Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Don’t forget how easy it is to burst a balloon. Don’t forget that a person who is full of hot air is not someone you should trust your life to.

Remember that love is blind. This is what you know.
Diane Schoemperlen, Forms of Devotion
Over the past few days I've been reading Kingston writer Diane Schoemperlen's novel Forms of Devotion (Harpercollins, 1998), winner of that year's Governor General's Award. It's a novel I started reading when I was still west, but put down for some reason, reading it on the bus back from Banff into Edmonton. In wonderful lyric prose, there is a lot here that reminds of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, another book I've been thumbing through lately, as a novel going through the structures of how one writes these fictional worlds.
In retrospect all of my mistakes are clear and close to sublime. It is as if I've been living in a land where all the princes turn into frogs when you kiss them too much. For years I've been trying to figure out the nature of love. This seems to be an unnecessarily well-kept secret. Either everybody else already knows it and they're not telling, or else nobody knows it and they're all bluffing. For years I've wanted to be just like everybody else. For years I've been searching with the sun in my eyes.
Writing writing on writing can always be dangerous. What has Schoemperlen [see her 12 or 20 questions here] figured out that the rest of us haven’t yet? Through numerous series of explorations, she writes out love and she writes out writing out love and relationships and the building blocks of both, writing out her love. Calvino's novel, it's been said, was certainly ahead of its time, but still so much contemporary fiction sounds exactly the same, but somehow Schoemperlen has managed something different.

Like any form, it seems, the novel is only dead if no one keeps it alive. If no one brings it to life.

Most of what we think is essential to our survival has been blown out of proportion. I used to think I would die if I couldn’t dance. I have finally agreed to stop wanting what I can't have. Everywhere I go, the earth seems to be tilting away from me. If the sun were the size of a basketball, then the earth would be the head of a pin.

I am learning to live with the paradox that the horizon, when I finally get there, is not likely to be at all the way I pictured it.


Now that I've finally got all this dust out of my eyes, I discover that I have all the time in the world. The trick is to remember that the horizon, like the future, is always out there: even when it's midnight and you're holding your breath with your eyes closed, even when you haven’t been able to catch sight of it for years. The trick is to remember that although, according to the rules of perspective, all receding parallel lines must converge at the horizon, in fact, according to the rules of real life, they don't.

When was the last time you asked yourself:
How hot is the sun?
How old is the moon?
Who invented the wheel?
Who discovered the speed of light?
Who is the patron saint of promises?
What was my first mistake?

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