It is with great pleasure I present to you a wonderful stream-of-consciousness guest post.
I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. 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. If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, call me Ishmael. I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man . . . I am an invisible man. You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
In a sense, I am Jacob Horner. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. This is the saddest story I have ever heard. It was like so, but wasn’t. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. All this happened, more or less.
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since: “You better not never tell nobody but God.“
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. They shoot the white girl first.
124 was spiteful. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.
Mother died today.
Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. It was the day my grandmother exploded. Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. For a long time, I went to bed early. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. It was a pleasure to burn.
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.
“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.
Where now? Who now? When now?
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women. It was love at first sight. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.
A special thanks to the American Book Review for making this post possible.