Saturday, July 21, 2012

You fasten your seatbelt. The plane is landing.

You fasten your seatbelt.  The plane is landing.  To fly is the opposite of traveling; you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in any place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and the when in which you vanished.  Meanwhile, what do you do?  How do you occupy this absence of yourself from the world and of the world from you?  You read; you do not raise your eyes from the book between one airport and the other, because beyond the page there is the void, the anonymity of stopovers, of the metallic uterus that contains you and nourishes you, of the passing crowd always different and always the same.  You might as well stick with this other abstraction of travel, accomplished by the anonymous uniformity of typographical characters: here, too, it is the evocative power of the names that persuades you that you are flying over something and not nothingness.  You realize that it takes considerable heedlessness to entrust yourself to unsure instruments, handled with approximation; or perhaps this demonstrates an invincible tendency to passivity, to regression, to infantile dependence.  (But are you reflecting on the air journey or on reading?)
This is the opening paragraph of chapter 9 of Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night a Traveler", whose books are much like the crowd in the above paragraph:  always different and always the same.  If you want to read something beautifully strange, pick up something from Calvino.  Each of his works is a rewarding journey.

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