Monday, September 27, 2010

a hydra to deliver out a hiding

I might have been reading one of Greg Baum's articles when it occurred to me that some of the more imaginative football commentators, verbal and written, do as Dickens did, and superheat their prose with allusions, both classical and vernacular -- treating the classical as a more powerful and tweaked version of nonetheless natural language, so that if Dickens can, in chapter eleven of Bleak House, allude to Macbeth by writing, "It is anything but a night of rest at Mr. Snagsby’s, in Cook’s Court, where Guster murders sleep by going ... out of one fit into twenty," then Greg Baum can allude to Romeo and Juliet with,

Perhaps also, it was Gary Ablett's valedictory as a Geelong player, for Gold Coast's bullion will weigh more heavily now. If so, this was parting with sweet sorrow; in a team that was crushed ...

Rex Hunt, calling Saturday's Grand Final on Triple M, urged the players on the field to, "Run like the Light Brigade!" meaning, I suppose, quickly and forcefully and in a heroic manner. This was delivered in a shout, at the heat of the moment, without preparation or special treatment, as if a reference to Tennyson is more or less the most natural thing in the world to summon out of your memory half-way through a Saturday afternoon in 2010 at the climax of the footy season.*

I'm not sure exactly what goes on here, but it seems to me that the emotion that collects around the phrase in its original context, plus the emotion of recognition, the extra scrap of mental effort that goes into making that recognition, the unexpected engagement of the brain in directions that it didn't expect to be engaged right at that moment -- the surprise -- the joke -- the reminder of the larger and less focused world -- coupled, in a contradictory way, with the comforting endurance of tradition -- gives the allusion its kick, its heightened burst, in an atmosphere that is already heightened by the tensions of the game; and wraps football itself in the mantle of history, as if those forty-four men and their Sherrin and a crowd of one hundred thousand and sixteen, are part of the same world as -- are unified with -- poets and warriors. Which, you could argue, they are, simply by being human, as the poets and warriors were human, and alive, as the poets and warriors were alive; and everything mixed together, a vast web of human behaviour, with Collingwood and the Saints tucked in there somewhere next to the Mayans, the Greeks, and Proust's imaginary Françoise, the cook who is also an artist, and her teased kitchenmaid, Giotto's Charity.

And the language used around football is intensified anyway, with slang, with ritual descriptions, and with a habit of grand phrasings, so that the game, in the prose of football journalists, is transformed into "the land," as in, "He's the fastest runner in the land!" or, "He's got the finest boot in the land!" as if the speaker is conferring magical qualities on knights and princes. Australian Rules takes on the enclosed attributes of a principality kingdom, and it becomes apparent that its true language is the language of mythology. Ablett, Baum writes, "is, as all the world knows, Gold Coast's cynosure and the club's ardent courtship of him has grown into a saga." In another article: "Football fans love signs from their gods: here were three." A team can be a "hydra." "Collingwood played its patented total football, marked by feverish, frenzied tackling, with lots of goalkickers, a hydra to deliver out a hiding."** When the final was followed by rain, then a vivid and symmetrical double rainbow, M. noticed that the last part of the rainbow to disappear was the leg that landed near St Kilda, and suggested that it was a prophecy.

* Although Tim Lane confused everyone around him when he decided that a game between Sydney and West Coast needed a direct quote from his lordship's Ulysses.

** I've seen Caroline Wilson use 'hydra' as well, but where that article is I do not know.

Why -- I'll add this in case you're outside the Rules umbrella and you're wondering -- why a prophecy? Because the game was a draw, and the two teams have to play again next week, and one of the teams comes from St Kilda, a bohemian seaside suburb in the process of returning like a greedy dog to its pre-bohemian state of gentrification. It took its name long ago from a schooner named Lady of St Kilda, which took her name in turn from a Hebridean archipelago where there never was a saint.

Update. St Kilda lost.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the real secret and enchanting things

Kimbofo, responding to a Whispering Gums post about kookaburras, provided a link to a page at her blog where she wrote about a David Sedaris essay, Laugh, Kookaburra, a four-page autobiographical piece in which Sedaris, who is American, visits Australia and sees a kookaburra eating duck. The essay was published on the New Yorker website in 2009 with an illustration by someone who, had they lived in a finer world, would have had time to look up a picture of a kookaburra first. "For an American," Sedaris writes, "Australia seems pretty familiar: same wide streets, same office towers ... or that’s the initial impression." On the other hand there is M. also American, who has been in Australia for nearly seven years, and who said on Wednesday that it has taken him this long to realise that there is such a thing is as a distinctly Australia face. On Thursday morning at about half past eight he said he believed that mate was "more functional" than dude, by which he meant that it was more flexible, more, if you like, open to permutation. He deduced this from his workmates, who have been saying the word around him for years. That is how long these things take.

