Black River – Melanie Tem

A book first published in 1997, here Crossroads Press 2013. My previous reviews of Melanie Tem:

My previous reviews of older or classic books:

When I read this novel, covfefe permitting, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

EDIT (29/3/20): Perhaps a new way that, only in the last few weeks of my real-time, gives a revolutionary slant upon life today, with social distancing and isolation and renewed thoughts on death. One can only look at ANY fiction in this new corvid light now, I say. Even works-in-progress as this 1997 book happens to be to its new readers, a living, contemporaneously relevant entity of text gradually becoming what it happens to be in the eyes of any reader who has never read it before and is about to do so.

46 thoughts on “Black River – Melanie Tem

  1. Chapter 1

    “She smiled at the driver, who nodded. Surprisingly she found a completely unoccupied seat and piled her books and purse and lunch sack beside her to discourage anybody else from sitting there.”

    A limpid and relaxed opening chapter towards its intense focussed ending as a chapter, an ending that I dare not divulge here, and I imagined myself to be a man on the ceiling looking down like a light-bulb’s if not a bird’s eye view. An empty crow’s nest? As it says somewhere in this chapter, one often needs to evaluate the restraint of a writer in horror so as to give the greatest end-power… (this novel appears to have been published after Desmodus).
    This is Renata’s story in Colorado, the second marriage here with Glenn. Both of them writers, or budding writers. Glenn a social distancer. Their children, adopted – and an earlier now grown-up child Renata had in her first marriage? Still unclear to me. Boy and girl adoptees, their tantrums, their discussions upon death, as most parents have with their children. Death and sex, I guess. Details of their housing. Renata’s job. A whole panoply as backstory prior to any focussing. With “interlocking details” and ‘intersections’. “It’s nature’s way,” she’d told them.
    Perhaps a new way that, only in the last few weeks of my real-time, gives a revolutionary slant upon life today, with social distancing and isolation and renewed thoughts on death. One can only look at ANY fiction in this new corvid light now, I say. Even works-in-progress as this 1997 book happens to be to its new readers, a living, contemporaneously relevant entity of text gradually becoming what it happens to be in the eyes of any reader who has never read it before and is about to do so.

    “and Renata felt the little thrill that always came when she made unexpected contact with another human being.”

  2. Chapter 2

    “A stranger in her house, she shouldn’t let a stranger in her house, a stranger already was in her house and would never leave again.”

    A special book needs special measures. A way of dealing with it other than by my usual methods of gestalt real-time reviewing. So interpersonal, so great, so redolent of shock or trauma, I feel I have adopted it as my own to care for. As if we once adopted the world and instead of what we should have done we adApted it. And the world or earth is now doing what has happened by metaphor and truth in this book to Renata. Or so we fear. We may have merely done our best. Is it a coincidence, meanwhile, that ‘Renata’ seems instinctively a word for Rebirth? I certainly hope so! Meanwhile, again…

    “It had demon eyes and tentacles that wrapped around her lungs and heart, but its body and head were in the world now, in human company.”

  3. Chapter 3

    “It was going to consume her. It was protecting her from being consumed. She was terrified, and she was not afraid.”

    “an anchor holds you steady when there is no solid ground. That’s the point of an anchor.”

    Hawling upon an anchor as well as a dreamcatcher…. My gestalt reviews I see now as my own real-time anchor, as I steady myself and trawl, from this past book’s personal tribulations, a metaphor for a mourned Gaia alongside future’s impossible transcending or healing … (impossibility itself can morph into possibility?)

  4. Chapter 4

    “Four graves in the wet woods, and soon there would be a fifth.”

