Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Walter Abish – 99: The New Meaning


Sarah Laughed. You’re making it up.


Marianne. Evidently . . . it’s funny in French . . . in the end, words often mean the opposite to what they are supposed to mean. We say ‘evident’ about things that aren’t evident at all.


(knocking a pipe, was he offensive)


They glanced back at me, speaking in low tones. Nothing, I thought, can break the whiteness of our voices.


For fully five minutes I must have sat inert, exhausted, as though I myself had been a third combatant in the deathly struggle recently concluded.


No—there isn’t enough time to do it right. There was never enough time to do it right, I said.


They are too preoccupied, too indifferent to anything that does not regard them personally.


Look she said.


A shower of rockets rose in the sky, f soon, reaching the height of their ascent, their glowing cases burst with a sharp bang, scattering through space a thousand luminous portraits of the young Baron Ballisterous, which it was intended should be substituted for the normal, commonplace succession of rain and stars. Each image burst from its case, unfolded of its own accord, to float at large, with a gentle swaying motion.


Can one—at least, could one ever—begin to write without taking oneself for another? For the history of sources we should substitute the history of figures: the origin of the work is not the first influence, it is the first posture: one copies a role, then by metonymy, or art: I begin by reproducing the person I want to be.


Marco was just impractical, an absolutely helpless man. All that he could do was copy ancient things and write about them. His mind was completely in it. All practical affairs of life seemed impossible to him, such a simple matter of finding food or buying a railway ticket seemed a monumental job.


He was a tall, fair-haired pink faced young man, slightly bald. He could not have been more than thirty. He spoke in a slow, serious voice, which often rose to a shrill, feminine pitch and died away in that delicate whisper, or, as Gerard de Nerval says of Sylvia, that FRISSON MODULE, in which lies so much of the charm of the Oxford accent, no, alas, no longer fashionable.


He asked for descriptions of where I worked, the city and its surroundings and the people I had met.


Brown envelopes of blue picture? he repeated. He never said a dickey bird to me, now, about any blue pictures. He grinned, and then an uncertain memory floated back. Wait now, I tell a lie. Back in summer, he told me he had a good tickle going for him, do you see.


This takes up a Saturday morning in the department stores around Herald Square.


Maybe he was getting warmer, but his look or wish was turned before it got far enough.


How was the small dining room lit?


Thus we sat and I kept up my persuasive drone; I am a bad speaker, and the oration which I seem to render word for word did not flow with the lissome glide it has on paper.

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