David Maine: Reading from Monster, 59
David Maine was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona and has worked in the mental-health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife, novelist Uzma Aslam Khan.
David Maine: This is just the very beginning of this fine fine book and Monster 1959, which is about a monster and what happens to him, and at this point nothing much is happening to him, ok. He is just, he is asleep actually. So this is just sort of an introduction to our friend K and it takes places in the first chapter which is in fact takes place in 1955, and then each subsequent chapter is a year later.
In his dream K flies. Below him is the island, verdant and vertiginous, lunatic with creation. Lush like a scrap of Eden discarded and forgotten in the oceans and endless tundra. Trees flash by, rain forests dance, tropical growth showing the hills and overstuffed quiltlike folds. Flocks of birds glitter like refracting jewels like op-art on the wing. V's and swarms and grand unruly mobs weaving from scarpp to treetop to lakeside and up again into open sky toward K. K has no words for this. In fact, K has no words at all. The language center in his brain looks like a Jackson Pollock painting dropped from a great height. K is preliterate, pre-lingual. In fact, pre just about anything you can think of. His thoughts are the pictures he sees and the feelings they create. Sensation is his vocabulary: flavor, touch, sound, intuition, image and smell most of all. In his dream, the heels-over-head feelings are floating, scooping, soaring are bereft of words to name them. The closest he can do is grunt in his sleep, whimper and purr and coo and bleat, slumbering high in his treetop nest, K does just this. But in his dream he flies. Not all dreams are such. Sometimes he sees faces, figures of others like himself, huge shambolic forms lurching across the primeval landscape. In ordinary life, although ordinary is a precarious word to use around here. In ordinary life, K wanders as solitary as John the Baptist. So the feeling stirred up by these misty figures, elide in to a whirlpool of difficult to understand emotions. In his waking life, K has never seen any thing, even remotely resembling himself, an oversized black-furred, butterfly- winged, fish-scaled, the hawk-taloned, insect-antennaed primate. Sometimes he wonders, as best he can, why this is so. Such wondering is difficult without words. Ideas like species or even family lie far outside his ken. He's possessed of a rudimentary sense of me and a slightly clearly sense of them. But abstractions of any greater complexity elude him. He cannot know that he is a species of one. The first, last and only of his race. A race that's over before it starts. The merciless demands of natural selection have declared his impossibly overgrown. jumbled-up self to be simply too huge, too ungainly and demanding of nourishment, of physical space to evolve further. The other preposterous species of this island, the fish finned, insect rats and miniature eight-eyed mole people are similarly marked. But possessing as they do even less self-awareness than K, they don't know it either. In his dream, K circles high in the air, flirts with the clouds, brushes the firmament, pirouettes like a deformed array before flipping head down and plumetting toward a lake. The water approaches with gut-quenching speed, and K’s heart jolts into double time. Waves glitter and smear across his vision. At the moment of impact, K jerks himself away. The tree he is lounging in shudders as if struck and a multitude of storks takes noisily to the air. Around K the island hunkers, observing him. Low morning sun wrestles heavy clouds. Tropical forest, wet earth smells, plenty of bugs. K peers about groggily. His heart beats fast as if he's in danger, but he smells none, hears none. What dangers are there anyway for a creature such as himself? The insect rats are too small to mention. The dens of the mole people lie deep underground. K flicks his tongue and smells the peaceful air. Already his heart is slowing. The dream is fading, then faded, then gone. River mist that flees the sun. His blood pressure drops. He reaches for a nearby cluster of leaves and stuffs them in his mouth, chewing meditatively. An observer might be forgiven for thinking that K is lost in thought. He is not. He is simply lost. Or more properly, he is waiting for a stimulus internal or external, to prod him into motion. Perhaps hunger or the approach of the flying lizard who occasionally torments him or the need to relieve his bowels or a thunderstorm. K sits patiently, chewing without thinking, waiting like one of Pavlov'snow famous slobbering dogs for something to happen. Later that day, something does.
Recorded on: 2/20/08
Reading from Monster, 59.