Pondering the Silly Nuances in Daily Life | Review of “To Dance the Beginning of the World” (2015) Exile Editions

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I am always surprised to find silly nuances from my life reflected in literature. No doubt if I didn’t read, I would never give these items a second thought but because I do, I find myself pondering these things. And that isn’t a bad thing; to reflect on one’s existence. That is why I enjoyed reading Steven Hayward’s collection of short stories called To Dance the Beginning of the World so much.

Page 1 Strava

Strava is a smart phone application invented by Michael Horvath and Mark Gainey, a pair of friends who were crewmates in college and missed competing with each other after they had moved to different cities. Early in 2009, they realized GPS data had become specific enough to identify climbs based on elevation and distance and that it should be possible to record people’s times and compare them. This is what Strava does. It tracks your movement. It tells you how fast and how far you ride and compares you to the rest of the world. You upload your data and it takes your measure.

The application launched in early 2010 and now has about ten million users worldwide. I am one of them. My name is Tim Babcock, and I’m forty-four years old. This puts me at the very edge of the thirty-five to forty-four age bracket on Strava. Twenty-nine days from now I’ll turn forty-five and expect to see a consequent jump in my Strava rating.

Hayward has a simple writing style but he is able to enlighten the reader with complex considerations with the scenarios he  has created here. They are thought-provoking and the mind’s eye of the reader is awaken on numerous occasions with profound connections to the reader’s life and the characters that Hayward has written about here.

Page 30 Bee Girl

It took him a minute to realize that I was joking, but when he did, he laughed and laughed, as if the laughter had been coiled up inside of him and waiting for a chance to escape. By this time I was used to it. That’s one of the things about everyone knowing that your mother’s just died. If you make any kind of joke, anything that’s even remotely funny, the rest of the world will just kill themselves laughing. I suppose this is because most of the time they’re standing there worried you’ll burst into tears, or get into some details they don’t want to know, or say that you’re going to kill yourself. Then, if you make a joke, all of that worry comes out all at once, as a laugh.

Hayward has also taken a couple of stories and used footnotes to elaborate on the narrative. It is an interesting feature. The original story line is simple but the footnote shows a complication in the person’s life that seems familiar to a reader in a certain way.

Page 77- 78 The Obituary of Philomena Beviso

BEVISO, Philomena Rosario – At her home in Toronto, (footnote cited) suddenly, on Thursday August 19, 1985, in her 78th year. Daughter of the late Carmella and Paul Luciani and beloved wife of Contanzo. She will be sadly missed by her son Theodore and her grandson Paulo.

(the cited footnote – Page 77)

Philomena was making pizza dough when she felt the pain in her left arm. She dropped the dough and tried to steady herself by gripping the kitchen counter. The her knees buckled and she fell to the floor. The pain spread through her chest and she found she could not stand up. She lay on the floor and looked at the ceiling.

“It’s very dirty,” she said out loud the the empty kitchen.

Constanzo Beviso was out in the garden and did not know what had happened until it was too late. He walked into the kitchen carrying a large cucumber and a basket of green beans. He dropped them both when he saw his wife. He knelt down on the floor and listened for her breathing before calling the ambulance. He went back into the kitchen and closed Philomena’s eyes.

To Dance The Beginning of the World by Steven Hayward is a light read yet filled with some deep reflections of life in our times. A great book to ponder one’s existence about after reading.

Link to Steven Hayward’s website

Link to Exile Editions page for To Dance The Beginning of the World

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