Friday, September 4, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 25.7 (Philip K. Dick)


Time Out of Joint
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Dick, Philip K.
Time Out of Joint


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I am now reading the second volume of Dick's final trilogy, The Divine Invasion. Last night, while lying in bed reading, I noticed that a sticker on the front cover had printed on it the purchase date of the book -- February, 2004. I hadn't thought five years had already passed since I read PKD for the first time.

That was our first winter in Black Rock. We were then, as we are now, feverishly working on our house. We were then, as we are now, just completing the kitchen renovation on the first floor. I was then, as I am now, reading Philip K. Dick. Whoa.

But that's not the feeling I wanted to describe this morning. The feeling I wanted to describe this morning was the feeling of absolute panic and terror I sometimes feel when I realize how quickly time is passing.

I often think back to the way I experienced time as a child, how a two-hour car ride could seem like an eternity, and how I don't even blink an eye anymore over a ten-hour or even a fifteen hour ride. How as a child thinking more than five minutes ahead was painful and how now I am routinely planning events and so forth that are more than a year away. And how that year feels like it is going by so fast that I won't have enough time to prepare. As with each day I become more aware of the finality of time, i.e., the end of my life, so I also become less aware of time's daily passage. I become almost blind to the passing of one day into the next.

I am suddenly remembering the character in Catch-22 who tries to stay bored all the time so that time will pass more slowly and his death will seem that much more distant.

Lori and I watched this amazing movie the other night by Chantal Akerman called "Jeanne Dielman: 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.." It takes place over the course of three days, and each scene takes place in something approaching real time.

In the first act, we become aware of her habits: she is a prostitute, a single mother, and a meticulous housekeeper whose cooking, cleaning, bed-making, sowing, and sexual activity seem to take place on a rigidly organized and managed schedule.

In the second act, she is forced ever so slightly out of her routine, and her appearance becomes visibly confused. The tension rises.

In the third act, she loses track of time, wakes up too early, and finds herself with idle time on her hands. At one point she sits in her living room for several minutes, unable to think of something to do, unable to move. We experience not only the passage of time, but also the agony of her boredom once she has fallen out of her routine.

I think it is that thing that frightens me, that feeling of having something of a routine and how that routine, as comforting as it can feel, seems to speed time's passage, so that I hardly notice it.

And then I'll be dead.

Good morning.

from Time Out Of Joint

From the cold-storage locker at the rear of the store, Victor Nielsen wheeled a cart f winter potatoes to the vegetable section of the produce department. In the almost empty bin he began dropping the new spuds, inspecting every tenth one for split skin or rot. One big spud dropped to the floor and he bent to pick it up; as he did so he saw past the check-out stands, the registers and displays of cigars and candy bars, through the wide glass doors on to the street. A few pedestrians walked along the sidewalk, and along the street itself he caught the flash of sunlight from the fender of a Volkswagon as it left the store's parking lot.

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