Monday, February 21, 2011

Matt Jasper, On Reading

"As a child I often suffered from bubonic plague. I'm fine now but I use crutches and drag my wooden leg. The leg part is a lie but then so is the plague. What really happened is that I had water on the brain--hydrocephaly. The opposite of a pinhead, I sported a pontoon of sorts that I could not hoist to verticality with the slender crane of my neck. Pressure was building and had to be released via operations, a shunt, wicks, and still the water rose. The way I held or, rather, could not hold my head up made it look as if I were trying to get the fluid to drain from my right ear. That side was heaviest, most affected.

The waters receded, leaving a still enlarged head and a somewhat wasted infant body that dangled from this buoyant balloon. By directed exhalation, I was able to steer the balloon that carried me through cloudless skies and settled me softly upon the mossy grounds of many adventures that don't come into this tale. Almost normal development ensued, yet speech was marked by clang associations and echolalia. Words seemed attached to their own ghosts in ways I was compelled to verbalize. I'd trail off with singsong neologisms or feel the need to call someone a yellow fellow after they said hello to me. I was enraged that I could only read from left to right--instead preferring right to left or down to up. The various ordering schemes that railed and caged phonemes in mouth and on page seemed tyrannical amidst teeming possibilities.

I would have been a sped case but my parents had money for specialists. I outgrew most everything to do with to do with to do with echolalia and then discovered Edgar Allen Poe, Romantic poets, and bad science fiction. Circa age eleven, I would marvel at and then mouth and then speak back at pages of robots, ravens, and dead lovers 'Rolled round in earth's diurnal course.' The words were like water pouring back into my head--restoring an inland sea of language as a fluid having lost all bounds. My head leaned to the right and hung low over the pages. I looked for signs that words and things were secretly connected, alive through connection to a world where all was one. If this oneness seemed a disordered chaos, then the best writers had survived to weld little faucets that led back to it or construct miniature vessels whose design bore every sign of collision with the infinite. The better a text was, the heavier my head would become with the word worlds that filled it. Wordsworth and Shelley appealed to the sublimation of my echolalia. Edgar brought me more rhyme and my first taste of a thick and deadly literary atmosphere lit by paranoia. The bad sci-fi brought to life every mechanical diagram and shard of history contained in my 1917 Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia set, multiplying one actual world into many speculated worlds. I bore canticles and fought for the glory of Dejah Thoris. I began to think of words as a fluid that could turn one space, one head, one self, into many. To release building pressure, I began to lie and to write. I read for a sense of conspiracy with the world, and for the familiar hydraulic pouring in of water and life."

{Matt Jasper is the author of
Moth Moon which can be found here and his band, Pneumershonic, can be found here.}

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