Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Square Don't Care

I like writing in graph-paper notepads. I've probably got a dozen of them in assorted piles, in various sizes and bindings, more of them started than finished. If you need a straight west-to-east line to provide a shelf for your words, it's there, but it's also tolerant if you wander off a bit. 

The page doesn't say "Write this way" like standard ruled notebooks do. The vertical lines and the horizontals have equal status, collaborating on a light grid with a trustworthy but unofficious function. It makes a background murmur like the Grand Concourse of Grand Central Station Uniform but not blank.

The empty page extends an ironic bow: a combination of "we've been waiting for you" and "pardon our appearance." The squares may offer nothing—zilch—or fanciful doodles. They could be mosaics, crossroads, or cells containing anything, including your own beeswax. Words find good traction along these boulevards, especially in the smooth black ink of a gel pen.

The squares could also be units of time, a template for a universal calendar, currently empty of events but accepting donations. With what to fill this screen? Drops of paint or nectar? A challenging crossword puzzle, the movie reviews in the Friday Times? The latest news from Paris? 

Fill these cells with a harmless essay, doing your exercises, making excuses, doing the dishes, drawing cartoon people with big noses. They could be peeping-tom windows in an apartment building, portals to the past or to Neverwas.

Anyway at some point you're going to move from those cubbyholes to this white blogpost (Russian for "blizzard on the trackless steppe") where famous writers pad by silent as ghosts and watermarks; and imaginary monkeys bang away at typewriters, writing everything that has been written and will be written, including these words, which is both reassuring and frustrating. Yes, it validates you—this too is literature!—but how do you avoid plagiarizing from these rhesus pieces?

Fortunately, the square don't care.

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