Letter 31: Brief Interviews – “Yet Another Example…”

Dear Dave,

In reading “Yet Another Example of the Pourousness of Certain Borders (XI)” for the second time[1] , two things came to mind.  First is the narrator’s dreams of blindness.  He dreams that he is blind, but it takes another telling him that he is blind to realize that he is blind, which strikes me as rather odd.  Typically in the realms of literature, it is the blind who offers some profound insight for the sighted.[2] But here, it is the sighted who gives the revelation to the newly blinded.  And that revelation, when received, leads to great sadness; sadness that leads to weeping in the dream that turns into real weeping in the waking world.  Again in most literary situations, the insight or revelation given to the sighted by the blind leads to some life-altering decision or a new course of action.[3] But with this narrator, the revelation of his blindness brings incredible sadness, a sadness that bleeds into his waking life.  You completely turn the literary convention of blindness on its ear.

The second thing that comes to mind is the effect this brush with blindness has on the narrator.  He goes about the rest of his day with a hypersensitivity to his own ability to see, paying particular attention to those who are blind who cross his path.  He thinks about how lucky he is to have his sight; this realization brings him to the verge of tears every time he thinks of it.  This emotional roller coaster of a day sends him to bed early that night.

The narrator’s experience here reminds me of Steve Kowit’s poem, “Josephine’s Garden,” in which the speaker receives the news of a friend’s death, then has his eyes dilated at the ophthalmologist’s office.  This “eye-opening” experience allows him to see the painfully bright beauty of the world around him in Josephine’s garden.  Despite the pain, the speaker goes out into the garden again and again to take in the bright colors and sharp contrasts that weren’t apparent to him before the eye exam and before the news of his friend’s death.

Reading “Yet Another Example…” in light of “Josephine’s Garden” sort of begs the question of what sort of life- or perspective-altering experience is it that the narrator experiences?  He has a dream that he is blind, which makes him so sad he starts crying.[4] But it’s only a dream and his tearful response seems a bit over the top.

Or is that the point?  That the most mundane and banal of experiences – a simple dream – can have a profound and emotionally exhausting impact on one’s outlook on life?  That something that isn’t even a real experience, but the imagery of one’s subconscious, can be truly life-altering?

I certainly wouldn’t put it past you.

[1] I am finding that most of these stories require at least a second reading to fully absorb and appreciate.[back]

[2] Teresias, the blind prophet of Antigone, and Robert, the narrator’s wife’s blind friend in Carver’s “Cathedral,” are but two that come to mind.[back]

<[3] Creon changes his mind about his sentencing of Antigone after a visit from Teresias.  Unfortunately it is too late, as Antigone has already killed herself, Haman – Creon’s son and Antigone’s betrothed – kills himself in Creon’s presence, and Eurydice – Creon’s wife – then kills herself when she hears the news of her son’s death.  Although things don’t exactly bode well for Creon and his loved ones, he does learn a great lesson.

Things go considerable better for the narrator in “Cathedral.”  He has a rather profound epiphany as he helps Robert to “see” the Cathedrals featured in a television documentary they are watching after the narrator’s wife has gone to bed.[back]

[4] I’m sure a Freudian psychoanalyst would have a field day with this.  The blindness probably relates to some unresolved Oedipal issues (after all, Oedipus blinded and exiled himself after realizing the sin he had committed).[back]


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