Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some Like Fortunato

I wake up with the smell of dust and rayon in my nose. This is the guest room where my books are, spread out between four book cases and a small one in a junk closet. My mouth feels dry and my eyes are sticky. Some dream, I can’t remember. I was young and in the dream I was angry.

Sitting up on the bed, pulling my knees under me, my neck hurts and I want to sneeze. The book I was reading is open to a page discussing some abstract theory about god’s internal and external nature expressed in Korean terms. Sentences highlighted variously in yellow and pink. Notes scribbled enthusiastically in the margins. Bird scratches from a previous incarnation, long dead but still kicking. A small brown spot of mud or maybe blood, I don’t know where that came from because I’ve had this book for forty years.

On that shelf there, those are the very first toys my kid had when he was born. There, my old camera next to my father’s older camera. There, a shelf of all my diaries where I keep them. There, a jar of fountain pens I’ve collected. That shelf - books about God, about mysticism. How to meditate. How to leave your body. How to pray. How to care. How not to care anymore. That shelf there, great books of world literature. That shelf there, books about how to fuck fancy. That shelf there, books of short stories, many of them also about fucking fancy, the very best stories held up as lanterns in this my magician's garden where I come for ideas.

Running my fingertips over the pages of this book, this book here in front of me, where my head had laid drooling on it’s pages, the pages he wrote in. I once loved this book. Or rather he did. Where do the old ideas go to die?

I close the book, remember something and flip it open to the title page and there - its still there. It’s a blessing. But it might be a curse. I still don’t know. Something he found blowing in the trash of the street in a moment of doubt, in a religion where doubt was regarded as a sin and a sign of weakness. A quote from the Bible “I love them that love Me. And those that seek Me early shall find me.” A serendipitous gesture blowing in the wind among autumn leaves down a street in Minneapolis in 1973 held out to that young man who believed that God spoke to him through everything; that if he persevered he would fulfill his dream, not for wealth or fame or beautiful lovers - but to find God only. Where does such innocence go to die?

The cover of this pretentiously thick book is reverently pebbled black to imitate the cover of a Bible, which book it was meant to imitate and which book it was to him. Lifting the book, feeling the heft of it, there is a ferocious urge to throw it at the wall. I go so far as to raise my arm, but the anger changes to pity. It’s not the books fault. A book doesn’t choose it’s birthright any more than a person does. As Nixie once said “In the end we are only what we are.”

I jump off of the bed, feeling the ache in old bones, these well traveled mortal bones inclined towards solitude and self pity. This book, back in your solitary cell. Let your God, the God in your pages see you there. Let that God speak to me if He cares, because we have abandoned each other. Do not hope again, book. I am your god. I have forgotten you.

I open the closet, put the book back in its solitary cell on death row and leave it.

Oh - these boxes on this shelf here on top, they have all the cassette tapes he made from phonograph records of Shakespeare plays. He used to listen to these tapes on a little Walkman player when he was working in the machine shop late at night, without heat, without food, with hope and faith. Because he belonged to a tribe of people with high minded idealism. People who had their eyes on God. I don’t think I could do that now. There was a strength then which came from a belief in the triumph of goodness. What shall we do with all that beauty now?

These books, they stink of failure. What sadder punishment for a book than to never be read? Never be opened? Like a woman, once cherished, who knows she will never be caressed. Or opened.

There book, there you go. Know you will not be read.Sulk there in the dark alone.

 For the love of God, Montressor!  Yes.  For the love of God.  











23 comments:

  1. Garce:
    This piece is so well crafted, measured and refined I had a hard time figuring it out until this:

    These books, they stink of failure. What sadder punishment for a book than to never be read? Never be opened? Like a woman, once cherished, who knows she will never be caressed. Or opened.

    There book, there you go. Know you will not be read. Sulk there in the dark alone.

    Oh man can I relate to that. I've got two bankers boxes of tablets full of my raging at god for all he denied me. Then one day I heard a little whisper, just the faintest little thing, not that mighty voice of fury, just a little voice that said, "You know, you'll be a lot happier if you'll use the gifts I gave you."

    Some day, maybe long after you're gone, the books will be opened, read and cherished by someone. I am reading a fascinating book right now by a great-great aunt I didn't know anything about until just recently. For seventy years her story sat on a shelf, ignored and now, it's a wonder to behold. It's a memoire of her travels alone in the Middle East in the 1930's. What a different world it was from the horror which has visited that place in these times.

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    1. Hi Spencer!

      We live in an interesting time. Even as fewer people read books, books are more prolific than at any time in history. And anyone can write and self publish a book, so its like there is suddenly this ocean of books on all different levels of literacy. Our stuff is out there somewhere, whether people readit or not. It'll always be around somewhere long after we're gone.

