Weight Inward into Lightness: A Reading of Canoe Repair

Weight Inward into Lightness: A Reading of Canoe Repair

2004-08-19

“The plot offers not so much progress as recurrence, duplication, and reiteration.” Flore Chevaillier offers one way to fill in the gaps of Joseph McElroy “Canoe Repair.”

“Canoe Repair” takes place at a transitional time for the main character. Zanes moves from New York City to a New Hampshire town and has to adapt to a new life and a new job, running a Laundromat, as well as to his son’s new hang-gliding activity and his wife’s new TV job. Thus, “Canoe Repair” occurs at a moment when rural and urban worlds are put in “connection and disconnection at the same time” (“Midcourse Corrections” 50). While we learn more about Zanes’ occupations, we also read a portrait of the town’s life. We discover a picture of America and its smell of “coffee richly dripping and poppy-seed-blue corn muffins” (69). We read Zanes’ discussions with “Seemyon Stitching … a spring immigrant from Byelorussia and a trained marathon runner” (62), and find out about the “president’s eight o’clock message to the nation” they listen to when “no one among the machine-users seemed to be waiting for the president’s speech” (72). The story deals with the movements of people from the town who use the Laundromat and the movements of the canoe on the lake, as well as the hang-gliding and the weather.

One might describe the events in these terms. But the story is also a reflection on time and on strange, everyday moments in one’s life. “Canoe Repair” presents a section of a man’s life, also a canoe’s, since its repair is at the center of the story’s multiple directions, its focus on space and movement. The story is a space where different tensions meet. It shows the strain between two worlds, two generations, between different experiences of time and perception, and between two voices telling the story. “Betweenness” is central in McElroy’s writing. In “Canoe Repair,” “ ‘Betweenness’ is… the crumbling edge of the interface of worlds, selves, and situations” (Saltzman 100). Betweenness is also at stake when we consider “Midcourse Corrections,” an unusual autobiographical interview/essay ended by “Canoe Repair.”

“Is a canoe too beautiful to be funny unless somebody falls out of it?” asks Joseph McElroy in “Midcourse Corrections” - “falls out, tipping it over? Put two people in it facing forward. What’s the stern paddler see? What’s the bow paddler feel? - for the stern paddler?”(42).

These questions about canoe uses are put into practice in McElroy’s short story, independent but part of the essay, as he explains. “Some of the material in ‘Midcourse Corrections’ could be said to turn into ‘Canoe Repair’… I wanted to use ‘Canoe Repair’ to fulfill ‘Midcourse Corrections,’ that peculiar interview memoir … that should turn into fiction at the end.” Personal correspondence with the author, June 16, 2001.

“Corrections” is itself an experiment in literary form that in many ways epitomizes the body of McElroy’s writing. “With its inserted interviews, its odd proportions, and its highly colored perspectives of me,” McElroy writes in a letter, “[‘Corrections’] is a hybrid fiction, I suppose. A daydream posing as a document.” (cited in Tabbi 156)

The thematic and structural research of this “hybrid fiction” turns into practical experience in “Canoe Repair.” The author’s reflections upon space, motion, and perception connect to the movement of the boat on water because the “canoe becomes an occasion to think.” Personal correspondence with the author, February 6, 2003. We can approach the story from different angles due to the openness of its particular structure linking it to the essay, of which it is also the unusual closing part. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to consider the story strictly as a conclusion to “Midcourse Corrections;” it has its own structure, dynamics, and meaning. It is a complex and intense story because of the multiple tensions we can feel in its narration.

To understand “Canoe Repair,” we have to focus on the transient aspect of Zanes’ life and its relation to tensions that appear both thematically and structurally. The text is literally at the end of the “Midcourse Corrections” but metaphorically “in between.” It connects to “Midcourse Corrections” but is autonomous. Moreover, it plays strangely with the reader’s expectations. It is organized around a double voice that disturbs the reader’s traditional way of reading. The reading, because of structural devices that put us “in between,” becomes the experience of the transition moment Zanes goes through, his shift from one world to another, his perception of the world.

