A city of the mind

Old Prague 1If in the city winter comes and goes in a swift gray coat of mist and snow, like a secret traveler eager to be off, then true spring takes its time to settle in: adrift and sullen in the rainclouds, unsure if the staying shall be worthwhile. But when at last the sun appears, its warmth spreads everywhere, insistent as the hordes of chattering black sparrows, fecund as the river adrift with life and death, fish heads and flotillas of swans and their cygnets, broken sprigs of pink heart’s-ease sent drifting to mark some lover’s advent or end, tossed by the maidservants and shopgirls in their ribboned serge jackets leaning over the still-cold stone of Crescent Bridge, eyed by the gray-suited bridge patrolmen and the quayside grifters and the stray cats who yawn at the statues’ feet like bored familiars, all teeth and pink gullets in the spill of lemony light. [from THE MERCURY WALTZ]

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Some readers are certain that the city that is the stage for THE MERCURY WALTZ is actually Prague. Others claim, as certainly, other cities. Still others want to know which city it is “really,” finding the geography a puzzle that they’d like me, as the writer, to solve.

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History is aggregate memory handed down, geography is fact on a map. The story of Rupert and Istvan, and their friends and enemies, is set in a landscape created by the mind – mine when I wrote it, yours when you read it – that may indeed wear the vestments of Prague, or of another place altogether. Fiction has its own boundaries, and the story of the Mercury Theatre and its actors is ultimately one of play: where something is what we say it is, what we agree it is, as long as the playing lasts.

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