Books That Other World
posted by September 5 at 11:37 AMon
In Salman Rushdie’s East, West, a collection of short stories, an astronaut dies in what Robert Coover described in the New York Times as a “futuristic nightmare,” the short story “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers.” The astronaut traveled to Mars; something went wrong during the mission; and now he is stuck on the red planet. Because no one can get to Mars before his air runs out, he is doomed; because the whole world has reached the end of history, the society of the spectacle is total: the whole world is watching the astronaut die on Mars. He is on every TV screen; his life time seems to be limited by the screen he is seen in; and each day he experiences is quickly sucked into the vacuum of the death that is sure to come in a matter of weeks.
I bring this up because on the website for The Oregonian there is a video diary of a woman whose life is soon to end. Her name is Lovelle Svart, her body has been wasted by a restless disease, and the world around her is not solid but melting with each entry she manages to post on the site.
Svart is much like the astronaut in Rushdie’s short story. Not only are we watching her die, but because she is dying, she is on another planet. Death does not happen here but always there, on a strange and phantom planet that flickers like a fading star, a planet that is quickly running out of air, a planet that is impossibly faraway from this our world of health and heavy things.