Water & Earth takes the reader inside the spontaneous thoughts and experiences of a young playwright living in Manhattan during the sexually-charged New York scene of the 1970s. The author records and explores a range of feelings and observations, including his reactions to literature, philosophy and the decadence of the 20th Century, his sexual experiences, and his obsession with pushing self-exposure to the limit. As he writes his entries and captures the moment, he develops his own unique style. The journal is published just as he wrote it, preserving occasional but deliberate oddities like a paragraph that ends with a comma or one which ends with no punctuation at all.
“I haven't read anything this year as intensely honest, sexy, entertaining and touching as Guy Gauthier's Water & Earth. Gauthier uses his journal entries as entryways into the teeming life of the mind. He dares to question everything: God, the universe, existence. A typical entry may begin with a comment on the weather, the shape of a pipe, a passing face, and then leap fearlessly into the extraordinary, the unknown. Gauthier constantly challenges himself to go where few others dare to.”
—Bill Kushner, author of He Dreams of Waters and That April
“Guy Gauthier brings a pre-Socratic wonder to life events. With a keen intensity, he allows us entrance to his most private thoughts and experience. This is journal writing at its riskiest.”
—Stanley Nelson, author of Immigrant and The Brooklyn Book of the Dead
“Here at last is a journal that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about its author. In other words, a real journal. A great journal!”
—J. R. Léveillé, poet, novelist and editor of Les Editions du Blé
“The world wakes up for a moment in Gauthier's words, only to fall back into the unnamable during the next pause. Everything rests upon the words; but the words are not enough. Gauthier has chosen to live within this paradox with an admirable honesty and humor.”
—Charles Borkhuis, author of Mouth of Shadows and Alpha Ruins
“I read diaries and journals voraciously and I loved this one! Gauthier's style is wonderful. His work is so immediate and slapdash and chaotic and thoughtful and real, which is how I perceive life to be—all right there on the surface and at the subterranean levels. Definitely one of the best diaries published in recent years.”
—Hollie Rose, Publisher/Editor of The Diarist's Journal
“Some of his insights border on the magnificent.”
—Emily Hall, The Stranger, Seattle
“A brave book, often funny.”
—Charlene Diehl-Jones, Artistic Director, Winnipeg International Writers Festival
“There is much to admire in Guy Gauthier’s journal, not least his willingness to share his most intimate experiences and thoughts, to confide in the reader as in a close friend, to write with a candour and sincerity that are refreshing. It’s almost impossible not to be swept along by his spontaneity and enthusiasm.”
—David Rozniatowski, Prairie Fire Magazine
Sometimes you really have to bend over backwards to see the sky. One of those rare blue skies, with white clouds that look like they're fresh from a Chinese laundry. Do you ever feel like you're living underground? It's like...the whole city is a subway, and we're living underground, like ants. My apartment is a tiny cave, under several layers of earth, deep down in the anthill. I've been bothered by a strong sense of our anthood, our insect status. If we could step outside our human set, outside our humanity, and see ourselves the way an alien would see us, we would see...insects! Did you see The Hellstrom Chronicle? Did you see that army of ants? They breed in such astounding numbers, and they have such a short life, nature treats them so abominably, they are machines made to eat, but they starve and die. Like us. We breed and die like insects, by the billions. Did you ever look down at people from the top of a building? Once I stuck my head out of a penthouse window of the Hilton Hotel, it was the rush hour, I was right on top of them, and I swear, they were ants, some kind of insect, it was an army, marching in orderly ranks down the sidewalks. We feel free inside, unique and like no other. Within ourselves, we are the one and only, but seen from the outside, seen from the top of the Empire State, we're all the same, like that army of ants in The Hellstrom Chronicle. Like those flies I once saw in the sunset, so small they could only fly when the air was absolutely still, so small you could only see them in a shaft of sunlight, they made a house fly seem gigantic, and they lived only a day, born with the sunrise, and destroyed by the cold night air, thousands of bright points spinning crazily in the air, that's the way nature sees us, how we come out of our own bodies, and eat other animals, and die, this is how nature has always seen us, billions of bright points that vanish with the sun, and this is the way nature treats us, with the same impartial hand as she has always treated insects. Sometimes I get a glimpse...the generations and generations, it's beyond belief, I can only see this for a brief second, but life is cheap, just look at the headlines, airline crash, no survivors, tidal wave, 50,000 dead, the individual human being, to nature, is no more than a fly or an ant, an anonymous blob, a moving mass of biodegradable meat, no more than...me.
