Updated: May 1, 2018
In The Optometrist, Dave Thorne spends an afternoon espaliering his lemon tree. It makes him happy because it gives his day purpose, Googling how to espalieir, espalieiring, looking at his espaliered tree. It is a metaphor for how people try to control nature by making it two dimensional. Later, Dave is trying to remember the word ‘espalier’, happy again because he is employing his mind, when real life intrudes irrevocably.
This is an Easter Egg: “an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature of a work.” The Optometrist is full of them.
Does the reader remember the optometrist espaliering when she reaches the reference in the chapter at the end? Perhaps she has a sense that something is balanced or complete but isn’t sure why. Maybe she does remember and when she goes back she starts to see other patterns.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, “An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of forever after.”
The youth of today can spot the Easter Eggs, just for them, in The Optometrist. The critics of tomorrow will pretend they get it to stay hip with the kids. When you get older, you need to be careful of your hips.
But the schoolmaster will be the true beneficiary of the success of The Optometrist, if there ever is any: they can set their students an exercise to find all the Easter Eggs. They can then award their students a mark according to a straightforward numerical system by how many they find. What could be better?
Here is another Easter Egg. The parrot, made extinct by feral cats in an early chapter is referenced in a later chapter when Dave tries to kiss the writer; Dave and the parrot have similar tongues.
The truth is though that Art comes from living life. I killed the lemon and lime trees I wanted to espalier across my back fence. Cats really did kill all the parrots. Copper Mel did kiss T-Bird tongue first, I didn’t make that up.
But don’t tell the schoolmasters that when I am offering them Art that can be counted.