Zanes’ visions can sometimes be confusing. Hence, some aspects of the story can be destabilizing to the reader. The story starts with a family scene: Zanes and his son are watching the river. A strange canoe used by a black man and a blond woman catches their attention. Zanes’ neighbor calls him afterward to fix the canoe for the blond woman’s son; the canoe captures Zanes’ attention throughout the rest of the story. Parallel to Zanes’ work on the canoe, we learn about his arguments with his son regarding the latter’s hang-gliding practice. We also get to know more about the life that goes on at the Laundromat where Zanes meets with Seemyon Stytchin and a group of young punks that disturb the community. Zanes starts a friendship with Lung, a member of this group. However, this summary contradicts the story’s original presentation of Zanes’ world because it reassembles what is purposefully fragmented in “Canoe Repair.” We only achieve this vision of the story retrospectively because it is not told linearly.

Our expectations as readers are challenged, as David Porush notes when associating the technique of “de-automatization” provoked by the unsettling language of McElroy’s novel Plus. Plus ’ main character Imp Plus is a brain detached from its body and put in orbit to communicate with earth during a scientific experiment. When relearning ways to communicate, Imp Plus uses language unusually. Therefore, the reader is forced to see words in a different way. Imp Plus presents a new use of words that questions the systems we automatically refer to when using language. In “Canoe Repair,” the challenge to our automatisms lies in the distortions that affect the structure of the story. The compact paragraphs of “Canoe Repair” are juxtaposed without transitions. When turning to a dialogue, McElroy does not use rules of quotation to let the reader know that the viewpoint is changing. Tabbi claims that for McElroy “the mental text … does not precede the work at all but exists instead in the work, where the reader might imaginatively participate in the compositional or self-creative effort that went into the life/work’s composition” (158). The activity of the reader is thus part of the structure of the short story. Disjunction calls up the reader’s activity of representation. It asks us to create a coherent image of the narrative, a coherent text. Omitting the relation between two events leaves room for the reader to fill in the blanks. This crafted incompleteness creates the structure of “Canoe Repair.” Facts have more than one logical order; the reader coordinates elements by analyzing fragments.

Thus, the reader organizes the very space of the text. We shift, for example, from “When he took his canoe out, Zanes also thought,” to “The ideas knew how to get away sometimes” in the next paragraph (59). Reading “Zanes also thought,” the reader does not expect the sentence to stop at this point. S/he expects a complement to the verb “thought.” Therefore, reading “Canoe Repair” can be somewhat frustrating; the author even ironically refers to our unsatisfied expectation when we lack a transition between the two sentences. That is why, as Wolfgang Iser notes in The Implied Reader, we have to use imagination to compensate for the gaps. The context created by the sentence: “When he took his canoe out, Zanes also thought,” is destroyed so that the reader steps back and reflects upon the narrative as a work of art. “The artwork itself is represented as an artwork” (McHale 30). The reader finds metafictional allusions that suggest a fiction conscious of its fictionality, which makes the reader understand the story at another level of representation. These metafictional moments create a disjunction in addition to the fragmenting of the plot itself.

Each blank invites interpretation and coordination. Do the gaps become the theme of the narrative? When analyzing Modern texts such as Ulysses, Iser engages the issue of semantic richness and incoherence of gaps, moments of inconsistency, disruption, or omission. He sees reading as a process the reader undergoes to synthesize fragmented elements; the reader creates meaning.