Stanley's in Brooklyn, and I'm in Manhattan, it's 5:45 on Sat, and Stanley's on Pacific St in Brooklyn, and I'm on East 28th St in Manhattan, and at 6:30, we're going to be sitting together in a booth at Phoebe's. But now, it's 5:45 and there are buildings, streets, bridges between us, tons of cement, steel, but the New York Transit Authority will bring Stanley's body through this maze of steel and concrete, under the East River, and under the Wall St buildings, to me, to Phoebe's, in 15 mins, Stanley will walk to the subway, to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, and drop his token in the turnstile, and wait for the A Train, and about the same time as this is happening, I'll be leaving 223 East 28th St and walking down 2nd Ave to the East Village, and at 6:30, Stanley will order a hamburger and Coke, and I'll be drinking a mug of beer, but none of this has happened yet, Stanley's still in Brooklyn, maybe getting ready to leave, he's on Pacific St and I'm here typing, by the window, looking at my branch, the little green branch that reaches over from my neighbor's tree, and the TV's going, and I can hear bursts of machine gun fire, screams, and music, over all this screaming and dying, music! And I think Stanley's leaving now, he must be, coming all the way from Brooklyn...
I'm looking at the snow falling outside my window gates, Peter, and I'm thinking of you, there was ice on the sidewalk this morning, yesterday's slush had frozen in the shape of footprints, I was throwing handfuls of bird seed on a patch of ice, and suddenly a great swarm of pigeons was wheeling around my head, it was my flock, I love to watch them pecking at the seeds at my feet, but a dog came running and they broke into flight, an explosion of grey wings, what are you doing this morning, Peter, are you still living with Angela in Montreal, you're 31 now (I always arrive at that figure by subtracting 5 years from my own age), the snowflakes are like tiny bits of paper twisting in the air, this is Winnipeg weather, Peter, and we both know what a winter in Winnipeg is like, for me, the New York winters were balmy, New York in January was like Florida, but now it's 7 years later and I can feel the chill, now 20 above feels cold to me, you remember, Peter, 20 above was mild in Winnipeg, it was warm, we went outside without earmuffs, without gloves when it was 20 above, but I'm getting soft, Peter, the tropical winters of New York have made me soft, now 20 above is like 20 below, I'm a pleasure loving decadent now, Peter, this is the very definition of decadence, when 20 above feels like 20 below, it's snowing outside, and I'm thinking of summer, I'm thinking about the night we went paddling around the Windago island in your canoe, Peter, my old friend, I'm thinking of you, if you heard that I'm still writing, say, from Pat Hunt, you'd be surprised, what?! you'd say, is he still writing?! Doesn't he know when to quit? but you haven't heard about me for years, I know you've forgotten me by now, and I hope that someday you'll be browsing in a bookstore in Montreal and you'll find one of my books there, among the others, you always did love books, Peter, your eyes will be scanning the shelf, and suddenly they'll stop on the name Guy Gauthier, you'll wonder if it's the same Guy Gauthier you used to know, and you'll look at the picture on the back cover, and think, it certainly looks like him, it must be him! it's got to be! wow, I didn't know he was still writing, the book is called Water & Earth, and on the dust jacket, it says “...an amazing personal record...,” and as you flip through the pages, skimming over the years 1974, 75, 76, your eye catches the name Peter, you stop, Peter, that's me, and you're reading this now, Peter, I love you, you're my friend, and I love you, and that was my dream...this morning, as I sat watching the snow twisting in the wind over 29th Street, I was dreaming of you and the book you're reading, now
Excerpt Copyright © 2002 by Guy Gauthier