Friday, May 31, 2013


A cat must feel so loved.

Someone recently mentioned to me a frog, sitting on the bank of a pond in the sun, it has no worries because it has no future.

Do you ever fear listening to a piece of music because it will recall the past? I can recall for almost any song in my collection just how I came to find it, and most are pegged to a specific time for me, when it was new and fresh and I listened to it a hundred times in a row. Sometimes we do not want to go back so soon to the scene of the crime.

Not the distant past, mind you. The more distant past is usually more benign; we've had time to process, to fit it into a greater arc, we've seen what became of its narrative threads, and we know everything worked out. No, the most recent prior chapter is usually the most awkward to revisit.

Well, not the most recent, not yesterday or last week, those are still in some sense this chapter, even if some official page has been turned, graduated; rather, as I said, the most recent prior chapter, when truly enough time has past to make it then rather than "now." There's a meme going around somewhere (so fragmented my thoughts, our lives now): a college freshman back for winter break is so excited to see high school friends in their hometown; a college senior covers her face or ducks down another aisle in the grocery store.

In thirty years you can laugh at yourself, in three or even five you can't yet disown yourself, there's not been enough time to generate another body so that you can step out of that one, stand back, and look at "him." No, when "he" is still peeling away from "you," this old skin we shed like snakes, it can fill you with that sehnsucht to see it, to realize that change is not merely something that "happened," it happens, happens while you waste the time, fill it with what always seems like not enough water to even begin to wet the sponge. And yet are the people trying to wet theirs trying to wash something away?

I wrote something recently, about the moment when you realize how tall the trees have become, and realize that it hasn't been "then" for a very long time, you just hadn't stopped to "look back" for a long time either, and when you do, all of it happens at once, it all consolidates in your mind, you realize what has receded into the past, and so you startle and shake, like when you've overslept; it's been how many weeks?? It's been half a year since November! How much new content has filled the lives of old friends with whom you used to have the same life (or at least five periods a day together). It's not that you've lost touch; they still fill you in at holidays, even daily or weekly (social networking, texting, they've made "keeping in touch" cheap and "catching up" worthless). But soon you find a shorter and shorter summary is filling you in on larger and larger spans of time not shared. You used to see all the gritty takes, edited out later. Now you get the story through the lens of hindsight, already edited, already interpreted; you're no longer privy to the rough drafts. You used to be one of their biographers, as it were, you could say, "Hey! No, that's now how it happened!" because you were there, could offer another spin on it that might effect the "final cut." Now they have other biographers and you're just waiting in line to have your copy autographed.

I like book titles. Not books, mind you, though some of those are good too. I like titles though, of books I've never read. "East of Eden," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "In Search of Lost Time." Has anyone read Proust? I should, I'm sure, but would it ruin what that title, what the idea of his work, has come to stand for, for me, would the concrete ruin the abstraction, the hypothetical everything mystical that book could be. In Search of Lost Time. Then again, perhaps, I flatter myself. What does it mean for me? The only memory I have is standing in line at a Starbucks, looking at the little packaged Madeleines they have and telling my dad, "The episode of the Madeleine is a famous instance of involuntary memory." As my brother has been saying, "So meta." I just read it on Wikipedia, and maybe it's not a good example at all, maybe my memory is entirely forced. Still, there are other Madeleines. His Lady of, of course (that's why I hate Paris, you know; only she deserves Rome indeed, harlots both! Not her, I don't mean! Of course not the Virgin, painted red or not, no I mean other things.) And a little girl (in two straight lines) in a movie (all covered in vines) who makes me cry, invariably.

Has Stream of Consciousness past its prime? Probably. The first person who does it is a genius. I'm just some disaffected (kid? guy? man? young man?) person sitting in his basement in one of those late night reveries because I slept too long, too much, too late. But we were talking about Joyce tonight, my face was sore from laughing just a few hours ago, as (by a confluence of conversational events) my brother did a faux dramatic reading of his famous dirty letters to his (Joyce's) Nora to his (Stephen's) Eryka. And now I could cry. How many years longer will the cat live? 

Such a good cat, hates other cats like my sister hates other women (girls? young women?) but loves me, comes and sits, follows the last one up to bed. Arthritic now, and deaf. Does she remember her youth, when she has lain there in the sun, does she dream? If she does I know they're happy. She's been safe and treated well. When one comes home from college or Canada one can pick up right where one has left off with the cat. Would that people were that way.

A cat must feel so loved.


Carpe Diem said...


Bridget said...

I've read Proust, but in the Scott Moncreiff translation, which I suspect is better than the original because it doesn't read like a translation. I mean, there is, generally, something about the quality of the English in translations of great works that differs from, and which is inferior to, the English of great works originally written in English, and to overcome this shortcoming in any translation of a great work would require the English to be qualitatively superior to the equivalent exhibited in the original being translated. 
Scott Moncreiff's retrieval of Shakespeare's "Remembrance of Things Past" rather than "In Search of Lost Time," is right, I think, because "Remembrance" better points up the presentness and largely passive nature of the recuperation the writer is being engaged in. He isn't actively seeking out something called time; rather, he must refrain from interfering with a process through which "things past" make themselves present for the future. Where was I? Oh yes. I've read Proust...

Michael said...
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