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A Pond in a Burning Library

August 27, 2016

“She must have made me a cup of tea anyhow, before she went off to place a cautionary notice next to the pond– which, by the way, has absolutely no depth whatsoever. If it were left up to me I wouldn’t put a sign next to a pond saying pond, either I would write something else, such as Pig Swill, or I wouldn’t bother at all. I know what the purpose of it is, I know it’s to prevent children from coming upon the pond too quickly and toppling in, but still I don’t quite agree with it. It’s not that I want children to fall into the pond, per se, though I can’t really see what harm it would do them; it’s that I can’t help help but assess the situation from the child’s perspective.And quite frankly I would be disgusted to the point of taking immediate vengeance if I were brought to a purportedly magical place one afternoon in late September and thereupon belted down to the pond, all by myself most likely, only to discover the word pond scrawled on a poxy piece of damp plywood right there beside it. Oh I’d be hopping. That sort of moronic busybodying happens with such galling regularity throughout childhood of course and it never ceases to be utterly vexing. One sets off to investigate you see, to develop the facility to really notice things so that, over time, and with enough practice, one becomes attuned to the earth’s embedded logos and can experience the enriching joy of moving about in deep and direct accordance with things. Yet invariably this vital process is abruptly thwarted by an idiotic overlay of literal designations and inane alerts so that the whole terrain is obscured and inaccessible until eventually it is all quite formidable. As if the earth were a colossal and elaborate deathtrap. How will I ever make my home here if there are always these meddlesome scaremongering signs everywhere I go.”

–from Pond, by Claire-Louise Bennett

I have quoted this passage because I love it, and it seems perfect by itself, but one thing does give me pause: that from a novel entitled Pond I have selected a passage concerning a pond. I would have preferred to avoid that clumsy rhyme. The title certainly does give us a hint that this passage may be of particular importance, there is no way around that. It is not as if the whole thing were full of pond-talk; there is only one other noteworthy pond occurrence that I recall. You should read the book, it is excellent, and then you can contemplate the place of the pond in Pond for yourself, if you like, but you probably won’t really care, being too much in the grip of the enthrallment and puzzlement of your reading for such English-classy considerations. Clear out some mental space for this one, the time and space to sink into it without distraction and irritable self-attendance. I failed to do that and botched the job, slighting and skimming, knowing I left most of the good food uneaten. I don’t really know what the hell was going on toward the end. I would like to read it again, read it better, but of course there is so much to read and not enough time, not nearly enough time. Maybe my awareness of that fact is what has made me such a poor reader. The panic of living in a burning library.

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