Friday, February 22, 2008

Timing is everything

In Jane Hamilton's novel, A Map of the World, the narrator begins by weaving a context of past, present, family, inner predilections, habits, and setting the stage for a tragedy that starts the book off on its amazing and haunting journey. By page 21 you are as close to the narrator as her own skin, and the tragedy has occurred, and her husband tries to shake her out of shock by saying: "Tell me, Alice. Say something." That simple phrase made me tingle and stop -- and then I realized that until that point, I knew the names of every other character, and the speaker had repeated those names many times, creating a web of family and history and familiarity, and yet I hadn't known the speaker's name. Alice. It lands there gently, unexpectedly, almost unnoticeable except for the little tingle it leaves, and it enters at just the right moment, as Alice steps into a landscape where she will lose and try to find herself. Identity there will be tenuous but critical.

Alice. Thunk.

Here is the red wheelbarrow (WC Williams) that so much depends upon, common and utilitarian and quotidian, arriving just when it should. Small but essential. Timing, in novels as in poetry, is everything.

1 comment:

Catherine Rankovic said...

Becky, thanks for introducing me to Ecology of Absence. You might well like this one: