December 4, 2003


Before I begin to read, I do a kind of internal calibration, orienting myself to the length of the text before me. Short stories call for different calibrations than novels. It’s like the difference between a drive crosstown and a drive cross-country; I settle in differently. And then I read differently, with a different level of attention and focus, depending how far I am from the end.

I often imagine a text whose length is unknown. Reading this would require a special gadget. You would only see a single set of lines at a time. To move forward, you would push a button, and another set of lines would appear.

It would be maddening. Imagine reading a story that could be a thousand words or a thousand pages, you have no way of knowing. I don’t believe I could tolerate it, even if I loved the story. Particularly if I loved it.

And yet that’s what a relationship is: a story of unknown duration. Except a relationship is unwritten. The metaphorical button, when pushed, simply produces a blank page, an empty stage on which to enact a new scene, the final scene perhaps, like all the others.