Another word on my mind this week. A lacuna is an unfilled interval or gap; it is also the missing part of a book or manuscript. I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s 2009 novel, The Lacuna, and while I will not repeat my review here (I already posted it on Goodreads), I do want to contemplate this word.
The novel is built through the main character’s collection of journal entries and letters, in addition to an assortment of newspaper clippings relevant to his experiences. Not surprisingly, however, we are to ponder the lacunae in his story as much as we are to engage with this assembly of his chronicles of his personal history. I was thinking about this in particular because of my own journaling experiences and the lacunae created by my own recordings. When I have stopped writing and there are “gaps” in my history, what untold stories lie there that reveal my character?
In my mind, the lacunae of a person’s life are breathing room spaces, like the white space on the pages of a book. As a reader, this is one of the reasons why I’m particular about publishing choices for a hard copy of a novel; if the page itself seems chaotic from a visual perspective, I will choose another book. Text without any spacing (either between words, lines, or paragraphs) runs together and either becomes nonsensical or too intense to comprehend. (There’s a reason why double-spacing is standard for essay-writing.) That’s how I feel when I have many things going on and not enough time to think or reflect about any of them. In those periods of time, it gets hard to tell what’s important and hard to discern meaning when there is little to no “spacing” between happenings. So in that way lacunae become necessary and important instead of random.
The novel implies that lacunae are somewhat mysterious, especially because the protagonist himself is very introverted compared to the majority of his friends and associates. I don’t think lacunae necessarily are meant to provoke speculation about someone else’s life, but they do imply depth, a Something More than what we can see or read. They’re a reminder that there is more substance to a person than the words on a page, more than their exterior selves might show, no matter how much we think a person is revealed through what they write.