“Waiting,” the final story in The Quantity Theory of Insanity, is about Jim, a man in late ’80s, early ‘90s London who is tired of waiting. Instead of sitting in traffic, he becomes a disciple of a motor-courier/prophet named Carlos who “never has to wait” and can visualize all of the city’s “the tail-backs, all the hold-ups, every burst water main and dropped lorry load in the metropolis,” always finding the route that takes him to his destination instantaneously. But the story seems more interested in waiting than in arriving, in the physical experience of being stuck behind an imminent arrival that never occurs.
Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff is the terminal endpoint of waiting. Heathcliff achieves his aims by waiting for his enemies to die. The novel’s structure mirrors Heathcliff’s plan of attack. At the moment of each death, everything changes – the plot moves forward and the remaining characters fall into the roles that Heathcliff has prepared for them. Between deaths, the plot remains static and the characters stay almost unchanging.
Heathcliff is the ultimate individual – an orphan of unknown origin brought into a long-established community, a boy who is never accepted by that community, and a man who positions himself to inherit the community in order to destroy it. A World After Liberalism is about five 20th century radical conservatives who, at their most compelling, argue that contemporary societies turn their citizens into Heathcliffs, alienating people from their histories and cultures, forcing them to adopt values unmoored from community. More often, the five conservatives themselves look like Heathcliffs – iconoclasts who enthusiastically wait for an apocalypse to destroy modern, multicultural societies.
The Gradual’sprotagonist, Alesandro Sussken, is a kinder type of Heathcliff. A musician inspired by the vast archipelago of islands that take up the majority of his world, his compositions come to him in moments of profound inspiration. After he realizes that these inspirations aren’t his own but sounds created by the islands, he abandons his method of place-inspired composition, leaves the archipelago, and creates music shaped by his own individual interiority.
Heathcliff’s individualism, shaped by his hatred of others, is much more menacing. Each time an enemy dies, he destroys what they loved. But his destruction gives those enemies an inverse life-after-death – their presence continues to haunt the world in the precise absence of everything they lived for.
Heathcliff waits for the apocalypse of the community he despises. But he loves the waiting so much that he maintains its presence in a wraithlike state until it reincarnates itself in two of his enemies’ children. Although he attempts to set them against each other, they fall in love, recreating the romance that Heathcliff felt their parents stole from him. As Jim concludes in The Quantity Theory of Insanity: The apocalypse won’t occur until we stop waiting for it.