Friday, August 7, 2009

I've got the page 56, 5th sentence down blues...

It's been a long, hot summer and my anxiety over the facebook page 56, 5th sentence down thing has made me sweat even more. I saw facebook "friends" post their witty sentences and I grew jealous of their reading selections. Each time another posted and recommended the same, I would check not only the closest one but numerous books nearby; the ones that weren't board books (these went to page 24 tops) had nothing to offer. No wit. Nothing literary but pornographic all at once. No tidbit to reveal the soul of me or at least my reading habits.

I fell upon a literary novelist, an import from Europe, and although I'd be posting in translation, I knew there was promise. But his fifth sentence on page 56 included an obvious comma splice; I flipped through another of his novels and found a long-winding snake that was nevertheless a sentence fragment. I am almost certain this non-standard text was the author's attempt to philosophize on time passing or the fragmented nature of our lives, but could I dare reveal to my virtual friends that I was reading novels full of misplaced punctuation and injured prose?

In a flash of genius, I checked my own "work in progress," call it a novel if we must, and I swear upon page 56, my brilliant fifth from the top read, "What's up?" I didn't have the nerve to drag the book to the trash bin or kill myself. I did however yearn for an earlier time when matches and flame would have carried the day.

Later, I found Eva Thury at intellectualize on "write down sentence 5 on page 56 as your Facebook status" as well as other concerns in her nifty article, "Google my Codex." Well, I like Dr. Thury, but she lost me in the next paragraph when she said she didn't care much for physical books as her "medium." I hate extended reading off the computer screen and with my weak lower back, I am in no position to return to "clay tablets." I don't know where I'd be without crates of favorite books in a storage space I pay ever-increasing monthly rent on to keep nothing else of value. Remainder shelves have never been safe near me, and I'm the kind of instructor who still bothers to peruse and perhaps lift what the others have left in the English Department hallway for undergrads or the poor. If you are someone who can live without the smell of hardcovers and tradepapers--and I don't insist they all require coffee and cookie stains--we are decidedly not on the same page. It was "turn to page 56," not "pagedown to screen 56" or "lift and lug tablet 56," no?

Nevertheless, I persevered. Late in summer, I wandered into a tasty but reckless novel, The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames, and in triumph I flipped to page 56 intent upon seizing a quality fifth sentence and achieving fame with an imposing facebook status. Alas, page 56 was blank in my trade paperback copy.

So where do I go from here?

In my vision as revolutionary, intent upon changing the world of facebook forever, I imagine myself pounding fists at the podium but, "Little slips on which [I] had jotted the announcements kept fluttering from [my] fingers."

Yes. I relent. It is a fifth sentence from a fifty-sixth page from my trusted Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories and Carol Bly's "Talk of Heroes."

I find it makes a fitting finale to this sad affair. Bly's title alone might be enough to illuminate my own tale.

Is it time to keep the lamp lit or cool down in the dark? You tell me.

As you were in the August heat.

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