Post Road Magazine #25

Passages

C. R. Resetarits

I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me. This is not the scene I dream of. Like much else nowadays, I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere. If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who. I shall feel proud and satisfied to have been the first author to enjoy the full fruit of his writings, as I desired, because my only desire has been to make men hate those false, absurd histories in books of chivalry, which thanks to the exploits of my real Don Quixote are even now tottering, and without any doubt will soon tumble to the ground. Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. But that is the beginning of a new story—the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born. I am an American, Chicago born. I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped. I am an invisible man. Whether I turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is.

Key:

Opening W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge (1944). Opening Edith
Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911). Opening Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum (1959; trans. Ralph Manheim). Ending J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians (1980). Ending Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle (1963). Ending Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605, 1615; trans. John Rutherford). Ending Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952). Ending Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955). Ending F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925). Opening L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953). Ending Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (1866; trans. Constance Garnett). Opening Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759-67). Opening J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Opening Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953). Opening John Hawkes, Second Skin (1964). Opening Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952). Opening Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850). Ending Russell Banks, Continental Drift (1985).


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