Friday, July 24, 2020

Syntax Club: "XXXIV. Harrods"; "XXXV. Gladys"

Syntax Club: Autobiography of Red

Today's installment is a little on the shorter side in part because I'm off-sequence again (been a bit busy getting ready for in-service/varieties of Zoom training on how to teach the youths in the time of COVID, sorry) and because these sections are a little faster-moving; next week we'll get to some of the meatier content of the book, and I plan to try and wrap things up with a debrief covering the whole book by the middle of August or so. 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 finds himself stricken by the question of whether or not to phone up Herakles (and in a pre-figurement of the endless contemporary gayboy Call Me By Your Name discourse, thinks about an Emily Dickinson poem involving a peach while standing under a cold shower); Geryon's attraction to Ancash intensifies; Herakles dramatically steals a large tiger cutout from a display in a store, and the boys take off to Peru; en route to Peru Herakles initiates a sexual encounter with Geryon.

Even now he was not
looking at the telephone (which he had placed in the bottom of his sock drawer).
He was not
thinking about the two of them in their hotel room on the other side of Plaza de Mayo.
He was not
remembering how Herakles liked to make love early in the morning like a sleepy bear
taking the lid off a jar of honey--Geryon
got up suddenly and went into the bathroom. (111)

The anaphora (repetition at the start of a sentence, phrase, paragraph, line, etc) here creates a kind of dramatic irony--Geryon might want to think that he was not totally smitten by Herakles anew, but the repetition emphasizes his lovestruck state for we readers. I also love the variation in sentence length. We start out relatively short, getting neat and easy stuff (the phone, the fact that Herakles and Ancash are on the other side of the plaza). But as we dive deeper into Geryon's emotional state (the memory of the sex itself) the sentence draws out, elongating and reinforcing our experience of this flustered young gayboy (before the memory gets neatly cut off with that dash, when Geryon himself dashes off to the cold shower)

Ancash sat very straight,
a man as beautiful as a live feather. (112)

A gorgeous, simple simile.

Geryon would have liked to wrap his coat around
this feather man. (114)

And here that simile gets worked back in as an adjective. Beautiful as a live feather becomes this feather man. Worthwhile to note too that the desire to wrap your coat around another man is an excellent, well-observed, detailed bit of gay male sexuality (we saw something similar when G and H first met--put your hands inside my shirt, yeah?).

Ancash watched Herakles.
Geryon watched Ancash. (116)

Parallelism is fun and all, but I'm especially curious as to when these characters watch each other and when they regard each other.

These are all very fine passengers,
thought Geryon dreamily as he and the plane began descent to Lima. (119)

Clever work with the compound he and the plane began descent: both of them are literally descending, but Geryon is also dreamily coming down from another metaphoric height (i.e., orgasm via a handjob on a plane).


Compounding (Again)

We've played with this before, but we might as well try it again. Have a character and an object (see: he and the plane) in a single state of action (see: began descent) which communicates 2 different things at once (see: the plane landing and Geryon's post-ejaculation reverie).

Repetition & Irony

Use direct repetition across several sentences or paragraphs to create a sense of irony or denial about what is occuring (see: he was not, even though he quite clearly was).

Simile -> Adjective

Recall the main thrust of a simile or metaphor you used earlier in a work by re-attributing the comparison as an adjective (see: Ancash going from being beautiful as a live feather to this feather man.)

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

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