Friday, January 2, 2009

The world beyond fictions

I am experiencing that disjunct between reality and fictions this morning. All kinds of stories over the holidays. People I know dealt with illness, disappointment, loss. A writer I liked so much I once tried to find his address to write him a thank-you letter has died - Donald Westlake. He always worked on a portable manual typewriter, and could not be reached by e-mail. I watched interviews on the BBC with another favorite writer, Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's. Later, watched a DVD of The Company, its fedoras and low light and hard liquor and the Lucky Strikes on the desk all taking me back to the ambience of my childhood in the early fifties. Same day I finished a Forsythe novel about terrorism, The Afghan, which showed how far technology has taken the game of war. Watched the beginning of the NBC news, where war isn't a game, and suddenly felt like I don't like to do that anymore. The evening news (a godhead in my youth) has become another anxious attempt to stay in business by entertaining you. Year-end stuff: went through the receipt box, which gave me the year as seen in purchases backwards. (In March, we were still going out to eat.) I heard from new blog readers, a 14-year-old girl whose web page reminded me of what it was like to be that age. In a fit of simplifying, decided to get rid of my fancy Google home page and go back to the plain and ordinary, but couldn't figure out how.

In all this, I was led through subtle impulses to reactivate my Facebook, and woke up vaguely sorry that I had. One more gate into all these people, all these stories. The way Facebook is arranged, you are forced to present yourself as a brand, a certain coherence. "What is your favorite quote?" Facebook asks me. "The world is too much with us," I thought.

But it isn't the world that's too much with me. The real world in all its solidity, never mind what they say about emptiness, the real world inside our house is quiet and sane. The world outside my big study windows is speechless, the ivy on the trunks of the oaks eternally green, waving in the breeze. The few berries on the nameless bush red - there are now few enough that you could count them. By and by I am likely to see robins hazard the thinner branches to get those remaining berries; but that's a memory, another story. Right now, no robins. . . here they are.

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