The Forgetter and the Fox

The Forgetter walked, wearing the clothes of the host and carrying the work of the poet in a pack on his back.  In his right hand, he held an empty cup, and in his left, a letter.  Or rather, not a letter so much as an envelope.

The Forgetter was also once someone else (as were the others), but he remembers not who he was or the names of those before him.  It has become his habit and his duty, as enemy and husband, to protect the present by forgetting the past.  In her one-room fortress, the Duchess waits for him, to forget, so she might continue preparing her dinner party.

But the Forgetter forgot his way home (to the house of the host), and instead found his way into the wilderness where he crossed paths with a gray fox who was a boy.  The fox-who-was-a-boy said to the Forgetter,

“When will the storms come?  When will you open the letter?  When will the Duchess throw her party?  All the guests were scheduled to arrive, but your dark cloak lingers longer than usual and your shield is wide.”

To this, the Forgetter replied, “Open the letter yourself.  I do not know its contents, or if I did, I’ve surely forgotten.”

And so the boy-fox snatched the envelope with his teeth and tore it open.  The fox looked to the cloaked figure who had held the envelope and beheld the Forgetter-as-Death, with sockets for eyes and gumless teeth.  The fox shrieked and fled from the Forgetter’s vacant gaze and bony fingers, but it was the Forgetter who feared most the envelope’s contents.

The Forgetter drew from the envelope, not words on pages, but only the letter F.  “What have I done?  How far have I gone, that I’ve reduced all words to this single letter?”

The Forgetter ran after the fox, but the fox was not to be found, so as not to be forgotten.

Flowing through art and death

Book Review: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon).

Traveling to Venice for the Biennale, journalist Jeff Atman feels as bound to write a story about contemporary art as the author is determined to tell us a story about Jeff Atman.

Art expositions, acute observations, bellini-swigging festivities, and the fineries of drunken and high-on-cocaine hobnobbing set the reader firmly in an art-laden Venice. But as the novel follows what becomes for Jeff, the journalist, an intense but perhaps short-lived romance with an American woman; Geoff, the author, establishes a love for life-in-the-moment, propelling the reader from a third-person venture in Venice to a first-person immersion in Varanasi, ancient holy city of India.

Lost in an entirely different journey of quiet isolation and cultural immersion, we wade into the River Ganges.  It seeps into our blood like the canals of Venice, thick with human mire and beauty. The narrative flows long and slow from middle to end, washing away expectations of plot, to carry us through a sacred human experience.