decemberthirty: (tree swallow)
Adam Gopnik, on memoir in general and the memoirs of Henry James specifically:

The effort to communicate experience rather than to invent it, the feeling that, however distilled and removed it might be, it is still distilled and removed from a river of experience that the author cannot quite dam and alter as he wishes, is the secret of the memoir's appeal. We like an author who gives it to us straight, no matter how fancy his prose style may be. James has a tricksy manner, but his purpose in his memoirs is touchingly transparent: to say how the big moments of his life felt exactly as they happened. Each page is lit up by the bright light of memory, then is crumpled by the aging hand of scruple, only to be smoothed out again by the comfort of fine old feelings: It looked like this! Did it really look like this? Well, it sure felt like this while I was looking.
decemberthirty: (tree swallow)
I have, at long last, finished Memoirs of Hadrian. I have spent three months with the book, but now that it is finished I hardly know what to say about it. I have never had a reading experience quite like this one, in the sense that it felt both transcendent and like a slog, often simultaneously.

Let me say first that the book is undoubtedly a work of genius. The phrase "literary ventriloquism" gets tossed around, but Marguerite Yourcenar has achieved something that goes beyond even that commendation. Memoirs of Hadrian is the perfect distillation of a human consciousness, a work of utter authorial effacement. Despite the incredible amount of scholarly work she did to produce this novel, Yourcenar renders herself invisible and presents to us Hadrian complete: full of his memories, shaped by his time and by his lifetime's worth of work and thought. Not only does she do this, but she does it in absolutely beautiful prose--her sentences are careful, measured, unadorned, but beautiful nonetheless.

So why did long stretches of the book fail to hold my interest? Why did I feel so little impulse to pick the book up again after I had put it down? I found that reading it required immense concentration; I could only handle five or ten pages at a time, and even then I had to continually pull my focus back to the words on the page in front of me. I developed a fondness for Hadrian as I spent more and more time with him, and there were times (though they were isolated incidents) when his thoughts or (even rarer) his feelings resonated deeply with me, yet this never translated in a desire to know what would happen next. I could admire the book intellectually and aesthetically, but could not feel deeply engaged with it.

But it's another form of engagement, isn't it, to spend three months with a character? To sip continuously from a book over a long period, rather than drinking a few deep drafts? It is, of course, even if I can't describe exactly what the difference is. I only considered quitting the book when I was trying to read it in my usual mode. Once I had slowed down, and settled myself into the habit of reading just a few pages at a time I never questioned whether it would be worth it to finish the book.

And perhaps that is the result of my long wrestling with this work: something of value has been imparted, though I can't say now what it was. Perhaps the value, or part of it, is in the wrestling itself.

Reflections on the Composition )
decemberthirty: (Default)
Adrienne Rich, poet who changed me when I heard her work at sixteen years old, poet whose words I turned to when I first fell in love, poet of grief, poet of anger, poet of ardor--Adrienne Rich died today.

XVII
(from "Twenty-One Love Poems")

No one's fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we're not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No poison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces they had ranged against us,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us,
within us and against us, against us and within us.
decemberthirty: (Default)
Marilynne Robinson wrote, "The best privilege fiction can afford [is] the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls." She wasn't writing about To the Lighthouse, but she could have been; I can think of no better phrase to describe what Virginia Woolf achieves in this novel.

It took me almost half the book to appreciate To the Lighthouse. I could see from the start that the prose is very beautiful, but I needed to let myself sink into the book a bit, to slow my expectations to its pace, before I could really be moved by it. There is no plot to speak of, just a series of moments observed with precision and expanded until they contain whole worlds. The characters are ordinary people (a family and their guests at a summer home in the Hebrides) and they do ordinary things: knit, read to children, walk on the beach, paint. The things they think and the feelings they have towards one another--annoyance, love, protectiveness, jealousy, gratitude, sympathy--are ordinary too, but Woolf captures all of these ordinary thoughts and feelings with such perfect subtlety that somehow they become keys to unlocking all of the great mysteries of life. I'm not sure when I've ever read a book that managed to be about such small and such large things at the same time.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the strange, short, middle section, which describes the passing of ten years during which the summer house stands empty between visits. The section borders on the abstract, but the compression of such a long time into just a few pages makes for an intensity that's hard to describe. The images from that section may be what stays with me longest from this book.

