On Pale Fire

17 11 2009

A glass house made of words creates a ball in my throat. I swallow and it remains. There is no way to vanish it. I swallow and it remains. I know what you’re thinking, it’s something else. The glass house made of words is empty. I cannot forget. And yet it’s full if I fill it. Should I fill it, then? The glass house made of words wants me to enter and paint on its walls so that they may be visible from every which angle, since the glass house is predictably transparent. You will note it is empty, and yet you will wonder if that is not a visual trick, a mischievous sleight-of-hand, because inside there’s immensity. The ball in your throat becomes bigger and always you feel the house houses profundity beyond belief. You don’t believe it. There’s no humanity! But what is humanity save what we bring with us? Or is that an excuse? The glass house made of words beckons, I wish to enter. Where is the door? Ah, it is here. This is so silly. I feel the screaming inside the house, but I don’t believe it. They tell me these houses are empty, and I believe that. But the screaming persists and it says that the glass house is actually a labyrinth. And then I realize that every labyrinth is full of passion, because only passion can manage to conceive the folds and pathways of a labyrinth, only passion can allow the needed concentration to linger and never waver. But is it a cold passion, a pale fire? The fact is this: I feel the screaming and I feel the cold. I feel the screaming in the cold folds. I am confused by irreconcilable emotions, touching the frigid surface, sensing the reverberations of screaming underneath, understanding that the screaming, silenced by the surface, is paradoxically augmented by the surface that conceals it, because an exposed scream is not as monstrous as the barely perceptible scream that builds a personal prison in the name of privacy. We pummel down the walls of the temple, the glass house made of words, as fragile as it is vast, and we note that the labyrinths ask us to solve its pathways. And so we try to solve them, only to soon realize that the solving is idiotic, for the feeling comes not from the solving but from the sheer existence of labyrinths awaiting nervously for the event of our interpretation. But is that right? For our solving uncovers connections and dialogues, echoes and confrontations, spite and spit, scuffle and kicking, quote and misquote, so that the solving grabs the threads and makes a whole, save this is a ghostly whole, a whole that can be disassembled and made anew, to form new wholes, and so on to infinity. Yet does this interaction not leave us with nothing? This novel is so fragile, so beautiful, giving itself up, honestly, without pretension, allowing itself to be completely empty or completely brimming with life, depending on the reader, depending on the reading, nothing new, nothing old, the same old thing we’ve been talking about since the sixties, that interactive reader, that panacea, now made blunt and literal with video games, asking readers to participate in direct ways that cannot be confused or missed. Back in the sixties, the interaction was abstract, conceptual, high-plane thinking and intellectual playing, and outside the windows of the bedroom of the house, not the glass house in your hands any longer, no, your real house, or the library, or the school, or the park, outside of your self-imposed self-serving literary bubble, turmoils gnash and gnarl, and all that social disruption and destruction and poverty and sickness and health and guilt, and you with your middle class so-so-ness stuck in that imaginary bubble and what are you thinking you little cretin? But we’re back to the old problems, the social responsibility of the socialists and leftists, and you agree with them, and they say you’re neglecting it — your mission, your resolve, importance, life, vitality, all those words — their moralistic affront, their imposition: “worry about serious things, for the folds of a book are not serious.” And then Sabato comes in, or his memory, his reflection, shaking his head in consternation, the exterminating angel. He talked about all this already and in an eloquent expulsion of angry prose he had outlined the solution: but fiction is nightmare, fiction is inner truth, do not conflate, do not simplify, do not denigrate, do not be less than what you are already, do not be more childish in the name of serious reality. I think that’s what he wrote. And I wonder, though, what this glass house suggests to me, does to me, and I see that it’s vain and relevant, slight and weighty, all sorts of contradictions, because our soul and our dreams and our hopes are all contained in this pale fire, that screaming is in there, and the screaming can make us better — better readers, better people, I don’t know — for the screaming, who knows, the screaming might be us, the reader stuck in a bundle of folds and labyrinths and we want out and we cannot escape because right there — right there, by our side, you cannot miss him! — there’s the narrator stuck in the folds with you, so maybe the reader is not really able to choose, as the post-structuralists will tell you, oh no, we have all been blabbering so many wrong things for so long, the interactive reader, oh no, the reader is trapped, deliciously trapped, and he wants to escape, but the author is right next to him, smiling, saying: “We’re in this together!” The pieces, those interactive pieces, are now revealed as broken reflections, cubists perspectives, and in the name of figuring it out, in the name of interactivity, no, there is no freedom, only endless getting lost and misery and passion, yes, passion is what we’re ultimately left with, because the passion inherent in the artistic world — the miracle of worlds created by words, as Kinbote exclaims! — is analogous to the passion of the external world, or rather, the artistic world, in its meticulously created shape, attempts to hold the beauty and perfection of the real world, and the great joke, the great human, sensitive, joke, is that this meticulously created shape, this fake artistic world, is ultimately so lost in its bundle of folds, and the reader is so lost as well, that the final epiphany is as such: we cannot hold the world entire within our hands, not even those we create, not even those we read, not even this glass house made of words.




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