The unconnected allusions and the abrupt alternation of stylistic devices disclose a large number of gaps … [that give] rise to the stimulating quality of the text. On the one hand, the density of allusions and the continual segmentation of style involve an incessant changing of perspectives, which seems to go out of control whenever the reader tries to pin them down; on the other hand, the gaps resulting from the cuts and abbreviations tempt the reader to fill them in. (Iser 213)

The structural breaks in “Canoe Repair” might be less extreme than those in Ulysses but, similarly, the gaps and omissions become part of the story’s theme, possibly denying thematic synthesis itself. Zanes’ fragmented thinking and his way of experiencing life are present in the style the author uses. The medium is often the message. The construction of sentences that might make us insecure reminds us that reading “Canoe Repair” is a special experience that enables us to coordinate elements of the story and thus penetrate Zanes’ mind and his somewhat eccentric thinking. The reader, by grasping multiplicity, references, and rambling elements, maps out what is happening in Zanes’ mind. The way things get originally connected structurally mirrors Zanes’ experience of the world that also reaches for unusual connections.

How do we find our bearings reading “Canoe Repair?” The narration resists linear order. It seems laminated into different sequences of the character’s life. Flashes are exposed with neither explanation nor transition. Joseph McElroy “never hid the gaps” (“Neural Neighborhoods” 204). Chronology is not respected; events follow a pattern of shifts from one subject to another, from one point of view to another, and everything seems important and unimportant at the same time. There is sometimes no link between consecutive sentences: “Was it my time device operating again?” and “A canoe is what makes you do” (77). Here, gaps interfere with our sense of the evolution of the story and the progression in the character’s life, if there is one. These gaps are caused mostly by the double narration of the story, and they are even more challenging to the reader. When we shift from, “Was it my time device operating again?” to “A canoe is what makes you do” (77), we shift from an “I” to an omniscient narrator. Zanes’ own perspective on his life is balanced by the omniscient narrator. To understand Zanes’ life, we need to be inside him and outside him. We need to know the world exterior to Zanes’ subjectivity to understand his reactions, hence the role of the omniscient voice.

The embedded structure of the story told by two narrators juxtaposes two sources of information. This construction enables the insertion of one perspective within another and it leads us to see Zanes’ life as an accumulation of fragments. Different perspectives provide distinct information about and approaches to the same life. Can the story be seen as a dialogue between these two poles? Unlike traditional narrations where the reader faces a set of events exposed in a linear way, “Canoe Repair” makes the reader feel the duality of life.

McElroy constructs a dynamic that can be paralleled with the theme of the double, often present in gothic stories. In these stories, the narrator and the character are the same person, although it is usually not clearly stated in the text. In “Canoe Repair,” there is, to some extent, a renewal of the theme of the double since our character has a double voice. The schizophrenic tensions represented by the strange vision of the double in the gothic stories appear in “Canoe Repair” in a somewhat different way. The strain between two voices can be understood as the representation of power over the development of the story.

First, the omniscient exterior narrator controls the story. Progressively, “I” becomes dominant. At the end, rapid shifts of viewpoint break up the story. The evolution of each viewpoint implicitly lets us gather details about the context of each narrator’s intervention. The constant shift form “I” to “he” changes the reader’s relation to the narrator because it implies a nonlinear way to gather information. Each narrator puts the reader into a frame of mind that influences interpretation. The shifting of frames makes the reader’s activity intense. When we change frames, we have to change our interpretation. How to base our understanding of the story on a specific context when the latter is always denatured?

The two narrators fragment the story, and they produce a repetitive pattern. Each of the narrators gives us details on the same moments of Zanes’ life. The double narration is thus based on the repetition of similar life sequences. The double narration allows repetition to penetrate the narrative. It is thanks to repetition that the reader can make sense of the story’s disconnected elements. The gaps that we apparently cannot coordinate - such as “Is there somebody over there? Zanes said. Probably, his son said” and “All but one of the machines were in use that evening”(72) - are so large that the only way the reader can assemble the fragments of the story is by focusing on the repetitive patterns that connect these partial perspectives. We constantly come across the same moments: the observation of the canoe, meetings between Zanes’ wife and the producer of her cooking show, scenes with Lung, discussions with Seemyon, and so on. The plot offers not so much progress as recurrence, duplication, and reiteration.

