Do you love me?

The sunset was a long, glowering strip of torrid horizon. I reached for her hand and we began to walk. “Do you love me?” I asked, squinting from the ruddy sun. The waves lashed the shore. Ash-gray gulls soared to harried heights. “Absolutely,” said the raven haired nymph, and we continued to stroll on an endless, iridescent beach. And, with self-shining eyes, she would stop and look back to count my footsteps–hers were invisible (untabulatable steps in the Book of Wickedness mean you are in love). Then I would again stretch out my now steady hand and beckon her to follow me, and in a low susurrus she would gently mouth, “absolutely.”

I will interrupt this dreadful half-start in order to do a little stocktaking. In fiction it is perfectly admissible to create a small world, and thenceforth, out of politeness, follow its small, and petty, dictates. Case in point: the woman only speaks one word: “absolutely.” Are we to take this literally? Is it possible that the man is vacationing and that the woman is a native of some tropical island knowing only one English word? And it goes without saying that the narrator, sometimes little more than a hairsbreadth from the author, has, by the use of the word raven, alluded to Poe’s most famous poem. This is clearly a tipsy, idiosyncratic instance where the author hectors the narrator into applying a telltale adjective—suffusing the voluptuous and featherlight beach beauty’s Aphrodisian hair with stark blackness, and seeking to draw a parallel between the usage of “nervermore” and “absolutely,” both stellar examples of one-word languages. The reader of Poe’s narrative comes to understand, after several candlelight dinners with Cole’s Notes, that “nevermore” is a pliable word that can, like a tailored suit, be made to fit any shape, from the thinness of a lath nail to the pudgy puffiness of a pouter pigeon.

And it should be noted that the unnamed “I”, John as it turns out (funny how that puts rather a different twist on things) is also somewhat inarticulate. He seems to only know four words. A modern love story, to be sure. This cautionary tale subtly exposes, by a very thin, almost imaginary margin, the dangers of how frail modern technologies such as texting stifle the natural floridness of a language (Poe was a visionary with his one word encapsulation of a self-serving plunge into the bathos of remorse). I am certain that some of you may feel that I have crossed the rubicon and landed in the daisy field of didacticism. Not so. Having a severely truncated language may after all be a good thing, as certain writers use by far too many adjectives. But don’t you love them? Don’t you love me.

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10 Comments

  1. Adjectives are very helpful, but then, I find them extraneous if they are packed in a sentence where one or two of them should be effective.

    Hey, I love the description “raven haired nymph.” 🙂

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  2. Depends . . . wandering, bringing clarity, or mystery . . . all depends

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  3. I love your use of a mise en abyme. Is the story within a story a common theme of your posts?

    By the way your choice to mirror, in minutia, by using an opposing word to ‘nevermore’ was an inspired one.

    PS I do believe I am falling for your writing style 🙂

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    • This little piece is metafiction–not particularly typical, but it does suit my Byzantine mind.

      I know that you love words, so I’ll excuse your metafictional infatuation. Just this once. And not to worry, it will pass!

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      • Oh ye of little faith.

        I may have to try my hand at metafiction, it seems like quite a challenge to balance both the subtle and obvious overtones.

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  4. Yes, I do love the adjectives and the florid. Coming from one who finds Proust relaxing, the perfect antidote when feeling harried and stressed.

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  5. i am absolutely sure that 1. i have to use this brilliant piece of literary inquiry in one of my seminars
    2. my students are going to love you.
    (though for that i will have to translate the text into polish, and who knows how much of your stylistic brilliance will be able to survive the dreadful transfer! and i say this alluding to the fact that the best two translations of the Raven i know of keep the word “nevermore” in english, unable to find the perfect equivalent)

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  6. Which leads me to believe that the perfect translation of a poem into another language should entail an exact duplication of the original–in its original language. Borges shows the way in Pierre Menard: autor del Quijote, where an identical copy of a text (Don Quixote) was deemed to be much richer than the original.

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  7. So many thoughts/images/ideas to come away with after reading this. I’ll focus on the candlelight dinner with Cole’s Notes. Perfect. When a nymph (extrapolation) has retraced her invisible footsteps and you (one) is at the end of a long puzzling journey (of a few minutes).

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  8. Awkwardly put…but anyway…I hope you see the sympatico I’m feeling.

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