Wednesday, November 30, 2005

600 Feet Away, Less

Where I live, the little bits and pieces aren't all bad. Daytripper to university, takes classes in the heart of a million people. And nights, back at home, I watch the old grain elevator shuffling a country-polka across the railway tracks a block from my house. Side of your eye when you look at her, though. Full-on stare and she'll freeze, like a scarlet-horned deer pale in the headlights. The only thing moving will be you in the foreground and that cold blue sky brilliant behind her. Transit-time is forty plus minutes, minimum, between home and university. You think that's a lot of time? I think that's a lot of time. But I try not to mind the distance, or the minutes wheeling by, because what can I do? Remember, also, there's a lot of good things to look at, good people to talk to, good books to read, good essays to write. Yes, sometimes I mind the distance too much, but then I remember this is Alberta, and flat flat land, and long highways, and it doesn't matter whether you're going to heaven or hell—either way, you've got to drive there, and the drive won't be short.


"The Summer Of 98" + Shiney Friend "We were kissing in the rain / Please bring me back the summer again." It's not really a request if you listen closely. The girl's just a means to an end (to the comfort of what was) and the singer seems to know it, too, but this glitched-up request is okay and reasonable, because the song is not titled "The Girl Of 98", after all, not at all. If the girl listens to the singer (really listens, that is), she'll never come close to him again—at least, not in those same clothes. Her return would shatter his summer and every summer-memory. No, he wouldn't thank her. Those old relationships are dense with good moments. To bring back that connection would be to erase those memories. Better to have the song. Two years old, now, this song, two years since it was released. I wish this band (this man, the singer) was available and making music. Is he? I wish his dragged-out sketchy synth was still my shiny friend.

The Unbearable Bassington + Saki The author's note at the beginning of this novel is brutal—"This story has no moral. / If it points out an evil at any rate / It suggests no remedy." Saki's prose is brilliant, his story is better. The novel follows the usual Modernist pattern:1) the irrecoverable fall from a type of paradise, followed by 2) the realization that there never was or will be a paradise, followed by 3) death and crippling grief. Also, this is a very funny book, very wry, amusing, witty, any description of humour you want, really. The good lines are too many to quote, bad lines don't exist, and what at first I considered to be irrelevant scenes in this novel became, as I turned the pages, key exposition, and very emotionally resonant. True to his word, the author ends his novel irremedially unhappily for nearly everyone concerned (two minor characters—one never seen, only reported—are perhaps contentedly married). The selfish title character dies in a lonely fit of petulance, the mother realizes, too late, that her life has been filled with emptiness, and the debutante who quite rightly rejected the protagonist and married another man realizes she that has trapped herself into a type of inescapable hell. But she is resigned to her doom. "It was lame, that was why it was tame."

Very minor thing—a joke gets recycled. It's a very witty joke, brilliant, so the problem is that it stands out when it gets used again. I swear, btw, I've read something like this in Wilde or Benchley, someone like that, somewhere. Chapter Thirteen in this novel, Saki writes "We all know that Prime Ministers are wedded to the truth, but like other wedded couples they sometimes live apart." Earlier, in the fifth chapter, Saki had written, "I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart."

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