Friday, January 28, 2022

Composition of place

George Bodmer pointed me to a beautiful piece of short fiction in The New Yorker, Arthur Krystal’s “What’s the Deal, Hummingbird?” It’s a story of moments remembered in COVID times:

By August, 2020, his sense of time had gone kablooey. Events thirty years in the distance now knocked at the door, while things he’d done five weeks earlier seemed impossibly remote.
I wrote back to George:
I find myself these days recalling not so much moments as spaces. The layout of my grandparents’ house, my other grandparents’ apartment, libraries from childhood in Brooklyn and adolescence in NJ, college buildings. It must be that so much time spent in one place is making me travel in my head to others.
And now I realize that I’m engaging in a secular version of a spiritual exercise from Ignatius of Loyola: composition of place. I’ve also been traveling to the candy stores of my Brooklyn childhood via the New York City Municipal Archives.

I wonder if readers have found themselves doing such traveling in COVID times. Anyone?

[Just what was behind that locked door at the end of the second-floor hallway in the Fordham library? I’ll never know.]

comments: 6

J D Lowe said...

For a few days I found myself vividly remembering the acoustic environment and odour of each store in a plaza, near the house I grew up in, where my mother would do her weekly shopping. I don’t know if I should call this experience remembering, but when I recalled individual stores the sounds and smells of each would present themselves in my brain.

Michael Leddy said...

What a wonderful visit. I can reconstruct parts of Garden State Plaza on my head, but since so many stores were of no interest to me, large area are missing. But I remember Sam Goody’s.

Tororo said...

Well, when I think of it, lately I often found myself (early morning, at the time ideas come and go) traveling to places such as long-gone toy stores; so far I had not thought of interpreting this as a side effect to living in COVID times, but rather as a side effect of... what, aging, perhaps?

Besides: could you shed some light on the origins of this word, kablooey, that puzzles (and delight) the non-native-english reader I am? Since the time I learned that Calvin's favorite bedtime story was something called Hamster Huey And The Gooey Kablooie I have been curious about kablooies (Calvin's preferences in literature being really close to mine).
Deepl says that kablooey translates as kablooey, and wikipedia offers no hints.

Michael Leddy said...

Age could certainly be an explanation. The deliberateness with which I find myself doing it makes me wonder if being stuck in one place has something to do with it.

Merriam-Webster covers kablooey and its slightly older relation blooey. And there’s the still older kaboom. When things, mechanical or otherwise, have suddenly gone wrong, crazily wrong, they’ve gone kablooey or blooey. Or haywire.

I can’t think of a spoken kablooey offhand, but here’s Alice Kramden saying blooey about a stove. It’s a lie, to help Ralph save face after he tried to cook dinner and failed spectacularly.

Tororo said...

Thanks Michael! It was time I bookmark Merriam-Webster Online, why didn't I do it earlier?

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome, Tororo. It’s a great resource.