Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Invitation to an End—Letter two to Vladimir Nabokov

Dear Vladimir,

My index rolling along the edge of Invitation to a Beheading finds now just a slim margin of pages left for me to read. It is like facing a death and my reading self is softening, getting ready for the final crunch of the executioners blade, that last sharp leaf, punctuated with "Fin."

And as Cincinnatus wrote in his letter to Marthe, I want someone to embrace the gravity of that, to "just grow afraid like a child that they are going to do something terrible to me, a vile thing that makes you sick, and you scream so in the middle of the night that even when you already hear nurse approaching with her 'hush, hush,' you still keep on screaming, that is how you must be afraid. . ."

Well, ok. I'm being dramatic. It is after all just the beheading of a book, not really a "Fin" of a life.

But facing ends is like that. Last week I sat face to face with my 86 something parents and talked about ends. I fear I did not express enough of my realization that this is, to me, a vile and terrible thing. Should I say it to them? They are such good and faithful people. Yet even father, whose normal patina is fairly flat, was enlivened by the discussion. He insisted on a new battery for his hearing aid. He would not miss a word of this conversation. What was he listening for? Perhaps, for my Munchian scream.

We folk, believing ourselves to be on the outside, play odd games, (Shall we play at anchors?) trying to beat the odds, but no. We walk polyhedron passageways, find microphones and speak, "Testing, 1, 2, 3," and end up back where we began. But we don't scream enough, I think.

Not that the scream is the fear. No, it is something else, for, as Dickenson says,
Forever-is composed of Nows-
'Tis not a different time-
Except for Infiniteness-
And Latitude of Home-From this-experienced Here

And that is good. And death is not so much an extraction from life as a movement to a fourth dimensional latitude of existence, perhaps, so we believe, and so my parents believe quite well—So much so that we would do well to imitate their style and grace.

But perhaps I should scream. Too.



T. Azimuth Schwitters said...


I have just finished reading your advent series - I had not visited your page in some time, so this is the first time I have come across them - and I must say, they are quite beautiful. I am not entirely sure where I went (in terms of your readership), but I am happy to be back. In any case, I wish you the best (as always), and I look forward to the next post.

KMC a.k.a.
T. Azimuth Schwitters a.k.a.
Graham's friend a.k.a.

or "Mr. Hercules," which I'm also tossing around as a suitable alias.

brd said...

T. Azimuth, (or Mr. Hercules),
I'm sure I commented on your comment 2 days ago. But, alas, it is not here.

Thank you once again for your kind words. I keep writing my little letters and enjoying the use of the blog venue. Nabokov has not written back, nor Walker Percy, to whom I am working on a scathing missive, nor T.S. Eliot

But, it is nice to know that you stop by once in a while. I must admit that as I quoted Eliot during my advent series, I was thinking of you, knowing that you would catch the unfootnoted references.