Monday, September 29, 2014

"that by merely writing you down, you would obtain some sort of independent life"

I first saw her—is this the way to go on? She had a large bouquet of white and yellow flowers in her arms. A flower begins to die immediately upon being cut away from its roots and usually a bouquet of daffodils or roses reminds me of some kind of portable mortuary, a colorful bundle of corpses bound for the temporary crypt of a vase and then, eventually, the rubbish heap. There is nothing romantic in flowers, which are the sexual organs of plants and therefore a species of public obscenity. She had a large bouquet of fresh spring flowers in her arms, and though she moved quite assertively through the crowd, she protected the flowers as if she carried a fragile newborn child.

Many pedestrians on the Charles Bridge carry bouquets of flowers, especially this time of year when women yearn to bring color and life into houses and apartments which have lain cold and dark all winter long. Florists do a brisk business in the spring; that is easily proved. Why it is that I took notice of this particular woman is unclear.

Perhaps—no, I am only attempting to tell the lies a writer tells in order to appear clever. She is beautiful and wore a yellow coat, which caught my eye before the flowers, which seemed at first to be an extension of her coat, or she—her whole body—an extension of the flowers. We begin to die immediately upon being cut free of our mothers. A body is a kind of portable mortuary, bound for crypts called school, university, the office, marriage, death. These are not original observations, and I make them only in retrospect. For the past three weeks I was not thinking of mortuaries or how a fragile newborn child eventually finds his way to the rubbish heap. The sunlight was thick and glowed heavily on her yellow coat and her armload of fresh spring flowers. There must have been fifty feet of bridge span and three hundred people between us, but my eye somehow picked her from the crowd. Her hat was dark gray and the brim was turned up over her left ear. She had jet black hair, glossy and falling to her shoulders. It interests me that I saw how beautiful she was even at that distance among so many other strangers, since her features could not have been clear to me, and the sun shone down hard, the brilliance distorting and blurring the world. Nonetheless she is a beautiful woman, which I confirmed later. She was weaving her way east through the midday throng, going in the same direction I was, and so without any evil purpose I was entitled to follow her across the bridge, past one after another of the famous bronze monsters our Christian masters have erected over the Moldau. She did not look up at the statues, her attention given entirely over to the protection of her flowers. Her left ear, when I was close to her, looked like a soft pink blossom, a tulip perhaps but my knowledge of flowers is quite limited. The delicate petals of her ear beckoned to me and I trailed in her wake, paying little mind to the passersby.
from "Antosha in Prague," a story from a book in progress


  1. I started writing a comment on this yesterday but I must not have posted it -- anyway, I'm not going to say anything about a work in progress, except that I wish you fortitude as you persevere.

  2. Thanks for the fortitude! I'm sorry you didn't comment, though. This particular story is drafted, and I'm on to another one now.

    Most of the stories in this book are turning out to be in different styles, in different voices, etc. This is an amusing and interesting project for me. The excerpt above is supposed to be a cross between Kafka's early diaries, the more poetic Chekhov of his late period, and my own sort of typical High Modernism. Plus whatever else has made its way into my brain. I have no idea what the completed collection will look like, and I have no idea what sort of revisions I'll have to make. Themes and repeated images are starting to emerge, which is interesting. This is my favorite thing yet, this "novel."

  3. The comment was going to be more or less the same as the one I posted, without the first fifteen words. Do you think of any particular authors when you imagine a typical High Modernism?

    1. Woolf, Joyce, Lawrence, very early Rebecca West. Yeats. Gide. The usual suspects, I guess. Some Nabokov.

    2. I'm thinking about reading another Powys, so maybe I might be adding him to my list of influential modernists. Also, today is Powys' birthday.