â€œHe had learned to step to the side of the day.â€
Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day
â€œAnd Iâ€™m pretending that itâ€™s paradiseâ€
Van Morrison, â€œGolden autumn Dayâ€
This was back before â€œback in my dayâ€ turned into â€œback in the dayâ€ (which, according to Nathan Bierma, occurred in the mid-90s); that is, before our personal nostalgia had to be the best nostalgia ever. In any event, it was back then that we almost rented a farm. Well, a rundown farmhouse and garden plot, not the 40-acre alfalfa field out back, or any of the outbuildings either. This was 1973. We passed on the farm, passed on paradise. And I now learn, via the â€œback in the day calculator,â€ that this time was smack into my the day, which rolled through between 1972 and 1978. Fortunately, I donâ€™t have to wonder what I missed.
1972, it turns out, was the year Stanley Crawford published his short novel, Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine, revived now by the Dalkey Archive Press. I did not know the book then, but its spirit animated our discussion of the farm, a daydream of paradise that spiraled through the what-ifs and why-nots of post-original innocence, though not to the extent of imagining tying our marriage to an ocean-bound garbage scow, purchased â€œfor a song, garbage and all, rot, stink and a flock of squabbling seagulls,â€ this rich compost layered with soil and planted with trees, flowers and vegetables, a new Garden of Eden, stocked with goats, birds and bees, and for forty years a home to a new Adam and a new Eve, afloat across the earthâ€™s seas’ temperate zone, free from country, cant and commerce, and called the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine.
This dream of dropping out and staying out might ring bells with those who had time on their hands back in that day, as will the tension between the sexes memorialized in the Mrs Unguentineâ€™s memoir, written after her husband drops drunk over the side of the barge for the last time. She isnâ€™t to be trusted in everything she says about her old man, alternately drawn to and repelled by him, as sheâ€™s alternately worn out and invigorated by the alternative lifestyle. Itâ€™s one thing contemplating the miracle of the egg; itâ€™s another mucking out the chicken coop.
Continue reading Stanley Crawford: the definite article has its â€œthe dayâ€