Struggling Through a Bog

Faithful readers know that in recent months yours truly has been troubled by a frustration with the modern nature of time itself. That’s putting it pretentiously, but sometimes one has to reach above the routine to express the sense of a change, and for the moment, it’s the best I can do.

But you might give me a look and suggest that maybe that’s just me.

I don’t think so.

For one, I’m not alone in this conviction; in fact, I’m considerably behind the times.

A couple of months ago I linked to a notable essay by Richard Ford in which he called the pace of life in l998 "morally dangerous" and declared:

Yes, you can say these are just insignificant annoyances and I’m peevish, and the velocity of life and change has increased — that ideas like dollars must flow freely, that the more exchange we have with the unknown the less we fear it, and that life feels full — just the way we always hoped it would. But in an ominous way, these interruptions represent a turf battle over who’s going to say what I have on my mind at any present moment — now, in other words. And this battle seems to contain moral consequence lasting far beyond the moment or the individual interruption. Indeed, at the heart of the contest is an axiological paradox whereby the higher valuation placed on my immediate attention by others — vendors, let’s call them — is accompanied by or perhaps even causes a lower valuation to be placed on it by me, who’s after all losing these moments and having to reconcile their loss. It’s as though I had nows to burn. Except I don’t.

And other voices are making similar claims. In the mail yesterday comes the latest Granta, perhaps the best literary magazine in English.

Being more interested in timelessness than timeliness, they don’t have a big web presence, and allow few links to pieces, especially the great ones. And they always have one or two great ones per issue, sometimes more.

The best I’ve seen so far this issue is by a writer previously unknown to me named Andrew Brown, who is an author and a writer for "The Guardian."

It’s called "In the Clearing" and it’s about going to rural Sweden, where Brown grew up, to work on a book. He found a place as far away from "civilization" as he could that still had electric power. He sat at a desk and looked out at a grey,  mostly featureless landscape speckled with birds.

He writes:

The rain returned next day. I worked. My senses refined. The less there seemed to be to see and hear, the more clearly I could apprehend what there was. At the table in the kitchen I kept typing, looking back to a past that seemed as grey and impenetrable as the clouds clamped over the valley. For days I seemed to be struggling through a bog in my work, measuring progress only in exhaustion. But at least I could attain exhaustion. It seemed to me, from where I sat with nothing to watch but the swallows, that trying to work as I normally do, with a telephone and an Internet connection, was like trying to think in a cloud of mosquitoes.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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