Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Travels with the Minotaur

One of the benefits of living in the US is the availability of cheap subscriptions to good magazines. But my travel schedule means that copies of the New Yorker and Economist often pile up. But travel also helps, because I read through the magazines on airlines. Last week I read the story "Ziggurat" by Stephen O'Connor in the New Yorker.

It's an adaptation of the story of the Minotaur, a story which used to terrify me as a child. In "Ziggurat", the Minotaur wanders a labyrinth of empty spaces. Some are empty because he has eaten the people who he encountered there. But others are just empty. He encounters, "in the pine-panelled section of the Labyrinth", a girl playing computer games.

The description of wandering, dislocation, events out-of-kilter, furnished places - all this hit home with me as I read it on a twice-canceled flight over a thunderstorm over New York City.

"The central aisle of an airliner, the back seat of a car (stale popcorn crammed into cushion cracks), a coal mine, a hospital waiting room, a long tunnel in which a hot breeze blew first in one direction and then the other. So many varieties of emptiness. For centuries. Millennia."

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