Aries Point. Nancy Bird. Dominican Republic: Isla Negra Editores, 2016. 111 pages.
I approached this novel by Nancy Bird, described by Isla Negra Editores as playful and experimental, with a great deal of curiosity. In truth, while reading I was inspired to pore from back to front and vice versa through the brief but well-elaborated narrative. The title suggests – and the narrative’s development demands – questions and investigation. We live in the Internet Age, so I went online to do my research, in that place of “lots of information,” but also “lots of noise,” as the author says herself in the foreword. It was a great challenge. Above all, because the main character is nicknamed Pleione and sets out on a journey in search of being while blogging. I invited myself along for the ride.
It is undeniable that the Internet has provided a new environment for contemporary writers. We are only being realists when we assume, creatively, the innovative tendencies of technology. I believe Nancy Bird has installed herself very well in what we call the virtual world, and she takes us with her to experience life through multiple points of view inserted into this environment. Certainly, this novel participates in the breaking of paradigms, or simply fits into the context of contemporaneity to create original forms.
So, I traveled along with the character on her interior voyage – within the quotidian – but interconnected with art, technology, mythology, and astrology, using zodiac signs as a starting point, as in the case of Aries. The displacement begins at the 30th degree of Pisces (one degree before entering Aries), as if investigating an archetype in movement and extension. In fact, the degrees form this investigation: time and space will remain observed and present within the emotional value of the corresponding moment. In this case – at the start – the author alludes to Pedro Salinas and his poem “Vocación” [Vocation]. The narrative voice is linked to a “desire” for the world within to be as tangible as a stone, allowing its closeness to be felt in everyday existence.
From that moment on, life itself is challenged in bursts with the apparent inertia of the zero degree or Aries point, which gives the novel its title. This is when the spring begins, and with the sun come energy and rebirth. Entering the Aries point implies the temporality of being clearly visible, even if one thinks the opposite is the better option. Since the action is manifested from the inside out, the being investigates clear and voluntary expressions to explain that process in an unstripping of what the character calls “conceptual congestion” or refers to, without a title, simply as “going” with a mind that travels at light speed.
Little by little and degree by degree, the protagonist unravels her intimacy. She is only interested in the ontological affirmation of participating in sentiment (saudade) and universal ideologies. With this intention, she creates a blog that can only be called Pleiades in order to “expound upon herself” – to extend herself and insert herself into the territory of stories.
At each degree, Pleione and the voices that surround her give off thoughts, questions, dialogues, memories, openly contrasting opinions, and a dreamlike element that echoes in a reality that also opposes itself to the fantasy of a game of words, sayings, voices, and splits in narrative time. The mission is to move from an unidentified force toward the others who observe and define the being when this act only serves their own interests. In fact, the character’s opinion is displayed clearly and conclusively: “that’s what I believe – I, Pleione.”
There is still a game in play as the words break their forms and are reconfigured into other contexts and meanings: “in what it is,” even when the author uses popular sayings. The author then adds a realistic space of modern culture in which written languages (English and Spanish, in this case) coexist with a naturalness, we might say, that is very particular to spoken language. Humor and irony burst in not only to live in the expression, but also with the additional goal of allowing the character to define her essence.
We discover some story of understanding, overcoming, sacrifice, or determination to exist on one’s own terms at each degree. Also, the linear chain of time is altered in leaps that prevent any boredom. For example, from the seventh degree we pass to the twenty-ninth, which reappears after the eleventh. To write is to create, define, hide and forget, undo and reactivate the idea in prose, in poetry, in sequence. Perhaps it is an escape that provides the opportunity to disappear for a moment, naturally, as if in an eclipse. The search remains trapped in that “second” by two aspects and the musical harmony that must denounce the instant of “its own note.”
At the fourteenth degree, very aptly, another voice bursts onto the scene. This time the one blogging (from its point of view and according to its specialty) is the snake; the one that “winks” at knowledge and analyzes the themes of apples, taste buds, and fear. The guest digs into the process of seeking respected reactions and expressions pertinent to other characters. From the fourteenth degree it escapes to the eighteenth, where the poet Aldebarán (star friend of Pleione) releases a further conceptual series on the femininity of words and questions whose critique contrasts the “for” and the “what” that form the “why” as masculine entities in the generalization of ideas that should assume the consequences of their actions. Thoughts are fulfilled or broken for new encounters. The result is analyzed through the “poem of the empty hammock”; a promising jolt of harmonic responses that oscillate between knowledge and poetry.
Later, at the twenty-third degree, three “entrances” are considered: Cancer, Capricorn, and Aries. They form a spatial triangle in which stories matter, more so than time: stories interconnected in the blog between memories, critiques, and prejudice, and narrated from three unequal points.
Further along, at the twenty-eighth degree, the narrative bounces again to another space where two aspects are addressed: Aries and Taurus. The real world, which could be the great disappointing audience, is an ignorant aside. The first time that Uranus appears at the twenty-eighth degree, he is presented as retrograde, allowing perception to retake its place in the scene. The monologue’s discourse is opened in pure rebellion against conventionalisms. The only environment accepted as real is the artistic environment, with all its order and method. When she embarks on her second voyage from the twenty-eighth degree – now in Taurus (the next constellation) – the protagonist describes herself lovingly. We are a point, but we are, and we are free by our own account.
This effort to define the being with a background of mythology and astrology never loses its attraction. Both areas of study are complex, but they sustain a certain hopefulness. Even in this content, the critical analysis of the character and her counterparts reveals ideas, opinions, and positions defined in their own stages of life. It could be considered from another sphere: our reality is also mythologically and astrologically uncertain, perhaps, depending on how conditioned our point of view has become.
The definitive result consists of displacing the end and replacing it at the beginning. A circle is closed. Go back to the start: the thirtieth degree can already be seen at the first degree of Taurus (the next sign of the Zodiac), whose symbol is a stream running down a mountain. We realize the simple pleasures of life. We hear an initial call to the interior world – the world of the poetry of the imperfect; a fit beginning.
As a result, within, it finally begins. Time and space do not follow a logical course: the end is the beginning. It’s as if we said that going up meant going down. Here, the zero degree (the Aries Point) reemerges to consume the flight we’ve begun. It invades the moon, which has reached its apex in the narrative’s sky, full, radiant, but on the verge of waning. The moon illuminates the pathways toward the unexplored, toward the affirmation or the renovation of the being in full autonomy. From the zero degree, a conclusive invitation is completed, a threshold toward the opening of the being: to mind, to choose, to perceive, and, above all, a call that is present in the narrative from beginning to end: “to emerge.”
Collaborator with Isla Negra Editores