We remember our lives slowly. Memories don’t come all at once. Revelation, my father said, is like a funeral procession. The order within the procession tells a story of its own. There’s no point to rushing. You need quiet and patience.
After my father’s death a kind of psychological autopilot took over. You can’t tame grief, but you can tame a hawk. At the time I saw it as a way of escaping myself. I wanted to be like a goshawk. I didn’t test myself against the rugged exterior landscape. I brought the wild—in the form of the hawk—inside the home, and inside myself. That is where the battle raged. At heart it was a battle about who I was and what the world was for.
We carry the lives we ’ve imagined as we carry the lives we have, and sometimes a reckoning comes of all the lives we have lost.
Έλεν Μακντόναλντ, H is for Hawk
Do you see the book taking place in a parallel world to ours?
There are clearly events and occurrences in the book that are physically impossible, considering the biology of our world, so there is a certain element of “speculative fiction” here. I suppose it would be a parallel world, although I’m not exactly very eager to apply the term “science fiction” to this, because the term tends to etch out a very specific genre. This is just a world in which these things happen, where epidemics can make people speak different languages, can make them hear music. It’s just that kind of world.
What are some influential works that you’ve read in speculative fiction?
The most obvious is Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. In it, Marco Polo is in Kublai Khan’s court, describing cities that he’s seen during his travels. Each city is a prose poem, conveying an idea or an image. My book probably has its greatest affinity to that kind of writing. I also greatly admire Jorge Luis Borges, who was terrific at starting with a phantasmagorical idea, and then teasing apart its mechanics to show the reader exactly what it would entail. One influence you might notice is Edgar Allen Poe, whose short stories I find endlessly fascinating. Another is a 17th century author named Robert Burton who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy. It’s a 1400 page tome that details all the possible causes of melancholy. But it isn’t really a medical work – it’s more an erudite collection of every possible perspective of human existence. It’s the kind of book that is impossible to read and yet impossible to stop reading.
Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο:
The invalid with Amnesia esoptrica, or Mirrored Amnesia, when still in the prime of his life, begins to notice blank spots in his memory. When he thinks of the interior of his village chapel, he can no longer picture the crucifix that ought to hang there. He cannot recall the names or faces of the boys who sang with him in the village choir. He can forge horseshoes but has no recollection of ever having entered a smithy. He recalls once fleeing from an orchard with an apple clutched in his hand but cannot remember climbing the tree to pluck it. He remembers a round breast with a tiny scar, glorious in its imperfection, but not the identity of the woman who possessed it, or how he became privy to such an intimate detail.
Day after day he combs the corridors of his mind and finds yet more things missing, and begs his friends and relatives to help him illuminate the voids. They recount their secondhand recollections of his life, until he knows his own history mostly by hearsay. It is in this absurd fashion that he must live, for only by memorizing the fragmented recollections of others can he hope to have any semblance of a past.
But the affliction overtakes his efforts at compensation. He begins to lose the part of himself that was known to him alone, witnessed by no other. He is left with no recourse but to fill his mind with suppositions and conjectures, with imagined memories of music he might have heard, lovers he might have wooed, sins he might have committed.
Scholars of memory report that in the terminal stages of Amnesia esoptrica, when all of the invalid’s own memories have been erased, he forgets even his own diseased state. He possesses only the fictions he has created in an attempt to bandage his failing mind and repeats them, again and again, as though they were truth. He wanders as a minstrel or a madman, for depending on the nature of the tales he has woven for himself, his fellow men regard him as a great storyteller — or a moonstruck fool.
Η γυναίκα του είναι κρεμασμένη πλάι στο τραπέζι· σκαλώνει το φως στο κορμί της και πέφτει μια μακριά σκιά ως τον τοίχο, μαυρίζει την πεσμένη καρέκλα που κλότσησαν τα πόδια της πριν πεθάνει, τα καδράκια που είδαν τα μάτια της πριν πεθάνει, κι από το παράθυρο βλέπει μια καρακάξα καθισμένη στον φράχτη απάνω, μπορεί κι αυτή να την είδε πριν πεθάνει· τις αγαπούσε τις καρακάξες η γυναίκα του, της άρεσαν οι ουρές τους· κομψά πουλιά, του έλεγε, και παρεξηγημένα.
[πρώτη παράγραφος, η συνέχεια εδώ | εικονογράφηση: Pica caudata, από το The Birds of Great Britain (1873) του Τζον Γκουλντ ]
You don’t know how many birds you have until they all band together and start listening to a child.
[Η φωτογραφία από εδώ | Για τους ανθρώπους και τα πουλιά στον Σεντ Κίλντα και σε άλλα απομονωμένα νησιά, το Islands Beyond the Horizon: The Life of Twenty of the World’s Most Remote Places είναι μια καλή αρχή]
These days it feels like we are living inside a failing machine. Enter the two-room apartment of This Coming Fall, though, and you begin to see just how far things could spin out of control. Walk from one room to the next and back again. Hear each room’s voice. You will soon realize these are the voices not of some dismal future, but of a present still obscured under the noise of our daily lives. But listen closely to the dialogue between them and one starts to resemble the voice of god, the other the voice of the faithful. Listen for long enough, and you will see that it could be the same voice after all, echoing from room to room and back again.
So let’s turn our attention to the wonderful world of television. The fall season may be starting next week, but the battle of the buzz is already hot hot hot! Which reality shows are going to have us all talking, and which are going to have us all snoring? Well, new on The Coyote Network for Thursday nights at 21:00, we havePlantation, in which contestants will be competing to last the longest living like real old-time slaves on a traditional Georgia cotton plantation. Last man standing will receive “40 acres and a mule” – one luxurious mansion set on a 40 acre estate, and “The Mule”, a special, limited edition black-on-black Hummer. The hype for this show has been intense, with the promise of live broadcasts of whipping, hot-boxing and sexual abuse sure to make this format an even bigger hit than last season’s controversial smash, The Camp, which is also set to make a return to Coyote. QBS, not to be outdone, offers a novel twist on the job-application reality show with Who Wants to Clean up after a Millionaire? This new approach to a beloved format will see contestants compete to become multi-millionaire businessman Enron Hubbard’s personal valet. The network also claims to have completely revamped the aspirational talent show, Superstar Academy, following disappointing ratings last year. The new and improved format, which industry insiders are saying will make this the music show to watch, will place greater emphasis on fashion, style, and on the contestants’ ability to keep the media’s attention, no matter what it takes. Expect substance abuse, controversial rants and violent, reckless behaviour, and that’s not even counting that this year, every contestant will have to star in a high-quality sex tape as they all fight to stay in the spotlight. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait…
Ο συγγραφέας Ντέιβιντ Μίτσελ έγραψε ένα εξαιρετικό κείμενο στην Γκάρντιαν εξηγώντας πώς είναι η ζωή με ένα αυτιστικό παιδί — αφορμή, η κυκλοφορία στην αγγλική γλώσσα του The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism του Ναόκι Χιγκασίντα, ενός αυτιστικού έφηβου (το έγραψε στα δεκατρία του). Ο Μίτσελ και η γυναίκα του, Κέικο Γιοσίντα, διάβασαν το βιβλίο προσπαθώντας να κατανοήσουν τον γιο τους και στη συνέχεια το μετέφρασαν για να βοηθήσουν κι άλλους γονείς.
Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο:
Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
People often tell me that when I’m talking to myself my voice is really loud, even though my voice at other times is way too soft. This is one of those things I can’t control. It really gets me down.
When I’m talking in a weird voice, I’m not doing it on purpose. Sure, there are times when I find the sound of my own voice comforting, when I’ll use familiar words or easy-to-say phrases. But the voice I can’t control is different. This one blurts out, not because I want it to: it’s more like a reflex. When my weird voice gets triggered, it’s almost impossible to hold it back — if I try, it hurts, almost as if I’m strangling my own throat.
Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
It’s true, I always ask the same questions. What day is it today? or Is it a school day tomorrow? The reason? I very quickly forget what it is I’ve just heard. Inside my head there isn’t such a big difference between what I was told just now and what I heard long ago.
I imagine a normal person’s memory is arranged continuously, like a line. My memory, however, is more like a pool of dots. I’m always «picking up» these dots — by asking my questions — so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.
But there’s another reason for our repeated questioning: it lets us play with words. We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do. The big exception, however, is words or phrases we’re very familiar with. Repeating these is great fun. It’s like a game of catch. Unlike the words we’re ordered to say, repeating questions we already know the answers to can be a pleasure — it’s playing with sound and rhythm.
Ακούστε αποσπάσματα του βιβλίου και τον ίδιο τον Μίτσελ να μιλάει για το θέμα εδώ (η ηχογράφηση είναι ανεβασμένη σε πέντε μέρη συνολικά).