12 August 2008

Go West, Young Man

You're reading along, trying to get a feel for the novel you've just started, when you run across a paragraph like the following:
"Booth stood, then reeled as he flipped up his visor only to blind himself as he saw the salt. With sunglasses on, he felt less hammered at by light, less as if he were standing on a chunk of the sun, but his skin crawled as his body tried to cool itself. He shook his head, his arms, to dislodge the envelope of sweat. No sound reached that silently stoked morning, in which not a bird cried, not an animal scampered. He heard the salt creak beneath him and inhaled an aroma similar to that of swampwater, only more acrid. He had always thought rock salt was brown, but this was white-silver, mottled with a pale copper-sulfate blue and in patches even glossy, the entire surface for as far as he could see split up into irregular slabs like a disintegrated mosaic. He thought of ice floes, but the mosaic came closer, and the dazzle through Polaroid lenses was as nothing against the capsule's eye-wounding giant tear next to the untidy bundle of orange laundry that was the parachute, its fabric still as the salt in that breezeless oven." Paul West Terrestrials pp. 23-24.

WOW! you think. Just wow! Now you can sit back and enjoy the ride, the pleasure of the text, 'cause the writer has put you right there: from the flinch at the glare to the shiver of clammy skin to the silence that is really absence to the putrid smell of the swamp. From the curative of polarization to the change of mindset to the disappearing hope of the dead parachute: you know you're in for a thrill. The prose is dense, worthwhile. The thought expressed by the paragraph, beautiful and complete. The creaking foundation on which Booth stands eerily foreboding.

You are in the hands of a master.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I appreciate your appreciation of PW! He's one of the few prose stylists we have left. Courageous, he's refused to flinch in the face of a pack that would have all of us clip our prose, keep it lean and taught at the end of a leash like, as Paul himself might say, "Himmler's greyhounds."