In our mind, those terms are usually connected to something monotonous. Yet in “Canoe Repair,” the iteration of words, ideas, and/or themes does not result in a redundant effect on reading. The first reference to “sunset” (56) is echoed by “[o]ne of them materialized at sunset” and “at sunset a window beamed” (57). Through repetition, meaning emerges. Repetition is not used to stop the progression of the plot: the elements of Zanes’ life are never told twice in exactly the same terms. The accumulation of repetitions creates an unusual meaning, a meaning understood through indirect means. Zanes refers to his own time: “my time device” (58), “another time” (61) as opposed to “my wife’s cookbook, my time machine” (69). Zanes’ experience of life does not rely on a chronological structure. When we accept repetition, we understand that time does not need to be seen as a linear progression.

Repetition lets us understand how Zanes organizes his life. The first and last moments of the story present similar scenes. “It was sunset and the boy was angry and wanted to be somewhere else” (56). Zanes and his son are outside watching the canoe for the first time. The first words of the story put the reader in the middle of a situation. The first character we meet is not Zanes but his son referred to as a “boy.” He could be anybody. In that sense, the story can be considered a statement about any family life, its structure, its implicit rules, and its repetitive patterns. The reference to “somewhere else” also puzzles the reader at the beginning of a story; we do not even know where the character is. At the end, we have circled back: “Above me, I felt the presence of my son at his window. If I didn’t take down the screens, it would soon be summer again” (78).

The end is paradoxical since it does not explain the story but at the same time concludes it through indirect means. The story ends on “again,” which alludes to an opening, a repetition of what we have read, maybe an allusion to the beginning if we think of the circularity of the repetitive pattern of the narration. On the other hand, the allusion to the coming summer ends with a period. Spring will soon be finished. We note here again the parallel between the first scene and the last one since the story opens on the ending of something, of a day. We are at a time when Zanes makes a pause in his life. His work on the canoe is what “makes [him] do” (77). His crafting the canoe changes aspects of his life, his relationship with his family and his community. The end of spring makes a kind of conclusion to the story but, at the same time, it opens the story toward a new time period. The conclusion and the opening lead us to different interpretations. We face some conflicting perception of time and closure. Depending on the type of time framework one has in mind, things can be open or closed; that is where the tension originates. The last and first scenes teach us to pay attention to how things are repeated in variation in the story. Both scenes point to a double direction. By examining this process, one understands that repetition is used to let one access Zanes’ subjective knowledge.

In the two scenes, the son and the father are both watching another place, an outsider place. They disagree on the hang-gliding activity. But this tension gets somewhat resolved at the end when they both look again in the same direction. An open conversation about this issue never appears in the story. Tensions are solved indirectly: “Is the leak like worry, no more than worry?” (75). The boat becomes the center of our attention; it is a place where Zanes’ concerns are to be projected and fixed too. The leak of the boat is associated with Zanes’ life: “When you left your job last year you were taking what you had and making it flow into a new system rather than holding onto what had been used. It would have leaked away if you had not made it move into a new system” (63). The canoe becomes a system of reference we share with Zanes to understand his life. The changes he goes through are projected into the repairing of the canoe, and thanks to the details of the crafting we understand the adjustments of his own life.

Connection is hidden where we cannot see it at first sight, where we do not expect it. For instance, a paragraph describing Zanes canoeing ends, “A wind was coming up, and I heard a breathing sound of paddling” (65). The next paragraph begins, “He treaded water and in his mind smelled fish scales. A wind came up. Zanes felt a wash against his dome” (65). The wind coming up appears twice, but the repetition is not identical because it lets us collect different details about Zanes canoeing. The first time, the wind relates to sound, while the second time it is linked to smell and then touch because of the sensation of “wash.” The different senses are connected to the same moment of Zanes’ life, and we gather this general image as well as its fragmented aspect thanks to repetition. Zanes’ sense of the world is not constructed upon a close frontier between things. Wind and breath become one; canoe and lake become one. To Zanes, “the beautiful canoe could loosen in your mind” (73). The different parts of his life (his relationship to Lung, his son, his wife, the canoe, the neighbor) are permeable. They communicate in an unusual way because they get to influence one another without ever being purposely or directly connected. The apparently rambling progression of the content of the story mirrors Zanes’ vision of life. As a result, the nonlinearity guides us.

