One of the functions of all my novels is to prove that the novel in general does not exist. The book I make is a subjective and specific affair. I have no purpose at all when composing my stuff except to compose it. I work hard, I work long, on a body of words until it grants me complete possession and pleasure. If the reader has to work in his turn – so much the better. Art is difficult. (Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions)
With all of this emotional outpouring toward Gord Downie, the musician, I thought I might give a few reasons to love the guy for things other than his music.
1. He’s got a lot of fingers scratching on his hull. I once made the mistake of telling him he’s a very sensitive guy, to which he replied, “I’m not sensitive. Why would you say that?”2. What’s this river that I’m in? I doubt he would admit to being funny, but it’s actually his reactions that are the funniest, falling over silently, choking a laugh into himself.
3. We’d climb a tree and then maybe we’d talk. Late, after a party, Gord was getting ready to go to bed and was being followed around by Bill, all through the house, up the stairs, into his bedroom, talking all the time, story after story. Gord never told him to leave, instead just turned off the light, laughing here and there, and let Bill talk on in the dark.
5. He’s not from downtown. He knows what he knows. Not what he doesn’t.6. He worked it in to look like that. He does the work, a fourth line player, the guy you want on the ice with a few seconds on the clock.
Yeah, Gord’s a good guy, all right. Angst on the planks, spittin’ from a bridge.
“You know The Partridge Family? Or you’re too young?”
“You wanted to have suckle with her.”
“That beautiful Hammond organ, the harmonies. Do you remember? It was a real world, real, an alternate space that had real possibility, following interior childlike rhythms, saying those things out loud.” He breathed in and took Dee’s hands like they were precious things, like she had brought them from somewhere distant. “I would sit and stare at the TV after it was over, just sit there through whatever was next. I hoped it would come back. It was real to me. Can you believe that? It was as real as anything I will ever know.” He scraped his sandal back and forth. “I met the guy who wrote the music. I met him in California.”
Sometimes in the recording of a bald sexual incident great significance adheres. Sometimes the sexual becomes a writing, pulsating facade such as we see in Indian temples. Sometimes it’s a fresco hidden in a sacred cave where one may sit and contemplate on things of the spirit. There is nothing I can possibly prohibit myself from doing in this realm of sex. It is a world unto itself and a morsel of it may be just as destructive or beneficent as a ton of it. The gods came down from above to fornicate with human kind and with animals and trees, with the earth itself. Why are we so particular? Why can we not love – and do all the other things which give us pleasure too? We fear to lose ourselves. And yet, until we lose ourselves there can be no hope of finding ourselves.
The door led into a hall back into another room like this, another door, another corridor, and then the bathroom. Dee sat in the stall. She had to shit but then couldn’t. It was trapped inside her like everything else. The door squeaked open and someone came in the stall beside her. The protracted silence became funny and she wanted to laugh, but she couldn’t get it out, and her face was getting red. She was scared of an aneurysm; she was pushing that hard. And then she was done. Malcolm’s assistant pulled out three paper towels in quick succession and balled them together. “I’m praying for you.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“I’m praying for you to have the strength.”
“You’ll have to stop saying that.”
“I can’t stop praying for you.”
“Prayers have nothing to do with it. It’s the lawyers.”
“Prayers are in my heart.”
“Why would you…? I’ve never heard anything so stupid.”
“I’m praying for you through this difficult time.”
“Jesus Christ!” Dee’s hands cramped around the empty air. “You say that again and I’ll have to punch you!”
“Say that one more time and I will punch you in the jaw. Got it?”
She peered back, her eyes pleading with Dee to find peace and love in everyone’s heart.