|Sarah Sze, Night|
Last week I read Philip Roth's prurient opus The Dying Animal (2001)—which I think I'll need to roll through a second time during the next month, and find someone with whom I can discuss the ambivalent exchange punctuating the novel. (Who's Kepesh talking to, what do we think he decides to do, does it matter, etc.)
Roth writes with the sharp precision of an acupuncturist, so here I have another paperback with the corner of every fifth page folded down. The deepest dog-ear isn't on the page introducing the tangential history of Thomas Morton and the scandalized Puritans of old New England, the incredible sequence where a bedridden, palsied stroke victim tries to undress the wife he's been cheating on for decades, or the page with the magnificent line: "Because only when you fuck is everything that you dislike in life and everything by which you are defeated in life purely, if momentarily, revenged." It's actually on the pages recounting the flair and festoon of the moments when December 31, 1999 clicked over into January 1, 2000. The inauguration of the new millennium. It's an exquisite reckoning of an event I remember and wrote about in The Zeroes—though with hardly a fraction of the incision and prescience Roth brings to it, which is why he's won a Pulitzer and I, uh, won't.
We watched the New Year coming in around the world, the mass hysteria of no significance that was the millennial New Year's Eve celebration. Brilliance flaring across the time zones, and none ignited by bin Laden. Light whirling over nighttime London more spectacular than anything since the splendors of colored smoke billowed up from the Blitz. And the Eiffel Tower shooting fire, a facsimile flame-throwing weapon such as Wernher von Braun might have designed for Hitler's annihilating arsenal——the historical missile of missiles, the rocket of rockets, the bomb of bombs, with ancient Paris the launching pad and the whole of humanity the target. All evening long, on networks everywhere, the mockery of the Armageddon that we'd been waiting in our backyard shelters since August 6, 1945. How could it not happen? Even on that very night, especially on that night, people anticipating the worst as though the evening were one long air-raid drill. The wait for the chain of horrendous Hiroshimas to link in synchronized destruction the abiding civilizations of the world. It's now or never. And it never came.