Fixing Everything

errata-voltaireFiction in an alternative form…

Errata [ih-rah-tuh, ih-rey-, ih-rat-uh] noun 1. plural of erratum. 2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication; corrigenda.

1. page 29 (third paragraph break, seventh line): The text “The outcome of this contest was fair” should read “…was fare.”

Early hopes are disappointed, and everyone knows so. Men and women can love whom they wish, and, in competitions of the heart, someone will slip into shadows, someone will find a lover’s eyes pointed elsewhere. Someone will sit, await a lover’s return, and discover the world cold, outside and inside. In the best moments—much later perhaps—a person hopes to build on the fiasco, to pay the full price to learn and accept it at last.

2. page 64 (first paragraph break, first line): The word “stupid” was inadvertently omitted from the sentence “The ceremony celebrated another [stupid] display of affection between them.”

So much of what passes as beautiful and momentous ends up noise. People mean to make others believe they’ve gripped fate when, really, they only find what’s satisfactory. Their solutions absorbed some but excluded others. Those left out try to believe the hierarchy these occasions suggest—what’s proper has happened—but how can you tell? Isn’t every vow—even a wedding vow—an assertion of just one fate? People want to believe in an absolute end and embrace it… but that’s just one choice.

3. page 123 (sixth paragraph break, second line): The waiter inserted here that his lover never cared and that this job, like the others, substituted for what he might be.

What makes this moment memorable is the waiter’s hand, paused on the plate before he lifted it away. The ceiling fans circulated heavy, humid air. The windows opened on the tidal basin and the occasional whiff of empty oyster shells piled outside. Boats with loud motors broke into conversation, but the waiter’s meaning was clear. His eyes settled on spots around the room as he spoke. The question was innocent, the response something else, and anyone listening would have felt the same sympathy for being alone among people who professed affection. Before that moment’s relevance bloomed, it was easy to overlook, which is why it eluded notice at the time.

4. page 186 (second paragraph break, seventh line): In no way did the author mean to imply that all solitude is lonely. Quite the contrary, readers will note that, only seven pages before, he describes being trapped on an elevator as strangely tranquil.

Memory swims in and out as if prodded invisibly, like the tide. Maybe something celestial dictates everything. Sitting on the floor of its cage, the chimpanzee feels and accepts moments as inevitable and fitting in some shaded sense. The chimpanzee doesn’t feel compelled to exploit one moment to improve the next and doesn’t think what the present lacks, all the ways it’s pale and mute and disappointing measured against his hopes. Yet that sort of peace seems rare to us. It’s tough to believe in quiet contentment. We’re taught peace of mind should be blissful. It isn’t meant to be mundane or blend one hour with others in our accustomed soup, a meal we eat daily.

5. page 237 (third paragraph break, eleventh line): You may not realize the universe conspires against such moments of clarity. Epiphany often seems delusion amid life’s chaos.

Once I thought I saw a scene clearly. I was eating alone, and, half a bottle in, I watched the shuffle of passers-by flowing on the sidewalk. A woman much too young to care about me locked eyes and smiled. Perhaps she delighted in being noticed—my eyes and mind might have been too open—but I felt understanding between us, an instant history forming to make us familiars. My lips parted to speak, and she raised a hand. It may have been a greeting, a gesture to silence my speech as unnecessary, or a rebuff. But it felt all three. The purest fiction has no certain place, only effect. The effect is all that counts.

6. page 321 (fourth paragraph, seventh line): Please add, “There is a very loud amusement park across from my present dwelling.”

Forgive me. I’ve tried to speak confidently, but there’s so little I feel certainly. Sometimes my perception shrinks to light and color, sound and smell… and texture, and flavor. The world had so many opportunities to choose me and went on blaring and flashing. It went on shouting other names, and any intimacy I expected ran into the puddled ruts of wheels long passed, reflecting the red, yellow, and blue blinking lights of more vivid life I’ve known secondhand.

7. page 411 (seventh paragraph break, third line): Of course, the sum of all things can’t be counted, and so “sum” is itself fallacious, a way to abridge and not to describe.

I must be nearer the end than the beginning. If I found you, and if you wanted to start again, would time cooperate, would I be able to say who I am relative to who I was, or would my face speak something I’d have to deny?

8. page 438 (first paragraph, twelfth line): When I consider what might be said, I realize all I’ve said is incomplete, wrong in some grave sense.

When we met, you said you knew me without my having to speak. At the time, I took that as warmth, a sign we matched. Now I think you already knew me as finite. I wish I knew myself that way. The sun rises, solitary. I pair with it. I think of you.

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8 Comments

Filed under Apologies, Doubt, Experiments, Fiction, Hope, Identity, Laments, life, Love, Nostalgia, Play, Prose Poems, Solitude, Voice, Worry

8 responses to “Fixing Everything

  1. You are one of the most creative people I know. Look back through your writings at the times you do something like this. Your choices for structure turns everything you write into narrative poetry.

    Don’t laugh. Actually, do laugh. I have a queue of your things, like this, that I want to try. Maybe, by the time I’m seventy, I’ll get to it. So much to write, too much to do.

    • dmarshall58

      That’s quite a compliment coming from a creative person like you. I generally don’t do assignment-type writing, but a friend, Dan Hefko, gave me this idea and suddenly it made a sort of perverse sense to me that another story might lie in the corrections to the first. And then I wondered whether I needed a first story at all. Anyway, it was fun to write. It’s good to stretch out occasionally. –D

  2. #3. That’s it.

    Wonderful, creative work as usual.

  3. Love this – so inventive. Makes me want to write.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks. I wish I were better at fiction, more practiced at its conventions and subtleties. My greatest fear is that I’m stuck in that stage of artistic development when the artisit not very good and can’t see it. The nice thing about odd “assignments” like this one is that there are no standards, and I can disguise my deficits. Like wearing the right clothes for my body, I suppose. –D

      • So modest…I’m sure you shouldn’t be at all worried about your artistic development. I wonder why you doubt your talents?

      • dmarshall58

        I wish I had the answer to that one. Part of me thinks it’s the only stance I can take–that overblown confidence will blind me to the flaws in my work or lead me into imitating myself instead of growing as an artist. Mostly, however, I see how limited my work is compared to the fiction writers I admire. And, of course, I wish I were them or at least better than I am.

        Still, it’s fun to experiment with fiction the way I have lately. You can really get at the roots of fictions when you look at all the ways it arises. It feels a little like cultivating the weeds that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk and pavement. I keep looking for the places fiction WILL appear in hopes of finding out what it is. –D

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