Wires dip along the road home from summers in which I traveled more. (Syntax—the code to the soul, or a code to a soul in a September mood. The paragraph ends with the time machine diagrammed, good for a few uses before it seems a formula: noun + verb + adverbial phrase(s) + adverbial phrase with temporally slipped modifier.)
I have been letting revision take all the attention I can shift to it. The command line program top (run, where else, in the Mac terminal setting named ‘novel’) would show one process spawning multiple threads, other processes stuck or sleeping, network down, little time idle.
This past weekend I moved the last of the chapters drawn from my MFA thesis out of my ‘current’ folder. Not done. But settled for now. I’m happy with them, happy to think mostly about chapters with fewer drafts behind them. Along with relief and the unfamiliar pleasure of reading them without wanting to noodle (much), I have a strangely solid, entirely erroneous sense of the ‘finished’ sections as finally approaching what I wanted all along. Maybe they do, in the roughest outline of an arc. The first draft was a mess, the second tidier about its false starts and thin relationships and leaden scenes, the third a muddle of logistics. How I believed in those mistakes.
I have become much more patient with, interested in events not only as engines or catalysts for fictional motion but as solids texturing the pages they’re on, and reverberating, no day only itself.
In Burger’s Daughter Nadine Gordimer signals the novel’s final direction not with Rosa Burger’s decision (that comes later, reasoned in retrospect), but by, in four words, shifting the time from which the narration comes. Rosa has a late night phone argument with her adopted brother:
Because Rosa Burger had once cried for joy she came out of the bathroom and stalked about the flat, turning on all the lights as she went, sobbing and clenching her jaw, ugly, soiled, stuffing her fist in her mouth. She slept until the middle of the next day: it was another perfect noon. This spell of weather continued for some short time yet. So for Rosa Burger England will always be like that; tiers of shade all down the sunny street…
“Some short time yet”—what a heart breaker. Because we know, from previous events, what the rest of the time will be.