      Sometimes I think of guys like Herman Melville, who's last novel "Moby Dick" was a flop and quickly went out of print., He passed away thinking that he was a failure without realizing he'd written the great American novel. I wonder what people will think of our poor stuff and even this blog a hundred years from now? You never know.

      Garce

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  2. So powerful, searing by means of dust and abandonment, and with a stark beauty.

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    1. Hi Sacchi! Thank you for reading my stuff!

      Garce

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  3. So many great lines in this. I particularly love the rhythm of:
    "That shelf - books about God, about mysticism. How to meditate. How to leave your body. How to pray. How to care. How not to care anymore."

    As far as your ending, there is a place in my closet under my shoe rack where I have placed certain books I don't wish to read or display but that I don't feel right about letting go. Putting a book there is worse to me than tossing it into the donation dumpsters behind the supermarket, and I feel a cruel sort of satisfaction when I shove a book into that spot.

    Books are so much like people to me that I apparently think I can hurt or insult them.

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    1. Hi Annabeth!

      I'm like that too. I always have this feeling a little bit that things are alive, or have a secret life, as though there were this secret Disney movie playing all around us. Maybe you feel that way too sometimes. We all want our books to be loved.

      Garce

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  4. Another dynamite post, Garce. What a wordsmith you are, dude.

    Momma has a rule now: If you bring a book into the house, another one's going out the back door." Now I have to sneak 'em in. Keeps my inner child occupied being the bad boy.

    But for some reason, it's comforting surrounded by books I may never read again. I don't know if the house would feel the same if my copies of The Alexandria Quartet disappeared.

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    1. In my house, this rule would... quickly lead to a problem. Besides, I've now learned that there's infinite space in the cloud and I can load as many books as I want on my e-reader without being "caught!"

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  5. Hi Daddy X!

    What is the Alexandria Quartet?

    Garce

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    1. By Lawrence Durrell, a contemporary and friend of Nin and Miller. He plays a part in Nin's diary. The four novels: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea, known a "The Alexandria Quartet", one of my favorite works. I think I may have blogged here about it.

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    2. Never heard of them, though I'm a fan of Nin's erotica. I'll have to look it up.

      Garce

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    3. I've got to reread it - one of my all time favorite works... Thanks for the reminder, Daddy!

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  6. There is such truth in your post, Garce. I hope everyone here caught the allusion to one of the most famous spooky stories of all time, Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Whether the cask of Spanish wine really exists or not is never clearly determined, but during Carnival time, Montresor (Italian Renaissance nobleman) lures his "friend" Fortunato (who is literally dressed as a fool) to his wine-cellar, then chains him to the wall, and builds a brick wall to seal him in. Fortunato (who was drunk when Montresor ran into him) sobers up quickly, and begs for mercy: "For the love of God, Montresor." But Montresor continues, and is telling this tale 50 years after the fact. The reader never learns exactly why Montresor felt that Fortunato deserved his fate. He has been discarded like a book that no longer satisfies. Great analogy, Garce. (Luckily, though, a book can be revived.)

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    1. The concept of the Montressor is about a type of revenge for an insult that must be paid back. Wiki tells of the Monressor coat of arms with an eagle killing a snake. Fortunato ,who must have insulted Montressor, represents the snake.

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    2. Daddy, Jean:
      I saw a short movie version of this tale way back in the early 60's (don't know when it was produced) In the movie version, Fortunado has had an affair with Montressor's beautiful, young wife. In the alcove where the now drunk Fortunado will spend eternity, Montressor pulls the top off the cask of Amontillado and yanks his dead wife up from the wine by the hair. He buries them together behind the wall. It worked nicely for motive.

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    3. Hi Jean!

      Another Poe fan! I wasn't sure if`anyone would make the connection. You were the first to mention it. I've always loved that story, though my favorite Poe story is "The Masque of the Red Death" which is a masterpiece of of slowly building atmosphere and description.

      In the Cask of Amontillado its interesting that Poe never explains what it was that made Montressor so hell bent on revenge. It a mystery and I guess it show you don;t always have to explain everything.

      Garce

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  7. Alas, I'm like Daddy X. Though he married an English major, and likes to read himself, and we raised 4 voracious readers, husband still thinks I have WAY too many books. When there's a used book sale, I don't even tell him I'm going, then I wait until he's not home before sneaking the bag o' books I got for $10 (!!!) into the house. I surreptitiously hide them on the various shelves, based on: books I want to read right away, books I'll read someday (classics that I somehow never read, but feel guilty enough that I had to buy them, though they're free at the library!) and books I'd put in a classroom for the kids to read if I ever get a teaching job, but that's just a pipe dream, so those shelves I winnow out each time there's a book sale somewhere.

