Tuesday, March 15, 2011

295. The Book of Blurbs

I might say this about these:


We find, within the wide covers of this book, a buoyancy we did not think we had, a means of living through the word, and the word in strings, and even the word isolated on a page for concentrate contemplation, and in living through it all we learn to forget. The deepening rind, which holds us together and attempts to repel the memories that haunt our sleeping and sleepless moments, becomes porous upon reading this book, and memories go right through us. As if they were light. As if we were water.


The author creates a sense of place in this book, but not one of location, of locus, of being simply in situ. Hers is a sense of the human body and mind in the moveable place of its own desires, entrapped in the world of regrets, of her own regrets. By the end of it all—the words run full out and used to exhaustion—the sense of regret, of bundled regrets accumulated over the carefully trodden path of a somewhat usual life, becomes something comforting, almost joyous, and we are left with the feeling that regrets are our only proof of our human frailty and fallibility and of our own feeble but endearing goodness and worth.


A book does not make us who we are and rarely helps us be anything, not a new self or the better version of the self we are, but this book creates an aura of longing, as if every character within it were suffused with some warm liquid making them warm and drowsy. But it isn’t the characters who long for something, or even the poet herself. Instead, the longing arises out of the words, so it grows within us, and it is a longing for words, for the sounds of them, for how they sit properly on the page with their ragged right edges, and for the meaning easing itself out of those words and into us. The book becomes a true book of longing, a longing for the very words on its pages, which we can hold in our consciousness for only a moment before the shadow of the moving wing of a bluejay takes us away from it all.


There is something broken about this book, just like the characters the author describes within it. These essays recount stories of the author’s life from early childhood to late middle age, and each is a story about another broken person in the author’s life, yet she can’t save them and the book can’t either. The book’s attempts at rescue are always valiant, though, and endearing. That carries us, because the point of living is not so much to succeed as it is to try one’s hardest to succeed. And this makes even a seemingly paltry attempt at success a reason for joy.


Although this book is a novel, it is also, and necessarily, a book of pictures and of words, and the surprise of it is that the images within its pages—the real images, not the fabricated images arising out of words—form the core of the book. The pictures guide us through every major event of the book and define those events in a way the vagueness of words never could achieve. Yet it all seems impossible, and the importance of images to meaning just seems like another one of the lies told by the book’s charming but unreliable narrator, who even tells us, “The photographs work only because the words tell you how they do.”


A body, at its base, exists to fulfill its desires, though the fulfillment of all desires could never be possible. A seeming manual of desire, this book instead becomes one way for us to quench our desires—for food, for sex, for laughter, for the slightest brushing of a finger across the back of the neck, for the sense of breathing in the short warm breaths of a lover. If we cannot fulfill our desires within the bodies of our own persons, this book promises a way to do it remotely, yet somehow completely naturally, since so many of our desires are meant for no greater province than that of our own imaginations.


Every letter written is a tiny instance of the blood of that person, a simple way some part of a person is released for the benefit another. Sometimes, those manifestations of self are mundane or given over to the meaner ways of the human: to self-pity or denigration of others. Yet each of the letters in this book, each found as a piece of garbage discarded maybe without notice, is a revelation about the extent and the price of humanity. Each gives a little hope for a race of beasts given over to baser actions than the care of others. Yet these simple notes, filled with misspellings and strange but apt phrasings, are somehow joyous, even the saddest of them, because they are evidence of the attempts of so many people to help someone else, even if (especially because) they are doing something for themselves at the same time.


At first this book might confound a reader. It seems, after all—the title tells us all of this—a book about everything we might care about. That it is a blank book only confirms this fact.


There was nothing to it.

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