‘Circulation’ by Tim Horvath

Few things demand an act of writing like the death of a parent. The death itself is one that can’t be controlled, but the writing at least gives the writer the feeling that the aftermath can be made manageable. In ‘Circulation’, the narrator recalls the life and death of his father, but with a double twist. First, he describes his father’s presence through the way the man’s idiosyncratic worldview survives in the memories of his descendents: the title implicitly refers to the movement of the ideas the father expressed while he was alive, ideas that now circulate through the family like the lifeblood of a human body. Second, the narrator anchors his father’s worldview to the contents of the great book that the father spent a lifetime compiling: a book that itself investigated the histories accumulated by objects as they circulate around the globe. But the book was never fully composed and doesn’t really exist; its subject was too unwieldy, too unmanageable, for the father to actually put it together, word by word. In writing down his father’s life story, however, the narrator doesn’t experience the same failure, in large part because he doesn’t dwell on the absence of his father’s body; he focuses instead on the words his father left behind, inscribed as they now are in the minds of the people around him.

from Understories, Bellevue 2012