“A hair perhaps divides the False from True;”
Or False of True thy Verses, we thus due
Of meed bestow on One so bitter-sweet;
We read and dream then dream and read anew.
– Charles P. Nettleton, from the forward of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
“We read and dream then dream and read anew,” the line jumped out at me as I perused a beautiful ruin of a copy of The Rubaiyat printed by the Roycrofters. Reading is something of a dream. Even the way the tone and rhythm of a given story clings to one’s day, disturbing the line between real and oneiric. There is that easy way in which we begin to think of characters as if we know them and miss them when we have had to put the book down in order to, say, make dinner, fold laundry, do homework, or show up for work- all the tasks that we like to think don’t actually make up the bulk of our lives.
“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life” – Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins (218).
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter is a lovely story in which many lives overlap and influence each other in this blizzard we call life – the cannibals eat each other while the emotionally starved find meaning in seemingly sacrificial acts that turn out to be the only thing that can’t really be bought or sold. It’s the hard-sell, the prostituting of our collective souls, that is the nightmare we can’t seem to wake up from.
To pitch is to live. People pitch their kids into good schools, pitch offers on houses they can’t afford, and when they’re caught in the arms of the wrong person, pitch unlikely explanations. […]…It’s endless, the pitching – endless, exhilarating, soul-sucking, and as unrelenting as death (28-29).
But what is a dream if not something we always wake up from? Every morning our eyes open to our lives again. Our story can begin anew. And, of course, it’s all a love story – that’s what life is. In Beautiful Ruins Walter’s most craven character, the chemically petrified Michael Deane, self-appointed pimp of the pitch, insists it is. And – he’s not wrong. It is all a love story. It can either be pitched as one, or lived as one.
O threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain- This Life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest – is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
– The Rubaiyat
image from – roycroftbooks.org