|Where Do You Stop?|
YOU CAN READ THE FIRST
Of Memory and Mush
my memory seems to be mush, with shining moments scattered through it like
chips of marble in wet cement or peas stirred into mashed potatoes.
I’d like to be able to take a closer look at some of those moments, but
whenever I reach for one I disturb the mush, and the moment I seek sometimes
sinks out of sight. I reach, I scoop, I grab. Sometimes I get
what I’m after, but more often I come up with nothing but mush, or I get
hold of a different moment, not the one I wanted. Reaching for a
chip of marble, I come up with a pea.
|If you are about to begin
your reading of
Where Do You Stop?
here, I urge you to read
the preliminaries first,
because they are integral
parts of the work.
left undone—how they haunt us. At any rate, they haunt me. I’ve noticed
that they don’t haunt everyone else. A great many people seem to
be able to walk through their days without hearing at their heels the dogged
shuffle of neglected duties, but I am not a member of that lighthearted
crew. The things I ought to have done are there behind me always,
each with a hook in me, holding on with a thin but sturdy line, dragging
along behind me, a nagging reminder of a debt I ought to pay to the past
before I pack up and move on to something new. So, it is a happy
occasion when I get an opportunity to clip one of those strings and leave
a millstone in the dust.
I had left Miss Rheingold’s general science paper unfinished all those years ago because its requirements were so daunting and bewildering. It was much more demanding than anything I had encountered in school before I encountered Miss Rheingold. For one thing, the paper had to be quite long, and until she came along my classmates and I had grown accustomed to working in a shorter form—one side of a sheet of paper with widely spaced lines. I liked that form just fine. I could take in all my work at a glance and check it for the seamless integration of ideas that I worked to achieve. Now I was going to have to blather on about a single subject for far longer than I thought I could.
For another thing, the paper had no fixed deadline. We were to turn it in when we thought it was ready for Miss Rheingold to read. This meant that we had to impose a kind of discipline on ourselves that none of us was accustomed to: we had to work until the job was finished—but we didn’t really know what finished meant. We had never had to decide when a job was finished before. It had been finished when the time was up. Finished meant no more than ended. Often it just meant that the bell had rung.
For yet another thing—and this is the main thing that kept me from turning the paper in while Miss Rheingold was still around to receive it—the paper had to include a project, either an experiment or a demonstration, that illustrated its thesis. I didn’t devise a project that satisfied me until after the school year was over and Miss Rheingold was gone (in fact, I didn’t even realize that the project I had devised was the project I needed to complete my paper until that morning when I was sitting on the deck with Albertine’s parents, remembering Miss Rheingold’s legs).
Finally, and most exasperatingly, the paper had to answer an enormous, nearly imponderable question, the one that is the title of this book. If it seems like a simple question to you, try thinking about it with a ten- or eleven-year-old brain. Well, where are the edges of things? Where in space-time, for instance, does one phase of your life end and another begin? Where do you mark the onset of an idea, a discovery? Where do you mark the end of a belief? Where does my table end and the keyboard of my computer begin? Vivian’s description of her homemade STM set me to pondering such questions all over again, and that was the start of my work on this book—or was it? Perhaps my work on this book really started with my work on Miss Rheingold’s science assignment. Perhaps it began even earlier. Regardless of when it began, it is now, I think, finished at last.
I am astonished at how long this book became. I tried to cut some of the details, but I couldn’t eliminate split session, the broadcasting career of Flo and Freddie, the drumlin in our back yard, my lighthouse, the terrazzo floor of the Purlieu Street School, splines, green blackboards, Miss Rheingold’s legs and perfume, the smell of new pencils, shandy, Quanto the Minimum, Elementary Introductory Physics Made Easy for Beginners (Book One), Marvin’s mother’s redfish court bouillon, my mother’s business ventures, fried baloney, Ariane’s hip, or Kap’n Klam’s flirtation with hamburgers, and despite my cuts I think there may still be too many gadgets in here, but I couldn’t eliminate any of the ones that appeared on “Fantastic Contraptions,” or the windup record player, the combination locks on the lockers in the school, the flour bomb, my Shackleton Superba, the Lodkochnikovs’ television set, or the windflowers, and so this book is as long as it is, which is, I hope, just as long as it ought to be.
-- The New York Times Book Review
DO YOU HAVE YOUR COPY?
Where do You Stop? is published in paperback by Picador, a division of St. Martin’s Press, at $10.00.
You should be able to find Where do You Stop?at your local bookstore, but you can also order it by phone from:
Bookbound at 1-800-959-7323You can order it on the Web from Amazon.com Books.
Copyright © 1992 by Eric Kraft
Where Do You Stop? is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.
Now available in paperback from Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Alec “Nick” Rafter, the author’s earnest agent.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.