But Woolf is also brilliant at evoking that feeling of suspension, of isolation, of strangeness that accompanies intense emotion. Nothing makes us more aware of being alone inside our own heads than feeling something powerful and unshared, but in To the Lighthouse it's an exquisite sort of isolation, a strangeness you can luxuriate in.

So at long last I have finally loved Woolf. She can go alongside of E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Dillard, Margaret Atwood and all the others on the list of writers of whom I need to read more.
decemberthirty: (Default)
You can tell I'm on break thanks to my sudden spate of posts this week. Don't get bored of me yet, friends--the semester starts next week and I'm sure it'll get much quieter around here soon!

Anyhow, a few last reviews of 2009:

Pastoralia by George Saunders: George Saunders is a sneaky man. Just when you think his stories are nothing but zany scenarios and clever use of voice, the plot turns and they become devastating. There's a lot of wacky humor in this collection, which sometimes sits rather oddly with Saunders's grim vision of American life. All of the characters here are losers in one sense or another, and it often feels like Saunders is mocking them until it suddenly becomes clear that he's actually exposing the traps in which they are all caught. I've read quite a lot of Saunders in The New Yorker, but this is the first whole collection of his that I've read. I think his stories work better as a collection than they do individually; when I read just one of his stories it's easy to get distracted by the crazy elements, but when read as a group they gain in power.

The Sea by John Banville: Oh, how I wanted to love this book! I wanted this to be the Banville book that I could really embrace, rather than just coldly admire as I admire Kepler and The Book of Evidence. Alas, I ended up not even being able to admire it. Don't get me wrong; the prose is gorgeous, with subtly Irish rhythms and long, unfolding sentences:

A dream it was that drew me here. In it, I was walking along a country road, that was all. It was in winter, at dusk, or else it was a strange sort of dimly radiant night, the sort of night there is only in dreams, and a wet snow falling. I was determinedly on my way somewhere, going home, it seemed, although I did not know what or where exactly home might be. There was open land to my right, flat and undistinguished with not a house or hovel in sight, and to my left a deep line of darkly louring trees bordering the road. The branches were not bare despite the season, and the thick, almost black leaves drooped in masses, laden with snow that had turned to soft, translucent ice.

Yes, lovely. But somehow both too lovely and not lovely enough. Too lovely in that it becomes obvious that Banville is aware of the beauty of his own writing, and it starts to seem overweening. Not lovely enough in that all the beautiful prose in the world can't disguise the ugliness of the main character or the thinness of the story. And the there is a surprise revelation near the end, but for what? The surprise of it seemed not to add anything to the story, but rather like an attempt to manipulate the reader and not a very successful attempt at that.

Disappointing.

A Single Man: I decided I wanted to see this movie based solely on the fact that its trailer is so gorgeous. (It is gorgeous: watch it.) There was much that I liked about the movie: the stunning visuals, Colin Firth's excellent performance, and the fact that it is a mature, intelligent film dealing with emotionally difficult subject matter in a complicated way. The emotional range of the film really is impressive. At moments it is heartbreaking, tender, bleak, trenchant, nerve-wracking, and warm; there is one truly harrowing moment in which the camera focuses squarely on Colin Firth's face as he is told first that his lover has died in a car crash, and then that he is not welcome at the funeral. But then, in its final minutes, this film that had so thoroughly resisted simplicity and easy storytelling suddenly became heavy-handed. The ending did not entirely ruin the movie for me--it is still very much worth seeing--but it wasn't what I was hoping for. I've never read the Christopher Isherwood novel on which it's based, and now I am very curious to do so, just to see whether his ending is the same as the film's.
decemberthirty: (audubon spoonbill)
I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting.

This is Annie Dillard again, from a paragraph early in Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, the book that is, it seems, the harvest of which she writes.

I began reading Pilgrim At Tinker Creek at the end of July, and I finished it in late September. That’s a long time to spend with one book, but I could not read this book in bits and idle moments; I had to read it in entire chapters and with full concentration. Even so, I feel that I will need to read this book again, that though I have grasped individual chapters, the wholeness of the book still eludes me.

