Ah to live in splendor, not giving a shit about money, that romantic fiction, because all one’s days are so full of light and life, and money isn’t worth the plastic it’s embedded in. I know, poot, it’s much easier to pretend the world ain’t nothing but a big ATM. But gimme the benefit of the doubt on this fine morning.
Every so often, I come across a sentence that makes me stop reading. Then I try to think about that sentence, though it isn’t easy, here in the U. S. in 2014 where most thinking is just a sub-species of feeling. Effin emotions. Here are two such sentences, from very different sources.
The first is from A. O. Scott’s review of the latest Godzilla movie which I have no intention of seeing although I raptly watched the 60th Anniversary edition of the unedited Japanese original at the Film Forum last month. It made me sad to realize that the defeated Japanese could only raise their fists against the fiery destruction of the atomic bomb by making such a movie, having a man in a rubber suit destroy a model of Tokyo.
In describing the latest remake, Scott writes: “It is at once bloated and efficient, executed with tremendous discipline and intelligence and conceived with not too much of either.” I stopped and thought, “what a fine description of so much of today’s commodified entertainment.” One can admire the technique without giving a shit about the content. Score one for Scott.
The second sentence is “Farms are well ordered, prosperous, but a fragrance of neglect still lingers, like a ghost of fallen grass.” It is from J. A. Baker’s book The Peregrine, appearing early on as he describes the part of England he inhabits. I don’t quite know what the strings of words denote -- “neglect” has a fragrance? -- “fallen grass” can linger like a ghost? -- if I treat the sentence purely as prose. If treated as poetry however, it conjures up an uneasy feeling of impending loss, an ache, a tilt toward emptiness, thus preparing a way for the reader to place peregrine falcons in our word-created world. Precariously.
Which is how I read most everything these days -- intensely aware of the noxious atmosphere in which metaphors breathe and die. Especially when I get lost because my attention has strayed from the text.
(Getting laid off in publishing is like waking from a protracted dream in which you discussed marketing books with a bunch of people who knew as little about it as you. You congratulated each other when a book sold, but you had no idea why.)