Monday, August 4, 2008

Propellers of Inspiration

My fan is very old. It may be from the 1960s or 50s, or earlier. Where modern fans employ elaborate grates to keep even a pen from reaching through to the moving blades, my fan has only four squiggly metal abstractions of protectors. The squiggles seem intended to suggest the motion (which one can't quite see while the fan is on--which is whenever I'm home, in the summer) of the blades behind them. Having been bred on modern fans, it now appears inevitable that at some point I would misinterpret the interpretive protectors and injure myself on this machine designed to ease my discomfort. And this is precisely what I did, about five minutes ago, while trying to move the fan. (For anyone who thinks this post departs from the usual subjects of the blog, I would argue that, to the extent this blog has a subject, it is always, secretly, about me moving things around my apartment.) I sliced the tip of the middle finder on my left hand, which makes this post more difficult than any other post I've written. Needless to say, I did not turn the fan off before trying to move it.
A few days ago, I read in Bookforum that Nicholson Baker is coming out with a new book about the lead-up to World War II, how the war could have been avoided, and, in Baker's view, why it should have been. The book is called Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization. Put another way, Baker's book is about how our misreading (in his view) of certain signs lead to (in his view) an avoidable, mechanized shedding of human blood.
I had to read another book by Nicholson Baker for a writing class in my final year of college. To the extent that this blog has an initial inspiration, it is that class. The book was The Mezzanine, whose central theme (as much as it has one) is "the constancy of shine on the edges of moving objects," especially "propellers or desk fans." The narrator announces his obsession on the novel's very first page (in a footnote): "I love [how fans] will glint steadily in certain places in the grayness of their rotation; the curve of each fan blade picks up the light for an instant on the circuit and then hands it off to its successor."
I seem to stand at a strange intersection between these two books of Baker's. Hopefully my finger will not find itself at a similar intersection between the blades of my fan anytime soon.

1 comment:

Kaela Noel said...

oh, you were definitely in only too. i thought so when i read the most recent entries.

your blog reminds me a bit of sebald. i'm glad i found it.