If Sandy Florian’s novella Boxing the Compass is the answer, then the question might be: is the era of climate change spawning a specific literature? Some exploration of this question will lead us into the astonishing work of mourning Boxing the Compass is.
Ironically, the phrase Homo sapiens is Latin for “wise man.” Like all species, the existence of Homo sapiens has always been finite. No divine favor, cognitive privilege, or technical fix has ever exempted Homo sapiens from eventual extinction. None ever will. Climate change just promises to turn this “eventual” extinction into an uncomfortably close event. In 2010, the renowned Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner hypothesized Homo sapiens will go extinct within a century. Entertain Fenner’s hypothesis, and then try to write a book for the ages: for at most two or three generations more.
Whatever else climate change is, it is an event in language. The extinction of myriad species of fish should make writers differently aware of the biotic referents of tropes such as “to spawn a literature.” Extinctions bring about irreversible absences. The prospect of the extinction of Homo sapiens draws language into a hurricane swirling words up and away, or down and out, from anthropic referents. What happens to words as their referents irreversibly disappear? In becoming bereft of their referents, words may kindle mourning. Within language, climate change is metamorphosing frighteningly many words into words of mourning.
Imagine a novella catching intimations of the oceans in their terrible fragility as sustainers of life by narrating a daughter in mourning for her mother. Imagine that, through the daughter’s grief, this novella allows the mourning climate change solicits in language to find articulation. With these imaginings, we arrive at Sandy Florian’s uncanny work of mourning, Boxing the Compass.
June 10th, 2013 / 11:00 am