BY DEBORAH HALBFOSTER
I watch as people I know are simplifying their lives. They cast away their once-favorite and now-dogeared books. I started asking questions. "What book had the biggest impact on you?" Or, "What book changed your life?" Catch 22 is my stepson's favorite book. He wanted it commemorated in some way. This is my gift to him.
If you step up very close to the frame, away from the sunlight, you will note that a square has been incised in the cover of "Catch-22." As if peaking into the book through the cutout square, you read, "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions." "That's some catch, that Catch-22" he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed. And now, on the wall, in front of our eyes.
Some hold the cover of a book sacred. To cut one into pieces, let alone write on it, would be a destruction. But I see this as my way of showing devotion to a tattered and well-thumbed old friend whose pages are yellowed and wrinkled. I look at what is left of the book, its remains, and let myself take one last stroll through the words and phrases that I have, over time, highlighted and commented on in margins. By preserving them in this form, I present them once again to the viewer, once again alive and new.
This one requires more squinting. Perhaps a flashlight. But that would be appropriate when you read the quotes: they shed light on the confusing edges of complexity. "There is not love of life without despair about life." "Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and where doesn't matter."
I let the castaways speak to me, provide me with words and space for their resurrection. If they remain mute, I do nothing. I leave them be.
I wrote my favorite quotes on the black Setting Sun in white ink, going in circles around the table top as I wrote because this is the way the sun took me. "Last Year nothing happened / The year before nothing happened / And the year before that nothing happened."
As I circle the book, I ask myself, how many years of our life can we say that? Hanging it on the wall is an act, a reminder, a question. Did nothing happen? Did I miss what happened?
Deborah Halbfoster is often seeing walking away. She enjoys the peace of being left alone, but also leaving, wondering, and wandering. A graduate of Rutgers University (English Literature), Deborah worked in Human Resources for years until quitting to take care of her aging mother. It led her back to writing, creating collages, painting in watercolors and ink, and finding 'her' again, outside of a work environment. Walking away is always walking towards something else.