So it is when I'm reading a book, I'm attracted by this thing and that thing at first (the obvious and glinting things, the exotic animals), then I read it again and those things change, they sink back, they stop making an impression, and a different passage comes forward; all of a sudden this new part of the book seems to be the reason for the book. The second time I read Proust I was so taken by the paragraph about Mme Guermantes and the fjords that I read it three times before I went on, but, reading the book for a third time, I found that the fjords made no impact. I was waiting for them, expecting to have the same reaction, but they went past, they vanished, they were superficial, and the book took on a new complexion. (A yellow-tailed black cockatoo sat next to us in a tree on Wednesday evening and M. was beyond nonchalant.) The late Frank Kermode, describing a similar experience, writes about "the more occult part of the memory"

You may begin by admiring certain discrete poems or even certain lines, but when he goes deep into your mind many things that did not consciously impress you arrive in the more occult part of the memory and establish themselves, eventually, as the real secret and enchanting things while the obvious attractions, which are more or less available to everybody, come to seem superficial.

This was my own experience during a long affair with Wallace Stevens ...


An older affair with Yeats left me with colder feelings; precisely what I had thought fine was what I could not longer stand; it caused me something like embarrassment. I have not read Yeats for years, but when I did I read him amorously, which may explain why certain poems especially, but more generally certain repeated locutions and rhetorical tricks, came to disgust me.

The other day I noticed wandering loose in my head, unconnected with any conscious movement of thought, a single line: “But not from her protecting care.” I knew it was by Yeats but had forgotten its context. So I hunted it up, and found it in the sixteenth poem of “Words for Music Perhaps,” called “Lullaby”. ... The complexity and beauty of “Lullaby” had somehow escaped me in the time of total infatuation; and I remember other instances of the same thing. I should certainly have called “Meditations in Time of Civil War” a great poem, but I could not have guessed that the lines which would turn into unpredictable isolated revenants would be, not the obviously tremendous opening and conclusion, but some quiet, anxious words that the younger eye slipped over

Thursday, September 23, 2010

a few encounters with the irrecuperable

ZMKC remembers reading when she was small. One teacher gave her books she liked; another didn't. Now I jump from that story into this one. When I was a child, of preschool age I think, my father used to read a few pages from a book to me every night before I went to sleep. The book was Peter and Wendy, which I remember being titled Peter Pan and Wendy, but my memory must be wrong. The book is called Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie, published in 1911 by Hodder & Stoughten, and it's the same book that most people know as plain Peter Pan.* Our copy was an old one.

One day I am in my room, where Peter and Wendy has been left face-down on my dressing table (which seems high to me). I am so impatient for the rest of the story that I take the book down and read to the end. This is wrong, I know, because I am not supposed to be reading Peter -- in fact I am not supposed to be able to read at all, but that distinction is too fine-grained for my mind to handle, and I only recognise that the book has been left within reach because there is an expectation on the part of the adults that it will be left unread, and that when my father comes in that evening the book will be as he left it, as far as my awareness of its contents is concerned. I will know nothing beyond the place where he chose to stop. I will be ignorant, from that point forwards, of the story. It is as if we have pitched camp in a fixed place, and tomorrow we will hike over the hill together. But I have walked off on my own.