I use words like wholeness and concentration because they seem intrinsic to Dillard’s project in this book. She chronicles a year of living, walking, and observing in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, but the book is more than just a record of events. It is also an attempt to come to a spiritual understanding of the natural world, and an exploration of the role of humanity in the world. Dillard wrestles with grandeur, intricacy, fecundity, violence, beauty, and what it is to experience the sublime. She is a very sharp observer—her descriptive writing, while sometimes a bit heavy-handed (she admits in an afterword that while writing this book she thought that a sentence “was not quite done until it was overdone.”) is clever, surprising, and very often beautiful—and she sieves her observations through the staggering amount of natural history and theological thought that she has read.

There were a lot of passages in Pilgrim At Tinker Creek that fascinated me and resonated with me. I was intensely envious of Dillard’s deep local knowledge. She knows her valley and her creek in all seasons and all weathers, in its trees and creatures, in the shape of its geography. That is the kind of knowledge of a place that I want to cultivate. Dillard’s writing about seeing, too, seemed to mesh so perfectly with my own experience that it was like she was putting words to thoughts I hadn’t quite had yet: the slow learning that happens when you decide to try to see the natural world, the strangely half-active, half-passive nature of that process… Well, read Dillard; she describes it much better than I do.

But all through the book there was also the matter of my atheism and Dillard’s Christianity. Dillard’s faith is active and seeking, not at all the kind of religious belief that can be so alienating to me, but I still can’t share it. Nevertheless, I don’t feel the kind of unbridgeable gap between myself and Dillard that I sometimes feel with religious people. Perhaps this is the thing that makes me feel like I need to read this book again someday. I get to thinking or writing about the spiritual elements of the book, and I suddenly lose my ability to articulate; maybe if I read it again this won’t happen on my next pass.

I will end with one more quotation, one in which Dillard herself sums up the book far more gracefully than I have done:

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.
decemberthirty: (Default)
I watched at the window; I watched at the creek. A new wind lifted the hair on my arms. The cold light was coming and going between oversized, careening clouds; patches of blue, like a ragged flock of protean birds, shifted and stretched, flapping and racing from one end of the sky of the other. Despite the wind, the air was moist; I smelled the rich vapor of loam around my face and wondered again why all that death--all those rotten leaves that one layer down are black sops roped in white webs of mold, all those millions of dead summer insects--didn't smell worse. When the wind quickened, a stranger, more subtle scent leaked from beyond the mountains, a disquieting fragrance of wet bark, salt marsh, and mud flat.

I lay in bed last night and read Annie Dillard on the coming of fall, and it felt profoundly appropriate. Though we still have temperatures that reach the mid-70s, the season has unmistakably changed. My mother gave me apples at Lake Ontario last weekend, and this weekend I baked an apple crisp with cinnamon and pecans. And then, because I had strawberries that were at the end of their life, I baked strawberry muffins. It was lovely to have the oven on and warm smells filling the apartment. And it was lovely to have tea and a strawberry muffin for breakfast this morning. I will have to begin feeding the birds again soon.
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I read "The Dead" last week for the first time in several years. It was more wonderful than I had anticipated to return to this story which is so beautiful and familiar in all of its particulars: Freddy Malins turning up screwed at the party; Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia bustling on the stairs; Gabriel being called a West Briton by Molly Ivors; and then Gretta on the stairs, listening to the faint music that reminds her of Michael Furey... I was overcome with emotion reading the end of the story, much more than I had been the first time I read it, and I wondered if this story might actually be Joyce's greatest work. Could it be better than Ulysses? Is that possible?

This weekend I read Katherine Mansfield's novella, "At the Bay." It was a strange work, made of loosely connected sections that felt quite slight individually, but added up to...something. Not a cohesive narrative exactly, but something that felt like an Impressionist portrait of a community. She seems to look at her subjects only sidelong, yet to come away with penetrating insight. I have never read Mansfield before, so I can't say if this is typical of her work.

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My goal for my last year of grad school is not to be frantic. To work steadily, every day, and to have that be enough. The previous two years have been characterized by stress and last minute scrambles to finish work, to grade papers, to throw words onto a page, to do what I needed to do to get through the next day. And I don't want to do that anymore.
decemberthirty: (Default)
I finished Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel yesterday. The book describes the political awakening of Lomba, a young journalist in Lagos, Nigeria. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Waiting for an Angel is its chronology. Habila begins at the end of his story, opening the book with a depiction of Lomba in prison as a political detainee. This is by far the most powerful part of the book, depicting Lomba’s anger, his resignation, the grinding brutality of prison life, and the overwhelming desire for freedom that never stops burning in Lomba. (This opening chapter was first published in Nigeria as part of an anthology called Prison Stories, and it won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2001.) After showing us how Lomba ends up, Habila then bounces backwards in time and relates various incidents that help us piece together how he got there. Each incident is told separately; it’s not always clear in what order they happened, and some of them are only peripherally related to Lomba. The thread that unites all of these incidents is the appalling nature of day-to-day life in Nigeria under Sani Abacha’s oppressive government.

I thought this was an excellent book, although it seemed a shame that Habila used his best bit of writing at the very start. No matter how good the rest of the book was it didn’t stand a chance of living up to the first chapter. Still, the rest of the book was quite good. The characterization verged on the simplistic at times, but Habila did a fantastic job of capturing the political climate in Nigeria: the random violence, the mounting tension in the slums, the complete breakdown of the social order. Habila’s prose style is detached through most of the book, but he’s not afraid of using strong rhetoric when the situation calls for it. I was particularly impressed by the scene in which Lomba’s editor takes him to visit a slavery museum and equates the plight of the slaves with that of present-day Nigerians. The scene ends with the editor delivering this exhortation to Lomba:

It was in the ships that the mouth-locks were used, so that the slaves couldn’t console each other and rally their spirits and thereby revolt. To further discourage communication, no two persons of the same language were kept together: Mandingo was chained to Yoruba, Wolof was chained to Ibo, Bini was chained to Hausa. You see, every oppressor knows that wherever one word is joined to another word to form a sentence, there’ll be revolt. That is our work: to refuse to be silenced, to encourage legitimate criticism wherever we find it. Do you now understand?
decemberthirty: (blueberry)
From Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson:

I don't know how many times people have asked me what death is like, sometimes when they were only an hour or two from finding out for themselves. Even when I was a very young man, people as old as I am now would ask me, hold on to my hands and look into my eyes with their old milky eyes, as if they knew I knew and they were going to make me tell them. I used to say it was like going home. We have no home in this world, I used to say, and then I'd walk back up the road to this old place and make myself a pot of coffee and a fried-egg sandwich and listen to the radio, when I got one, in the dark as often as not. Do you remember this house? I think you must, a little. I grew up in parsonages. I've lived in this one most of my life, and I've visited a good many others, because my father's friends and most of our relatives also lived in parsonages. And when I thought about it in those days, which wasn't too often, I thought this was the worst of them all, the draftiest and the dreariest. Well, that was my state of mind at the time. It's a perfectly good old house, but I was all alone in it then. And that made it seem strange to me. I didn't feel very much at home in the world, that was a fact. Now I do.

Ah, what a beautifully written book! This paragraph, right near the beginning, is so simple and so lovely; it tells us so much about this unnamed preacher: he is a quiet and a serious and a plain man, a man who has spent much time alone, and to whom the habits of loneliness still cling, despite the wife and young son he acquired late in life and loves dearly. This paragraph tells us all this, but it does so lightly--Robinson feels no need for emphasis. She is like her 76-year-old protagonist: contemplative, patient, and full of a deep faith. His faith is in God, hers in the strength of her narrative voice. I've only read fifty pages of the book, but thus far it appears that faith is not misplaced.

.plan

Oct. 20th, 2006 01:43 pm
decemberthirty: (plum)
Going to leave this brokedown palace
On my hands and my knees, I will crawl, crawl, crawl
Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time, in my time, I will roll, roll, roll

--The Grateful Dead
decemberthirty: (millay)
Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love's self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger's rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you--think not but I would!--
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconsistent is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true.

