Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

Aloneness in 'The Gold Diggers.'

Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

Aloneness in 'The Gold Diggers.'

Article excerpt

Written when Robert Creeley still aspired to be mainly a writer of fiction in the early and mid-fifties, The Gold Diggers presages what would be the major concerns in his novel The Island and later gatherings of his prose and poetry. The stories of The Gold Diggers do not end as much as evanesce. This writing thinks in a different way than we are accustomed to in reading fiction. This is innovative logic, as if to say with Dostoyevsky in Notes from the Underground: Why can't 2 + 2 = 5 for a change?

Yet that isn't the secret of Creeley's mysteries. I think what is at issue is a form of logic more attuned to intuition than to Aristotle. I don't mean versions of yugen or duende; there is too much quotidian awareness for such a comparison to hold up. We might say that the stories work on the principle of attrition: as they go on more is left out than is put in. The conclusions are never enough; there are no terminations but rather the lingering on of statements never made, yet at all points there. I don't want to imply mystification. That would be too far from the point, which is that the thought is the language. Characters exist in these stories sure enough, but they are illumined by the language around them, through which they almost disappear.

Take the instance of the unnamed couple in "The Grace," who have an infant who cries almost constantly.

Otherwise, there was a moon, and this rose, very gently, somewhere back of the house. The road looked a liquid, or water there, translucent. He felt it as pleasant, perhaps, but was too tired to get up and at her suggestion, that they might walk, said, no, and slumped back.

There is no time, he said, but knew she had another sense of it. Something, he said, makes a mess of it.

She got up to light another candle and put it on the table behind him, but bitterly, he thought, and watched her sit down again.

We can hope for another place, he added. This is just for the time-being. Call it a vacation, or anything like that. (Collected Prose 60)

These paragraphs adumbrate the terms of relationship in which the man and woman unwillingly, perhaps unwittingly, locate themselves. Their baby brings forward this sense of place of the couple, who have inhabited the house for less than two months, prior to which the infant did not exhibit the tantrums described. Is this large but not unique problem symbolic of an increasingly attenuated connection between the couple? To elaborate on this we need to investigate certain points of language crucial to coming to grips with "grace."

One of the primary words is candle. Here are the uses of this word: "Behind him he had put the candle" (60); "She got up to light another candle" (60); "blowing out the candle beside her" (63); "to find her waiting with the candle" (64). Another clearly significant word is light, which is mentioned seven times. Bright is used twice and translucent and translucently once each. Most important, moon carries much prominence: "Otherwise, there was a moon" (60); "the moon was the sign" (61); "Even so, the moon rose, higher" (62); "the moon there very much a whiteness and lying on the ground with grace" (62); "the moon was beginning to slip" (63); "the moon still against them" (64). All these references occur in a piece that is just four-and-a-half pages long.

Although dark appears once and night several times - most pertinently in the man's thought as "What a night . . . What a goddamn miserable night" (63) - the darkness of night is evoked most effectively by the light images. The texture of the particular night, which must be seen as true of other recent nights in the story, is reflective of darkness in its major sense: as the thwarting of the relationship, as context for the boy's crying, which disturbs not only closeness, lovemaking, but makes impossible another necessary form of darkness: rest, sleep.

Presumably the house in which the three live is in a rural area that does not have electricity; otherwise it can be assumed the lights would be turned on and the moon become less of an actor in the story. …

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