That might have been my first thick book. How bright everything seems when you're being lured like this, when you've got a solitary objective, which is being withheld, and towards which you move. How good a serial story is. When Garth Ennis' Preacher was still coming out in monthly installments I used knew which comic book shop unpacked their boxes first, and that was the one I visited, on the afternoon of the day it was released, which was a date I knew, every month. That date stood out in my mind. And I can remember times when I didn't have a serial but I tried to create one. After I'd read all three of Mervyn Peake's Titus books (a teenager then) I went on to read the other books he'd written, and then biographies of him, and, searching libraries for books of literary essays, I looked for his name in the indexes, and I checked the internet for websites. Like this I extended him into a serial event. I never want to be reminded that the book I love is mortal after all, and ends. (The agony of the people on the New York pier, shouting like spectres on the far side of the river of the damned, Is Little Nell Alive? Borges, in his essay Beatrice's Last Smile, proposes that Dante wrote his Divine Comedy (and the writing of a long poem is a serial event for the poet) with the purpose of meeting Beatrice again on the page when he couldn't meet her again in the living world. "I suspect that Dante constructed the best book literature has achieved in order to interpolate into it a few encounters with the irrecuperable Beatrice." Dante forces himself to wait through the Inferno and most of Purgatory before he gives himself the satisfaction of seeing her fully and allegorically attended with chariot, gryphon, dancing women, and so on. "At the beginning of the Vita nuova we read that once, in a letter, he listed sixty women's names in order to slip among them, in secret, the name of Beatrice.")

"So from the moment I first encountered The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to when I was eleven or twelve, the seven Chronicles of Narnia represented essence-of-book to me," writes Francis Stufford in his 2002 memoir, The Child That Books Built. "They were the Platonic Book of which other books were more or less imperfect shadows. For four or five years, I essentially read other books because I could not always be re-reading the Narnia books ... But in other books I was always searching for partial or diluted remains of Narnia." I have noticed that journalists who advise parents to keep books in their houses so that their children will grow up to be readers prefer to use the word encourage to describe the duty of the parents -- this is how you can encourage your child to read -- or else sometimes they will use help. But the word that is, I believe, the true word, is a word with more sinister connotations, those of wickedness, sin, and furtive, engulfing desire. The word is tempt.

"There is nothing unusual about a wretch who imagines joy," writes Borges, "all of us, every day, do the same."

* Is this true, I wonder.

Beatrice's Last Smile is one of the essays in the Borges collection, The Total Library: Non-Fiction 1922 - 1986, translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

be they silk or worsted

Reading Jay Parini's The Last Station soon after writing that last post about Dickens, I start to think about the older writer's similes and metaphors, because Parini in this matter is an unDickens or an anti-Dickens. His metaphors fall into the story and out again without leaving a lasting impression. Meanwhile Dickens is a hot octopus, his tentacles start at one point and go out in all directions, clutching things together, so that Mr Tulkinghorn's clothes represent Mr Tulkinghorn's personality and behaviour, and the personality and behaviour represent the clothes.

He is of what is called the old school ... and wears knee-breeches tied with ribbons, and gaiters or stockings. One peculiarity of his black clothes and of his black stockings, be they silk or worsted, is that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to any glancing light, his dress is like himself. He never converses when not professionally consulted.

The effect is so holistic that it changes the properties of light itself in a private zone around Mr Tulkinghorn's clothes -- "they never shine" -- and he becomes a kind of small planet with its own atmosphere and law. Dickens is a cosmology of these people, these characters who are Types rather than Stereotypes, extremely forceful and exaggerated. If a person is not already an eccentric then they become one because Dickens is writing them.

Meanwhile the Last Station author chops his metaphors off dead. Parini writes brief descriptions --

... the long serpentine drive with parallel rows of silver birches rising along it like an honour guard.

Varvara Mikhailova, who has the sensitivity of a granite monument

... each moment shines separately, like cobbles on a strand. One yearns to repossess them, and mourns their distance.

His fingers opened and closed mechanically, like the mandibles of an insect.

-- and never takes the idea further. Varvara Mikhailova's granite behaviour does not infect her clothes, as Tulkinghorn's behaviour infects his; she never does anything stonelike, her skin does not look hard, her manners are not monumental, and so this comparison to granite vanishes. The man connected to the insect-fingers is not insectlike, the scenery around him is not transformed sympathetically into a insect-nest, and the doctor who comes along in the next sentence to help him with his fearsome convulsions is not compared to a predatory and insectivorous bird, or to an ant helping the queen ant, or to anything else that might carry the idea of insects onwards. This is how he appears: "Dushan Makovitsky gave orders like a military captain." With that the idea of insects is utterly gone. The military captain has erased the insect, and the reader can expect that when the next metaphor or simile comes along it will obliterate the military captain.

Here we are. Three lines later Dushan is "a scientist."

Dushan remained cool and dispassionate, a scientist through and through.

"A scientist" in turn drops through the text and vanishes.