--Edna St. Vincent Millay


Happy Valentine's Day to one and all, and happy birthday to Moey J!
decemberthirty: (egret)
It is a very strange feeling when one is loving a clock that is to every one of your class of living an ugly and a foolish one and one really likes such a thing and likes it very much and liking it is a serious thing, or one likes a colored handkerchief that is very gay and every one of your kind of living thinks it a very ugly or a foolish thing and thinks you like it because it is a funny thing to like it and you like it with a serious feeling, or you like eating something and liking it is a childish thing to every one or you like something that is a dirty thing and no one can really like that thing or you write a book and while you write it you are ashamed for every one must think you a silly or a crazy one and yet you write it and you are ashamed, you know you will be laughed at or pitied by every one and you have a queer feeling and you are not very certain and you go on writing. Then someone says yes to it, to something you are liking, or doing or making and then never again can you have completely such a feeling of being afraid and ashamed that you had then when you were writing or liking the thing and not any one had said yes about the thing.

--Gertrude Stein
decemberthirty: (Default)
"At the spring of the River Ar I named you, a stream that falls from the mountain to the sea. A man would know the end he goes to, but he cannot know it if he does not turn, and return to his beginning, and hold that beginning in his being. If he would not be a stick whirled and whelmed in the stream, he must be the stream itself, all of it, from its spring to its sinking in the sea."
decemberthirty: (Default)
From The Master:

As the tea was served and the conversation began, Henry felt as though he had been dipped in something; what had happened lingered as an obsession importunate to all his sense; it lived now in every moment and in every object; it made everything but itself irrelevant and tasteless. It came to him so powerfully as he drank his tea and listened to his cousins that he had to remind himself that it was not still in progress, and a new day had begun with a new day's duties.

And:

He did not realize then and did not, in fact, grasp for many years how these few weeks in North Conway--the endlessly conversing group of them gathered under the rustling pines--would be enough for him, would be, in effect, all he needed to know in his life. In all his years as a writer he was to draw on the scenes he lived and witnessed at that time...

Ah, I'm really loving The Master so far. I like the way Toibin is not afraid to allow his story to develop very slowly, valuing the depth of psychological understanding over the demands of plot. I like the way he lets his lengthy sentences unfurl slowly and carefully--they're long but perfectly punctuated so you never get lost in them. Most of all, I like Henry James. As Colm Toibin has imagined him, Henry James is another of these men, these repressed and yearning men, who never fail to break my heart. He's right in line with Sammy Clay, Woodrow Call, Rivers and Sassoon, John Grady Cole... I wonder why it always seems to be the men that I fall in love with. I suppose it's because what I truly love is the sense of self-denial, the intense, suppressed longing, and it tends to be men who embody that. I don't know why.
decemberthirty: (egret)
The Art of Translation, part 2

It's only a branch like any other
green with the flare of life in it
and if I hold this end, you the other
that means it's broken

broken between us, broken despite us
broken and therefore dying
broken by force, broken by lying
green, with the flare of life in it

--Adrienne Rich
decemberthirty: (egret)
From The Ground Beneath Her Feet:

Music, love, death. Certainly a triangle of sorts; maybe even an eternal one. But Aristaeus, who brought death, also brought life, a little like Lord Shiva back home. Not just a dancer, but Creator and Destroyer, both. Not only stung by bees but a bringer into being of bee stings. So, music, love and life-death: these three. As once we also were three. Ormus, Vina and I. We did not spare each other. In this telling, therefore, nothing will be spared. Vina, I must betray you, so that I can let you go.

Mmm, I love it. Love Rushdie's rhythms, love his linguistic play, love his sense of the fantastic, the larger than life. Moor's Last Sigh was such a disappointment to me because while the fantastic elements and the inimitable use of language were there, they felt empty--there wasn't anything that was genuine behind them, no real feeling, just a lot of fancy artifice. I'm not very far into The Ground Beneath Her Feet yet, but already it feels different to me. There's something I can grab onto here, and I really like it.
decemberthirty: (Default)
"Are you jealous of the ocean's generosity?
Why would you refuse to give this love to anyone?"
--Rumi



I think it would be good for me to remember that sometimes it really is this simple.