The relationship between “Canoe Repair” and “Midcourse Corrections” emphasizes the reflections on moments of “repair” or “correction” in one’s life. The two works present pauses at a transitional time. The reading of “Canoe Repair” is the reading of images and themes mapped out in a paradigm linking scattered elements from the story, “Midcourse Corrections,” and the reader’s world. McElroy’s variation on themes common to both “Midcourse Corrections” and “Canoe Repair” is close to Andy Warhol’s technique in a series such as Marilyn. Like the painter, the author chooses a theme and modulates it. This project changes the narrative framework and our reaction to it. We can consider “Midcourse Corrections” and “Canoe Repair” to be doublings on a similar project: both pieces give different perspectives on the same thing, the way “Canoe Repair” also gives partial perspectives on the same plot. When reading “Canoe Repair,” the reader may have “Midcourse Corrections” in mind. Both pieces are meant to add to each other.

In that sense, McElroy “repeat[s] something now to make you remember something then and set[s] you up for something later” (Kawin 34). The reiterations linking the two pieces can be understood as emphases on moments that create echoes in the reader’s network of references. In “Midcourse Corrections,” McElroy writes that his essay is written to “interrupt, interleave, break diverse kinds of documents” (10). “Canoe Repair” can be read as the application of such a project to fiction. The gaps are motivated by a wish to mix disconnected “documents.” Tabbi notes that the interviews “are like a fiction” (160). In that sense, the frontiers between the essay and fiction are blurred because of their connections. Tabbi also claims, “McElroy locates his compositional self in the space between plural subjectivities” (160). The double narration of the story pluralizes Zanes’ subjectivity in a parallel way.

Structurally, the two pieces are surprisingly close. “Midcourse Corrections” is a combination of three interviews interrupted by the author’s reflections, “INSERTS,” and ” workpoints.” The short story and the autobiographical essay display a structure that accepts gaps and emphasizes echoes that connect the two texts. The substance of the canoe’s texture is mirrored by other parts of the essay:

INSERT: hinge turning: remember those trick hinged pieces of wood that were really constructed with curiously attached canvas strips?

An essay like that. An interview. A sentence fly-by that manufactures its own canvas in the space it also generates out of a music its thought spun off. (“Corrections” 20)

The crafting activity of canoe repair is paralleled by the composition of writing. The texts’ themes and images branch into one another. As McElroy expresses it, the “mixed metaphor of [his] work extends a fluid trial. Like a mixed metabolism and through the pulmonary winding also unfolding and exfoliation of the sentence’s plot it holds exchanges even between incompatibles” (“Corrections” 15). A paradigm of images is used to progressively construct the original way Zanes conceives his world. We understand how in the story, incompatibles such as “weight” and “lightness” can correlate. In the canoe, “the noble forcing of the ribs into this oval narrow form turned the weight inward into lightness” (67). In one’s life “corrections” and “repair” bring “weight” and “lightness” in contact. Traditional oppositions are reconciled in “Canoe Repair.”

The Laundromat is a place where clothes are washed, but it also becomes a place to meet, a place where life is concentrated. In addition, when Zanes thinks “rowing looks like work” (58), we see how things can serve different purposes. For Zanes, things do not have a unique meaning. Commonly, a Laundromat is used for washing. The rowing activity is meant to move a boat. However, experience changes the use of things. Zanes gives them a power to influence the world indirectly. His time influences the “real time;” his vision of space dialogues with the “real space.”