    In tune with my memory of Proust’s memory trigger, a fragment of song here evokes perhaps not a personal memory but maybe an archetypal one, where Daphne a woman and potential mother in the immediate post-war era (I was born then, in January 1948), whereby “ration lines” were an immediate memory, a sort of how I imagine post-Corona, after another war, is due to become in due course, and an evocative Gaia-wild Lawrencian scene in a wood, where also she evokes for us the image of four tiny graves of her lost babies so far, one being called Justine (it seems that I was simply destined to announce here yesterday, as I did, a forthcoming gestalt real-time review of the Alexandria Quartet, something I read as my first experience of challenging fiction in the mid 1960s)…
    …until this woman at least bears a baby called Laurel during her nude epiphany in this genius loci…

    “Sorrow raised detail. Everything was lovely, and everything hurt.”

  5. Chapter 5

    “She curled up, knees against her chest and head between them, but the pain forced her open again, spread her ribs,…”

    I guarantee that you will never before have read such human pain in fiction or truth, body or mind, as that felt or shown to be felt in this relatively brief chapter…

  6. Chapter 6

    “When she managed to get the elastic to hold on one corner, it sprang off another.”

    I feel I have adopted this book, this Renata. Perhaps even this author. I feel responsible and once it has finished or possibly misinterpreted by me or ‘spoilt’, is it too late to relive it and try again? No! I now feel in deep empathy with how Renata’s world has vanished *irretrievably* and perhaps nowhere else in literature has such a feeling been portrayed so vividly, so unbearably? Even among her other family members and her best friend who accompanies her outside. And this feeling of Renata leaving the house is indeed how I imagine leaving in some unknown future the self-isolation that I myself am experiencing today…”Once outside, Renata couldn’t believe she’d exposed herself like this,…” And her seemingly ground-breaking shopping experience in these circumstances shown here is a perfect fit for my thoughts today. And as she leaves her house, faces are said to be peeled off one by one (see my concept of the ‘sur-face’ by happenstance earlier today here.)
    And, many a reader will weep, I guess, as she slips backwards to hold hands beyond any social distance with others like herself…

    “She thought, though, about Daphne and all those babies dead. She didn’t know who Daphne was or how she knew her story.”

  7. Chapter 7

    “She knew it was strange, but didn’t care much whether it had been a vision, or a message, or a grief-fever dream, or some sort of collective memory.”

    I think when you read this chapter you will wonder, like me, how on Earth (on or in or amid the rocks and trees and colours of pantheistic Earth) you had not before read such a significant and moving piece of literature.

    Yet, it also yearns to become a projection for things other than what it is obviously about — and, like Renata inside the chapter, you need ironically to breach some ‘barricade’ (the real one here in a car park as metaphor for a barricade in your mind) in order to reach some element of protection and detachment from life around you, so as to help others survive and then live such a life. To keep within the box so that creativity can eventually flourish as a renatality or rebirth. Whatever the fine weather and landscapes that you imagine you see from within the box’s insulation but only as long as you are thinking outside that box while staying inside it.

    “Simple and functional, the box was brown plastic and about the size of a shoebox, but more square than rectangular. The surface was featureless,…”

    “The sky was so blue that she needed words other than ‘blue’ to describe it: cerulean, azure. Trees were beginning to bud, feathery chartreuse on black branches against cerulean sky. She must have rolled her window down; the air was so sweet it hurt.”

    When does the black river become blue?

  8. Pingback: Thinking Outside The Box | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: Wood, Metal, Stone

  9. Chapter 8

    “It’s okay, honey,” she soothed him, honestly now, “the worst is over. You’re safe now. It won’t get any worse than this.”

    Memories of comforting a child after the child’s being attacked by bees, ironically with that affectionate Honey, as filtered through Renata’s subsequent dreaming. The rest is not dreaming, though, and please forgive a lot of quoting from this chapter below as it summons up what I feel today about my own personal and globally general matters, albeit they are, of course, specific to Renata in this fiction-as-truth, as she grapples with a kitchen table and then the concept of her own birthday. And is this the first time that ‘the new normal’ was mentioned in literature, a phrase that has become so familiar today politically as well as now Earth-globally?

    “Maybe it would be good to re-establish that minimal level of normalcy.”

    “Our lives have changed. There’s no sense pretending they haven’t. We have to live our new lives now and see how that feels. We have to find a new normal.”

