Winter writing in Wisconsin
[Gleason, Wisconsin: Early morning, December 12, 2014] The Town of Russell school bus, a veritable light show of blinking and flashing amber and red lights, flies past (roof strobe light off, i.e., no children yet aboard) in the pre-dawn darkness. The temperature hovers either side of freezing. The forest, gray and white save where for the spruce which stand stark and black, is covered in hoarfrost, the fields in snow. I cross-country ski every day, the snow so right that it seems I fly over the fields. Deer and bobcat use my tracks to avoid deep snow (and I curse them; their hooves punch holes in the tracks and I stumble).
I am in the ‘middle morass’ of The Executioner’s Son. Alexander Soroka, the novel’s eminence grise, lectures on deception. In the auditorium, Danton Larionov, a main character, wonders if Colonel Soroka is somehow related to the young beauty he met in Suzdal in the Spring 1953, the year Stalin died, Beria was executed and Danton’s father committed suicide.
The middle morass is that miserable time when, after the sparkling first scenes and the ‘just so’ conclusion have been written, but you can’t “get there from here.”
A 1900 short story, The Beacon, by the Russian writer, Korolenko, comes to mind (Russian version here, English translation here). It is late Fall. A young man has hired a boat, which conveys him in utter darkness along a gloomy Siberian river. In the darkness, he spies a light and exclaims “Almost there!.” The boatman glances over his shoulder and returns to rowing. “Still a long way,” he says. The young man, flabbergasted, philosophizes, as Russians are wont to do. The beacon shines deceptively, now seemingly near, now distant.
Korolenko’s short story gave hope to a generation of Russian revolutionaries. The beacon beckons––warmth, comfort and security, the worker’s paradise. The revolution we will come. Eventually. Inevitably. [Read more…]