J. and I make a good team, but because absence makes the heart grow saner she took the initiative and went to Rome for a couple of nights. So I took the train back from Girona by myself, through the Catalan countryside at sunset with the weird broccoli-trees I can’t identify waving in the wind and the Pyrenees turning blue and purple out the window. Sometimes you are in a low place and everything falls on top of you and it takes all your time just to figure out what the things are; but the last couple of days I’ve been in a high place, looking down at everything from above.
We fly home on Tuesday. I never posted much about Spain, it turns out, because the point of Spain is to unplug from things. This is what the Pyrenees are doing out there, walling off the rest of Europe; this is where all the soledad comes from. One thing I unplugged from is The Artificers. Writing that sort of book, for now, is not going to get me anywhere, and it’s amazing how you can lie to yourself, telling yourself that you are finally writing the sort of book you always wanted to write when in fact you obviously don’t enjoy writing the book at all. I swapped it out for some shorter prose pieces based on mythology, and whatever else can be said about them, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing anything this much since 2000.
I also unplugged from the university. These two months I’ve thought so little about universities that even J. was surprised... didn’t you look once at your dissertation, she said, didn’t you stop even once to think about papers, or conferences, or jobs, or anything at all related to literary criticism? And I really didn’t. I’m not sure, said J., that people who really want to be career academics can drop the discipline completely when no one is pushing it in their face. She may be right. I’ve just been reading literature in Spanish. (Also a bit of modern Greek poetry and two formally perfect novels in English: Melville’s The Confidence-Man and Beckett’s How It Is.) When I’m unplugged from the university this is all that a canon means: the working artist’s frame of reference, the coordinates against which you have to plot movement in language. That’s what T.S. Eliot says about tradition and I know in some contexts it creates problems, but like I said, I’m unplugged, I’m just thinking about relative motion and the grid. After my oral exam a couple of years ago I finally felt like I had the grid in English; I’ll never run out of things to read, but I no longer feel the danger of secret continents tripping me up and I’m unlikely to mistake the Caribbean for the Indies. In Spanish I’m just starting to see outlines. It’s taken time, and will take more time, because translations don’t seem to help here, especially not with poetry. I’ll try to write a little about it.
The other day I actually thought about law school for about fifteen minutes before rejecting it as an obvious blind alley. Too old, too indebted, do not want to be surrounded by two hundred variations on that jerk from everyone’s junior year poli-sci class. It doesn’t worry me. Safe behind the Pyrenees nothing worries me.