Sunday, March 29, 2020

Happy 101st Birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti! / "Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late"

Little Boy, a novel by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

On the book jacket is a quote by Tom Waits:

"When I first came out to San Francisco and heard the name Ferlinghetti, I thought it must be a large geographic area.  Turns out, it is."

There is a quote by Bob Dylan, too:

"A brave man and a brave poet."

Ferlinghetti does not talk falsely at age 100.  The book begins:

"Little Boy was quite lost."

I read Little Boy twice before it was due and then because our public library is closed and does not want us to return our books until the COVID-19 situation changes for the better, I will keep it safe until then.

On my first reading, I was carried along through perilous ups and downs by the vitality of Ferlinghetti's voice playing with words in all seriousness, talking about the past, the present and the future and then I was stunned by the way the book ended.  The stream of consciousness reminded me very much of  To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, and I naively expected to be taken to a similar conclusion.

On my second reading, I paid attention to the details that foreshadowed the ending.  There were warnings that I had missed or discounted. By the time I reached the last page, I saw the ending in a different light, a different context.  I saw a balance.  I saw everything about the novel in a different light, as the COVID-19 virus situation has changed everything.  I saw his book as the poetic novel it is rather than an autobiography.  Running through the book is a recurring dream:

     BUT I keep having the same dream over and over 
always the same with a disembodied me wandering
around some huge city which after a few dreams 
I recognize as Manhattan, yes, it's always Lower 
Manhattan and I'm always trying to get back 
somewhere uptown or just north of the city like Van
Cortlandt Park over toward the Hudson and it's getting
later all the time and there seem to be fewer and fewer
buses or taxis or people on the street as I keep walking
uptown through the gathering dusk hoping to come
across some subway station or bus stop or taxi stand
but I don't seem to be advancing anywhere as if I'm on
a moving treadmill always carrying me away as the
night keeps closing in on me far from some home place

In the last few weeks, my dreams have been vivid and perhaps it was my two readings of Little Boy that resulted in a breakthrough variation for me on a similar dream theme.  In my recurring dream, I am always alone walking home as the sun is setting.  Suddenly it occurs to me that home is so far away that I will never reach it before dark because it is a thousand miles away.  I become philosophical about this situation and then I wake up.  In the recent dream, the world is getting dark but I am no longer traveling alone.   Night comes.  I am traveling with a man my age.  He builds a small fire to keep us warm on the beach.  We are companions traveling together in peace.  I trust him.  He falls asleep first.  I am closer to the ocean.  We do not sleep side by side, but I don't feel rejected.  I need room of my own and he does, too.  I take my red comforter and place it over my pillow for extra cushioning.  I'm surprised by how warm and comfortable I feel sleeping outside on the sand.  I am home.  I sleep easily.

I'm grateful for Lawrence Ferlinghetti's brave book.

Although I'm not on Facebook, it is fortunate that one doesn't need to be on Facebook to see Ferlinghetti on his 101st birthday:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti said, "Bravo for Dylan, Nobel Laureate!"


37paddington said...

Oh am, what a wonderful dream. I have been having vivid stress dreams lately, often about my son, who is a first responder, but your dream is immensely comforting to me this morning. You are accompanied on the journey, and protected and cared for, no matter how exposed a beach at night must seem. I take it as a message for us all. And thank you, too, for introducing me to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I have never read him, and now I must. Sending love.

Tara said...

what a man! what a life!

I've been having those dreams too -- far away from home with no clue how to get there. My dreams center in San Francisco.

Anonymous said...

I need to read this book. I had forgotten about it already, after reading of its release last year. I love Lawrence, and it fills my heart with joy that he is still on earth with us for 101 years. I love your dream, that beach, that red comforter over the pillow, that ocean. Yes. Thank you for writing this.

dritanje said...

Thank you for sharing your dreams, that means a lot. Morelle