Wednesday, January 17, 2007


"If Limbo is a sort of suburbs of Hell, then it is perhaps exactly the place for me. Between fire and outer darkness, enjoying the equipoise. Until I receive another omen anyway."
--Yashmeen Halfcourt in Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

Limbo was the term I chose to describe my status while working on Between Days. In that stretch from 2000 to 2005, when many terrible things happened -- Bush elected twice, 9/11, the Iraq invasion, Katrina, and more -- I was buoyed by the fact that my real work was about getting down a different period entirely: 1966, or so, to 1978. But more than the imaginative energy required to revisit the past, "limbo" referred to the fact that constant work on a long term writing project detached me from the times we were all living through to an even more than usual extent. And this I appreciated, perhaps for obvious reasons. The "equipoise" was between the "fire" of the shit going down in the present, and "the outer darkness" of the past one ceases to recall. Yashmeen gives it the right spin. You know you are suspended somehow, and that "suspense" is the space of writing, it's a tightrope over the abyss of what you otherwise will never say or get down.

The idea of an omen that might end the time in limbo is attractive too. This would be a jolt from "the real world" that puts to an end that "neither here nor there" quality of life. Something definitive. A sign! I'm sure that could take many forms, but, not ironically, the limbo omen for me might well be a sign to go back into the limbo of creation again, for however long it takes. I'm referring to a sudden hearing problem that, like all sudden problems, suggests something ain't right, but also that time is passing, the body's slipping, and, as my doctor told me after observing changes in my brain detailed by an MRI, "you're not 18 any more." Well, hell, doc, give it to me straight: am I still 40 at least? No, alas, and so...

The doc's remark had meaning in another way too. In Between Days, my alter ego is about to turn 19. In the next novel, he is 19 ("not 18 any more"). Nice to have some scientific corroboration on that... a good omen? Amen.

No comments: