In thirty-one vertiginous meditations, A.B. West reflects on the planet, the universe, dying, living, and what it means to be a being-in-time, all sorts of time: wide time, quick time, pure time. West attaches time to everything tangible, from procreation to Bach, from Martians to relativity theory, and from the fifth-dimension to the palindrome moth. And magically, this spinning text moves and clarifies. Simply. Cleanly.
Wakenight Emporium holds much for the philosopher, much for the poet, but there are also boundless riches here for the physicist, as West fascinates us with force, motion, velocity, and gravity. Her writing is the love-child of Einstein and Heidegger, obsessed with clicks of the second hand, the intricacies of now, the visible penetrations of genius. And in the midst of all, this book wants to blow the reader's head open. What remains in the half-state between dreams and waking is a universe of stars.
"West's book is a beautiful attempt to move the reader outside of mundane human experience—hence the focus on external perpectives: physics, Martians, birds, and insects with their own 'raspy little affairs'—in order to arrive at a broader sense of humanity and the big scheme of things."—Review of Contemporary Fiction
"Experimental writing, the specialty of FC2, is only experimental if it doesn't work. West, writer of highly poetic prose and adept at stagecraft, makes her writing work. One does not need to read more than two of her thirty-one meditations (plus one unnumbered one) that make up Wakenight Emporium to see that, although she builds precariously, she is firmly in charge."—The Compulsive Reader
Agreeing to bicker
At a certain temperature, but only at that exact temperature, to the thirty-third place after the decimal, martians become transparent ... entirely transparent, except for two shimmering emerald abdominal lima beans that float ethereally there where a few instants earlier one would have presumed to be their pelvic regions. These bean-like entities are beautiful. They seem partnered in a sensuous waltz.
Satisfying conversation, which leads in martians to sexual arousal, eventually causes a series of minute thermal adjustments (a process known as 'bickering') so that their body temperatures drop (or occasionally rise) to that exact degree, and a mutual fascination for these dancing iridescent gonads overrides all other desires.
And you can see the whiskers growing deep in the skins of their shaven, jellyfish chins, which makes them look jowly like Richard Milhous Nixon ... whom they find quite attractive oddly enough.
More than enough.
As I was born in September, the inconsolable so-and-so I know myself to be would have first appeared in the space-time continuum as a point in three dimensional space - or more precisely, as a zygote - sometime around December 1947, at about 42 degrees 10 minutes north latitude and 87 degrees 57 minutes west longitude, in a locality known as Edgar in the American state of Illinois, some 10 centimetres below the umbilicus of a lovely female individual named Dorothy, but called Dot... who was scraping drippings from a skillet into an old coffee can depicting an Arabian sultan scrutinising horizons of sand, in front of the kitchen sink ... this Dot person that is ... on Briarwood Lane, the street ... when one of my dad's sperm, released some little time ago and now all but forgotten, dived into one of her eggs this particular Sunday morning, thus accounting, rather surprisingly, for the well-rounded and upright individual that fills the shoes I stand in today ... wear today ... at the time of this writing. But enough about me.
Spring crosses the street, alights on the window ledge and rustles in the folds of our clothes.
Said zygote would therefore have achieved beinghood in 3 dimensional Dorothy space, at some 4th co-ordinate in the space-time continuum around December 1947.
I cannot know the exact date or hour or minute that make up this co-ordinate... nor whether large white composite snowflakes fell. Nor can I know if the two human animals involved experienced some of the moist and pleasurable feelings the reproductive process is renowned for procuring.
It would comfort me if I could believe, in the context of what I know to be a decidedly unsuccessful marriage, that an exquisitely squishy time was had by each. And it's not entirely impossible. Because, despite the obvious deficiencies as a couple of the two unhappy, youngish persons that my parents then were (for I cannot recall hearing between them any intellectual exchange or good-natured conversation or any verbal banter whatever, ever... and never saw them touch, not so much as each other's hands), I know that my discreet and child-like Mom had a hankering, the likes of which ... the few times she spelt them ou t... seemed to surprise her only slightly less than the fact of her talking about it at all did me.
Well ... these things are exceedingly well done. Pro-creation is overstating it a bit, but surely we have an inborn knack. ...each the upshot of an act that combines such compulsion and wanton luck with such virtually surgical precision, performed by two rank amateurs temporarily stripped of reason—resulting in the convergence of two microscopic (or, at least, quite hard to see) gametes in a warm and nurturing and just-what-the-doctor-ordered sort of environment, in the context of hurtling galaxies, careening planets, household animosities and inclemencies of every description ...
And it may well have been around Christmas ... at a moment when alcohol had blurred the feelings of alienation but not totally dissipated the hormones. Perhaps a wisp of tinsel clung winsomely to Dad's trouser leg. He was an attractive man. I will leave that piece of tinsel there ... though such a gladding touch is out of character for my father, who wasn't great at seasonal cheer in any season. Still, static electricity being what it is.
As far back as I can recollect our entire family lived on the roof. Very chilly it was. And as we didn't like to spoil our good woollen coats by wearing them 24 hours a day, so we wore our coat linings with their cased seams on the outside. This gave us all a strangely drab and newly-welded uniformity that I now know depressed our spirits greatly. And the less said.
Spring's breath hums in the portals of our ears, makes of our skulls his conch shells. Through the slit between the curtain and the sill, at 5 a.m., an amber eye glimmers ... our old pituitary moon. My darkling, tomorrow is upon us.