Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thank you for letting us see your past, unfortunately it does not suit our present needs

Last night you dreamed you went to Manderley again and when you awakened, you spent some time checking out the opening of Rebecca, finding it still had the pull from your earlier readings and the last one of about two years back. Prompted by the integrity of the experience, you couldn't help thinking to wonder if a river still ran through the Normal McLean landscape both physical and emotional. Yes, you are happy to say, the river not only runs through it, the river runs convincingly through it. Two out of two is pretty good as such things go. You have attempted to return to the past via stories you once held close to your heart, only to find there were occasions where it was like trying to initiate and maintain a conversation with a former lover. There are times when such conversations are not only possible, they flow with the natural good intent of both parties and the results are beyond satisfying, they are affirmations of what you were, what you felt, what you believed.

Revisiting a book you once cherished is of a piece with driving through the old neighborhood, where ever that neighborhood happens to be. Parts of California, as parts of everywhere, simply aren't what they were. This was first born upon you when you'd thought to take photos of the homes and apartments you and your family had lived in since that day when you were brought home from the Santa Monica Hospital at Fifteenth Street and Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica to a modest single-story house at 611 Fourteenth Street, Santa Monica. Little did you know at the time what a big deal it was considered to live north of Wilshire. You wanted photos of this house, the house you'd managed to track down in Burbank, whence the family moved after a time, and then to 6165 Orange Street, where for all practical purposes your cognitive and imaginative processes began to expand and flourish. This display of residences was a birthday gift for your sister, she who had also had considerable effect on your cognitive and imaginative processes. Trouble was, the fourplex on Orange Street was gone, the Burbank house on Providencia was gone, and suddenly you lost your taste for the project, even though there were a few available hits still available. The project skidded to a complete halt when 1455 Michigan Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida was no longer 1455 Michigan Avenue.

The past is simply not reliable that way even though the past is, in some metaphoric way, the way things were for you, but not necessarily for anyone else. Nor is the past book you've read necessarily going to have remained faithful to you in that way books have of being everything wonderful you remembered as opposed to a presence you wanted to remove yourself from with all deliberate speed. This observation obtains as well with books you contracted as an acquisition editor. There are many titles you remain proud to have contracted, others serve as a reminder that your sense of literary taste is not always what you suppose it to be. There are books you were sorry to have missed getting and now, when you see them in the library or used book stores or on line, you are relieved not to have gotten them.

The complete saving grace in this equation is the fact that some books from the past not only contain remarkable discoveries and nuance, they cause you to see how there is yet more to be gleaned, more effect to work its way through you. In fact, there are some books that seem to vibrate in your hands as you read, making you wonder how you could have presumed to understood the work in an earlier reading when this latest reading gave you such riches and delight.

The meaning of all this is that you must not let the past win out just because there were some parts of the landscape that were changed, obliterated, built over. You must engage the past with the same force you use to engage the now, not taking it for granted, not for a moment.

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