A Blank Page

If this page were blank, would you understand my meaning? Or would you think a mistake had been made? Imagine a page with nothing on it — no words, no drawings, no clues. And imagine this page in the middle of a book, with ordinary pages before and after it, none of which refer to the blank page. I could put a title on the page: “A Blank Page.” But that would ruin everything, because the page would not be blank anymore. Even worse — you might think I was playing some sort of game, or trying to be clever. Listing the page in the table of contents would cause a similar problem. Upon seeing the title, who could resist turning immediately to the page in question? — “By God, it is blank. I wonder what he’s up to.” — and then returning to the contents to see if there were any other blank pages, or pages that might serve some strange, mysterious purpose, or make up a pattern, or be part of a message.

You see how difficult it is, then, to present a blank page, and to expect it to be read and considered with care — the flecks, the grain, the delicate contour, the astonishing qualities of each gradation of opacity and hue, all of which contribute to the mood of the piece and to its power, which in turn affects how the rest of the book is perceived and understood.

When you think about it, it is truly a shame that a writer must learn to work under this sort of constraint — that he must, in fact, leave out the blank pages of every book he writes. It is even sadder when he himself considers them unworthy of inclusion. Fortunately, that has not happened to me. I have saved all of my blank pages, and plan to publish them together someday in a separate book. Then the world will see what it has been missing.

Finally, let me say a word about the blank page that belongs here. I never could have written it unless I had written the other 189 pages* that come before it. It is not only inspired by those 189 text-filled pages; I fully expect it to inspire those that, if I go on living, are sure to follow.

As for this page, the page you are reading now, I believe it speaks for itself. It is beautiful in its own way. Perhaps we should think of it as a shadow — of a nothing that is, a nothing that might have been, and a nothing that will one day be again.

* Reference is to webpages. If you are reading the print version of this book, page counts will differ.

March 5, 2006

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