Literature

An excerpt from If (a novel)

As I mentioned recently, I’ve got a novel coming out soon. It uses an experimental form where the reader makes a choice at the end of every chapter, and the choices determine the course and style of the novel.

A lot of the novel is written in one or another variation on a traditional realist style. But looking back, I think my favorite parts of the novel are the sections where it departs from realism. I thought I’d post one of the more experimental endings here — without any attempt to provide context. (Know that there was a lot of development leading up to this passage…) This comes at the conclusion of one of the narrative threads:

     Dislocated by weariness, you make your way toward the abandoned train station. All the while the cavity grows, expanding to the inside of your throat and stomach, spreading its wet fingers around your lungs. If it goes on like this, soon nothing but a cavity will remain.

     Then there is a gray area. In your memory, you are spitting blood into your sandals somewhere in Utah, in the salt flats, and the infection has finally bloomed in your lungs, a bright, limp orchid. You had never felt so close to it as then. They found you on the outskirts of Las Vegas (of course—Vegas! those were the lights), teeth missing, tongue black and swollen. When you picture it, it’s like a scene in a bloody old Western. But in this movie, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the good guy about to rise from the dust or the bad guy tumbling down, because in this movie everyone gets the cool eventually, everyone, given sufficient time. Days may pass, seasons, years. The hourglass folding its wings. Storms may fill the room in seaborne bottles. “I carried your echoes to Arivaca in a rucksack,” the cirrus may say, “with the clouds like anvils, when the virga came, but at the border they evaporated before you could taste me, your feathers carried me away, in my lungs.” And all our alpine equipment proved useless. So much for the sunset, ladies, and so much for the sleepless nights. We sat beneath our tarps of brittle plastic while memories formed rivulets in the mountainside. I saw you, once, nearing the end, when the jalopy had wedded itself, like a hookworm, to the chaste and muddy rut, and you held her hand like teeth in a beggar’s gums. How many selves, cusped white, have you clipped from the bough? Too young. We heard you, there in the tureen of martyrs, warbling your no man’s hymn. Once by telegram, once by smoke, breath returned in the mirror as pale humidity. Once amid pines in the vinery of maybe. Once, alone, exhausted by clouds. But if instead of the lover’s sigh, cleaving, in the final moment, there were to be a gasp, only, uncloven from life, and no regret, and one turned on the parade ground and the spectators had all gone away, if, in other words, meaning came to an end, simply, on a Sunday afternoon, then, shivering in a trenchcoat, without rest, would you have ignored the inevitable and assembled your bodyparts once again? Beneath the thread of blue sky, slaked mercury slides down. Without a fulcrum, the outsides come apart. We will shed our fruit wherever it was seized, surprised by virtue, as in the courtyard, for example, but might we now be more safely ignored? Or have you found us, there in the tunnel at the end of the light? Can you hear us? Can you hear me? Are you safe? Do you know where you are? Can you stand up? Can you feel this? Does it hurt? Can you tell me where? Can you tell me where you are? Can you be quiet? Can you speak up? Can you feel it when I do this? Can you move your arms? Can you see? How much does this hurt? How long has it been here? How long have you been waiting? Where did you come from? Where is your identification? What have you seen? Can you see my voice? Is it inside you? Can you feel it move? What is your position? Is that all? Is there anything you have not told me? Is it one or the other? Is it neither? Can you make it stop? Can you please make it stop? What is it? What is this distance? Here. You hold me in your branches where the leaves are words in the branches and they sing without words without light. Apple. Epple. Eppli. Epli. Ebli. Eble. Eple. Eiple. Aiple. Aple. Appel. Apfel. Afel. Afal. A falling of leaves. In fall the leaves fall from the branches into a brook. Into a book. Jabook. Jabuk. Jabuka. Jabluka. Jabloka. Jabloko. Jablomo. Jalomo. Jalmo. Almo. Almos. Alma. Elma. Malum. Malun. Malon. Melon. Melo. Lome. Loma. Poma. Paoma. Paomo. Pomo. Pomme. Pemme. Pame. Pam. Paum. Baum. Picture these words as paper leaves falling from branches one after another into silence. White leaves falling in the arbor. In an arbor. Arber. Arbre. Arbore. Arboro. Arvoro. Arvore. Arvor. Arbor. Arbo. Arbol. Alber. Albero. Albevo. Balevo. Berevo. Derevo. Drevo. Drvo. Drzewo. Trzewo. Trewo. Tredo. Tred. Traed. Trae. Tree. Tre. Tri. Teri. Yeri. Yiri. You are. You were. You are no longer

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One thought on “An excerpt from If (a novel)

  1. Pingback: If (the novel) arrives | Against the Logicians

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