Thursday, January 26, 2012

An apology

This book I hold, solid, weighty, with its blue cover and linen case -- I'm trying to measure the actual dimensions of the made thing -- feels as though its printed text could come off in my hands. I rub my thumb over the words. 11.5-point Baskerville type posed properly on the 5" x 7 3/4" page. I shut my eyes and let my fingers play across the paper. Often I simply like to let the book fall open and peruse a paragraph or two. I fall into the reverie of the bibliophile, indistinguishable from reading for content, but really reading just for pleasure (as though that were a mere waste of time) -- the surreptitious, almost erotic, pleasure of slowly raising the skirt hiding somebody else's secrets. In bed, in a darkened room, rain spattering on the window, this book warms me.

I've never read the whole thing from start to finish. Truthfully, there have only been a few memoirs I've followed to the end, Edmund Gosse's Father and Son for one, that remarkable unleashing of the Oedipal collar. I don't know. There's something unseemly about bald assertions of personhood, framed as a coming to terms with one's past. On the rack it lies trussed, the memoirist's fealty to the rhetoric of confession. Confess what? To being human? I shudder at the way memoirists crank up the machinery of hysteria, expecting sympathy. As Quist used to say, "We're all in the same lifeboat, bub." Victimhood my arse.

I remember my grandmother shouting at Bert the mutt in German. The dog didn't understand her. He stood his ground and wagged his tail. My grandmother didn't understand the wagging tail and so kept shouting. Of course, this was very funny, to see the two of them standing a few feet apart in the back yard, anxiously trying to tell each other something. My brother and I couldn't laugh, though. Otherwise we would have been scolded for siding with Bert. At that point in her life, my grandmother had no dignity left so we let her be.

Straighten your back and shoulder this original sin. Take up your cross despite your lack of faith, make something up and blurt it out. The machinery of hysteria, the sound of the German language. Shite, I can't hear the rhyme word coming. And without poetry, anxiety cannot be quelled. It only gets worse.

I read in bed and listen to the rain. The lamp is turned down low. The plumbing is quiet tonight. Could he have been a hero once, the gray eminence who wrote, "I can connect nothing with nothing?" Maybe. Here I am, the privileged individual, somebody who likes fine wines and conversation with intelligent women, living in this secular millennium, an unwilling patient infected by grief. It is always later than I think it is. The book, solid as air, falls from my hand. All lies in this pseudo auto biography.

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