Book//mark - Letters to Emma Bowlcut | Bill Callahan (2010)



"You are the reason I get out of bed. To tell you that I have gotten out of bed. I want to pocket all your question marks and discard them discreetly when you aren't looking."

“And I hope each morning you wake like a bird in a nest and fly without a thought.”

"Work is something I must ease back into. I can't really explain what I do. If you watched me it would look like almost nothing."

“I have been mostly dull lately. Like a butter knife. And hoping to find, when called upon, something more in my arsenal than a butter knife. Unless my opponent is actually butter. Then that would be fine. Room temperature butter.”

“I wanted to hold you until I heard one voice. I stood without intention of moving and realized we see every punch coming in a boxing movie but in real life we miss a lot of them.”

"It's 12:34 A.M. The time on the clock feels significant, as it often does here. As if the numbers are looking for the right combination to unlock me."




“The world had gone quiet around me.”

''Saw a lone deer at yesterday’s sunset. It looked down the road with an expression as if waiting for something in particular. Antlers. That deer had a nice face. Like it would help you out in a jam if it could.''

“I'm not really interested in religion or history or science or mathematics or psychology or politics or geography. I feel I am above them all, except geography. Geography is above me for now.”

'' I think fish became humans because they didn't have any way to pistol whip each other.''

“I bought a big bag of potatoes and it's growing eyes like crazy. Other foods rot. Potatoes want to see.”

"I am possibly lonely. I was trained to turn loneliness into laziness. The problem being I am not working hard enough to relax with a pure heart afterwards. I test and re-test the things I already know."

“But I feel overwhelmed with the everyday things that insist on my attention. And under-whelmed.”




''This day seemed like it could have gone either way. The sky half blue, half gray. When I looked again the gray had lost to blue (a Civil War sky), and then it rained a cloudless rain.''

"I walked aimlessly and it began to rain. Why do I do such things...I hope the answer is that I embrace life with abandon. But I fear the truth is that I'm irresponsible."

"Understand that this is just talk, as I know you will. And it is unformulated and I might take it all back in a minute if I talk long enough. Which I'm not going to do."

“When faced with everything sometimes the best course of action is nothing.”

“It crossed my mind that my letters are all about me and not you. I would hope that you pay me the same respect.”

"[I] was so excited about having the [new] calendar that I entered the expired events, too."


Bill Callahan, Photo by Joanna Newsom


"[it's] exhilarating and exhausting to meet so many people and have to be on."

''Her parents’ dog looked at me like I had beaten it years ago. Come to think of it, her whole family looked at me like I’d beaten them once. I wanted to take a ventriloquist dummy to those family dinners and not say a word. Just have the thing propped on my knee with both of us looking around wild-eyed.''

''I was chomping at the bit until I found out it was champing. Getting out of the house to stop the film loop in me. The picture is tangled and the sound is strangled. That there is nothing in this for you is something that occurs to me now and then. I can forget anything.''

"Why do some people get away with so much shit, do whatever they want, and people keep letting them back in."

''I would get you a personal assistant if I could. Like in the Russian novels where everyone, no matter how poor, had a maid and a butler. A maid to serve you a stale crust of bread and a butler to announce that it was ready.''


Bill Callahan outside Bastrop, Texas, August 2013


“I sometimes see a shortcoming in myself, how little patience or understanding I have for many people in the way they act. I am able to see the fragility in some, but I only have so much time to wade through their manipulations and traps and draining behaviour. Some people think I'm heartless in leaving others to suffer their own selves.”

“I don't want to destroy anything. But I want to know what I can destroy.”

"I think it's a good idea not to give a fuck. I find myself suddenly not giving one. And I'm well aware that you can reshelve the books in flawless alphabetical order while still not giving a fuck."

''I learned you can get bruises without external contact. Struck by something trying to get out from within.''

"[my] body is an offering when both feet are off the ground."

“Your letter filled the hole in my day like a key. Turn it.”



“At the heel end of the day, I need my glass of wine. Christmas lights for the brain.”

“A drink centers me but I usually make myself wait until at least 9:00 PM for that. Or 8:00 PM. Whichever comes first.”

“I have never cried in the shower. That's a woman thing I think.”

“When I moved, I unearthed the diaries I kept for ten years. I sat and went through them and they were a worthless burden to own. People will say it's tragic I threw them out, but I know it isn't.”

“They say marriages work better if you don't know the person too well. Maybe we should stop writing each other posthaste.”

 "I sometimes see a shortcoming in myself, how little patience or understanding I have for many people with the way they act. I am able to see the fragility in some, but I only have so much time to wade through their manipulations and traps and draining behavior. Some people think I'm heartless in leaving others to suffer their own selves."


Bill Callahan, on the floor, ph. Chris Taylor 2008 


''I can feel the way your hips would fit into my hands perfectly, like a lifetime rifle or an overweight but well-groomed cat. Or a large-breed dog who rarely gets lifted but loves it sheepishly when it does. A foot finding a solid hold in a rock face where before there was none. And then for it to be covered in skin, what could be better. Child, take care of that hip.''

“She doesn't use her neck. She only acknowledges things that come at her head on. And she's one of those people that answer your question before you even get through it. And the answer always begins with No, even if it's Yes. Or worse, No no no.”

“I look forward to sleeping each night. The air is cool and it often starts to rain around 2:00 A.M., breaking the heat and singing me to sleep. And I drink my tequila as if I'd be letting you down if I didn't.”

“I didn't want to admit I was aware of what she was doing. Which is alright. But you shouldn't let someone seek refuge in you. With is alright.”

“Everything I've done today could have been done by a bear. The long seasoned sleep. The lumbering out of bed. Tearing at a hard roll dipped in honey. And then sprawling lazily in the grass when the sun hit.”


Letters to Emma Bowlcut, Bill Callahan, 2010




Bill Callahan (b. June 3, 1966) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist who has also recorded and performed under the band name Smog. Callahan began working in the lo-fi genre of underground rock, with home-made tape-albums recorded on four track tape recorders. His early songs often nearly lacked melodic structure and were clumsily played on poorly tuned guitars, resulting in the dissonant sounds on his self-released cassettes and debut album Sewn to the Sky. Much of his early output was instrumental, a stark contrast to the lyrical focus of his later work.


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