    “It was a lovely day, bright pastels and a breeze fragrant not with blooms yet but with the promise of bloom; she was glad for this sudden spring.”

    “The world was now fraught with such conundrums, ethical at the most fundamental level and intensely significant:”

    “some alien consciousness was taking possession of her.”

  10. Pingback: Where the river turns | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: Wood, Metal, Stone

  11. Chapter 9

    “Letting her mouth fall open, she used what might be the first or last breath in her lungs to wail. All around her was wailing and shrieking. Her voice flowed into the other voices of the tempest, gained power from them, and was lost.”

    But is there some shelter for her and, by extension, ourselves? – we are induced to ask.

  12. Chapter 10

    “She woke from a dream — though neither “woke” nor “dream” was the right term — about sojourning in a garden of statues in which she was invited to become a statue herself.”

    I am going through this book, as someone might go through the belongings of a loved one who has passed. That is what this book does to you – becomes a metaphor for your loved one in words. I have, so far, kept things from this book to reflect our convulsive times today (here from this chapter the obsession to continue writing about it, expressing it, comparing today’s synchronicities (chance or meaningful) with apparently disconnected things in the book and elsewhere in my life). But, equally, I have shied away from (as opposed to thrown away) things that might spoil a new reader’s real-time appreciation of this book. Suffice to say – it is possibly the most significant treatment of bereavement’s journey in literature. I do not say that lightly.

  13. Chapter 11

    “Then she countered the small pleasure by reminding herself that who knew what would live out this next fall to see 1930, rabbit or child or Willa herself?”

    We somehow reach – via Renata’s snake or tunnel – Willa and her family in old New Mexico, her roots being in Oklahoma, I infer. Some really telling passages here as the overarching author is even now working at the top of her powers to connect two disparate worlds in time and place, real worlds somehow become alternate or parallel ones, worlds of co-bereavement…

    “Each scene she saw as she turned and turned was all by itself, yet clearly connected to every other scene she’d ever noticed and to those she hadn’t yet.”

    That is the purpose of literature and of those chosen to serve it in whatever way they can, till they can no longer.

    “— the four houses made into one house, the windmill spinning so fast it might never stop this time,…”

  14. Chapter 12

    “Maybe this had happened to countless other women and men throughout human history and would happen to countless more,…”

    Amazingly, for me, this chapter matches perfectly with a work that (in the general course of my reviewing) I just happened to read and review here, a work called ‘A Face In The Trees’ about maternal Survivor Guilt, and the later attempts to get back to her workplace. An utterly utterly inspiring synergy.

  15. Chapter 13

    “She had expected to move horizontally back through time. Instead, she traveled vertically, and was under the world again.”

    This, for me, is intensely inspiring, visions of he Stone Garden that make me think I have instinctively seen such visions before, even if I haven’t. Yet, there are perhaps such echoes from this 1997 book in Nemonymous Night (2011)…
    A gathering of kindred souls, who have been grieving for so long…
    I feel I must have had that instinct a few days ago when I happened to choose to make that quote above about statues from this book. As I now recall, this was a concept then out of the blue, beyond any contextual clues that it was important, except my seemingly arbitrary decision to quote it.

  16. Chapter 14

    “Finally, sitting beside her on the bed and stroking her hot forehead, stroking the tears, able to say only, ‘I know, honey. I know,’ and that was too much, not enough, the wrong thing, she would harm Vanessa just by touching her, speaking to her, loving her, just by being in the same world with her.
    Going to work. Trying to take the bus; going to the bus stop, navigating the three blocks to the bus stop in discrete steps, each one of which she had to force herself to think about, but getting there without noticeable problem, waiting for the bus, seeing it approach. Terrified, choking, backing away. Turning and running home…”

    Please forgive me quoting such a large section. But I think it’s only today that we can truly understand this book and the relentlessly obsessive helplessness and loss, nothing we can do to turn the clock back, to break the nightmare…

    “She took the bus. She didn’t speak to the driver; he didn’t seem to expect it.”

