Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Ultimate Put-down

Although you have heard and pursued arguments to the contrary, it is your belief that change may possibly be enhanced but never hurried; it wants and takes its own time.  And your change is not someone else's change, your change has its own inner clock.  For all practical matters, you are not aware of change on a daily basis.  You may look at notebooks and journals you began compiling at about age twenty; more convenient is a review of blog entries, as you have done recently to check out the allegations that you wrote of someone from your past as being a deadbeat.  

Risking the sounds of vainglory, you must admit your recent entries, your notes to the various components of your self, comprise a more detailed map of the known universe of you than do your earlier notebooks, a broader set of interests, preoccupations, likes and dislikes.  But no accurate index of change, only the sense that you have over the years become something other than what you were although still a direct relative of that person.

The agent provocateur of these observations came into place because this is the week to review a Golden Oldie, a book that has been published sometime significantly back in the past, for demarcation purposes, at least as far back as the penultimate review, The Canterbury Tales, but at least something published five years ago.

You don't recall the trigger that led you to William Eastlake's 1951 novel, Go In Beauty, only that upon first reading it, you were transfixed.  It had nearly everything you wanted within a book.  It had the Southwest, it had Indians, it had contemporary issues, it had mesas and buttes, it had creation myths and mysticism.  If Navajo were not your favorite native Americans, they were next door to them, some of the Hopi attitudes then bound to rub off.

How easy it was to slip over to Amazon, find a copy from a nearby vendor, and click on the Order tab.  How special to find the envelope in yesterday's mail, slip the pocket knife into the fold, and withdraw a trade paper version in reasonably fine condition.  How easy to slip over to Peet's, order a foamy latte, sit back, and send yourself back to a younger you and to the part of the country you've been itching to revisit for some time now.

In a similar mood, also relying upon Amazon, you ordered a book from the depths of your immersion in noir fiction.  Even the title worked its magic on you:  You Play the Red and the Black Comes Up, which was written by the same man who wrote Lassie, Come Home.

True enough, you have had other such flashes of nostalgia and insight, all of which amply repaid their recall; it was these two that were such abject failures.  Having read and feasted on each earlier, you could scarcely bring yourself to continue reading beyond the first forty or fifty pages as the evolved you, or is it the more cynical you or the more conservative you, or--?

Go In Beauty is the quintessential mantra of Navajo being; an entire culture and religion is built around the joys and comforts of things in harmony.  Rituals are plentiful to cure the un-beauty of people, places, and things.  These are called blessingways and still seem to you a remarkable concept for anyone to have at ready disposal.  Go In Beauty is also a novel that demonstrates to you the things you once found magical and now find tedious, unbelievable, certainly unremarkable.

Quick, find five hundred kind words to say or think or feel about the book.  No problem.  You could start with the obvious love the writer has for the countryside and for the horses and for his acceptance of the multitude of personalities that are crammed into the single individual.  You could point out that he places an abundant burden upon anyone who would say I am a writer.  Easy five hundred words out of those; possibly even many more hundreds of words.  But there are these words now to reflect how much that book meant to you at the time you first read it and how you cannot bring yourself to read farther than the third chapter, words that reflect the considerable burden it has placed on you to spend time understanding, reviewing, revisiting the two entirely differing landscapes you inhabit.

It is an equal crisis when you come upon a work you were dismissive of, aware of your sneering, your condescension, reminding you in addition to the discoveries of change within you of the dismissive, sneering, condescending person who stormed about, wearing your clothing, dining with your friends, attempting intimacy with your girlfriend, using your red Olivetti portable typewriter to weave out stories to which your name was signed.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom at least two high school teachers conspired with you to cause you to dislike back then, would have relished the idea for a story you would now dedicate to him much as Mozart dedicated those six remarkable string quartets to Josef Hayden.  A writer picks up a story, begins reading it, sneers, says "I could have done this better," then sets it down, unfinished, only to be told, "But it was you who wrote it."


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