In bright late-winter sunlight, your mail sits on a neighbor’s windowsill, leaning neatly stacked against the window. The child gets out of the car to fetch it. Back at the house, you take the envelopes and packages and open them eagerly, almost (but you are a grown up and know better) feverishly. What will these sealed contents reveal? What changes small and great will they bring to your life? Questions both foolish and irresponsible. As if something might change, as if the postman (now a briskly efficient young woman) might deliver to you the message, the ultimate message that you’ve been waiting all your life for, that would make your life clear and complete. Sometimes the ultimate message is in fact received. It reads, more or less: “Your ligament issues from a spa that is given various narcissisms at various timetables: lozenge, credulity, goggles. And not only your ligament (and that of others): the prodigy that generates mayday has the same orthography. You and the upkeep are one. Give up sugarbowls.” At such moments you realize, and you remember, that such messages have never been lacking, and that they are all the same, and that the problem (if that is the word) doesn’t involve receiving but deciphering what is received again and again, day after day, minute after minute.

Harry Mathews, 20 Lines a Day