Thursday, June 18, 2020

Syntax Club: "XXII. Fruit Bowl"; "XXIII. Water"

Syntax Club: Autobiography of Red

Please see here for previous installments of Syntax Club; feel free to post comments and thoughts and sentences you love here on the site or Twitter; if you try an exercise feel free to Tweet some of your results using the #SyntaxClub tag.


--How is this work essayistic, or possibly of value to essayists?
--What is distinctive, noteworthy, excellent, or interesting about the sentences in this work?


Geryon returns home after being semi-brutally dumped by Herakles; Geryon reunites with his mother in a complex scene of mutual empathy and intimacy--they regard each other; we get new that Geryon's brother has a new set of struggles (i.e., drugs); Geryon wails and mourns his lost relationship under the raw force of rain before performing one of his first "mature" artistic acts--the taking of a long-exposure photograph of a fly drowning in water.


We start to see a more serious, dedicated, conscious move towards an artistic avocation on the part of Geryon here. Should we interpret his split with Herakles as foundational to his future trajectory?

I don't know that it is the foundation, but it certainly seems to be a foundation. Will be interesting to track Geryon's sense of self and sense of art in relation to the specter of Herakles once he's an adult.

What's up with these long exposure shots, and how does it relate back to Geryon's experience of time?

I don't pretend to have a full grasp on everything going on with time in this book (especially once we get to some of the later sections which start to name-drop Heidegger), but it seems interesting that Geryon's early forays involve screwing with exposure, i.e., with time. We get a fly rendered weird around the wings as it drowns in water: obviously there's some self-insert action going on here, given Geryon's own sense of emotional drowning and his own wings. Interesting too that he chooses to render it not incomprehensibly (we can tell it is a fly) but strangely (agitation of light around the wings). Not dissimilar to what Stesichoros did with adjectives, no? There's some movement here about photography & time as a way of thinking about adjectives and registers/modes/latches of being (think back to the epic fixity of Homer and compare with archaic and fast self, maybe).

Have you given up on the whole ~essayistic~ angle to this, Will?

Not precisely, but I've shifted focus for these sections a bit, mostly because this middle adolescence bit is one of the least essayistic parts. We'll see more essayistic thinking in the adult sections, and I'll probably do a book-wide recap towards the end. Also, I don't actually care about genre distinctions very much at this point.

Geryon had meant
to slide past the name coolly
but such a cloud of agony poured up his soul he couldn't remember
what he was saying.
He sat forward. She exhaled. (68)

Much to like about this passage: the alliteration, the assonance, the strange structure of agony poured up his soul he couldn't remember (what's the relationship between poured up and soul? an implicit in? or is something else going on?), the variation in sentence length (very long & heavily enjambed-> short -> even shorter).

She regarded him through smoke. (68)

Regarded is an excellent verb choice for a number of reasons (unexpected, uncommon, thrusts us back into questions of viewing, distance, and intimacy), and Carson makes use of this verb pretty often throughout the book. Worth keeping an eye out for, maybe.

He forgot for a moment that he was a brokenheart (70)

Brokenheart is another of Carson's excellent, novel compoundings/kennings/whatever we want to call them. Takes a noun + adjective (broken heart) or an adjective (brokenhearted) and renders it as a single object.

Sick lurch
downward to Geryon trapped in his own bad apple. (70)

Bad apple--what a wonderful, playful strangeness to the description in this book.

Wind rushed over the ground like a sea and battered up
into the corners of the buildings,
garbage cans went dashing down the alley after their souls. (70-71)

A strong example of an appealing long sentence, and interesting too to use a simile to convert one force of nature (wind) into another (sea). Notice too Carson's willingness to move far and fast in a single sentence--after the simile is well established we get garbage cans following after souls.


Natural Conversion

Take one element of nature, preferably one frequently used in metaphors (see: wind) and use some figurative element to render it in terms of another natural element (see: like a sea). Extend the conceit if you can (see: battered, a verb more frequently applied to sea than the original subject wind).


Next week let's aim for:
Tuesday: "Freedom"
Wednesday:"Tunnel" & "Aeroplane"
Thursday: "Mitwelt" & "Skepticism"


Will Slattery helps curate things here on Essay Daily. He tweets on occasion: @wjaslattery

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