To the mind behind Parini's prose, the important thing is that the fingers are moving, not that they're moving "like the mandibles of an insect." You could substitute anything for these mandibles and nothing would happen to the next sentence, or the sentence before. You could say that the fingers open and close "like the claws of a dying crab." You might call them the toes of a falcon clutching and releasing its prey. Dushan Makovitsky would still give orders like a military captain and soon he would turn into a scientist. Parini's description-things keep to themselves. They're private and self-contained. They are Mr Tulkinghorn. They don't talk to their fellow metaphors, they don't share themselves around, and they don't reflect light. The state of Parini's metaphor-objects (the mandibles, the granite, etc) is the state that Dickens won't let Tulkinghorn achieve, since the motto of Bleak House is connection, and the motto of Parini's metaphor-objects is isolation. Mr Tulkinghorn can behave with as much reticence as he likes, but the author still obstinately puts him in relationships with other people and gives consequences to his actions.

He never converses when not professionally consulted. He is found sometimes, speechless but quite at home, at corners of dinner-tables in great country houses and near doors of drawing-rooms, concerning which the fashionable intelligence is eloquent, where everybody knows him and where half the Peerage stops to say “How do you do, Mr. Tulkinghorn?” He receives these salutations with gravity and buries them along with the rest of his knowledge.

Sir Leicester Dedlock is with my Lady and is happy to see Mr. Tulkinghorn. There is an air of prescription about him which is always agreeable to Sir Leicester; he receives it as a kind of tribute. He likes Mr. Tulkinghorn’s dress; there is a kind of tribute in that too. It is eminently respectable, and likewise, in a general way, retainer-like. It expresses, as it were, the steward of the legal mysteries, the butler of the legal cellar, of the Dedlocks.

Even in his reticence he can't escape the observant eyes of other characters. They take him and insert him in their worldviews just where they want him. But in The Last Station nobody comments on the insect mandibles except the first-person narrator, nobody thinks that Varvara has a granite sensitivity except the narrator -- the wider world goes by unaffected. Parini's sunlight doesn't start swerving around a certain set of clothes because a certain character is wearing them. The hand can be a pair of insect mandibles, or a housebrick, or a whisker on a tiger, and the prose does not care. It ploughs on. Dushan Makovitsky persists in being a military captain. The mandibles occupy their part of the sentence undisturbed and viginal. For them, there are no consequences. In his saddest and most hopeful fantasies, Mr Tulkinghorn is a metaphor by Jay Parini.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

it was one which would be resuscitated

A poster in one of the comment threads at Whispering Gums wrote, "Mrs Jelleby in Bleak House is supposedly based on Caroline Chisholm," and as I read that sentence it occurred to me to wonder, "What do we mean when we say that a character is based on someone?" Then I thought, "Where did my question come from?" I didn't know, but I was remembering a passage in Ackroyd's Dickens biography in which the biographer quotes a letter from Dickens to Angela Burdett-Coutts. "I dream of Mrs Chisholm and her housekeeping ... The dirty faces of her children are my constant companions." "Familiar companions too," Ackroyd adds, "since this image of them was one which fully embodied his own disgust at the way certain philanthropists attended to distant causes while ignoring those closer to home, and of course it was one which would be resuscitated in the house of Mrs Jellyby in Bleak House, one of a number of scenes and episodes from this period, which, blocked from access into David Copperfield [Dickens was in the middle of Copperfield], found their way into Dickens's next novel. The day after he had seen Mrs Chisholm, for example, he was sent by his brother-in-law, Henry Austin, a Report on a General Scheme for Extra-Mural Sepulture, which contained harrowing detail on the state of city graveyards."

Why did he visit Caroline Chisholm? He was moved by the misery of poor Londoners, and Chisholm had come from Australia to promote her Family Colonisation Loan Society. What was the Family Colonisation Loan Society? A body that offered financial help to needy Britons who wanted to try their luck in the southern colonies, where they would not have to struggle against the same problems of overcrowding and class stigma that faced them in London. The idea was presented to his mind; he seized on it -- inspiration! -- every needy member of the Copperfield cast moves to Australia at the end of the book and Martha Endall the prostitute is rewarded for her migration with a suitable husband and a bush pastoral. "They was married," reports Mr Peggotty, "and they live fower hundred mile away from any voices but their own and the singing birds."'*

