[Henri] Bergson said that freedom exists in duration—what that means is that when you're having a meal with a friend and you lose track of time and you look down and your watch and you just realize that two hours have gone by, and you don't know where they went, or you're watching a movie, and the hours of the movie seem to go by in a second—that's when you're feeling your freedom. That's how you experience your freedom—as a suspense within duration. You're suspended within a kind of timelessness, and within that space there's the freedom to possibly see the world in a different way, to possibly make a different choice than the one that you're habitually committed to.
Many authors have employed geometric metaphors for that so linear form: the novel (Dodgson’s chess board; Durrell’s four-coordinate quartet). The two volumes of “Dhalgren” might enlighteningly be considered two wings of a möbius strip (as in the Escher, two-dimensional projection, around which those ants are marching). Such a (s)trip needless to say, is only fully enjoyed the second time round; though one passes over the same space, one is on an entirely different surface. By extension, if you read Vol I, then Vol II, then Vol I again, it will seem rather different from the first time through, in the light of what comes after it—or does it come before? The ambiguity, any way, is held up intentionally (yes, gentle reader, Vol I was written first, and that is where to climb on.) Using an inner and outer work is also, certainly, not new (Shakespeare’s plays within plays; Nabokov’s critique of Kinbote’s critique of Shade’s critique of Nabokov.) To any one who wishes to take the trip three or more times (the invitation is, naturally, open to all) and who begins to note, once familiarity has allowed him to travel in more spurious directions than dead on, that the outer novel and the inner notebook are connected in more complicated ways than the ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ surface of a twisted band—indeed, bare more relation to the external and internal lugs of a klein bottle—I can only suggest this effect is not entirely an accident.
A rotating eternity may seem atrocious to an observer, but it is quite acceptable to those who dwell there. Free from bad news and disease, they live forever as if each thing were happening for the first time; they have no memory of anything that happened before. And the interruptions caused by the rhythm of the tides keep the repetition from being implacable.
Now that I have grown accustomed to seeing a life that is repeated, I find my own irreparably haphazard. My plans to alter the situation are useless: I have no next time, each moment is unique, different from every other moment, and many are wasted by my own indolence. Of course, there is no next time for the images either—each moment follows the pattern set when the eternal week was first recorded.
Our life may be thought of as a week of these images—one that may be repeated in adjoining worlds.
The spring sun was hot, the air was still—utterly still. There was not the breath of a breeze. It wasn’t only that no leaf or blade of grass so much as quivered: something like an inverse wind had apparently emptied the air of its invisible stuff and fixed leaves and grass in an immobility as absolute as that of a photograph. A ways inside the park, Hubert felt himself sucked into a comparable equilibrium—he could still move without the slightest hesitation, but he sensed, moving or not, packets of an indefinable substance falling away from him into the weightless air, first from the skin of his limbs (calves, small of back, shoulders), then from muscles (slender) triceps, stubborn hamstring), from stiff bones (knee caps), and even from his brain and its subversive nerves, until at the end a bar of steel that stretched from shoulder to shoulder across his sternum, of which he had never been aware, was gently lifted from him. This released a spurt of joy, also unsuspected grief upwelling, so as he delightedly smile, tears rolled down his cheeks to drench his chest. He hid behind a tree so as not to be seen crying. He raised his arms as if in salute, not of any god, idea, or force of nature, just the unnamable source of his release. He quickly thought: “I have to tell the world about this.”
(Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy.)
A simultaneity mark: “⋮” means that narrative time has stopped and what happens on both sides of the mark are simultaneous.