My bus stop near work looks down into a wild kind of ditch. I'm not sure if it's part of a ravine system, or the outer edge of a golf course. But since I started instagramming, I sometimes snap that ditch on certain days. These three photos are its evolution in recent weeks.
One of my favourite things I read this week was this piece by Mark O'Connell, not only because it started with a Front Square encounter and my Dublin days are so often oriented around Front Square, but because it contained a Auster-like fiction-meets-reality moments of sublime coincidence.
You'll have to read the whole story (and it's worth it) for context, but here's the hook:
"By transfiguring him into a fiction – by fleshing him out, as it were, into a character – Banville somehow makes MacArthur seem more real, more believable; and yet to actually see him, to walk past him and make fleeting eye contact with him, was an unsettling experience, as though I had encountered the manifestation of a fiction. It was strange enough to chance upon this fabled murderer in a tweed jacket, who had once hidden from the law in the home of the country’s most senior legal officer, separated from my grandparents by a few inches of interior wall. But the simultaneous experience of seeing, and being seen by, a character from a novel I had spent so much time reading and thinking and writing about was somehow stranger still." - Mark O'Connell
I love permitting such moments to be as strange, surreal as they are without conflating them or without rationalizing them away. When I saw Paul Auster read a few weeks ago, he told a similar anecdote when a part of the New York Trilogy came to life for him and he felt his book living on outside him. He wasn't being mystical. He seemed to simply say that the world is full of these moments and we neither need to reduce them or hype them up. They can just be there so.
I like all of this tremendously.
And thinking about this brings me back again to this Colm Tóibín piece I so often find myself coming back to
"The world that fiction comes from is fragile. It melts into insignificance against the universe of what is clear and visible and known. It persists because it is based on the power of cadence and rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water." - Colm Tóibín
But it's not just writers who blur the lines between fiction and reality, for whom legends and stories manifest. We're all projecting ideas and stories, insinuating meanings and internal dialogues we can't possibly have access to, calling up our individual histories and forming connections and mad coincidences between people and places and turns of phrases and gestures. We're all stroking the world immediately around us into a smoother narrative, because it's what we need to get by. Like a child who sits on the beach and draws circles with her hands in the sand around her.
And I like my bus stop because it's often a place at the end of a day when I cut loose and read something, or think about something I read, or just look down at the ditch and think to myself, even up here it can sometimes pretty. And I find a way to smooth it out, so I can move on to something else when I get off the bus at the other end.