Limits and the Nature of Surprise

Samuel R. Delany in “Atlantis: Model 1924” astonishes the reader with an evocation of the evanescent stream of perception and the inability of recall to master every moment. What at first seems like a melancholy meditation on the passage of time becomes a means of celebrating the often untapped potential for new patterns to emerge and delight.

Watching the dawnscape, still iceless, flip along, he contemplated for the thousandth time the astonishing process by which the seamless and inexorable progression of the present slipped away to pack the past with memories, like numbered stanzas in a song, like cells in a comb, like cakes in a carton, to be called back (though, he’d already ascertained, most he’d never recall) in whatever surprising, associative order.

It is worth noting that the contemplation occurs on a moving train. The passage itself offers an interesting associative order — song to honey comb to cake. For some reason there is some Homeric echo here. And the hero of other travels and the constant question about being-at-home-in-the-world.

And so for day 680
23.10.2008

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