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Pickle Me This

August 8, 2008

Rereading Late Nights

I just finished rereading Late Nights on Air, the novel that stole my heart last September. Back then I was reading it outside one afternoon when it started raining, and the book got wet, but I could not find the drop-splattered page this time. I kept expecting the book to get rained on this time, but the clouds kept holding off until I was safely indoors. Anyway, I tried to read it more critically, to reflect on the many different arguments I’ve heard about the book since then– for its worth and otherwise. But I really couldn’t help it, slipping right back into the same sweet dream that held me as I read it the first time, as easy as a paddle dip into a glass-calm lake.

I love this book, and I’ve decided I love its shape more than anything. The paddle dipping almost right, because it’s about water, or I suppose the way that water makes a shape inside whatever vessel is holding it– so absolutely fluid, yet contained. But here contained without a container even, molecules just suspended. That the chapters aren’t numbered, for example, and their construction is not consistent. This is the only novel I’ve ever read whose lack of quotation marks for speech seemed to matter, that lack of containment, and yet held. The lack of division between speech, narration, inner thoughts and the voice in each of the characters’ heads (which is different than their inner thoughts, of course). Utter calm, throughout, or maybe I’m just feeling mellow for once in my life, but it’s the book, I think. As subtle and pointed as a name like “Gwen”, how it slips from your lips. The word “slip” too, it’s the same. Dipping paddles, quiet speed.

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