LITERATURE: The Body Artist – Theme

This is going to be a rather long excerpt, but it’s about one of my favorite ponderings, that of space of time and place, and I found it rather interesting because it reminds me of the "stop and look around" type of revelations I experience in the dark in my garage.  (Yes, I see the inconsistency here, but in truth, it’s not.)

She spent hours at the computer screen looking at a live-streaming video feed from the edge of a two-lane road in a city in Finland.  It was the middle of the night in Kotka, in Finland, and she watched the screen.  It was interesting to her because it was happening now, as she sat here, and because it happened twenty-four hours a day, facelessly, cars entering and leaving Kotka, or just the empty road in the dead times.  The dead times were best.

She sat and looked at the screen.  It was compelling to her, real enough to withstand the circumstance of nothing going on.  It thrived on the circumstance.  It was three in the morning in Kotka and she waited for a car to come along–not that she wondered who was in it.  It was simply the fact of Kotka.  It was the sense of organization, a place contained in an unyielding frame, as it is and as you watch, with a reading of local time in the digital display in a corner of the screen.  Kotka was another world but she could see it in its realness, in its hours, minutes and seconds.  (p. thirty-eight)

Haven’t you ever wondered what was going on thousands of miles away in the exact moment of your wondering?  Okay, so I wonder what Willie is doing right now.  Where is he, on the bus moving toward a concert?   Is he sleeping or awake?  Damned sure he isn’t wondering what I’m doing this very moment.  But the concept of our own visual and peripheral space and our belief in it for that very reason, somehow by this very fact throws doubt about the existence of that which happens beyond it.  DeLillo’s calling up of the live webcam brings technology into the picture as proof of the space occupied by others beyond our own scope.  Time-stamped even in the corner of the screen.

She imagined that someone might masturbate to this, the appearance of a car on the road to Kotka in the middle of the night.  It made her want to laugh.  She chopped firewood.  She set aside time every day for the webcam at Kotka.  She didn’t know the meaning of this feed but took it as an act of floating poetry.  It was best in the dead times.  It emptied her mind and made her feel the deep silence of other places, the mystery of seeing over the world to a place stripped of everything but a road that approaches and recedes, both realities occuring at once, and the numbers changed in the digital display with an odd and hollow urgency, the seconds advancing toward the minute, the minutes climbing hourward, and she sat and watched, waiting for a car to take fleeting shape on the roadway.  (p. thirty-eight)

Of course we realize that Laura is facing this within the realm of "here one minute, gone the next" in the death of her husband, but DiLillo gives us a simple yet complex viewpoint of our reality that may sound silly to some, but I would argue that who would have believed the earth was round, that you could cram three hundred people into a room of metal and glass and stick on some wings and it would not only suspend you safely  in the sky, but get you to Kotka, Finland. 

"She didn’t know the meaning of this feed but took it as an act of floating poetry."  —  Yes, just like flash fiction.

" a place stripped of everything but a road that approaches and recedes, both realities occuring at once,"  —  This brings in the matter of perspective, coming or going; past or future perhaps just as real as the present.  Or, the present being as unreal and without shape as the past and future.

The dead times were best

It was best in the dead times

An excellent foreshadowing of what is to come, since we seem to have acquired a new character in the form of a ghost.  Well, that explains the time thing, no? 

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