Literary Mix Tape #2

As I watch her now, three hundred and ninety-three pounds and gaining by the day, her frame so vast she has not been able to pull it upright in more than two months or to fit through any doorway without first having to take the door off its hinges, her breath so stormy it makes the dogs bark all the way up and down the street where she now lives with her sister in Los Angeles, and sets the piano in their neighbor’s house playing mad tunes at odd hours of the night, it is impossible to believe that my mother, Roxanna the Angel, was once a young woman with watercolor eyes and translucent skin, that she could stop the world with her laughter and compel men, my father among them, to follow her across an entire city without knowing why they chased her or what they would do if ever she stopped and answered their calls, that she had been so light and delicate, so undisturbed by the rules of gravity and the drudgery of human existence, she had grown wings, one night when the darkness was the color of her dreams, and flow into the star-studded night of Iran that claimed her.

Gina Nahai, Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith

To assuage Tereza’s sufferings, he married her (they could finally give up the room, which she had not lived in for quite some time) and gave her a puppy. ¶ It was born to a Saint Bernard owned by a colleague. The sire was a neighbor’s German shepherd. No one wanted the little mongrels, and his colleague was loath to kill them. ¶ Looking over the puppies, Tomas knew that the ones he rejected would have to die. He felt like the president of the republic standing before four prisoners condemned to death and empowered to pardon only one of them. At last he made his choice: a bitch whose body seemed reminiscent of the German shepherd and whose head belonged to its Saint Bernard mother. He took it home to Tereza, who picked it up and pressed it to her breast. The puppy immediately peed on her blouse.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In art school a decade ago I learned that the best way to memorize a landscape is to close your eyes for several seconds and then blink in reverse. That is, open your eyes just briefly, allowing those images before you to burn themselves onto your retina in an instant rather than with an extended gaze. I mention this because this is essentially the same principle that is in operation when one’s world is illuminated by the nuclear flash. ¶ This flashing image is a recurring motif in both my everyday thoughts and in my dream life. My most recurring flashing image is of me sitting on the top floor of a 1970s cement apartment building along the ocean waterfront of West Vancouver, on the 20th floor, looking out over the ocean. One of the people in the room with me says “Look,” and I look and see that the sun is growing too large too quickly, like a Jiffy pop popcorn foil dome, glowing orange, like an electric stove element. And then I am awake.

Douglas Coupland, Life After God



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