Friday, April 19, 2013

the last book I ever read (Jim Harrison's The River Swimmer, excerpt five)

from The River Swimmer: Novellas (The Land of Unlikeness) by Jim Harrison:

It turned out that his mother was well toward the back of the churchyard under an ash tree and was effusively happy because she had heard her first oriole of the spring. He didn’t want to beep the horn out on the street so he had walked back to where she stood oblivious to everything but the oriole up near the top of the budding ash tree. Margaret had said that mother could identify a couple hundred species by their songs. Was this possible? Why not?

On the drive home she had babbled on about the fact that a bird called the bar-tailed godwit migrated all the way from the Aleutians to New Zealand in nine days without stopping for a rest. This seemed improbably to him but she had gone on in detail about how the bird gorged on crustaceans until it was obese and could barely fly before it caught a big north wind and headed south on its ten-thousand-mile flight. The immutable specifics of the sciences had always made Clive feel a tad flimsy. He recalled a line of Wallace Stevens from a college American literature course to the effect that the worst of all things was not to live in a physical world. This segued to the notion that maybe if he were collapsing mentally it might be better to do it out in the country than in New York where so much of the physical world was comprised of cement. When he and Tessa had split up he had to spend much of the day walking or he was sleepless and these walks had to be along the East or Hudson rivers because there was something consoling about moving water that he couldn’t identify.

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