Conclusion? If we can say that Mrs Jellyby is based on Caroline Chisholm then we can say that the end of David Copperfield is, too. By which we mean that it is and it isn't, that the inspiration of her entered the brain of Dickens and reacted to things already there, that this sprouted out in various ways, and that Mrs Jellyby was one of those ways, and that the singing birds are another. That if she is Mrs Jellyby then she is also the singing birds, and the four hundred miles, and Mr Micawber becoming a magistrate in Port Middlebay -- and that she is the words on paper representing those things, and that she is the individual letters, and that she is the ink, the components of the ink, that some instance of her has been translated into ink-molecules and ink-atoms, that she is our learning of letters and our accomplishment of reading, which allows us to make sense of these letters, which is a communal sense, because everybody agrees that an e is an e and a p is a p and never anything else, and they have done so for a while, historically (and we can keep zooming in).

In Bleak House Dickens calls Mrs Jellyby's activities "telescopic philanthropy," meaning that they concentrated on matters far away and ignored matters up close, but he did not oppose Chisholm's ideas, or Chisholm's support of them. He was their champion and devotee. When he gave them to Mrs Jellyby he made them ridiculous by transposing them to Africa. (The idea of Europeans bothering themselves with Africans is hilarious to him in The Noble Savage, and he seems to have never changed his mind.) He seats her in a nest of paper, he makes her dress gape at the back, he jams her child's head through a set of stair railings. "We hope by this time next year to have from a hundred and fifty to two hundred healthy families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger," says Mrs Jellyby. She goes on to give encouragement to "a loquacious young man called Mr. Quale" with "a project of his for teaching the coffee colonists to teach the natives to turn piano-forte legs and establish an export trade." And it is intriguing to see Dickens mock, here, and twist, the same thing that he praises so seriously elsewhere, the work done by ambitious migrant British.

It's worth noticing that he never has his migrants educate "the natives" of Australia. I don't think he mentions the indigenous Australians at all. Even The Noble Savage never mentions them, although it mentions the natives of Africa and North America. The key quality of Martha's bush idyll is the distance it puts between her and any human voice besides her own and that of her husband. This bushland is uninhabited. The needy were being posted off to purest terra nullius, which was not a country at all, but an imaginary area conjured up by a law, in other words, a fantasy.**

For the creation of Mrs Jellyby and her household Dickens only needed to take a tiny part of Chisholm, an impression. And I was thinking about all of this in the light of my notion of Dickens as a deep-sea fish, or large object, extruding things that look like characters, and "agitating" them, as E.M. Forster says, in the way that a deep-sea fish jiggles its tempting light. I was in the shower thinking about this when the word interface came into my head. "Ah," I thought. "That was what the dirty faces of the Chisholm children became." They were an interface through which he could translate the ideas inside him into a sign-language that could be understood by the outside world. "Part of him has taken on this shape, which is not the shape of Caroline Chisholm, but wears her face like a mask. Somewhere Mrs Jellyby splits open, as the false human beings in horror movies split open, and the alien inside reveals itself through the split, a creature connected to the mother ship, which is Charles Dickens, sitting at his desk (dead), somewhere this hive-mind, extending one part of itself into Mrs Jellyby, as if she is a finger puppet."

Interface, that's what her household was, handed to Dickens gratis (by this supreme migration agent, who, in this one instance, was migrated into, by a writer who took her for terra nullius as well, and went there to make a habitation) and one part of Dickens' brilliance is this alertness to interfaces, this seeing of them everywhere, perceiving everything that might give him an opportunity to extrude his own personality, even those pictures of battle scenes at sea that I've referred to before,*** which do not have the character of actual prints but the personality of Charles Dickens.

She was a flesh version of the mechanical device that allows a person with a disability to pick up a spoon, or travel down the street -- to act upon the outside world, and make the world take notice in some way (the spoon lifts, the air parts) -- and these fleshy devices are not given to us with a clear purpose (as a wheelchair is) but must be constantly detected and identified for what they are, and tried and rejected. And so a writer is a person who identifies one kind of disability (the gap between the human interior and the outer world) and searches for ways to overcome it, or bridge it, or struggles to find a way through, knowing (because they are very wise) that it is not possible and that their struggles are in vain, like most things. And now I'm looking for some way to describe this writer as a cyborg, without metal parts, but with alien technology introduced to the basic system to achieve a specific effect. The alien technology in this case being another person.

