possible to speak about loss without recounting the story of attachment? The lost object
in my case was a book that I had been given as a childhood birthday present and which was
subsequently destroyed, exactly how I do not recall. The book was Robert Louis Stevenson's
'Treasure Island' (a text recently reworked by Kathy Acker as 'Pussy-King of the
Pirates'). This event was in fact a double loss, since not only had I lost the actual book
but had discovered that the story was concerned only with the adventures of masculine
characters; the feminine pronoun being inextricably absent from the text. However, I
intuitively identified with the very letters and words which carried the story forward,
conferring on them a somatic identity. This then was the territory of the feminine. One
word in particular remained in my memory, the word 'coracle', describing a small circular
boat made of wickerwork, which turned and twisted over the waves. In my early universe of
reading this single word seemed to hold the entire text within it while simultaneously
moving through the surrounding flood of other words.
Enamoured of this mysterious habit of print I searched
endless shelves in bookstores and libraries for the volume which might contain the same
living torrent of words. For a time the beneficence of the gift had been mine, yet it was
a propriety that was merely lent. My discovery that the gift of the boor; excluded the
feminine confirmed my estrangement. I had suffered a loss. I had lost a single volume. I
was already lost in relation to the multiple volumes found in a library.
As a result of this displacement my reading acquired a
velocity not unlike that of a body of water released into the bed of a river. The rhythm
underlying the prose revealed details that seemed to rise to the surface, to merge and to
separate. Phrases now isolated on the page were also joined, bound together they collided
like waves. I imagined a lunar landscape of dense matter. A panorama littered with
objects; precise black letters fixed to the page; words standing in relief; an uncertain
geometry of sentences that overlap and fuse.
In my writing the logic of fiction is one that pertains to
the emotions, as if a chemical element seeping through the passage made b words were
visible. It reveals a proximity between the pronouns; he might be a man whose house is to
be sold or a writer contemplating his absence from the world of letters. She might be a
figure with a book open on her knees, lost in the act of reading or a girl walking the
street in the late afternoon. The figures are entwined, standing upright in a boat on the
water or whirling like a dervish on dry land.
It seems as if the whole story might be found in a terrain
which was alternatively in a state of flux and yet also stable; which flowed or solidified
according to some internal movement.
Recently I purchased a 1927 edition of 'Siddartha' by
Herman Hesse. It is written in German and although I am unable to translate the text there
is one word which is familiar. The word liebte or love. Once again, I am attached to the
foreign type as if it were a hieroglyph taking on the three dimensional qualities of an
object. Each letter has a stem and a foot, each word a fluted form, and each phrase a
cluster of points like a distant star. I am asked to write about loss and I can only reply
with my love of words. Perhaps it is true that I made of these stems, flutes, and strophes
a landscape in which fidelity to what was loved became a source of fulfilment.
The search for the endless text has lead to this particular
narrative being written. It happened as a consequence of a certain punctuation in my life
and work. For months I'd been at a loss for words, as if I'd been left staring at some
immeasurable black dot at the end of my last piece of writing. A perfect black form gravid
with ink, an obstacle between the pronoun and the continuation of writing. Once again the
connections are missing, the bonds unreliable, recognisable pathways neglected. The
sentence recedes from the margin where the delicate curves and strange cases made by the
script continue to undulate.
Perhaps it is a question of reconciling the many different
versions of the same story. There is a phrase that I am fond of writing. I appropriated it
from a letter written by another writer. But the texts belong to you. I
accepted this gift. I took it to heart. But it is not enough simply to remain a reader. I
must replace the original lost volume with writing of my own.
Brenda Ludeman ©1997