July 06, 2012

I think I've read all the novels of Nick Hornby

There were about five of them.  One right after the other.  They are gentle, easygoing stories, vaguely absurd and Absurdist in the sense that the characters, thoroughly modern people, recognize that life has no point but you live it anyway.  There is even a lengthy soliloquy in the novel "About A Boy" (made into a movie starring Hugh Grant) about that very thing, The Point.  How, for example, do you explain to a person in great psychic distress that there is a Point?  The unlikely hero of that novel manages to do so with a suicidal woman, and brings her back from the brink.

There always is a Point, of course.  "Thinking" otherwise is just that, tricking yourself into intellectualizing something that is not, fundamentally, intellectual.  That seemed to be one of Albert Camus's conceits, very French in character.  If you can't rationally support the case for existence, then you must, as a matter of principle, kill yourself.  Take it easy, as Ali G might say.

In the last of the five novels I read, one of the characters likes to read the poems of Billy Collins.  I didn't know who Billy Collins was, but here's one of his poems:

Fishing On The Susquehanna In July

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure -- if it is a pleasure --
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one --
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table --
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia,

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandana

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

Billy Collins
That illustrates The Point nicely.