Lisa Robertson / Slow reading

Lisa Robertson

Reading Hermann Broch’s Death of Virgil as the December days shorten has me thinking a lot about time and light. My bedroom window faces due east, over a field planted in colza, now blue-green and about a foot high. The east windows have no curtains; my only easterly neighbours are a pair of crows and a flock of sheep. The sun’s not up til 8am, so I see the sunrise over the field every morning. A couple of days ago, at 7am there was simply a cool pearly slash on the dark horizon and an intimation of luminescence within the body of the low fog over the field. The palette of greys was a mysterious and nourishing food. Midsummer I was woken at 4:30am by an intense orange beam that fell right on my bed, and turned the wheat, for it was a wheatfield then, golden. I suppose there are periods when anyone feels the vertigo inducing speed of time with wonder and fear and curiosity combined. The only thing that slows things down is reading Broch’s sentences, their sheer difficulty and sensual density. Walter Benjamin said somewhere—where—that reading is a psychotropic activity, and I must have underlined that, or written it down, or I would have forgotten. But these days I’m feeling it as a fact. Inside the sentence I can forget my own body, or maybe I can sense a time that’s different than my body’s time. I can spread out over the field of his text like early fog, receive another time from its digressive ink.

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