Saturday, October 3, 2009
THOMAS WOLFE b OCTOBER 3 1900
"So, to Ben dead was given more care, more time, more money than had ever been given to Ben living . . . And as the wind howled in the bleak street, and Eliza wove a thousand fables of that lost and bitter spirit, the bright and stricken thing in the boy twisted about in horror, looking for escape from the house of death. No More! No More! (it said). You are alone. You are lost. Go find yourself, lost boy, beyond the hills." —T. W., Look Homeward, Angel
as i read, james ellroy hasn't written a sentence of "lush, luxurious" prose in his life but especially in his newest book, blood's a rover. stacking paragraph after paragraph of declarative sentences w/an occasional slang tweak for the hipsters isn't lush. it isn't luxurious. it's deadly repetition. it doesn't crackle & shoot sparks because droning facts can't be made to do that. the book reads like a coked-up beatnik manque hooked on conspiracy theories dictated it into a tape recorder.
i think most all of us read wolfe back in high school, even the web and the rock & you can't go home again. i can't think of any writer(maybe james agee) who loved words & story telling more than wolfe. his type of digressive story telling certainly revealed his southern roots & his prose revealed his christian upbringing. THIS is lush prose. THIS is writing that luxuriates in the simple acts of composition & communication. THIS is writing that can still make me shake my head & wish i'd written it.
"And with the echoes of his mothers's voice, that had seemed to fill all the days of his childhood with its unending monotone, there returned to him an immediate sense of everything that he had ever known: the front porch of the old house in Altamont where he had lived, the coarse and cool sound of Black's cow munching grass in the alleyway, along the edge of the backyard fence, the mid-morning sound of sawn ice out in the hot street of summer, the turbaned slatterns of good housewives awaiting noon, the smell of turnip greens, and upon the corner up above, the screeching halt of the street car, and the sound of absence after it had gone, then the liquid smack of leather on the pavement as the men came home at noon for dinner, and the slam of screen doors and the quiet greetings; and, inside the house, the cool stale smell of the old parlor, and the coffined, rich piano smell, the tinkling glasspoints of the chandelier, the stereopticon of Gettysburg, the wax fruit on the mantel underneath its glass hood, and he himself reclining on his father's couch, buried in a book, his imagination soaring with Hans Grimm, and with thoughts of witches, a fair princess, fairies, elves, and gnomes, and of a magic castle on a rock."
From the short story The Return of the Prodigal