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Aitchmark

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Too much memory [Sep. 28th, 2011|08:36 pm]
Aitchmark
"I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane"

I saw three Cedar Waxwings dead by the windows as I came to work this
morning. I have no idea why they chose today to smash into the windows.
Ove the years a few birds have done this--one a beautiful painted
bunting--but never before have I seen 3 at once.

It was odd to remember the first lines from a novel I tried to read over
40 years ago and failed to finish: Nabokov's  Pale Fire. I was 16. I
could say fictional academic exercise failed to move me much, but the
truth is it was too formal, arcane, and elaborate; it defeated me. And
bored me. I read it because my older friend George recommended it
and I wanted to be more like George.

But those first few lines stuck with me, and I can't really say why.
Well, that's not true--pure ego and pride had me start over and over
before I gave up for good; it would be unusual not to remember the
beginning.  I can also remember--more or less--the first phrases of
Finnegan's Wake, another book that defeated me when I was a mid-teen. 

If I couldn't read it, I could at least quote from it.

Made a stab at both books too early; some things you really do have to
be older to appreciate or even approach. I was trying to be a prodigy,
and trying in areas outside my real talents; I'd have done better to
stick what I was really good at. But I wanted to be a broad spectrum
prodigy, an increasingly futile desire in this age of massive
specialization and depth. Experiences like this did me no good; I have
always been somewhat soured on consciously "literary" work, and it
probably dates back to these and other excursions.

Which "brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back" to dead
birds on the sidewalk. The desire to be a prodigy led me to fly full
tilt into more than one window under the illusion I was flying toward a
free and open horizon.

I'll finish with another quote: "I was so much older then; I'm younger
than that now."  I may still bang into windows thinking I'm aimed at the
horizon, but I'm walking, not flying, and risk no more than a bumped
nose and a little more bruising to my old and tattered glad rags of
pride.
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