Last night, I dreamed that I was in a clearing in a forest, and my wife was below me, yelling that I should fly higher to avoid danger. It was nighttime, there were some stars. I felt scared as I rose, but then I felt very happy, because my wife joined me over the forest, and we escaped along the mountain ridges.
It is a dream I have not had in so long. It is the kind of dream that I’ve missed having, one that I had so many times before when I was a young boy. Most of you have probably had this dream as well: the flying dream. Yes, when I was little, I often dreamed that I could fly. In my dream, I floated out of my room, down the stairs to the landing at the front door of our house, and outside.
In my last post, I casually mentioned that when I first read The Age of Wire and String, I wasn’t very familiar with the precursors that had ‘made it possible’ as a book. Of course, I’m not sure exactly what earlier books helped Marcus write it, nor do I really know what it means to really ‘make a book possible.’ Instead, I think I meant that I hadn’t yet read writing that gave me a way of better appreciating The Age of Wire and String. My first reading of that book was really exciting, but difficult; I felt lost quite a lot through that book the first time. I felt that the book was isolated–and isolated me–when I first read it, but now that I’ve read some other stories and books, I think I feel comfortable putting it in a group of others that I feel do similar things to me as I read.
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is one of those stories that, for me, connects to The Age of Wire and String in a meaningful way. As I’ve mentioned before in some of these other posts, I had previously thought of stories as ABC tales of one character or another’s plights, such as “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “To Build a Fire,” “The Most Dangerous Game,” etc., this next stage in my reading began to tune me into how words might be used for other purposes: world-building, for example.
Two years before I had discovered, in a volume of a certain pirated encyclopedia, a superficial description of a nonexistent country; now chance afforded me something more precious and arduous. Now I held in my hands a vast methodical fragment of an unknown planet’s entire history, with its architecture and its playing cards, with the dread of its mythologies and the murmur of its languages, with its emperors and its seas, with its minerals and its birds and its fish, with its algebra and its fire, with its theological and metaphysical controversy. And all of it articulated, coherent, with no visible doctrinal intent or tone of parody.
I read Notable American Women before I read The Age of Wire and String, so despite my being somewhat familiar with Marcus and his interviews and his writing, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the kind of ‘language monsters’ he had packed into those 140 pages when I opened the book for the first time in the summer of 2006.
And although the book begins with a sort of prologue, or ‘argument,’ which describes the book as a ‘life project’ meant to catalogue the age of wire and string, I will always think of the opening sentence of “Intercourse with Resuscitated Wife” as the warning shot, a language bunch that reoriented my understanding of how a parcel of words might be arranged in unusual ways.
The dropped articles, the potential comma splice, the archaic tone, the oddity described by the text, all of these I might have seen before, but never in such a sustained and tightly controlled way as this, and not in a contemporary landscape. And furthermore, I hadn’t yet become aware of many of the precursors who made such a collection possible. So to read this first sentence was a bit shocking for me, but in a good way, and helped me take greater care in my reading and writing from then on.
Intercourse with resuscitated wife for particular number of days, superstitious act designed to insure a safe operation of household machinery.
In 2003, McSweeney’s published issue 12, which consisted of 12 unpublished writers and some other stuff. A friend of mine made me buy this issue, and I remember talking with him about one story in particular. It’s the only story I remember from the issue: “Cold France” by Wythe Marschall. I read it on the floor of my bedroom at my parent’s house while home from college during some break or another. Since then, I have occasionally thought of “Cold France” and idly wondered whatever happened to Wythe Marschall. His bio in the contributors’ notes section said that he was nineteen at the time, and so he forever remains nineteen in my head, despite what Google just told me.
“Cold France” consists of seventeen short sections, each of which describes a different “permutation” of France. There is “Dog France,” “Whale France,” “Tent France,” “Sponge France,” and “Fat France.” I read that in “Merry France” one Frenchman “simply said ‘fox’ until all of Limoges had died from heart seizures” from laughing so hard. In “Dark France” a man questions his existence: “What is the meaning of darkness? thinks Jean. He wants to move to another country, but he cannot see what ticket to buy at the station. A badger walks into him in the woods when he is on vacation.” In “Slow France” I read “Because each follicle has so long to think over each new molecule of French hair, each French strand is shinier, stronger, and more fit to entertain at parties than other, foreign hairs. So when you get it in the mail, please remember: Whatever you do, don’t cut your French hair.”
One of the first times I heard Kenny Loggins, I was probably pretty young. Top Gun came out in 1986, so I was probably six years old or so when I first heard “Highway to the Danger Zone.” My father stood in front of the television when they showed Goose dead in Maverick’s arms.
My mother had a cassette tape of Celebrate Me Home and a cassette tape of Loggins and Messina, both of which we all listened to in the car on the way to school.
Many people don’t know this about me, but when I was in 5th grade, I actually saw Loggins in concert. My family was visiting Chattanooga to look for houses, as we planned to move there within the next year, and we visited during the summer when the city has a festival called Riverbend. Loggins performed. I don’t remember much of it, sadly.
The opening story in Levi’s The Sixth Day and Other Tales, “The Mnemogogues,” was my introduction to Levi. In it, Dr. Morandi, a young physician, arrives at his outpost in a small town in order to take the place of the aging Dr. Montesanto, who speaks to Morandi “about the defnitive prevalence of the past over the present, and the final shipwreck of every passion, except for his faith in the dignity of thought and the supremacy of the things of the spirit.”
Three months ago I sent in the final version of my manuscript to Amanda and Joseph at Caketrain. To celebrate this accomplishment I bought a PS3 and a copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops, which I played for nearly every day until about a week ago when hackers completely shut down the Playstation Network, suddenly dumping me back into reality.
In the resultant silence, I returned to books, reading in two days the entertaining Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat, which I recommend. I read In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan during two consecutive lunch breaks at work. And then I reread a favorite, Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz, to finally recharge myself.