a tale for a mid-winter night
William Least Heat-Moon
978-1-941110-56-0 | 9781941110560
1-941110-56-8 | 1941110568
20 per carton
Title Rights: NA
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Three Rooms Press
When Silas Fortunato applies for an editorial position for the “spirituality” section of a local newspaper, he is asked to fill in a bubble sheet to mark his religion. The problem is, his beliefs don’t fall within any of the categories. Silas believes that selflessness enlarges vision and that what a person should strive for is to be overcome by the beyond. He believes in honoring otherness and in giving questions credence over certainty. He calls himself a Cosmoterian because his goal is to make himself worthy of the majesty of Cosmos. Silas is a man driven by big ideas, but it is the everyday smallness that perpetually both intrigues and eludes him.
In this emotional tale of haunted love, Silas finds himself locked in a marriage descending toward darkness until the arrival of his sister-in-law and soon thereafter the appearance of a witching neighbor who may or may not be alive. In ways enigmatic, ghostly, and funny, the three women draw him into the equivocal nature of dreams and reality, their influences leading Silas on a journey toward what may be light and a new belonging to something vastly beyond himself.
Just as William Least Heat-Moon’s nonfiction employs many fictional narrative techniques, Celestial Mechanics draws upon nonfictional devices to build a story that crosses traditional boundaries between the two. Celestial Mechanics is the clarion call of a generation that believes rationality and spirituality can—and should—coexist, a generation defined by globalization, where the only things left unknown are what is within and beyond us, those cosmic realms revealed by the telescope and the quantum world suggested by the microscope. This book is for those of us steeped in a hustle-and-bustle world we can’t escape, who believe that practices like mindfulness and rational deduction and childlike wonder are the keys to the kind of fulfillment that the commercial aspects of our lives can never hope to address.
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright ©2016, ©2017 William Least Heat-Moon
A search for people who could advance her hzad led Dominique nowhere, and once there they bored her. Now she saw a chance for something she’d never experienced: a retreat where serenity would squelch vexations. To sit back, feet up, glass of wine in hand, and watch lichens grow and discover whatever it was she’d yet failed to happen upon. Silas had appeal because he discerned something in her others overlooked or were blind to—call it her potential. His interest wasn’t the usual male adulation of beauty, although they both noted his near disbelief that such a woman could have interest in an unprepossessing fellow like himself, and they understood the common assumption: When disparity in facial comeliness between a paired man and woman is too great, weak unions result—unless of course one has celebrity, power, or wealth. True, he was not unprosperous. If Silas and Dominique were matched, it was only as A to X, stem to stamen, celestial to terrestrial, and he hoped the attraction wasn’t a ratio of inverses but rather of supplementation: light complementing dark, contentment answering discontent, substance filling emptiness.
Speaking to her calmly as if time were not at his back with an opened shiv, he said what stymied human achievement wasn’t just the ineffable but also observable obstacles, things truly existent. As to ineffables, even if he couldn’t lay hands on them—indecision, uncertainty, irresolution—they were forces he addressed intellectually, emotionally, and thereby throttled them. For Dominique, at last to master such bugaboos could offer a chance at a new direction, perhaps even satisfaction—should the Hundred prove a haven.
During supper in an apartment he rented while the plumbing in the old villa was being replaced, she said,
—That talk on astronomy you gave at the university. I thought it was going to be about astrology. Up there, you looked distinguished. In control.
—Looks can deceive. Isn’t that the phrase?
—What’s your sign? I’m a Pisces.
—I’m a Pheces.
—You clown around, but are you really happy?
—Pursuit of happiness is a fool’s errand.
—A full life. Something so easy to achieve you have to work to evade it. Even in sleep, our dreams, nightmares included, everything wants to create fullness. We can’t escape it. Whether riches or rubbish—we’re going to get filled.
Frowning, she said,
—Failure is fulfillment? How can boredom be fulfillment?
—Not fulfillment—fullness. Boredom’s a chance to collect your bearings. A wharf to shove off from. Your ship reprovisioned, the hull scraped clean.
—Boredom numbs me.
—Whatever else, it is something. Nobody gets out empty. Nature abhors a vacuum. Worms crawl in, worms crawl out. We brainy worms have existential choices about what goes in. Nothingness is a terrible something.
—I’ll say this, you have a knack for assembly. You can make things out of nothing much. At times it’s interesting, and other times I think it’s only malarkey.
—What’s it now?
—I don’t know. But I admit, you can diddle words around.
Silas was able to see possibility where she saw absence, and where she felt aggrieved he might merely nod at an absurdity; he recognized fraudulence, was unafraid to call a hustler a thief, was undeterred by liars, and his mettle cowed petty tyrants. He drew strength from force fields she was able to notice only by their effects on her as if she were a compass needle beholden to the power of magnetic north. Not he one to fear losing touch with his own life. Maybe, just maybe, he was the man who wouldn’t prove a disappointment.