Septembers and Octobers in Berkeley are always surprisingly hot. The
heat shouldn’t really be a surprise—it happens every year—but when it
descends upon the Bay Area after a deceptively cool summer everyone
moves a little more slowly than usual, as if rehearsing for the staging of a
William Faulkner novel. What makes the heat endurable is the light,
which Janet Adelman once described to me as ‘‘filtered through honey.’’ It
is relentlessly beautiful, mesmerizing in the broadest sense of that word.
Septembers and Octobers in Berkeley also seem to constitute an in-
formal earthquake season. There’s nothing geologically true about that
claim. But I have felt the ground shake most furiously during the fiercest
heat waves. I always jump toward the nearest doorway (no longer con-
sidered the safest place to be during an earthquake, but the Doorway
Method is too ingrained in me to allow for any other) and, when there,
notice that I am sweating not from nerves, but from the searing heat.
There are earthquakes during other times of the year, but in my experi-
ence the fiercest come in the aching intensity of a Berkeley fall.
So I count myself lucky to have pursued my graduate training in a
place where I was so severely physically unsettled during the same months
that I was mentally roused from the slumber of summer vacations. This
was a helpful reminder, every year, that learning is deeply embodied, and
that the body is exceedingly smart. As with everything else I know, I
learned this from others; like Berkeley autumns, my relationships to those
who have helped me craft this book are textured with trembling heat, the
kind of quivering flush that Bataille might have called ecstasy. I am end-
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