  17. Chapter 15

    “The image made no sense, really, but it was the image that stayed.”

    Some Proustian memories listed … and sunshine and flowers, as if pleasure taken out of them by a barrier of curved glass.
    And a sense of a mission now, to rectify or not this novel’s central tragedy. Alongside the empathy of or with others. Survivors as saviours. To jump into the swimming pool or not. Quandary, dilemma…the medicine, the mending or still onward pain.

    “She washed her hands. She took cold water into the cup of her hands and lost it in dribbles between them, took some more and lost it again, repeated this process innumerable times…”

  18. Pingback: The Indivisible Image | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: Wood, Metal, Stone

  19. Chapter 16

    “And Rosemary was sick, fevered probably. Had the sickness, probably…”

    New York City, a Dickensian tour de force IN those times FOR our times today, Dickens complete with horse traffic and with this book’s ‘Black River’ snake, and a snaking, steaming Orphan Train of hope, and a budding Central Park, presumably New York’s main oasis today. A city where one could imagine mass graves being dug. Here Renata and Renata’s world touch for a moment Maggie’s world, with Maggie’s own “street rat” children and her eventual co-bereavement. On a day when a Facebook memory has made me a Dickensian street sweeper again. And yesterday I reviewed William Trevor’s The Virgin’s Gift story, in an Ireland where St Patrick had his original encounter with the snakes mentioned in this chapter today. This story of Maggie and her world and her children you will never forget in this world of ours of invisible wires. And vanishing coins between the eras.

    “New York City teemed with children. Was alive with them in the way a pallet on the floor was alive with fleas.”

    “Wires hummed overhead, not far enough overhead; Maggie mistrusted the wires because they carried messages in some way she could not comprehend, from and to people she could not imagine, and she kept ducking, covering her head, avoiding their thin swaying sinuous shadows.”

  20. Chapter 17

    “Magic words,” she begged him. “Please. I need some magic words.”

    “….the necessity of loving profoundly and then profoundly letting go.”

    Magic words in literature, too, I guess. Their magic to be released by the careful laying oneself open to them, along with others. Also to allow to slip into view the death of oneself also. Even to share such death with literature beyond any constraints of distancing between author and soon to be dying reader?

    Renata depends on her husband Glenn’s magic words. Whatever the parallels of channels in strangers counselling her or simply, for whatever reason, trying to find any concomitant roots of what one has lost. Whatever it takes, even brainstorming connections….

    “A paradigm of grief as a hero’s journey through the underworld; in order ever to emerge, you must find and face the dragons.”

    • As an aside — below is from my re-reading of ‘Nemonymous Night’ (2011) today…

      [[…chivvying Susan and Mike into really believing that their children were missing and it was simply not good enough at all merely to reply: “What children?”
      “Arthur and Amy, those kids you brought up…” Beth shouted, trying to get through to her sister somehow. The dream sickness was a factor that remained unsaid—unsayable. That such a sickness should have actually caused the children’s disappearance and their parents’ subsequent dead-eyed reaction to such a major event represented a complexity that such simple city folk could never envisage, let alone explain or even admit.
      The dream sickness—like a ‘flu pandemic—caused queues at doctors’ surgeries for tablets intended for an illness from which they didn’t know they suffered… but, unlike a ‘flu pandemic, the dream sickness was inspired by an inference regarding an infernal mass-hysteria linked to a mass-suicide syndrome rather than to any individual’s pain or conscious disability.
      Many parents set up search parties—because Arthur and Amy were not the only ones believed to have inexplicably gone missing. Some search parties overlapped with other search parties. There were petty rivalries, even bitter disputes between them, believing their own children were being sought by other parties and vice versa.]]

  21. Chapter 18

    “…Renata hadn’t known there were such depths under the infrastructure of everyday life, such long slopes, such steep declines. She knew nothing about her guide — gender, size, coloration, origin, intent — except what mattered: Jordan was taking her down.”

