Saturday, January 22, 2011

diamonds and orange peels

I've been reading Tinkers in and in front of elevators. It's one of Powells' bestsellers, and it's always on my carts on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays when I start my day shelving books. I spend so much of my free time writing, that I have to find creative ways to read. And since the elevator is so slow in the mornings at Powell's, I stand with my cart and page through Tinkers.

Here, a son watches his father:

Another time, I found him fumbling for an apple in the barrel we kept in the basement. I could just make him out in the gloom. Each time he tried to grab a piece of fruit, it eluded him, or I might say he eluded it, as his grasp was no stronger than a draft of air threading through a crack in a window. He succeeded once, after appearing to concentrate for a moment, in upsetting an apple from its place at the top of the pile, but it merely tumbled down along the backs of other apples and came to rest against the mouth of the barrel. It seemed to me that even if I could pick an apple up with my failing hands, how could I bite it with my dissipating teeth, digest it with my ethereal gut? I realized that this thought was not my own but, rather, my father's, that even his ideas were leaking out of his former self. Hands, teeth, gut, thoughts even, were all simply more or less convenient to human circumstance, and as my father was receding from human circumstance, so, too, were all of these particulars, back to some unknowable froth where they might be reassigned to be stars or belt buckles, lunar dust or railroad spikes. Perhaps they already were all of these things and my father's fading was because he realized this: My goodness, I am made from planets and wood, diamonds and orange peels, now and then, here and there; the iron in my blood was once the blade of a Roman plow; peel back my scalp and you will see my cranium covered in the scrimshaw carved by an ancient sailor who never suspected that he was whittling at my skull - no, my blood is a Roman plow, my bones are being etched by men with names that mean sea wrestler and ocean rider and the pictures they are making are pictures of nothern stars at different seasons, and the man keeping my blood straight as it splits the soil is named Lucian and he will plant wheat, and I cannot concentrate on this apple, this apple, and the only thing common to all of this is that I feel sorrow so deep, it must be love, and they are upset because while they are carving and plowing they are troubled by visions of trying to pick apples from barrels. I looked away and ran back upstairs, skipping the ones that creaked, so that I would not embarrass my father, who had not quite yet turned back from clay into light.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's gorgeous. I'd love to do some editing (!) but there's some amazing language and imagery there. "Diamonds and orange peels." "Stars or belt buckles."

    Totally unrelated - except that it does relate to books - but I meant to tell you that a customer bought a copy of "Stoner" from me the other night. I got so excited, and of course I had to tell him how I read a quote from it at our wedding. A quote "from a book [I'd] never read". He sweetly indulged me, so I hastened to assure him that I believed it to be a very well-respected book.