In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import.” In her Nobel Lecture, she noted how language, whether spoken or written, can limn, or describe and detail, life. Derived from the Latin illuminare, meaning to “make light” or “illuminate,” limn has been used throughout literary history to generally describe—and convey the literal illustration of—a manuscript. One affordance of annotation is that it enables readers and writers to limn, or describe, their texts. In doing so, how does such annotation provide information?
I wonder what will remain of this time, which will, inevitably, become past time (though when, I don’t know). What will my own daughter conjure “in that dark-backward and abysm of time,” and will remembering cause her pain? Teach her compassion? Will the memory of it influence—perhaps without her even knowing—how she learns, how she interacts with others?
Jane Nickerson made Craig Claiborne possible and put the cheeseburger on the map. Her recipe for lime pie is a taste of Florida sunshine.
In 1927 MR James, author of some of the most indelible ghost stories ever written, gave a lesson in how to do it: “Let us, then, be introduced to the players in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings, and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.”
Mariana Enríquez has written various stories that fit just this pattern, but five pages in to the International Booker prize-longlisted The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, as a woman attempts to strangle the undead corpse of a three-month-old baby – her great aunt, as it happens – it struck me that when you’re writing fiction that wants to disturb and unsettle its readers, breaking the rules can be just as productive as following them.
Many writers attempt, either through emotional impulse or intellectual exercise, to capture the soul of a place in their work. Ben Lerner returns again and again to Topeka, Kansas; Joshua Mohr’s characters primarily haunt the underbelly dives of San Francisco; and in Lauren Francis-Sharma’s novels, she leads readers through the island heat of Trinidad both past and present. But what if a place is known popularly for having no soul? How then to capture its true essence?
As readers, we can expect to see the life neatly documented and the work analyzed, but the connection, the filament between the two? White never forces an explanation or coherence. The radial structure vibrates, like Hitchcock’s best films, with intuition and mystery.