Save as Many as You Ruin
Fate in Save As Many As You Ruin
In his minimalist short story Save as Many as You Ruin, British author Simon Van Booy comments on the human concept of fate, and how a series of random life events can bring forth the feeling of inevitability. The story is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator who is closely tied to Gerard, the main character, and has insight into his past and thoughts and feelings. Thus, the actual plot of the story is supported by Gerard’s continuous stream of consciousness which allows the reader to always know what he is thinking. In the first part of the short story, Gerard is walking around New York City. This serves as an introduction to Gerard’s way of reasoning and, more importantly, the past events which shaped him as a per- son. The actual story line is sparse and does not begin until Gerard sees his old flame, Laurel, through a shop window.Gerard is a man of a great contemplative nature. His thoughts reveal that he thinks deeply about everything, and associates and connects the things which he has experienced. His streams of thought are associative as he jumps from one idea to another, revealing a complex inner life where he is constantly aware of himself and his surroundings. In the very beginning of the short story, as Gerard walks through the streets of New York as night is falling, the sight of his footprints in the snow invoke the lively image of an Indigenous American who once inhabited the forests and came to be Manhattan. Shortly thereafter, Gerard’s mind wanders and he contemplates the fugitive nature of his own existence;“Gerard thinks of his own footprints and how soon they will disappear. He exhales into the world and his breath disappears (…) He wonders if his life is an extraordinary one.”Among other things, it is contemplations like these that give the short story an air of melancholy. The mood is generally downbeat, as Gerard seems to be haunted by a slight Weltschmerz due to the passing of Issy, the mother of his child, and his separation from Laurel, the only woman he ever loved. Though as his daughter, Lucy, crosses Gerard’s mind, he “feels stabbing love” – a powerful image which reveals his excruciatingly strong attachment to the little girl. As a way of making up for his past problematic relationships with women, Gerard is secure in his devotion to his child, one of the few things in life that makes him happy. He has set his mind on being a good, single father.In addition, weather symbolism adds to the short story’s inherent sense of nostalgia and dis- piritedness. As Gerard wanders around the city, it is cold and snow is coming down, creating the perfect backdrop for a nostalgic stroll tinged with sadness. However, when Laurel and Gerard are about to exit the shop, the weather has turned into an icy blizzard from which they must seek refuge in a taxi, which helps to move the story forward. Contrary to quietly falling snow, a blizzard it creates an sense of drama, which suits Gerard’s emotional response to his reunion with Laurel. At the same time, when one is inside watching a blizzard rage through a window, it can be strangely calming, inspiring tender closeness with loved ones. Quite fittingly, Gerard and Laurel make love next to lit scented candles during the blizzard.Van Booy also uses the symbol of footprints throughout the story. The footprints which people leave in sand or snow have become common symbols of the physical impact human beings leave behind on Earth. Gerard is concerned with his own legacy which he regards as short-lived and, most likely, ordinary. The reference to the movie The Invisible Man reveals that footprints can just as easily be testimonies to human wrongdoings in spite of the fact that they are as evanescent as the snow that holds them.The short story ends with an episode where Gerard is overwhelmed by a feeling that can best be described as Kierkegaardian angst;“All of a sudden he feels a chill like cold water down his back. The tumbler of scotch slips from his fingers and shatters on the floor (…) His heart leaps into his throat. Someone was there, he could have sworn it.”At midnight in the raging blizzard, Gerard senses the presence of something in his apartment. At first, this scares him enormously but when he realises that what is present at that very moment is not a person, nor a divine being, but fate itself, he experiences an epiphany; all of life’s events, however tragic or unfortunate they appeared to be as they unfolded, are but blessings in disguise:“Gerard feels as though he is being followed, that there are voices he can’t hear, that the foot- steps of snow on the window are just that, and like Lucy’s conception – life is a string of guided and subtle explosions.”With reference to Lucy, thelight of his life who, at the time of her conception, seemed a great tragedy, Gerard realizes that life events are guided by fate because they all serve a purpose. This also explains Gerard’s newfound confidence in the fact that Laurel will soon move in with him – his encounter with fate leaves him more sensitive to understanding its plan and heightens his intuition for knowing what is to come.Save as Many as You Ruin is thus the story of a man whose self-doubt and unlucky destiny is turned around in a matter of hours. The encounter with the love of his life goes well and leaves open the possibility that a flame will be relit between them. His relationship with his beloved daughter is also as good as ever, and though a blizzard is raging outside, these positive events lead to Gerard experience an intense feeling of order in his life. The occurrences, which seemed unfavorable and pointless at the beginning of the story, suddenly feel foreordained; cosmos has been restored. The short story seems to suggest that love and a confidence in life’s overall goodness is needed to avoid feelings of depression and anxiety. If we believe strongly enough and guard ourselves with patience, coincidental happenings can become meaningful moments in the path to future happiness. Like Kierkegaard, who created the concept of angst as a profound anxiety caused by a disbelief in life’s meaning, the short story suggests that life can only be understood backwards, though it must be lived forwards.