Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By Post

Of all the things that can arrive in the mail (letters, tax refunds, tin whistles), nothing is cooler than your favorite author's as-yet-unpublished novel. Thank you to Ellie for rendering me, for a good week, nearly obsolescent as a human being, and thanks also to the US Postal service for its amusingly attired employees and their truckloads of booty.

Ursula K. Le Guin is my favorite author not because she surpasses other authors, but because she wallows in them. In fact she wallows in everything: shameless, mud-happy. Le Guin interests herself equally in life's sweep and its details, and her genius lies in the sticky words she strings between. Lavinia is a footnote in Virgil's Aeneid, but here she's the text.

The thing about Lavinia is that she's aware, explicitly and in advance, of her narrative arc. She's heard what Virgil has to say about her; she knows the plot of her life, its rhyme and meter. Lavinia is motivated not by any idea of shaping her fate, but by the desire to live it correctly, to follow the thread of it without divagation.

Of course I'm madly jealous. I want to grab the shoulders of the universe and scream, "Where is my DAMN Virgil?" What blessed peace it must be to know your story, to concern yourself only with paging through to the end! What peace it must be to know your end: what a release from the weight of decision-making, its endless, aching, empty map. Pass me a poet and put me out of my misery!

Then I remember that I do know my fate. I remember that each of us, young, old, wordless, and wordful, knows our fate, and that it's death. It is narrative that has us fooled, narrative that makes us wonder if a character, if a person, will live or die. Of course he will. Of course we will. Stories are our blinders, our lethe, the way we forget the end after The End.

I can't believe they let you ship this stuff across state lines.

1 comment:

Ellie said...

I'm so glad you like your books. And I love your description of the way Ursula LeGuin revels in story and myth. Thanks for that, and for recognizing my remarkable ability to ship powerful substances across the country.