September 17

Annie Dillard talks about how the narrative line has been devalued by modern physics. The narrative line to me is like a Mexican mural: flattened in perspective so all is present; cramped by detail, erotic, various, the flat depth held up in the imagination, its transience, and impermanence nakedly apparent. The narrative does not lead from one place to another, from the past to the future, but more deeply into the present, always the present and its sense of time is in tune with the human heart rather than the chessman’s calculating mind; present moves are a means to the future. The narrative line, then, is at rest and jostling at the same time. Like a sonogram of a pregnant woman’s belly: the fetus’ tiny heartbeat jostled by gas.

—Poet and essayist Gretel Ehrlich, in a journal entry from 1985. The above passage is quoted from Our Private Lives: Journals, Notebooks, and Diaries, a wonderful anthology of chapter-long selections from the journals of writers including Ehrlich, Annie Dillard, Jim Harrison, Norman Mailer, Oliver Sacks, and others.

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