Monday, June 30, 2014

Einstein's Dreams

Alan Leitman writes Einstein’s Dreams as a series dreamed from mid-April to the end of June 1905. In each dream time works in some mysterious way in and around the neighborhoods of Berne and Fribourg. On June 2, the dream is of a world in which time moves backwards. We see the body of an old woman gradually come alive and gain vitality. She slowly forms relationships and grows younger. One day the body of her husband is brought in and they live together and everything is proceeding apace until the reader stumbles upon the following: “She sees her husband for the first time in the library of the university.”
   It seems to me she is seeing her husband for the last time. She sees him for the first time when his near-dead body is brought in from the hospital. Similarly Leitman shows an old man throwing dirt into a friend’s grave, looking forward to their many happy days of friendship ahead. I think I understand what Leitman is doing: showing people living life backward, but still experiencing life in ways people (readers) living in normal time can relate to.
   I know there’s no way of avoiding absurdities when doing this sort of thing, and Lietman walks a fine line, keeping it wistful and evocative. But he makes me want to conduct my own little thought experiment with this one.

   If time runs backwards people spontaneously gather at a graveside to witness an exhumation. Religious rites are conducted, the body is taken to a mortuary and given transfusions of body fluids. Eventually the corpse comes to life. Depending upon its initial conditions, in a matter of days, weeks, months or years the person attains a degree of health and intelligence. People grow “younger,” forget their knowledge, shrink, are one day forced into the womb of a young woman, and are never seen again.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Augusten Burroughs' "This Is How"

I didn't feel like I needed a self-help book, but I loved other books I read or listened to by Burroughs: Running with Scissors, Possible Side Effects, Magical Thinking, and even A Wolf at the Table. I could see how experiences written about in those earlier books could lend themselves to this sort of project, and I expected it might lack the humor I especially enjoyed in Possible Side Effects and Magical Thinking, unless he found a way to work it in. I was curious enough to want to find out, so I gave it a shot --and I'm glad I did. The part about ending your live as opposed to committing suicide is riveting, as is the part about caring for a loved-one coping with disease. I find that he and I share similar beliefs about the difference between actual suffering and imagined or anticipated suffering. His discussion of alcoholism and how he dealt with it is also well worth looking into.