    A short but significant visionary chapter that means much to me personally AND to the reading world at large, should that world ever read it bearing in mind its context both within this novel and in our times today.

  22. Chapter 19

    “She had obviously said all this many times before; it had an incantatory ring, the rhythm of a ballad familiar even before it was told and structured so as to gather emotional momentum from the repetition and repetition of its refrain. In the quiet that followed, people were nodding, touched by the profound pathos of it, satisfied by its neatness and symmetry.”

    This chapter is a striking portrait of a self-help group that no doubt today would be conducted on Zoom. All people dealing (in their own unique ways) with how life is tantamount to the bereavement they all feel… Renata’s epiphany here is the realisation that, in different words to hers, this is not a sprint but a marathon, something we are all still being told several times….
    I still personally have faith in Renata’s name, as well as eventually in Renata herself, her name and its meaning.

  23. Chapter 20

    I keep saying things in connection with this book that I don’t think I will ever exceed in forthcoming entries of this review. And I equally keep getting proved wrong. This chapter of coils, insects and snakes, and a moment of drinking poison direct from someone’s mouth, will be either the most frighteningly visionary thing you have ever read or the most ludicrously over-the-top thing you have ever read. Nothing in between. Or both at once. No single quote can do justice to it or exculpate it! Yet my saying that sort of proves it somehow works, and only today can we read such prose with proper hindsight.

  24. Chapter 21

    “Elspeth Mary Broadt, who had now lived in the western Pennsylvania wilderness through the last winter of the eighteenth century and most of the first of the nineteenth,…”

    A stand-alone novelette, moving, inspiring, as all gestalt’s “sorrowing women” conjoin in this metaphorical yet believable traditional fictional westward diaspora (transAtlantic, too) of pioneer life to Cussawago, involving real history and, inter alia, the Dunkards (sic) of faith. The giant serpent and its snakeskin. The connection of Renata and Elspeth….

    “One lost one’s children. It was a fact of life. The sudden kick of a good-natured horse, the encroachment of a nest of snakes, the inexorable westward pull — there were countless ways to lose one’s children.”

    “These women were, undeniably, separate individuals, as unlike each other as they were unlike Elspeth herself, though she felt a queer sort of kinship with them. They were alone as she was, pioneers all.”

    “Elspeth shook her head. “Thank you but no. I must stay clearheaded. We must go on to Cussawago.”

    Cussawago (sic) another word that now seems, by resonation, to suit something else today? A cussed wagon? Or, rather, a Creek, near Eureka Springs, I see is called a ‘watershed’…near Crossingville, Cussewego. Hope’s transcending power?

  25. Chapter 22

    “Many unfathomable things were happening to her these days. There were times when she traveled, she swore, in some underworld to which the bloody tunnel had led her.”

    “; she kept doing what she was doing. Cubed chicken heaped like stones into the crockpot, never quite enough so her husband and daughter would starve, always far too much so they wouldn’t eat it and it would spoil. She chopped vegetables with a sharp knife on the little wooden cutting board. The carrots were more gray than orange. The crispness of the potatoes was different from that of the celery, and equally wrong.”

    I now feel utterly at home with these time-filtered emotions so adroitly expressed, together with the most startling sense of a series of sudden, seemingly new realisations of the enormity of what has happened to oneself…”…an explosion of equally radiant agony that flung her into a kitchen chair and pinned her there.”

    We are all now pinned there together with Renata. Every previous skilful expression of emotion transmuted for a new emotion today… amid the environs of whatever expert one last hears speaking…

    “You get all sorts of conflicting advice from people who are supposed to be experts.”

    “connected by a third substance between them, a humming viscosity made of love and history and potentiality…”

    Gaia as a spiky botanical garden where unlike meet unlike across a social “distance: saw the long dirty black coat too warm for the springtime weather, smelled booze and sweat, heard the rattling tubercular cough. A street person in the Botanic Gardens. Such a dissonant juxtaposition…”

    Pinned together by distance? All cohered by Renata’s ancient bereavement now made into our metaphorical gestalt today. To be co-hered indeed. Here, today. But what of tomorrow. The chapters keep coming at me…

  26. Chapter 23

    “Anxiety roughened her breathing. Her chest hurt.”

