Monday, April 15, 2013

Burrowing further into Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey

My own madness is that I'd rather read than do anything else but write, except that the world I've 'chosen' to live in expects me to earn my living and support my family and act like the responsible person I'm not, so I expend most of my scraped-together sense of responsibility on reading and re-writing other people's writing. In short, I edit, a kind of madness. I'd rather be writing like Ruefle:
"The Burrow" was in one of our textbooks. As the class sat reading silently, the silence seemed different. I was infuriated by my inability to understand what was happening in the story. What was happening? Deep inside myself I could not believe that anyone else was actually reading. I was convinced that a mistake had been made, that the printing plates -- for I pictured them as such -- had gotten smashed and all mixed up. There was a mistake. Was I the only one who noticed? Hadn't the teachers bothered to read the story? Their secret was out! There was a very special kind of attention that only I was able to pay to the story -- it was absurd. And then I had a moment of doubt. Who wrote this? Perhaps he was the mistake, and not the story. I sat in the silent classroom and I heard all kinds of things -- I heard the non-ticking clock tick, and the sweat beginning to form on my body, and the window glass was about to break into pieces. The pencil sharpener on the wall was salivating. I flipped to the back of the book where there were brief paragraphs about each of the authors, who they were, where they came from, what they wrote. Yes, I was certain now, the mistake was not in the story, but in its author. There was a mistake in the man. There had to be a mistake in the man because I was told where and when he wrote but not why. And of all the stories in our book, this was the one that remained starved and unfed unless I learned why he wrote it at all. I decided to hate the author. I decided to hate the author because he made me feel as if all my life I had been waiting for something to happen, and it was happening and it was not going to happen. It was many years before I understood that this was the secret labyrinth of reading, and there was a secret tunnel connecting it to my life. (189-190)
A couple of years back -- if I'm not mistaken -- on this blog appeared a commentator of literary ability named Daniel Richter who liked Kafka and crafted a blog titled "The Burrow of Bucephalus," twining two Kafka tales, "The Burrow" and "The New Lawyer," for the latter introduced Alexander's horse as a lawyer.

In the passage above, a young Ruefle decides that Kafka was a mistake. Not just his story, but the author himself. A measure of his greatness, I suppose. But was Kafka a mistake? Or was Ruefle? Is Richter? Am I? And if we are . . . then whose?

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