Monday, October 22, 2012

Squirreling to China

I just witnessed a squirrel digging its furious way into a makeshift trench in front of my parents' house. For a second I thought it was having a seizure or at the very least busting out some smooth dance moves but upon closer inspection it was just sort of burrowing into the front lawn. Eventually, if left alone for long enough I'm pretty sure it may have ended up in China. Or Ronkonkoma. Deducing that no one in my parents town house complex would appreciate a burrowing squirrel effing up the landscape, I shooed him away. In reality, I thought about just standing there and watching him for awhile. It would have been calming and hilarious and absurd all at once.

While I'm a flexible believer that the universe tend towards utterly random indifference, I am sometimes prone to looking for or at least recognizing signs, anything that lends an air of order to the chaos. This is probably my brain's way of reassuring me that even though the universe is random, sometimes happy accidents occur and sometimes those accidents have harmonious effects. Or maybe it is just human nature to want things to make sense or have meaning. I do it almost constantly, to the point where I have to question what I actually do believe about the universe pretty regularly.

To wit: I am having a lot of difficulty finishing Chabon's Telegraph Avenue. I've been reading it for about month and try as I might, even after 250 or so pages, I just feel disconnected from it and everyone in it. But it is so well written that there exists this sense just underneath that disconnect of "I should be feeling something." It is weird but I did feel that same way when I read another Chabon's books The Yiddish Policeman's Union. It is frustrating to keep expecting to feel connection to a book and to put effort in the waiting for it and then to come up empty handed. I expressed that frustration to my friend Catherine who has since read and finished the book and she advised me to not bother finishing it. There is too much else to read to spend time on something that isn't holding your attention. She is right, of course and I had all but resolved to return the book to the library today and forget about it until I inevitably came across it again at some point in the future, during which time I'd likely sigh and regret giving up. However, and here is where the randomness and completely explainable coincidence happens, I needed something to read during my lunch hour today and happened to grab an old copy of the New York Times magazine that my friend Lauren left at my house a few weeks ago. The theme of the issue was "Inspiration" and had all these creative people talking about what inspires them and how they arrived at ideas that later became songs or novels or films. It really is a fascinating issue. One of the contributors was, you guessed it, Michael Chabon. He was talking about his inspiration for Telegraph Avenue. Essentially his story of inspiration is intriguing and heartfelt and I was hooked more into the article than the actual book. But then he said this:

I found myself obliged, and eager, to recreate through fiction, through storytelling and prose, the lost utopia that never quite happened, that I never quite knew, that I have never since forgotten and that I have been losing, and longing for, all my life. 

And I was effectively drawn right back in. It feels meta but I am looking for in reading his novel what he is looking for in writing it. Why can't I find it?! Also, why can't I just be a normal person and abandon books that don't interest me? I am that damn squirrel, rooting around for some unknown treasure.

If you'll excuse me for moment, I'm just going to walk around for a bit, looking for completely random and meaningless things to assign meaning to. If you need any help with this in your life, just do what I do, make shit up.

ETA: I gave up on the book. I just read 15 more pages and I was distracted the entire way through. Some other time, Mr. Chabon. It's not you, it's me. Ish.

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