    “A bird chirping in the mock-orange bush was an evil portent. Something bad was going to happen today.”

    But the central bad thing had already happened. But Renata tries to emulate her own name by trying to cherish the good things of the day and also goes for a long walk, something she was previously too anxious to do. Meanwhile, her concomitant thought that what had happened couldn’t be unhappened makes me think that the Earth killing itself in recent years (beyond this book in 1997), killing itself, as a ‘punishment’ to itself and/or to others that live on it, can it be turned round by that very event itself, emptying it somewhat of what was really killing it? Whether that is a feasible metaphor or parallel with this book still remains to be seen. Cinnamon toast, burnt or not.

  27. Chapter 24

    964FE4D4-1AF2-402C-AA38-C178E70CF634 “, or whether she was inventing a brand new way of dying.”
    “Taste and smell had melded into a single peculiar sense whose information she didn’t know how to interpret.”

    B80D0FFD-E9D1-419C-A97E-1406AF7006BD “The sharp span of the Sword Bridge sliced up through the dirty air like a rainbow through a sky still clotted with remnants of a storm.”

    This is another visionary episode that I suggest only this author could do – can STILL do as “a brand new way of dying’ – here involving a coagulated sea, that sword bridge, the serpent again, and bodily parts exiting their berths… a raft of words as a musical ‘dying fall’ of despair that somehow today, paradoxically, gives me a rising hope…

  28. Chapter 25

    “She didn’t know what she was waiting for now, or how long it would be.”

    This book, too, is an attrition of strobing between the coordinates of despair, acclimatisation, pointlessness, duty and subconscious hope, as we experience vicariously the ‘new normal’ (an expression coined earlier by this book), the experience of one’s daily life post-event rather than pre-.The changing-rooms in our heads as well as our living wardrobes. The real-time contact with real people relived, via the triangulation of someone still doing it, by some gift of the still imminently unfolding past as memory or fiction?

  29. Chapter 26

    “Afraid to impose herself on any more ground than she already had, to displace any more air.”

    A remarkable study in a woman’s anxiety. Whilst taking place during ‘normal’ life before the new normal happened, it FEELS so in keeping with our precarious times today.

    Meanwhile, I’m glad only to be 72 amid an anxiety complex of Midsommar continuing to approach….
    “He’ll die soon. He’s seventy-five years old. Surely he’ll die soon.”

  30. Chapter 27

    “, and Morning Sun was angered; there was no sense in running and no place to hide when the enemy was the world itself.”

    Another stand-alone work forming this book’s gestalt, as she who lost her ‘Ee-an! Ee-an!’ is encountered by Morning Sun, a woman who found herself in a womb called Kiva or Sipapu amid ancient Mesas and Canyons, where ‘balcony’ and ‘cliff’ also feature, and grief and loss become tantamount to self’s miscarriage in face of the gods … and the temples that we build as such gods’ own human home-wombs? Yet it also says here that symbols are tantamount to lies. Miscarriages of truth. Fire pits in our souls or fontanelles in our heads.

    “The revolving aspect of profound grief hadn’t stopped, had, if anything, intensified, as if to spin out one individual sorrow among communal grief, worldwide grief, grief through the ages. The wheel of life,…”

  31. Chapter 28

    “Frequently the tales themselves didn’t make sense, though the telling did.”

    And there we have it. Our raison d’être as cooperative of writers and reading interpreters, a succinct metaphor drawn from Renata’s raft with her companions in grief, as well as today’s raft of survivor guilts…

    “Names of things, their histories and uses and meanings beyond use, were peeled away, leaving a sense of loss burning and hollowed out but with no identity anymore, no comprehension of who was gone, just: gone.”

