Wednesday, July 4, 2018

We realize the essence of life when faced with death

I came across an article by James Wood in the November 27, 2017 issue of The New Yorker that speaks to what is gradually becoming, for me, a new way of looking at literature. It begins with a summary of a short story by Luigi Pirandello, "A Breath of Air," which I'm going to summarize even more briefly than Wood did: a man who has had a stroke lies in bed at home and realizes that everyone around him has changed, but when he asks them about it, they all deny that anything is different. Finally, he understands that the other family members are embodying the spring which has come; he, having been near death, is the only one who can feel the pulsing life brought about by this change.

I had a similar experience after my stroke last year. It seems we can realize the essence of life when we are on the verge of losing it.

Woods goes on to the main topic of his article: a novel -- Reservoir 13 -- by a young British writer, twice short-listed for the Booker Prize, Jon McGregor.  His new novel takes place in a village in northern England but is really about nothing except life -- how life manifests in every way. Who would read such a book? I suppose I would because I have ordered it.

Am I looking for another Beautiful Ruins? Of course. I am always looking for another such masterpiece -- and trying to comprehend how this can be done in words -- how a writer can lead us into what is essentially a transcendent experience through language.

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