Last week we were asked to write about a piece that we “changed our minds about.” That can go in several different ways: I hated it then I love it now, I loved it then I hate it now, I have developed a new conclusion about it, without necessarily loving it or hating it, I used to be obsessed about this and now it renders itself useless to me. Most people steered towards the less literal avenues, I did not. I hated something after my very first encounter with it, and then extra information about it made me change my mind completely.
Last week, professor David Deitcher assigned us to read a chapter from W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. It was loaded with sentences as glossy and marble-like as eyeballs, and with a semantic system as looped and interweaved as rings orbiting this one man’s mind.
I wrote “drama” on the side edges on most pages; but I also picked up some quotes that reminded me of Rubén Darío’s short story The Nymph. Overall, I didn’t give it enough of a chance; I skimmed through some parts- it was just one chapter, and I immediately (and ignorantly) thought this author and this book was and would only talk about colonialism.
And then the day we were due to talk about the piece, David showed us the documentary “Patience (After Sebald)” by Grant Gee. Patience, I now know, was a perfectly appropriate title, both for the documentary and for what I should have fostered when reading this.
W.G. Sebald took walks. He took walks the British way: as a way of healing. He took walks to think, and then to write about what he thought. He writes as if he was thinking about it at the same time, and he goes to excruciating lengths in his research. Gee’s documentary made me groggy, drift in and out, and every time I came back to it, I was reminded that I would drift away during a walk too. And it’s okay.
The documentary made me want to read the book. And it has been ordered on Amazon. Here.