review + interview [Ofelia Hunt]

Posted By jatyler - 6th June 2011

review + /// Today & Tomorrow by Ofelia Hunt

There is something about turning twenty. Something about the last of our teen years gone and the moving forward. Something about growing up. Ofelia Hunt’s first novel Today & Tomorrow gives us this precipice to stand-over, this edge to walk upon, this line down the middle of the interstate, people as speeding cars rushing by so fast that we can’t remember their names, so close that we can feel the ripping wind from their bodies. We walk hoping not to fall, we dive wishing for clear blue water below, we turn:

I turn onto my side and watch my alarm clock which is orange and bright. I imagine a soft snow-sound, then a thin cold smell that makes me think of leaves. The snow-sound’s a crunching but faded, distant. Snow in New Mexico. Lisbon there, the Lisbon Wal-Mart. We’re cross-legged on a blanket, the million flags before us. No trees, but leaves everywhere. I imagine a leaf curved and fetal. I imagine a complex zigzagging wrinkle. My wrinkle. All wrinkles. Frost crystals.

Today & Tomorrow begins with the narrator’s twentieth birthday, an occasion for excitement and yet laced fear, focusing on how we attempt to let go of our youth, how we try to embrace our aging, a journey that the book violently pulls us through like an uncontrolled body over coral reefs, a juxtaposition of beauty and limb-scarring. The narrator is constantly imagining or pretending new kinds of violence – the throwing of a kitten, the pummeling of a stranger, the dropping of a body into a trunk – or recounting blood-lettings from the past in such a way that we don’t know whether to believe or deny them, whether to be sad or strangely stimulated:

‘I’m at the edge. Merna’s wild and angry and Anastasia’s in front of me and we’re all crazy then. There was this movement, this shaking in us and I could feel something there—like hydrogen peroxide maybe. I can’t explain it but it was solid somehow. Anastasia’s there in front of me and I see it in her. So I grab a rock from the pond-edge, smash one eye then another and grab Anastasia’s hair and hold here there beneath the dirty pond-water. It was an accident, I think. Merna was very angry and I was afraid of a thousand things and I smashed her with a rock and held her beneath the pond-water.’

Today & Tomorrow is all about being stuck. Stuck between nineteen and twenty, stuck between the real of something and its imagined cousin, stuck between the boyfriend we want and the boyfriend we pretend to have. Stuck between thinking of committing the robbery and taking the knife in our hands, the car parked outside of the AM-PM. Stuck like Bill Murray between Ghostbusters II and Lost in Translation. Today & Tomorrow is a novel about negotiating this middle-ground, about living up to being between:

The voice was quiet and static-y and each word, I knew, was a series of beginnings and endings with interruptions and what was missing were the middle-sounds and these middle-sounds were the sounds I wanted and why I listened so carefully then. A voice is something, I thought but the thought wouldn’t go anywhere and I abandoned it. I wanted suddenly to touch and hold the voice, to choke the voice for a while until the voice became something else.

In the end, Ofelia Hunt makes a statement. Today is the day that we turn twenty and tomorrow is what happens past the midnight of that day. Time doesn’t stop, and no amount of violent schemes and pretend killings will ever bring us back to the age of childhood, when we sincerely believe we are invincible, when we see our bodies as indestructible, when the world is all a thing somewhere deep ahead of us. There is no way to stop time, and even if we could, Today & Tomorrow says we shouldn’t:

‘Well.’ Grandfather watches television for a while. ‘I think it’s comforting to know that things have an end, small scale, lives etc…, and also large scale, world, universe. It’s good to know that things end completely. If things go on perpetually…it’s impossible to imagine, makes me, people, everyone, I think, anxious and fearful. If a televisions show never ended it’d be creepy, scary, people wouldn’t know what to do. Maybe television-destruction-derby, urban rioting, domestic violence, you know kitchen-knife stabbings. Women tossing boiling water on their husbands in the garage. Poor old grandmothers stumbling bloodily into the snow. So to with the world, I think.’

[ stay tuned for our interview with Ofelia Hunt in the coming days ]

Buy this book here. Read more about / from Ofelia Hunt here.