on the windshield away with his hand. Like a silent film star. Physical comedy. It was meant to charm me, and I was charmed. I was learning that most of my family members survived on their charm. Later, this brother found a notebook of my writing. He took me aside and warned me, with grave concern: â€œThis is the work of the devil. Donâ€™t ever write anything like this again. Promise me.â€
34. Oh, well, I thought. Charm alone only goes so far. By that time I was a practiced liar and pretty snobby about which adults were idiots and which ones deserved affection and admiration. So I â€œpromised.â€ I donâ€™t even think I made the effort to cross my fingers. Already at eight, I wasnâ€™t to be trusted. I became truly innocent late in life, not early.
35. Which writer said: â€œI was so much older when I was youngerâ€?
36. Scribbled words from a lover in white paint. When I lived in Paris, on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building were these giant words, in careful and precise white paint: TU Tâ€™ES BIEN FOUTU DE MOI.
37. Angry words. Heartbroken words. At that time in my life, I thought it so fitting that such words would be written before my door. I knelt down and touched them, too. Like the name on my childhood island: they would not wipe off.
38. The words werenâ€™t meant for me, though, even though I received them readily. But gender isnâ€™t so fluid in French. They were meant for a man.
39. Some bad translations: You really made a fool of me. You really fucked with me. You really fucked me over.
40. In Le chevalier de la charrette, why is it another maiden who asks Guinevere for Lancelot’s name? Another maiden who then shouts the name herself, asking Lancelot to look at Guinevere?
41. The triangulation of desire. Anne Carson talks about it in the first part of â€œDecreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil Tell God,â€ which is about Sapphoâ€™s Fragment 31.
42. â€œWe donâ€™t know why the girl is laughing, nor what the man is doing there, nor how Sapphoâ€™s response to them makes sense. Sappho seems less interested in these characters as individuals than in the geometric figure that they form. This figure has three lines and three angles. One line connects the girlâ€™s voice and laughter to a man who listens close. A second connects the girl to Sappho. Between the eye of Sappho and the listening man runs a third. The figure is a triangle. Why does Sappho want to stage this figure? Common sense suggests it is a poem about jealousy. â€˜Lovers all show such symptoms as these,â€™ says Longinus. So letâ€™s think about what the jealousy of lovers is.â€
43. â€œSappho sets up a scenario of jealousy but thatâ€™s not what the poem is about, jealousy is just a figure. Sappho stages an event of ecstasy but thatâ€™s not what the poem is about either, ecstasy is just a means to an end. Unfortunately we donâ€™t reach the end, the poem breaks off. But we do see Sappho begin to turn towards it, towards this unreachable end. We see her senses empty themselves, we see her Being thrown outside its own centre where it stands observing her as if she were grass or dead. At which point a speculation occurs to me: granted, this is a poem all about love, do we need to limit ourselves to a reading of it that is merely or conventionally erotic? â€¦Perhaps Sapphoâ€™s poem wants to teach us something about the metaphysics, or even the theology of love. Perhaps she is posing not the usual lovesong complaint, Why donâ€™t you love me? but a deeper spiritual question, What is it that love dares the self to do? Daring enters the poem in the last verse when Sappho uses the word tolmaton: â€˜is to be dared.â€™ The word is a verbal adjective and expresses a mood of possibility or potential. Sappho says it is an absolute potential:
44. â€œpan tolmaton: all is to be dared.â€
45. â€œMoreover she consents to it—or seems to be on the point of consenting when the poem breaks off. Why does she consent? Her explanation no longer exists. So far as it goes, it leads us back to her ecstatic condition. For when an ecstatic is asked the question, What is it that love dares the self to do? she will answer:
46. â€œLove dares the self to leave itself behind, to enter into poverty.â€
47. Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart. You, or not-you. What’s left behind when you step into the cart.
48. Geometry and desire: the triangle made when Bettany/Chaucer sees Sossamon/Jocelyn/Guinevere slipping into Ledger/William/Lancelot’s tent. When Bettany/Chaucer quips, with just the tiniest flicker of resignation: “Bed him well, my lady—bed him well.”
49. Geometry and forbidden or frustrated love: how one’s own desires can be performed by other bodies. Geometry and fantasy: the triangle made between myself and two unknown—or indeed entirely imagined—lovers, in Paris.
50. In A Knightâ€™s Tale, Heath Ledgerâ€™s poor English squire William Thatcher disguises himself as the noble Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein. William has been living in France since he was a child. Like many immigrant children: having been sent away by a distraught but determined parent, across an ocean to another country, in the hope of a better life.
51. Surprise, surprise, itâ€™s an emigrant’s story. A story about nostos. One day, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll like a story that has nothing to do with pained nostalgia. But not today.
52. The movie is more conventional than de Troyes’ romance; there’s much about a son finding his father, about homosocial bonding and competition, about male pride. About the real name, and the attempt to live outside of the real name. And then the real name’s recuperation. William eventually gets knighted by a prince, who himself had been competing in disguise.
53. And at the end of the film, it is William—not a maiden, not someone who loves him—who screams his own real name as he defeats his adversary. Calling his own name, to assert himself and his place in the world. It’s an American ending, after all. Figures, since neither Ledger nor his character are Americans.
54. Lancelot, on the other hand, has great pride, but he speaks from no such place of self-affirmation. His situation in Le chevalier de la charrette is starker. More solitary. He has no parent to make proud. Even when he meets and is helped by people along the way—as a lover moving towards his beloved, Lancelot is always deeply alone. At a remove. It is only at the end of the romance that he is welcomed back into the fold of Camelot—but then, the end was written by a different author, not ChrÃ©tien de Troyes himself. Some scholars speculate that he was ultimately turned off by the poem’s vision of love, transgression and adultery. The poem having been commissioned from de Troyes by a woman: his patroness, Marie de Champagne.
55. Something else I loved in A Knight’s Tale: this dance scene.
56. The moment at 1:16 when Shannyn Sossamonâ€™s Jocelyn starts to dance to her own rhythm.
57. I don’t know if I am yet able to put into words how much this scene affected me when I saw it for the first time. Me, as a young woman of color, watching a young woman of color be sexy and smart, realized, resolute, proud—in a movie about medieval knights? A woman of color who demanded poetry from a lover. And who danced the way I danced. The way she moved moved me.
58. I watched the film on a first date with my only high school boyfriend. It was a happy accident, I had no idea what the film was or who would be in it. But the film has remained with me far longer than the date, the boyfriend. Not least of all because I fell much more in love with Shannyn Sossamon.
59. Speaking again of names: Jocelyn being an extremely common Filipina name.
60. Speaking again of dates that vibrate: A Knightâ€™s Tale came out in 2001.
61. Things that strike through the heart because the heart has long been yearning for them.
62. What I liked best about Wimbledon on Sunday: the moment after his win, when Novak Djokovic crouched to the ground of the Centre Court, pulled up some grass, and ate it. People who respect and practice the sensuality of ritual. Someone who eats the ground he plays on. Tactile reverence. Someone who knows that matter has meaning.
63. (He has, of course, been endlessly mocked for the gesture ever since.)
64. Like everything else, the question of how one plays is a moral one. And the changes in play usually follow changes in culture. How did people play in the 70s, 80s, 90s? Thinking about baseline play vs. serve-and-volley. Players used to go to the net more.
65. Following the trajectory of a culture: one that conducts its battles (its violence) increasingly from a distance.
66. Tennis coming from tenez. Hold, receive, take. It used to be jeu de paume. You used to hit the ball with the palm of your hand.