If you're like me, you loved Matthew Savoca's "Natural Seismic Phenomenon" in a kind of senseless way the first time you read it. I've read it more times than you probably. And I've reached a new stage in my relationship w/ it. I'm ready to do what I threatened to do in an email to Matt this spring – start offering some observations.
Maybe the observations will add up to something, maybe they won't…..
1. Concerning the prose: "I am sleeping. Tectonic plates shift somewhere. This happens because of a sudden release of energy beneath the surface of the Earth. Some kind of stabilization failure along what is called a fault plane. The ground shakes and so does the building. I wake up three inches from where I went to sleep. I get up and walk to the door."
I get from this a sense of equanimity. What's it derive from? Science is an obvious candidate. Rationality. They're prized, generally. Here, though, their appearance could be taken as ridiculous because things are—uh… Falling down.
2. So my first impulse is to say that maybe that the narrator's 'tools' are comically inadequate when it comes to coping w/ the situation. Science as a target of satire, I'm thinking. But then no. The tools are actually just fine. He doesn't panic. He protects his eyes….
3. What about those eyes? Cornea, retina, cornea, retina…. The song gets stuck in your head, huh? This aspect of the story seems very natural to me, and I love it. It is -- as people who don't like to think always say -- what it is. But since I'm thinking right now…. What interests me is that it's the eyes. The corporeal mechanisms for seeing, as named by the doctors of science. I start to imagine that to preserve them is to preserve the whole narrative, the whole way of being….
4. Then there's the electronic communications aspect of this story….. Do you realize that the narrator never once actually speaks, outside of his dream? He's in the middle of the ultimate upheaval, right? Literal upheaval. Communication might seem important, and narrator does communicate, but only through email and cell, then very placidly in comparison to the shouts of his dreams…..
5. Back to number 3: does the narrator want to 'preserve the narrative,' as I was saying – 'preserve the whole way of being'? I get the sense from the dream that he might not, and that he might not even know it. I get the sense – and I’m thinking of the drama and emotion of the dreamed TV reports here, the 'shouts of his dreams,' as I said in #4 – that on some level he might want to be shaken, to be opened in awe…. You might expect something of that kind at a time like this, right? What that would mean is that all this could MEAN something, if you see what I mean….
Doesn’t the narrator seem to want that? Or seem maybe to have misplaced the part of him that would want it?