    This time around I dropped off most of my Anne Rice books. She's always been too wordy, and anything I wanted from her I got a long time ago, from her first few books. The rest I just couldn't get into, though husband used to gift me with the hard covers for my birthday. I never read them and the guilt I felt each time I walked by them was getting to be too much for me. Better they should grace the shelves of a sale, and perhaps find a new home where they'll be loved. Because in my house they've been languishing, ignored...or worse, resented because I feel guilty for not reading something he spent so much on, hoping to please me. I didn't tell him when I gave them away. (Guilt is a terrible thing to inflict on a child...it lasts a lifetime and grows of its own accord, into a monster whose roots threaten to strangle the adult.)

    And just saying, Garce, isn't it amazing how we feel when we try to recreate the emotions we once felt so strongly? The years mellow us, our priorities change. And even though we are indeed the same person, we find ourselves struggling to understand that younger "me".

    We're big Doctor Who fans here, and in one episode he says, "A man is the sum of his memories. Take them away and you destroy him." But to that I'd add that the memories fade as the years add so much more that needs to be remembered to your brain. A few things can strike the familiar emotional chords: music is a good one...or the taste of food...the smell of a perfume. But for the most part, as we age we lose the intense focus we once had. Sad, but inevitable, I guess.

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  8. Hi Fiona!

    I was thinking recently about this also, but not about books, how we change. There is an essential emptiness at the core of things. There were recent projects I'd felt so intense about only recently that have faded and slid down the pile. I look back at many things like this that seemed so important at the time. I think there is something transcendent at the core of us but it can;t be the ego because the ego changes so quickly and often. Who are we?

    I have to ask - have you ever read the Anne Rice (Anne Rampling) Sleeping Beauty trilogy?

    GArce

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    1. Husband bought them years ago when we were collecting erotica to share with each other, and he said he found them too "harsh" so he put them down after reading the first one. I couldn't even get through the first one. To me there's nothing erotic about humiliation, particularly when a man is spewing disgust, loathing and scorn upon a woman. Needless to say I'm not a fan of BDSM, though I've read some, including one by Lisabet, that I enjoyed because she creates such real people. But I still don't like the power play going on, even when it's the woman as the dom and the man as the sub. It's not for me.

      I have to add that my father denigrated my mother emotionally for her whole life. She married him because she fell in love with his accent and he danced so beautifully that she felt like Ginger Rogers to his Fred Astaire. Of course ol' Fred was said to have been an asshole in real life. But Mom believed in the "dream" of real-life-love that would "complete" her. Dad just wanted someone to cook for him and darn his socks because he was tired of doing that shit work for himself. Opposite viewpoints. But he was taller, stronger, and more worldly as well as verbally prolific. She stood up for herself for many years, but towards the end she'd been beaten down emotionally for far too long. He used to insist that since he never hit her, as his own dad had beaten his mother, that he was a good husband. I guess it never occurred to him that telling her she was stupid and incapable of anything worthwhile, was a sort of abuse. So to me, any kind of dom-sub power plays remind me of what I had to watch, helplessly, while I was growing up. And she regressed during her dementia, to a child-like person...I took care of her as it broke my heart. He died 3 years before she did--even though I loved him, he was an asshole to my mom whom I loved even more. So don't look for any "highlander", men-in-kilts romances from me.

      I used to say that if all marriages were like theirs, then I'd become a lesbian by choice. But once I had my first dick, I wanted all of them. Alas, an inveterate heterosexual. Lucky for me, I met a man whose idea of love consisted of lots of hot passion, mutual respect, and a firm friendship because we liked doing the same things. He's not perfect and neither am I. But we've been good with and for each other for over 30 years. Still, if he ever hit me I'd call the cops. And since I'm a MENSA member, he can't accuse me of being stupid.

      FYI, the men who are into beating women are always the villains in my books. And I usually use the same name for the alpha-holes who irritate the heroine, because I dated a few of them, and many had the same name.

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  9. Garce, I've read them. They're quite appealing.

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  10. Hi Jean!

    They're very strange books. They're pure pulp, but they're written in a very literate way. They're very appealing. I still go back and snack on them once in a while. I don;t know how 50 Shades made it to the big time and those books didn't.

    Garce

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    1. I've always been an Anne Rice fan - I have a 1975 edition of Interview with the Vampire. I read the Beauty trilogy on assignment, when I was first being mentored in BDSM. However, I found the books a bit flat - all outrageous sex but no real emotion with which I could connect.

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  11. This post is glorious, Garce.

    The books we read serve their purposes, at the time. Even the ones stashed in your closet, walled up behind the brick wall of your cynicism. You would not be the marvelously creative and complex person you've become if not for those books.

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