The reader adapts, concentrating on the unsettling aspects of Zanes’ representation of the world, and it participates in the creation of a simultaneous immobility and movement as when “the canoe [is] moving but … [is] still” (56). The apparent contradiction of this statement is illustrated by the structure of the story, which is partly why we may wonder if the canoe or the landscape is moving. Referring to a similar moment of immobility and movement in Hind’s Kidnap, Tony Tanner explains that “we are all familiar with such optic illusion pictures which can be read in more than one way, often as focus shifts so that figure and ground seem to change places” (219). This optic effect is rendered by the way the story is told. The process of perception alters the representation of time and space: “[t]he lake was part of the canoe” (58).

When reading the description of the canoe, we have an example of a moment when “the eye following the line of something creates motion.” Personal correspondence with the author, June 16, 2001.

Its grand lines flared to a beam so wide it seemed low and was. Which end was which? Ribs curved with a beautiful singleness up to the gunwales, and, out of the bent tension in which they seemed to grip and bow the ribs, as you ran your eyes over it and felt it the canoe developed a force of tightness and actual lift, as if the noble forcing of the ribs into this oval narrow form turned the weight inward into lightness. (67)

The passage describes the canoe precisely and technically - “ribs,” “gunwales.” We are so close to the ribs of the boat that we get an impression of immensity. The sentences saturated with commas and information prevent us from picturing a full image of the canoe. Each small detail gets enlarged so that each part seems to expand itself infinitely. The movements are underlined: “flared,” “curved,” “bent,” “grip,” “bow,” “lift,” “turned.” The canoe is still but its description creates motion.

This passage can be seen as a micro-structural template for the way the story evolves. The story is the combination of different lines gathered into a unique moment. Indeed, there is a network of words that refer to either abstract images or other words linked to the movement of the boat in the story. The circuitry of words and their relation to other words is as important as what the words refer to. The formal fragmentation and disconnection lets us experience literally what happens in Zanes’ mind. The narrator explains Zanes has a “restless mind” (60) but never explicitly explains what it means. He never gives a full description of the way Zanes orders his thoughts. We access the definition of Zanes’ “restless mind” through the organization of the story. The tensions inviting for “repair” in Zanes’ life are present at any level of the text without ever being clearly expressed. The slow paths of the narration, its fragmentation, and its echoes are images of the canoe which itself reflects the tensions at stake in Zanes’ life.

These descriptions let us experience a different sense of space but also reveal the story’s sensual approach to the world. Zanes’ readjustments orient and transform his vision. Things are examined, and their perception is detailed when Zanes describes his wife swimming, for instance: “He imagined her, and he knew her words had reached some reservoir in his brain, where she was swimming at night, the luminous things like tiny muscular wakes lit up her thighs and the curve of her back” (60). The “luminous things like tiny muscular wakes” are observed with attention, and remind us of a vision of a sculpted body where forms and relief are emphasized. Narration zooms in on details of surfaces, and the intense observation of body parts and of the canoe makes a paradigm of sensual representations. The story pays attention to the concrete surface of things: the canoe looks like a “deer swimming” (56). Things and people are described minutely, and the scale used is so close that the images of the story appear as details of a painting. The details Zanes’ vision focuses on remind us of the indirectness of his actions. Zanes pays attention to things in their details and cannot always see the overall framework of these things. Similarly, he cannot perceive the outcomes of all his actions.

McElroy refers to “’[a]ttention’ [as] a rather cold word [he] use[s] to suggest that the ways in which we embrace the world and embrace other people can be more precise and clear than we think sometimes” (Anything 248). Zanes’ attention to the canoe and to his breath, for instance, as he feels the “air filling the space of [his] chest to be measured by another time” (60), is his way to “embrace the world.” His attention to the world indirectly penetrates his relationships. Zanes’ precise description of the exterior world lets us access his interior world. We understand, when paying attention to the depiction of his environment, why “the lake [is] part of the canoe” (58). People’s lives are permeable, their energies travel into one another. Zanes’ activities involuntarily connect to other areas of his life. The clearer vision of life that appears when Zanes repairs the canoe gets transferred in mysterious ways to the other parts of his life. Different aspects of Zanes’ life influence one another, although it is not clear to him or us how they connect.

