Mid-Atlantic, from Bellow with Love

There is something utterly fascinating about looking out of an airplane window in midair and observing the world thousands and thousands of feet below. Many writers have used this trope before, though perhaps none better than Cortázar—an expert, by the bye, of the micro fiction form—in his short story “La isla a mediodía”.I don’t often get to look out of windows in airplanes—I’m too tall, I’m afraid, and I prefer the relative comfort of an aisle seat to the joy of a good view. Sometimes, however, I find myself in luck, able to splay myself over the entire row with ample space for my long legs and a clear view of the world outside. Those were the moments in which I wrote or found the inspiration for many of the airborne passages in Tales of Bed Sheets and Departure Lounges.

My favourite, perhaps, of those, is “Mid-Atlantic”:

In the stillness of this high-altitude flight
the darkened shadows of a dispersed colony of clouds
imprint the hammered silver leaf of the Atlantic
with a smooth negative of the sky’s landscape.

I was therefore nothing short of chuffed when I found this passage by Saul Bellow in Humboldt’s Gift:

But from this altitude the corrugations of the seas looked no higher to the eye than the ridges of your palate feel to the tongue.

No writer could be farther from the sensibility of flash fiction than Saul Bellow, a quintessentially American writer, a writer of long aisles of cereal boxes stocked ceiling-high with innumerable different brands. And yet, in another world, in some other lifetime he might have written something like Tales of Bed Sheets. In all likelihood he wouldn’t, but at least he might have been attracted by the same moments, by the same gestures. And only that already makes me smile.

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