On p319, there is a single red dot at the top of the page. Back on p87, Jen jokes with Eric that she could put a single dot anywhere in the book and Eric would notice. He responds “Like on p319.”
It stands to reason that this could be a way of telling us to focus more on p319. But on what?
My favorite quote from the book is on this page…
But you ought to understand, too, that there’s an attrition that takes place inside, one in which options and choices and even desires are ground ever smaller until finally their existence can no longer be confirmed by observation or weight or displacement but only by faith. Until desire is a ghost.
Juxtapose these two sentences with the following from pp372-373…
What is the story he tells himself? That he is a man in a boat on the edge of civilization? That he is a man floating on the edge of a life that should never have been his? That there is nothing? There is nothing. The woman who could save him, who could explain, is gone. His other selves are gone. His stitches are gone. His opinions are gone. His pages are gone, lost underwater or turned to ash. He has only this empty vessel of himself. He is a ghost.
S is compared to desire.
A quick look at the etymology of desire shows us that the word likely descended from the Latin de sidere, which means literally, from the stars and carries the connotation await what the stars will bring.
Perhaps we are being teased with this on p319 because there are four asterisks that follow the phrase Until desire is a ghost. An asterisk is a “little star.”
And then of course we have S‘s experience with the constellations drifting on pp46-49. He desires to make sense of himself and his world, but the drifting stars only make things worse. He then notices two other lights from a ship. A ship that he later dubs the ghost ship.
When S finds himself a ghost on p373, his next moment of awareness is in the Winter City, where he and everyone in it are ghost-like – transparent and untouchable.
It is not until the Sola finds S in the Winter City that desire returns to S. Sola asks him on p391 Do you still want to find Vevoda?S realizes that any time before now he would have struggled to answer this question. But now, with Sola present, desire returns to him. He replies, Yes. Definitely. And then he leaves the Winter City and his ghost-like state and returns to the ship.
In the climactic scene as S pauses when poisoning the wine…
This is not what he wants to do. Does it matter what he wants? Especially now, at this moment, a moment of opportunity that might justify decades of flight and struggle and terror and blood? Can it possibly matter what one man wants? It does, he decides. It does now, and perhaps it always has.
S‘s desire is what matters here. And when S decides that his desire matters, everything changes.
On the final page of the book, p456, S takes Maelstrom’s spyglass (discovered under the blanket on which the monkey sleeps) and looks through it. What he sees…
is not a ghost ship, no; she is a ship with flags flying and sailors working on deck, sails trimmed and humming in the wind, a glorious wake churning out behind her, and what looks like two people sharing the wheel. He can’t see their faces through the glass, can’t really see much about them at all, but he slides the glass closed and tells Sola that the ship is one of theirs, and as for the identities of the two people at the wheel, well, both Sola and he will let their imaginations fill in their features.
When desire is lost, life is empty and ghost-like. When it is awakened, life is full of purpose.
S is desire. And desire is waiting what the stars will bring.
On p69, we begin the chapter The Emersion of S. Jen writes two definitions of emersion and she and Eric discuss the second option…
2) (Astron) the reemergence of a celestial body after eclipse or occultation.
YOU’RE NOT SAYING S. IS A CELESTIAL BODY, ARE YOU?
I don’t know. I haven’t seen him.
I just think it’s intriguing, given what happened w/stars in Ch. 2.
This would also help explain the climax of the story in Eric and Jen’s world, which takes place in the margins on p453. The setting is the PSU Planetarium, and it appears that Eric is running the projector before Moody cuts the power and scuffles with Eric in the dark. Jen comments I wish we could have stayed and watched the stars some more.
S‘s name, I think, is Sidere (an anagram of desire). His life represents a group of stars – each star representing a choice – a decision based on a desire resulting in an act. How these stars connect tells the story of a life. Our desires – our passions – result in acts – or deeds. And they are all connected, forming one constellation, that reveals who we are.