And about, and about, and oh, about…

In Current reading, Revision on July 26, 2014 at 6:31 am

In the shelves downstairs, under Volume 2 of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, I come across something titled White Noise by Don Delillo. Read a bit over a third of the novel. His ear is phenomenal; so is the pervasive angst. The pervasive dread brought on by too much to think about and not enough to do about it. The middle-aged Northern American male with unparalleled access to information. Surrounded by preternaturally swift-minded children (his own from previous marriages, plus the offspring from his current spouse’s previous arrangements). Plus his current spouse – the equivalent of an Earth Mother symbol with anxiety  issues over her weight and whether to chew sugarless gum or not. “Heart-stopping, as if we were listening to a massive glacier breaking up,” reads part of the New York Times blurb on the back of the book.

This may well be but I’m in no rush for heart-stopping. Despite the remarkable run of inspired musings on everything imaginable, I set the book aside and got some sleep while the family fled a man-made toxic spill disaster and argued over the taxonomy of rodents. Sleep felt good. There was some nice, plain and simple writerly advice tucked into the seams of a dream or two. I don’t recall any of it this morning, but that’s OK.

(What also struck me about the book was how writing in the past tense is well-suited to the drifting-in-a-lifeboat-while-denying-the-existence-of-sharks feeling the novel inspires.)*

I’m keeping Volume 2 of The Norton Anthology of American Literature close by. It runs from Samuel L. Clemens “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” through Native Oratory, chants and Songs, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, Sandburg, William Carlos Williams etc etc all the way to Louise Erdrich (Lulu’s Boys) and American Poetry up to Li-Young Lee (b. 1957). Not to mention all the ones I haven’t mentioned.

* And yet, most novels are written in the past tense. So that pervasive drifting feeling in Delillo’s White Noise has more to do with all that thinking about, and about, and…


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