I wonder what people did in New England before television and Facebook? I guess they read books to pass the slow winter hours… or wrote letters… or practiced the piano…
To eat, or not to eat,
—that is the question—
whether ‘tis sounder for the stomach
to suffer the pricks and pangs
of outrageous hunger and resist,
—and by resisting, shrink this swollen shape—
or to indulge, and then sleep,
for after that indulgence, the sleep that’s
sure to follow spawns decrease of increase,
and makes of energy lethargy’s fool;
to eat, and sleep, and fatten as we dream!
Ay, there’s the rub; for in that fatness of form
what dangers may lie—the
hypertensive extinction, the diabetic
demise—must give us pause to consider
the view of a sugary grave;
yet what burro would not exchange
a future pleasure aloof,
for a present pleasure ahoof?
‘Tis a consumption devoutly to be wished,
when one of his stomach might its quietus make
with a baked pumpkin!
Thus do cravings make cowards of us all,
sugaring over the dieting hue of resolution
with sweet-scented cinnamon
and graham-cracker crust, and with this,
best intentions turn awry, losing,
in the act of consuming, the name of action.
Curse these clumsy hoofs! said Blurtso, kicking away his rubik’s cube and trying to fit two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They’re not good for anything! He looked at his hooves, then he looked at the puzzle, then he looked at his hooves. Well, he said, they have carried me down many roads and across many fields… maybe solving puzzles isn’t so important.
“Another day,” thought Blurtseau, “and another night. The king is dead, and those who killed the king are dead, and Napoleon consolidates his power while those who would kill him wait in the wings. And the once-full moon that illuminated my vainglorious victory now wanes with a warbling light. Tomorrow the fighting will begin anew, the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, Sardinian, Greek generals… and all the world spins with the bones of the living and the bones of the dead, so many dead, those who pursued a borrowed or inherited dream, white bones in the soil, white bones in the surf of the sea, bones as white as the flickering tail of the waning moon, sparking and submerging among the breakers, flickering water reflection of fleeting sun echoed upon half-eaten moon, half-eaten moon half-eclipsed by the globe it now reflects down upon… half-eaten glow that grows dimmer each day… until the moon, the day, the night, and all our blood-urgent exploits fall dark upon the darkness of the sea, and vanish in the low laving sound of the waves eating the rocks with their dance of disintegration.
“And when the moon goes black, the stars will mark my path to Montecristo where Echo, alone on her island, watches the same silver flicker on a different surface of the same sea. And the light that flickered in her heart? Has it fallen prey to the same dance of deterioration? Will I find the moon already extinguished in the sea of her breast? Eclipsed by the vainglorious sphere that was my haste to depart? The misguided course of this star-crossed corsaire pursuing a sinking star? Yesterday’s hero is the dark side of the earth facing the dark side of the moon, is darkness double, two-faced night’s faceless faces, an echo of existence which touches no ear, a shout across an infinite expanse, an unreciprocated smile, a source without destination, a word from the heart that never arrives.”
“My heart is an echo of the disintegration
of the heart of the universe
that penetrates and disintegrates my own heart.”
At this point in the novel, said Blurtso, Echo has left her island to go in search of Blurtseau. After meeting a pig named Winston in England, the two cross the channel to France and make their way to Paris…
As Winston and Echo made their way through the streets of Paris, they began to feel more and more uneasy. They had never imagined there were so many people in the world. Everywhere they turned, they saw larger and larger crowds, parades of feet hurrying to some urgent destination, and every one of them was speaking a language neither Echo nor Winston could understand. The only word they knew was the name of the town where Blurtseau had lived, Roquebrune. And so, hoping someone might recognize the town and point them in the proper direction, they stood on a corner repeating that single word, “Roquebrune? Roquebrune? Roquebrune?”
Of course, it was highly unlikely that any of the passersby would recognize the name of a town of 500 inhabitants, 400 kilometers to the south; a principality that had just become a part of France. As a result, Echo’s and Winston’s inquiries elicited nothing more than puzzled looks and an occasional hungry glance, a glance that made Winston tremble, remembering his nightmarish experience in the Butcher’s Shop. Echo, too, was frightened by the things she saw, and by the din of sounds that thundered in her ears. She looked to Winston for courage, and though her friend was as panicked as she, his innate sense of self-importance, and belief he knew everything, enabled him to move confidently forward, repeating with every stride, “Roquebrune? Roquebrune? Roquebrune?”
By the end of their first day, Echo and Winston were exhausted and hungry. Though they had passed shops selling all types of food, and humans constantly engaged in the act of eating—even while they walked—Echo and Winston had not stumbled across a single discarded crumb until they chanced upon a plaza where a farmer’s market was being disassembled. They stuffed themselves with carrot tops and brown lettuce until they were full, and when it began to rain they walked down to a wide green river and took shelter under an enormous stone bridge.
Everywhere you go, said Blurtso, people are talking about the economic crisis. Do you think we should be worried? Worried about what? said Harlan. About our university, said Blurtso. How are we going to continue offering the services we’ve promised? What services? said Harlan. Our world-renowned classes, said Blurtso. The classes are free, said Harlan. What about our books? said Blurtso. The books are from the library, said Harlan. What about our Thursday evening pumpkin pies? said Blurtso. The pumpkins are from Pablo’s garden, said Harlan, in fact, everything in our university is absolutely free. It’s hard to believe, said Blurtso, what we’re doing isn’t against the law.