a new year’s alnilam 4

Alnilam seems to have settled into a pattern: Cahill rambles about in the novel’s present, has some conversations, reflects a bit, some columns occur Repeat this for a while until deeper reflection happens and the novel dips back into his memories. These are as preoccupied with what Cahill once saw as the “present” parts are with how his other senses describe the world to him, and how that world dovetails with that of the sighted people around him. These flashbacks are almost exhausting in their detail, hammering out not only his subjective visual experience but his feelings about his body, the way he lives in it. Paragraphs go on for pages. Mine is a mass-market paperback, so that’s not saying too much; it’s not anywhere near the eyeball exhaustion of, say, Proust, but it’s still not something to read if there is a single distraction afoot. I have to settle down, not rush, and find the rhythm of the text.

Some of this has been among wet rocks, and toward a roaring that held–the nearer he climbed toward it through the ferns and moist roots–three or four different sounds: one a steady hanging pour, another a splattering, a pelting, and a third, a hoarse, a deep reckoning whisper, as of some terrible disclosure attempting to be said in sleep, not able to break its own outcry into parts, or make enough silences for syllables or words. Suddenly the track through the stones leveled. He could step forward, and he did. In front of him the woods had gone off, had distanced into a single color. Two more steps would have brought him to the end of a thin spur of solid rock. He took one of these and then part of another, caught up now in what had been a complex roar as he approached and now as so pervasive that it seemed no different from silence; it was the that sound that should have been there, filling the deep hollow below him with luminous mist which floated above some end, some limit that could not be seen from where he stood. The view outward and downward was so compelling, so insistent on placing him at a high and curious vantage point, so walled with fat, light porous green, so fraught with drop-off into peacful and phosphorescent mist above some final danger hidden beneath it, that it took him a short time to refocus–without moving even his head, but composing his mind in a different way–and to take real notice of what was nearest him on both sides. This was lifted and silver water going past, a split downpour that held him exactly in the dry center of its upper falling. The few ferns on the rock glittered with drops, hardy and delicate, and slowly, as he did nothing but be there, he felt building up an exhilarating sense of new authority. It was like the space beneath him, the nothingness under the rock, the effortless disappearance of himself into bright cloud, into thunderous and fragile foaming of air, should he move slightly in any direction but back.

He had not forgotten the uniqueness of the sensation, which kept coming back to him at unlikely times, disturbing, challenging, necessary. Suddenly, now, he understood what was central to the situation, and to the memory: it was that beneath the rock on which he had stood with his arms out and his wrists catching the hard drops of down-driving water, there had been nothing, nothing but air smoky with exploded water from invisible rocks many feet below, in uncommon and turbulent cloud. He head projected himself out over this, over air and water, unwitnessed in cold assurance, and he felt that he had partaken of the unstoppable quality of the double falls, the uncaring and irrelevant reality.

I would hardly describe the writing as difficult, but I can see it trying the patience of someone not in the mood for massive perception dumps. Hopefully when the book finally gets around to dealing with Cahill’s son all of this leaning heavy on perception will have some tangible payoff.

While reading the flashbacks requires me to find a certain rhythm, the light/dark columns of the novel’s present actively get in the way of finding a coherent rhythm. Often I realize a “better” way of reading the text after I’ve passed through one of the light/dark sections of the novel. I feel compelled to go back and resequence, read it the “better” way to see if it really hits me differently; or else skim the two columns, skipping back and forth to build some idea of the more ideal way, coming to a sort of intellectual understanding of what would have been better aesthetically but for now, I’m late for a very important date and must plow onward.

He does stagger them, sometimes. The relative lengths of the columns allowing, providing for gaps which guide the eye, but sometimes it’s not clean enough to be sure. Sometimes I’m skipping back and forth, hesitating mid-sentence, mid-paragraph. Of course, it’s been a long time since I picked up the book, so maybe I’ll find a rythm to these as well in the next 600-ish pages.

You know, if I ever read them.

Happy (goddamn) New Year.


~ by ironcupshrug on 12/31/2009.

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