Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Words inside a copy of Gilead

Ages ago I bought a copy of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead from Savers. Yesterday, after a period of just utter disgust with novels, all novels, the idea of reading any novel, I picked it up — my friend Richard's been talking about it, and the first page made it look appealing, like something I wouldn't mind spending some small part of my life with — and started reading. So far it hasn't made me regret the decision to return to novels, or at least to come to this one; we'll see if it stays that way.
I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren't very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you've had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don't laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's. It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I'm always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I've suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.

It seems ridiculous to suppose the dead miss anything. If you're a grown man when you read this — it is my intention for this letter that you will read it then — I'll have been gone a long time. I'll know most of what there is to know about being dead, but I'll probably keep it to myself. That seems to be the way of things.

In the book, presumably left over from whoever owned it before me, was a bookmark — which I'm now using to mark my place as I read. "CIRCLE OF LIFE", it says at the top, then blank cream-colored paper until, about two thirds of the way down its bookmark-standard length, "See Reverse Side". Then more blank until the bottom, where there's an incomprehensible brand logo (I can make out the words "collector series" but no more) and "Gainesville, Tx". On the reverse side "CIRCLE OF LIFE" is repeated at the top, now with a smaller "BOOKMARK" underneath it, and then this text (all [sic]):
The Circle of Life represents life's pathways and the influence of nature in its various forms: the wind, clouds, moon and earth. The separated spaces in the middle circle represent the four natural directions. The East is associated with births and new beginnings because it is where each new day dawns. The South is where one learns to grow. The West, as daylight fades to dusk, is where one comes to the Autumn of their life. And the North is the place of the hereafter life.

The ascending stairs represents the wind and clouds, while the maze represents the Earth where we dwell.

So begins ones journey in the Circle of Life.

Then more blank cream-color. Any actual image there once was of the circle of life must have been printed in less durable ink than the text. Over the (however many) years it has faded completely: no trace of it remains to "represent" anything. At the bottom of this side of the bookmark, in small but all-capital letters, are the words: "NOT INDIAN PRODUCED OR INDIAN PRODUCT".

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