The flashes and fragments emphasized in the sequences of the story are used to represent the world: “it is the very abundance of perspectives that conveys abundance of the world under observation” (Iser 226). The canoe is personified by Zanes’ interest in it: “A body was what it was” (73). Zanes’ observations change our perception of the canoe. It is compared to a lover, an animal, and a body: “he almost loved the canoe” (67), “[t]he canoe attracted others to it, they were in its future” (75), and “[a] canoe is what makes you do” (77). Intensity changes the character’s visions of the world.

This intensity also affects the way time is represented in the story. Perception is altered. Likewise, time is distorted. McElroy refers to “the arranging of things in space, the motion of things and persons in space. Time dissolved into spatial relations.” Personal correspondence with the author, June 16, 2001. When Zanes asks, “what if space was time?” (72), his question could be considered as a comment on the devices used by the author. In “Canoe Repair,” time is peculiar since it is fragmented and does not follow a plain progression. McElroy writes in “Midcourse Corrections” that his writing is to be understood as “modifications of language editing the rhetoric of what’s inside and not disclaiming faith that the words really rendered things and motions outside - and outside, somehow, consciousness” (13). The subjective experience of Zanes’ time is spatialized in the story. “Outside” and “consciousness,” connected in “Midcourse Corrections,” become the pivot of “Canoe Repair.”

The story covers approximately seven months (“One bright mid-September afternoon” [65] to “summer soon” [77]), but the vision we have is the vision of an infinite time without bearings or perhaps a very short time so dense that the notion of its temporality is not valid. The sentences are constructed in order to convey the circuits and canals of Zanes’ stream of consciousness and even his perception process sometimes. Time is altered by perception and becomes spatialized in the story. We think about the witty reference to the Times and the “two Timeses for the price of one” (“Corrections” 19) that could ironically summarize the treatment of time in the short story where subjective time is juxtaposed to seasonal time. When reading “Canoe Repair,” we face two experiences of time: one that is subjective and distorted by experience, and the other that is universal and related to the seasons referred to in the story. The original structure of the story, its fragmentation, and connections to “Midcourse Corrections,” is a means for the author to present a subjective system of perception.

When allowing the defamiliarizing elements of the story to change our reading, we penetrate a new experience of the world, of perception, and of time. For example, the image of the canoe passing is a recurrent pattern in the short story: “It came out of a cove as quiet as a deer swimming” (56), “[t]he canoe’s animal flanks and low length absorbed the two paddlers” (57), “[t]he lake was part of the canoe” (58), “[t]reading water, my hand upon the overturned canoe” (65), and so on. These allusions create a network of references to the symbolical meaning of the slow movement characteristic of an infinite moment. The personal experience of Zanes’ time transforms the time of the story: “But he wondered what the long bark canoe felt like. Its length and strong delicacy. Its secret speed. Its time” (64). The canoe has its particular pace, its own time. Reading “Canoe Repair” is experiencing canoe(ing) time.

Works Cited

Culler, Jonathan. On Deconstruction. Theory and Criticism after Structuralism. London: Routledge, 1983.

Kawin, Bruce. Telling it Again and Again. Repetition in Literature and Film. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1972

Iser, Wolfgang. The Implied Reader. Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins UP, 1974.

McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge, 1996.

McElroy, Joseph. “Canoe Repair.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 10. 1. (Spring 1990): 56-79.

_____ “Midcourse Corrections.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 10. 1. (Spring 1990): 9-56.

_____ “Neural Neighborhoods and Other Concrete Abstracts.” Tri Quarterly 34 (Fall 1975): 201-17.

LeClair, Tom and Larry McCaffery. Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists. Urbana: University of Illinois P,1983.

Porush, David. The Soft Machine: Cybernetic Fiction. New York: Methuen, 1985.

Saltzman, Arthur. The Novel in the Balance. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1993.

Tabbi, Joseph. Postmodern Sublime. Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1995.

Tanner, Tonny. Scenes of Nature, Signs of Men. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Notes