* She is possibly living in the kind of environment that Henry Lawson describes here:

Bush all around – bush with no horizon, for the country is flat. No ranges in the distance. The bush consists of stunted, rotten native apple-trees. No undergrowth. Nothing to relieve the eye save the darker green of a few she-oaks which are sighing above the narrow, almost waterless creek. Nineteen miles to the nearest sign of civilisation – a shanty on the main road.


All days are much the same for her; but on Sunday afternoon she dresses herself, tidies the children, smartens up baby, and goes for a lonely walk along the bush-track, pushing an old perambulator in front of her. She does this every Sunday. She takes as much care to make herself and the children look smart as she would if she were going to do the block in the city. There is nothing to see, however, and not a soul to meet. You might walk for twenty miles along this track without being able to fix a point in your mind, unless you are a bushman. This is because of the everlasting, maddening sameness of the stunted trees – that monotony which makes a man long to break away and travel as far as trains can go, and sail as far as ship can sail – and farther.

Henry Lawson: The Drover's Wife

** Tolkein liked fantasy countries to be governed by believable and solid lifelike laws, so it is reasonable to assume that Terra Nullius, rooted in law, was a country in the epic high fantasy mode and that the migrants (some of them prostitutes from Urania Cottage, the refuge co-founded by Dickens in partnership with Burdett-Coutts) were performing the same voyage taken by Frodo at the end of The Return of the King, but in reverse.


The walls were ornamented with three or four old coloured prints in black frames, each print representing a naval engagement, with a couple of men-of-war banging away at each other most vigorously, while another vessel or two were blowing up in the distance, and the foreground presented a miscellaneous collection of broken masts and blue legs sticking up out of the water.

Sketches by Boz

Monday, September 6, 2010

always the same and yet

When I was in Year Two or Three our art teacher used to tell us not to draw flying ems when we meant birds. It occurs to me now that she must have spent years watching different groups of children draw the same flying ems, and that possibly she harboured feelings of idealism towards us, hoping that we would show a few of the qualities that children are supposed to have when it comes to art, namely spontaneous freedom and originality. She wanted us to invent our own birds, or at least our own shorthand. Year after year she must have felt a terrible disappointment when her students persisted in these flying ems.

I thought of those ems a few days ago when, coming to the end of Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of Terry Zwigoff's film about Robert Crumb, I saw a picture of Charles Crumb's art. Charles is Robert's older brother. When he was young he drew comic book panels, with characters and dialogue balloons, but over time the dialogue took over the panels, crowding out the characters and spreading into the margins, until everything disappeared, even the letters, and in their place he drew rows of tiny slanting humps that resemble (until you look at them carefully) cursive script.

They look like rows of our ems.


The first thing that came to me when I saw Crumb's ems was not my art teacher but a page in W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. A short way into the book Sebald mentions the French Nobel Laureate, Claude Simon, who, in turn, leads him to the subject of "a certain Gastone Novelli," a man who was tortured in Dachau during World War II. After the war, unable to bear the sight of "any so-called civilized being," Novelli left Europe for the jungles of South America. There he met a group of indigenes who spoke to him in a language that consisted mainly of vowels, "particularly the sound A in countless variations of intonation and emphasis." After some time he returned to Europe and became a painter. "His main subject," writes Sebald, "was the letter A." He painted the capital A "in scarcely legible ciphers crowding closely together and above one another, always the same and yet never repeating themselves, rising and falling in waves like a long drawn-out scream."

Then Sebald prints three lines of screaming A.


I thought of them when I saw Crumb's M.


I had the impression that the vowel man and the consonant man were speaking to one another, one with his mouth open and the other with his mouth sealed permanently shut, but each side as inarticulate as the other, and each one struggling to make himself known. I imagined these two men in a hopeless partnership of the eyes.

This is the kind of romantic fiction you come up with when you're trying to make sense of a mystery, as, perhaps, I tried to make sense of my art teacher, all those years ago, when she told us not to draw flying ems -- told us this so repeatedly, and with such emphasis, that I still remember her doing it, and, in fact, remember the room around her, and the height of her, above us on a chair, while we sat on the floor, which was hard, cold, and not carpeted. Why did she dislike flying ems, I must have wondered, and what did she want us to put in their place? It was often evident that adults wanted something, but the nature of that thing was almost always obscure. They were AAA it seems to me in retrospect, always open-mouthed and expectant, and we, on the floor -- we were MMM.