    And no punches are pulled here. What I may have said above in this review is again trumped. The giant rat vision, in particular.

    And the visceral hawling of a journey as the mining into the core of Renata’s human body parts as a parallel to a similar journey I once made to the earth’s own unexpected core. Yet do I detect signs of perhaps inadvertent hope from Tem’s book released last century for our twenty twenties?
    “breath through gills, threat and promise of lungs. […] Air exchange; no loss.”

  32. Chapter 29

    “I — I’m a bereaved parent,” she managed.

    March 18 it was.
    March 18 – perhaps the median date for all of us?
    Renata obtains some new perspectives from others, and perhaps we all can do so, too, by reading this chapter thus.

    “You know, I’ve had such a stake in being happy, noticing beauty, being open to love. Not missing a moment. So it pisses me off that I’m missing so much now because of grieving.”

    I, too, mowed the lawn yesterday, perhaps the first time since March 18. And shaved the hair on my head. (I used to frequent barbershops.)

    “The background music was classical, uninterrupted by commentary.”

  33. Chapter 30

    “between molecules pressing them apart farther apart drifting propelling thoughts apart allowing thoughts not to touch each other not to touch anything
    nothing touching anything no pain”

    Way ahead of its time, modern verse spread out like prose, with, inter alia, rat and serpent. Renata as a name carries A RAT, I guess, and a birth as NÉ but the freehold author who created Renata pre-deceased the ostensible or potential death of our world, our world, as child, and our world, as parent, alike. One Rat elected in 2016, for example and now we reap a harvest of pain … but also, thinking about it, a potential re-natalism or rebirth, when we look up today at the bluer skies that I recall from the 1950s?

  34. CCC0BF15-6265-413D-8B94-2CC32EEFD671Chapter 31

    “‘There are a lot of lives a person could live, a lot of forks in the road. When something like this happens, you have to make other choices.’
    That was right. That was revelatory. The world shifted.”

    Still grappling with ‘ruin’ or simply ‘change? Distractions or aggravations of family life, like this disarming Chinese import, somehow easing or causing panic attacks …

  35. Chapters 32 – 35

    “‘The thing is,’ someone else added, ‘anything any of us feels makes perfect sense.’”

    And I feel that it made perfect sense to read the last chapters as one. This book “doesn’t belong to me anymore.” It “belongs to the universe.”

    The perfectly inchoate vision of a pearl and its guardian dragon made perfect sense, too. Beats me how! I don’t think this book made its optimum sense at all, let alone PERFECT sense, till now, till today. I am only one reader among many destined to feel that. I’ve been inside this book for several weeks and am now potentially reborn….

    “She looked up, and was struck hard by the beauty of the evening sky.”

    And I noticed this before, in recent days. As I mentioned somewhere above. But I still have more to do, as Renata still has more to do, too. Her bereavement belongs to her whatever or whoever is being mourned, as we all have adopted the world, separate from us, but also co-existent with us, whatever happens to any of us in this enfolding universe or gestalt in today’s real-time.

    “The dragon sang gloriously. Renata trembled in the face of such evil beauty. The mist coalesced into clouds, settled over her like bees, each drop a glistening note of music that stung, spread sweetness, spread death.”

    “She did her best to shriek at him, ‘I don’t want more fucking oxygen in my lungs!’ but she did,…”

    “This is agonizing. Yes, this is a dreadful wound. But, see, I can bear it. We, all of us, can bear it.”

    I imagine this author once having written this novel with a river of black ink….. from her eyes, or from her pen. Or both as metaphor, via her fingers.


    My favourite painting is of a Black River, and I now wonder if, after all, Millais intended the subject to be the universal soul, not upon the point of drowning, but of waking… Whatever he intended, whatever is intended in any art, we still have the Intentional Fallacy to comfort us, a comfort this recognition of a fallacy has accomplished for me since I learnt about its power at the age of 20 in 1968. A power as paradox for any FALLACY, I guess! But a paradox important for today?


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s