From a Paris Review interview with John Ashbery:
“A gag that's probably gone unnoticed turns up in the last sentence of the novel I wrote with James Schuyler. Actually it's my sentence. It reads: “So it was that the cliff dwellers, after bidding their cousins good night, moved off towards the parking area, while the latter bent their steps toward the partially rebuilt shopping plaza in the teeth of the freshening foehn.”
is a kind of warm wind that blows in Bavaria that produces a fog. I would doubt that many people know that. I liked the idea that people, if they bothered to, would have to open the dictionary to find out what the last word in the novel meant. They'd be closing one book and opening another.”
I have thought about that last sentence for years. Closing one book and opening another. I’m talking less about one door closing and another opening—I’m not trying to pervert despair here—and more about a continuum where no door closes, ever. Your mind just keeps moving, monkeylike, from idea to idea, place to place (apparently, this is called “brachiating,” which I learned from “Wild Kratts”—what-ever, John Ashbery).
I’ve been thinking about all this in the context of my novel, which I just finished for maybe the sixth time. And the Floyd case, which just finished, but which finishes nothing. And vaccines, which seem like they might just swing from one variant to another indefinitely.
I’m thinking, too, about this new doctor I’m soon to start working with to help my UC. Her pitch is: “Science, nutrition, mindfulness combined to help you feel better, finally.” From a narrative point of view, this is clever advertising (consider how ineffective the tag would be without the word “finally”). This doctor is acknowledging how frustrated people are with the prix-fixe of options for medical care; how desperate and exhausted people are before they come to her. Preemptively she’s saying: “I get you and what you’ve been through.” But still: finally? And does finally mean permanently?
I realize I am slipping into some Buddhist territory here, and since I’m a generalist who barely knows even a little about most things, I’m going to back away slowly.
Is there something wrong with endings, though? Are they threatening? I realize this sounds like a dumb question—duh, of course they’re threatening—but are they always threatening? I haven’t finished reading a book in at least a year. I am anywhere between halfway and 3/4ths of the way through probably 60 books. Now, some of them I don’t like at all. But a lot of them I *do* like. And the ending of a great novel can be a revelation of incalculable joy (I remember riding a stationery bike at the gym and reading the last pages of What Is the What and sobbing vigorously, which was a wonderful and clearly memorable experience—I FELT SOMETHING). And yet I can’t get myself to finish these books I am enjoying quite a bit. At some point, you gotta stop blaming the book.
Often, if I take a trip with a family member—someone who lives in the same city, whom I can see any time—I will cry when we say goodbye.
I am hostile to the concept of closure and resolution, though these aren’t the same things.
But I can’t decide if this is good or bad. Good to acknowledge nothing ever ends. Good to sit with the knowledge that things do end. All the time. I wonder, too, about the juvenile absolutism of these labels—good and bad—and if it’s even worth probing any of this when, as usual, context is king.
Ugh. I fear I’ve left you all with nothing. So, yeah, that’s it from this—wait for it—ultracrepidarian.