Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rare evenings indeed when I don’t run into Immanuel there, flickering in and out as if he were made entirely of radio waves, his voice just barely audible over the voices of all the other patrons who must think I am talking to myself. That I do talk to myself on a regular basis should make little difference in the overall judgment of others, but I know the world works according to two or three basic scripts and there is nothing you can do about it and we are, at present, halfway through the second. Immanuel spends a great deal of time studying the footnotes and the appendix and he claims to be working on a treatment of them that is set in the middle ages, a treatment in which the characters (mostly trolls and jesters and their various hangers-on) express themselves as both extension and thought. This makes little sense to me and I say so between bites of liverwurst but Immanuel will not listen to reason unless it is of a certain variety – meaning, it drives itself into a corner where it can not escape and where it morphs rather quickly into something that looks and behaves and even smells a little like an eel. Immanuel is partial to my recounting that part of the voyage when he was too far away to receive my messages, when the mail I sent by sealed bottle would float for seven or eight years before ever reaching shore and still it had half a continent to go. The house that seemed most likely to represent accurately where it is we live and why we live there was that crafted by the hunters of seals who took ice for granted and were enormously skilled at shaping it and bending it like pieces of rubber. They threw something together in less than twenty days. It had parlors and a working kitchen and each room turned into the next without your really being able to tell the difference. It just seemed as if you were surrounded at every moment by the distorting ice and the sun trapped gloriously in the ice and now and again the stars. I never could figure out how they kept the place so pristine given that their hands were forever bloodied from stripping the hide and the flesh and the blubber from those creatures they didn’t so much worship as speak to directly the way you might speak to an equal. To a cousin your age, say, whom you have known as long as you have known your own name. I tell Immanuel to identify his authentic vision and stick to it, not adopt that of others because he thinks it is the best way to earn a reputation, to make himself known among those who pay attention to things like who is writing books on the far shore and who is simply aping the motions. Moving the fingers absently over the image of a keyboard. It must be difficult, though, coming and going like that, being somewhere and then being somewhere else without ever really being anywhere at all. It reminds me of dreams I’ve had in which the ground swallowed me up and in my endeavors to dig myself back to the surface, to claw my way toward the sunlight, I found that I had no hands. Only loose flaps of skin where my hands used to be. They were useless and caused me severe pain whenever they came into contact with the soil. I was horrified, of course, but there was something unnervingly beautiful about them as well, something alien and familiar all at the same time, which made me happy eventually to abandon all sense of purpose and just sit there and stare at them, to congratulate myself, in fact, on having generated them through little more than the force of my own unconscious will.       

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