While I found this to be in an odd sense a good book, I was particularly distracted at the beginning of the book. The distraction came in the form of Amy. When Harry meets her again in the street he says that he did not recognize her because of the El. It was the El that made everything look gray. This struck me in a weird sort of way because I have always felt that in a way the El distorted reality.
I’m sure at one point, everyone who has ever lived in Chicago has gone under the El tracks. When I go up north to Lincoln Park to hang out with friends I always have to go under the Brown/Purple/Red tracks for they are perpendicular to my path. Every time I go under the tracks it’s a new experience. Generally I am listening to my Ipod to drown out city noise, but when I go under the tracks if a train is approaching, everything gets loud. I cannot even hear my own thoughts. The train will literally put my mind at a standstill while it passes over head. The trains control my thoughts, that is a lot of power. Other times, if a train is not coming and it’s a sunny day, the street below the tracks is shaded, but not completely shaded, but the sun tries its hardest to seep through the cracks but only at the trains will. It’s walking in and out of darkness. One minute you’re in the light, then it’s dark with a tease of light every few steps. The trains control the light, that is a lot of power. If it’s a rainy day, when walking, you go from rain, to no rain. In the spots where the light shines through you’ll get a small bit of a shower. The trains control the weather, that is a lot of power. At night, street lights brighten up entire blocks, but not under the tracks. Walking under the tracks takes you from artificial, safe light, to absolute darkness. The trains control the darkness, that is a lot of power. Like in the book, on a gloomy day vivid colors are dampened and diffused to a murky gray. The trains control the color, that is a lot of power. For the people on the trains, they live their lives according to the train schedule. If the trains are late, they are late. If they miss a train, they have to wait for the train to come to them. The trains control peoples lives, that is a lot of power.
While Bellow doesn’t actually take that one line to any great lengths, it made me think of how powerful things are in life. For Harry, Amy has so much power. He has loved her for forty years. While she was in and out of marriages, she still held a part of his heart in her hands. She has all of the control. In the end, he puts her on the spot and seemingly takes control when he inappropriately timed asked her to marry him, but she still holds all of the control in the final decision. She is the actual to him, so I suppose that means that the actual holds all the control and that might be what constitutes it as the actual. Of course, I am taking the entire book out of the context of a line in the book that could easily be overlooked but it is a different way of looking at their complicated history. What ended up distracting me from much of the books meat and potatoes led me on a tangent that concluded that the El controls my life. I suppose that’s not really what I was getting at, but it is interesting to see that the things around us hold much more control than we think we allow them to.