I am in the final stages now, with the revisions, even though when I read through the manuscript, I think, “This book has no ending. This is not a way for this to end.”
M. says, “What happened to the ending that used to be there?” He is standing at the sink and I am pacing. “Can’t you just put it back?”
I wish I could put it back. There are days when I wish I could put this whole book back to where it began, when it was a collection of hastily-composed sections. A glorious, unconsidered mess of fragments and gestures. But there is no going back now. No un-steeping tea.
I re-read the first few pages of Don’t Let Me Be Lonely because there are some ways of associating one idea to another that Rankine makes seem effortless. These early pages compel the reader forward. There are questions that drive the narrative: What is death? Would I recognize it? How is death made real, verified? I feel the power and propulsive energy of these questions. Movement from one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next seems precise, inevitable.
I am not the same person I was when this began. This is not a new observation. I like to think I have absorbed enough, lived enough, to bring new insight and nuance to my earlier experience. Aligning current self with past self seems a tricky proposition, and I wonder to what extent it is a useful undertaking, from an artistic standpoint. Life is life, after all, and art is something else? I think I spend a lot of time barking up trees.
Meanwhile, the weather seems to have finally turned, and I walk out into the kind of day in early spring that makes the future seem possible. Bright sun, perfumed air. The promise of forsythia.
These are the last days I will spend with this book in this way. I am trying to make the most of it. How much of these words and sentences I have lived with for so long. And still, none of it seems quite enough –