Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Syntax Club: "XX. AA"; "XXI. Memory Burn"

Thanks to our readers for their patience and understanding with the shifting schedule for this project; I found it necessary to take a break from writing and thinking primarily about this book, given the ongoing struggle for justice we've seen over the past weeks. I hope that you are all well during these times, and I hope that you are able to work towards justice in your own communities as circumstances best allow. I plan to return to regularly posting 2-3 times a week again from here on out.

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 finally sees the volcano up close--and it silences him--but this experience is somewhat complicated by his lapsing in and out of a dreamy liminal state: the boy's intake and outtake valves seem to be acting up at times, no? Herkales and Geryon also argue about the ways in which photography is a way of playing with perceptual relationships, and Geryon continues to find himself stricken by the long-exposure photograph from previous sections.


Is this book setting up some kind of relationship between the discipline of photography & the discipline of syntax?
Yeah, it's interesting to think about how the long-exposure photo might be doing something similar to what Stesichoros did with syntax--throwing up the latches of being, altering the stable Homeric notion of adjectives, etc. Probably worth tracking this a little more closely once we see a slightly older Geryon attempting more photography of his own.

What's up with Geryon's dreamy fits? He frequently seems to be stuck bouncing between conscious and unconscious.
Probably this renders him different/alien/other/monstrous, in a way, but it also contributes to the internal-external-VOLCANO conceit we have going on in the text. I will be honest that I don't totally have a full grasp on all the contours of Geryon's way of experiencing the world (we are very, very different categories of gayboy).


The other two were talking about feminism then life in Hades then unstable bitumen
or was that from Britannica? (63)

A very simple and straightforward form of elongation; Carson extends the sentence, almost to the point of strain, by tacking on phrase after phrase with then; the effect ultimately mirrors the out-of-it kinda sleepy kinda dreamy kinda odd mental state Geryon finds himself in so frequently by linking up the syntactic logic with his (presumably scattered, choppy) internal thinking in the scene itself.

The world had gone black and bulbous. (63)

Love both the alliteration and the powerful, blunt, guileless use of had gone to introduce the adjectives; such a stark introduction for them is fitting given that we are thinking about adjectives-as-latches-of-being, as indicators of metaphysical states, no?

Most volcanic rock is basalt.
If it is dark and blocky that means very little silica in the composition (so the Encyclopedia Britannica).
Very little silica in the composition,
said Geryon as he climbed out. Then the rock silenced him.
It pitched away on all sides
utterly blank except for one crazed blackish unit of intraplate light
bouncing from rock to rock
as if looking for lost kin. (63)

The register shifts and mixes here are interesting: we start out very geologic, encyclopedic, and then switch to mad, sweeping imagery (rock silenced him; blank except for one crazed blackish unit) but we don't totally abandon the scientific register (intraplate).

caught her other arm, it was like a handful of autumn. (64)

Love how the simile attempts to materialize a fundamentally immaterial thing: handful of autumn. Materializing the immaterial--maybe that's what poetry is, anyways.

Just a memory burn! (65)

Something about the phrase memory burn is quite enchanting: the wry sarcasm in context, the use of memory as an adjective, the huge range of interpretive possibility available if we think about it in contexts broader than their argument about stars.

Geryon was standing in front of her
and he lifted her towards him like snow. (67)

Lifted her towards him like snow is maybe a little bit more "real" than handful of autumn (you can lift a handful or a shovel of snow), but seems to be similar work here. I dig it either way.



Take something fundamentally immaterial and pair it with a fundamentally physical verb in a simile, metaphor, extended conceit, etc. Bonus points if you do so with seasons or the natural world, as in our above examples. See: caught her other arm, it was like a handful of autumn.


Tomorrow let's aim for "Fruit Bowl" and "Water".


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

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