On Themes

My dad calls and says, “What’s the ‘theme’ of your book.” 

“Well, it’s not a story or a narrative, so there might not be one. Are you looking for one theme Dad?”

“Yes. I was hoping there’d be one. I’d like to talk about it with Don at coffee tomorrow, and I think it would help to have a theme.” A pause while I worry about what it means to be “read” and wonder what kind of reading my father is performing, is chatting about over coffee with his friends. “Maybe it’s a progression? A progression of your life?” He’s pretty confident about this assertion. “Is that what it is?” 

I don’t want to break the belief. My father is comfortable thinking in terms of stories. A lot of people want that little ditty, a poetry of storytelling. I get that. I have to be honest thought, “It’s not exactly about me. It’s not exactly a story or a movement in a specific direction.”


“Dad, did you read the book already? All of it?”

“Yes. I read it as soon as it came in the mail.” 

“Well, maybe it will take one or two readings.” 


“I’d like to know what themes to look for. Can you tell me a theme?”

Sometimes I do want to fit nicely into a blurb or synopsis. I am trying to be clear, but here and there are questions and the fog rolls in thick. The fog rolls in around 5pm and stays heavy until it’s too dark to see. In the morning, the windows are hazy and the baby rubs his eyes even though the doctor told me not to let him do that. It’s hard to see clearly and harder to put anything down clearly. 

I’m usually in this hard place where I can’t make the car humidifiers work and I squint a bunch, cross my fingers and legs, hope that there’s not a tree in front of the car or a dog running up behind it. Is this what Keats meant?

I deal with a lot of hazy days and nights.

The book deals with the white page, the way I want to say something, the materiality of words coming together, and the way the tapestry starts to unravel.

“Nothing to paint and nothing to paint with,” as Beckett says of Bram van Velde. 

“Maybe it’s about restoration Dad. I’m trying to restore a feeling and the most simple way to say that feeling so that it feels the same as a feeling you might have had; a feeling you might have felt. I think I get there at the end. I think I might say the same thing for 100 or so pages and then, finally, I say the very thing I’d been meaning to say. Or, at least, I say it somewhere in the book in a way where many readers might remember that feeling it’s trying to pin down.” 

“That’s not a very interesting theme.” 







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