Poetry

Oct. 18th, 2004 02:14 pm
decemberthirty: (egret)
Okay, I really don't ever do stuff like this, but I've been seeing the poem meme that's been going around, and I couldn't resist. I really do love poetry, and I don't read it often enough. So here's my poem:

Snow-Hole

Falling asleep in the snowscape of the big double bed
I wrap my hand around your hand until they catch fire
And the snow begins to melt and we sink down and down,
The fire and ourselves, how many feet below the morning.
Should the fire burn out at the bottom of the snow-hole,
Smoke will escape up the glass chimney into the bedroom.

--Michael Longley

And because I went looking through all my poetry to find something to post, and it's far too hard to choose just one, here are a few more of my favorites )
decemberthirty: (Default)
I just finished The Centaur. I feel that there was a lot that I missed in the book, a lot that went over my head, but I found it very beautiful nonetheless. I have a pretty good general familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology (I ought to, after Ulysses and six years of Latin and all the time I spent reading D'aulaire's Greek Myths as a kid), but I wish I were more familiar with the myth of Chiron. I did not realize as I was reading how thoroughly the mythical correspondences are woven into the book; it was only when I finished and saw the index at the end that I realized that every single character in the book has a mythical referent. I already knew that Caldwell, Peter's father, represents the centaur Chiron, and I have now learned that Chiron gave his life to atone for the sin of the theft of fire by Prometheus, represented by Peter. But there is a whole host of other characters, all of whom play a part in Updike's distorted, modernized retelling of the myth, and although I can get a few of the obvious ones (Zimmerman is Zeus, for instance), I don't know enough to place them all and I wish I did. Just knowing the bit about Prometheus and the theft of fire makes the end of the book much more moving...

It's interesting that both Joyce and Updike wrote books that are essentially about father-son relationships, but that both clouded and complicated their stories with the same sort of heavy referentiality to the same source material. It is perhaps possible to grasp the messages of these books without considering the myths through which the stories are filtered, but your understanding of the relationships described will be much richer if you can make the mythological connections. I don't really know where this I am going with this comparison, but I do think it's interesting.

Mythology aside, The Centaur was sometimes baffling and not particularly gripping (I was capable of putting it down for long stretches at a time without feeling compelled to pick it back up), but it had a strange kind of loveliness to it. The prose was dense and rich, and sometimes it was enough to let the flood of words pour over me, and at other times the simplest words and phrases combined to have a remarkably gorgeous effect. This paragraph near the end, as Peter watches his father leave their snowbound house, is particularly lovely:

I turned my face away and looked through the window. In time my father appeared in this window, an erect figure dark against the snow. His posture made no concession to the pull underfoot; upright he waded out through our yard and past the mailbox and up the hill until he was lost to my sight behind the trees of our orchard. The trees took white on their sun side. The two telephone wires diagonally cut the blank blue of the sky. The stone wall was a scumble of umber; my father's footsteps thumbs of white in white. I knew what this scene was--a patch of Pennsylvania in 1947--and yet I did not know, was in my softly fevered state mindlessly soaked in a rectangle of colored light. I burned to paint it, just like that, in its puzzle of glory; it came upon me that I must go to Nature disarmed of perspective and stretch myself like a large transparent canvas upon her in the hope that, my submission being perfect, the imprint of a beautiful and useful truth would be taken.

Perhaps you have to have read the whole book leading up to that paragraph in order to get something out of it. I don't know. You could perhaps pinpoint the moment at which Peter/Prometheus steals the life-giving fire to that paragraph, and to me it is moving and luminous.
decemberthirty: (Default)
I am still working on All the Pretty Horses. It's been going kind of slowly, mostly because I've been pretty busy with other things, trying to get ready to go home for Thanksgiving and get everything wrapped up at work so that I can afford to take the five-day weekend that I'm going to take! I've also been reading slowly because this is definitely proving itself to be a book that needs to be savored. It's such a brutal but beautiful story, written in prose that is equally brutal and beautiful. Look at this passage that I read this morning:

The sky was dark and a cold wind ran through the bajada and in the dying light a cold blue cast had turned the doe's eyes to but one thing more of things she lay among in that darkening landscape. Grass and blood. Blood and stone. Stone and the dark medallions that the first flat drops of rain caused upon them. [...] He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought that the world's heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world's pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

I don't think I can say anything more than that.
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