SalvageMy mother brought the Dec. 15 New Yorker with her, and after the cartoons I read “Let it Go,” an article about hoarding by Joan Acocella. It dwells at first on two well-known hoarding cases of the genteel variety - the Beales and the Collyer brothers - which give hoarding a dash of idiosyncratic charm before descending into true squalor. The writer mentions ‘postmodern’ explications of hoarding - as practiced by deviants (obviously). One author mentioned is Scott Herring, who says people have a right to collect as much junk of whatever variety they choose (they do), and that doing so is an act of non-conformity, with those who criticize hoarding being anti-individual.
I found this little segment freeing, although I am not a hoarder, although I am generally tidy, and my superego is, if anything, over-utilized. When I’m drawn to things I don’t possess - a mug, a book, a stone, a twig - my second reaction is often negative, i.e. it’s clutter, it’s junk, your house is full, someday not far away you are going to die.
So, of the three New Yorkers my mother brought, I will clip the bits I want, though I may never glance at them again, and throw the bulk away.
I just got the first volume of John Fowles journals, and this morning I looked through to see if there was an entry for Dec. 26. I didn’t find one, but looking further I was aghast to find one for Nov. 31, 1961.
In third grade we were doing a project about the calendar and one of my classmates put a Nov. 31 on it, to which I reacted with crushing irritation, there simply being no Nov. 31. I let him know that I was an expert, having my birthday on Nov. 30, the last day of November.
So is John Fowles a fool or has there been some kind of proofreading error? In any case, his entry for Nov. 31, 1961, a day that never was, begins: “On the surgeon’s report it said: ‘Virtually hopeless.’”
I can only agree. I hope this won’t happen again.
As I approach the end of Swann’s Way, I did some reading about the book, and one article told me the madeleine immortalized by Proust was in earlier drafts just a piece of toast. I was disheartened by this - I had been so content to think the rhapsody on this little cake came quickly and naturally, that he had been storing it up a long time, looking for an opportunity to extol upon the madeleine’s taste and texture. And yet it might as well have been a piece of toast, or a pretzel stick, or the heel of an stale baguette.
But my disappointment was temporary: I am glad he abandoned the toast, and that he was able to turn so many crumbs into a hymnal of memory and the senses.