Eating 'The Avengers'

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One of things I thought about up in the Woods was the importance of ungratification. When I was much younger I can remember thinking that the point of a good meal was to stuff myself, to eat until I felt sick. Of course, back then, I didn't really identify it as "sick." I would have said "stuffed" or "full" or some such. But walking this path has given me some respect for absence, for longing. The last time I was in Chicago, I had a really great bread pudding. It tasted like a cloud with bananas. But I only ate half of it, and I've been thinking about it ever since. And I like the thinking about it, the absence of the thing, how it magnifies in my imagination. It was eating as a continued experience, like when you fall for someone--it isn't just being with them that's great. The longing, the absence is a part of the thing.


I was, obviously, a comic book geek as a kid. I pined for the day when all my favorite comic book heroes would be on the big screen. I would spend hours looking at my ceiling wondering if Storm and Wolverine were more than friends, wondering if Spider-Man would ever go back to the black suit, wondering if She-Hulk would ever return to the Fantastic Four, wondering if Magneto truly loved Rogue. Now, these are not big, universal questions. But in the space of those questions, in the absence of knowing, in the space of ungratified curiosity, my imagination did work--it magnified the thing. Reading was an experience, and the absence, the gaps, the things I didn't know were part of that. Nothing was more disappointing to me than having Wolverine's origins revealed. 

I think this is why I've been pretty "meh" about the Avengers movie. It's too much information for me. I like the darkness. Again, this is my own specific reaction. I understand why the movie's being made, and why it will probably wreak havoc at the box office. But I'm writing memoir, not a position paper. It is the personal. It isn't policy.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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