Read I'm working on a blog post
I have so many more things to say about I'm working on a building but when I found this song I realised it said what I'd been trying to say all along.
Working on a building, Bro. Joe May and the Sallie Martin Singers
The book like the song is full of redemption and longing. Full of hope. Full of time and the possibilities that time offers.
A story told backwards, as IWoaB is told, makes us hold time differently in our heads. Makes us consider time in two or more ways simultaneously. I always think of the first chapter (which tells us the most recent events in Catherine's life) as also being the last chapter. The last chapter which tells us of Catherine as a child, already moving away from people, already interested in buildings, is also like a first chapter. I can only understand the book if I both these things true. Like Lyra reading her Alethiometer in Philip Pullman's Northern Lights - learning to hold three levels of thought in her mind at once.
I kind of see 'em. Or feel 'em rather, like climbing down a ladder at night, you put your foot down and there's another rung. Well I put my mind down and there's another meaning and I kind of sense what it is. Then I put 'em all together. There's a trick in it like focusing your eyes.
The title of the book is an affirmation of time. That the moments of construction, the project in flight, the building are something larger than itself. I'm working on a building is not just a statement about a sequence of events but a summary of Catherine's life story. Cathy, inheriting a human world of collapse and failing finds a type of grace in the certainties of heavy engineering. Cathy survives because she is smart enough to understand, in physical terms, what material will in actual fact, when it comes down to it, bear what load. How concrete is always moving. What happens at moments of stress.
Every second from then, the building would be something new and the new thing would finally twist the floor open and pull her down so she was falling and watching the building coming down on top of her exactly as she expected it would. Look at you, she thought, watching all it would become. Be monsters, she said, and it was.
Listening to the song makes me feel a bit like I feel reading the book, sad and glad and hopeful. Time can carry us back or forward to the places we want to be and the people we want to be with. Time lets us build. Time as a common. Time as a kind of blessing, inevitable, and despite numerous efforts at theivery, available to all of us.
Poor Kitten, Tansy thought. How the hand that feeds has come to hold you. All Catherine would be able to do now was work hard and late, disappear for lengths of time during which she could make something different of it all. Wait, she thought; wait it out. Time changes everything.
I'm working on a building. Pip Adam. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2013.
Buy it online or at a bookshop or borrow it from the library. If your library doesn't have it ask them to buy it.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.