Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Syntax Club: "XXV. Tunnel"; "XXVI. Aeroplane"

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?


A now adult Geryon, one who seems more sure of himself & perhaps farther removed from the combination trainwreck-spectacle of his relationship with Herakles, talks to his mother before preparing to leave for a trip to Buenos Aires; en route via airplane to South America Geryon finds himself considering a new subject: time, and how a person moves through it.


I notice you don't pull many sentences from the dialog sections--is that deliberate?

Not per se, though it may still be revealing. Apart from the areas where the fragmentation serves as a kind of naturalistic patterning I'm not 100% sure how best to approach the unique sytactic features of the dialog, even though they are often quite distinctive (see: Herakles' grandmother talking about Woolf, Freud, et al.) Interesting though that the dialog often feels less distinctively "characterized" or "particularized" than in a "normal" novel (setting aside the ramblings of the grandmother, could you pick out the speaker of any given line based on style rather than content?). Which is to say that all the various dialog is kind of another vocal register for Carson, or the Organizing Force of the Text, or etc. (This isn't especially novel in terms of literary history, nor is it "bad dialog", although it might fly in the face of a lot contemporary realism; the idea of vocally particularized dialog serving as a means of psychological characterization above all else is actually the historical novelty here).

Isn't this project at least in part about "essayistic" aspects? What happened to that?

We'll see more of that stuff in the South America sections, I promise, I'm really not trying to fob it off; we'll start to get much more thinking-on-the-page about interiority and time and all that fun stuff soon.


He knew who it was even though, now that he was twenty-two and lived
on the mainland, he spoke to her
usually on Saturday mornings. (76)

Setting into a regular pattern of calls with the parents, and being able to intuitively anticipate deviations from it--is there a better way of indicating a shift from a certain kind of middle-class adolescence to a certain kind of middle-class early adulthood? The enjambment set up in the first line is interesting too: he was twenty-two and lived sets us up to see that Geryon is different, possibly happier now, before the rejet (i.e., the part on the next line which completes the clause or phrase) on the mainland gives us additional physical information (and of course, the fact that Geryon lived on the mainland probably expanded the sense in which he was able to live).

Sidebar: they are in NotQuiteCanada, yeah? The text never specifies, but given that you can drive there from America (Herakles takes a bus from New Mexico), the brother plays hockey, and American currency on the beach feels foreign (why else would it have specified an American dollar bill?) we must be in Mythic, Canada-ish territory.

Something about riding boldly into nullity. (77)

Something very pleasing about the juxtaposition & contrast of the adverb boldly and the abstracted prepositional object nullity.

As the aeroplane moved over the frozen white flatland of the clouds Geryon left
his life behind like a weak season. (78)

Frozen white flatland is lush & gorgeous, and I adore how it inverts typical connotations (the clouds the plane moves through would normally sit in opposition to land, after all). As with the first example from this section, Carson is using literal information (where he now lives/the fact that he is moving through the air) to communicate additional information about the broader contours of his life.

Now leaning forward to peer out the little oblong window where icy cloudlight
drilled his eyes
he wished he had stayed to see it go free. (78)

Cloudlight is another great example of Carson's kenning-like coinages, and I love the unexpected verb choice of drilled. The it here is a dog he remembers--is this our only reference to the dog in the novel-in-verse itself?

How people get power over one another,
this mystery. (79)

A fascinating fragment, nice and mysterious (ha) in structure.

Outside a bitten moon rode fast over a tableland of snow. Staring at the vast black
and silver nonworld moving
and not moving incomprehensibly past this dangling fragment of humans
he felt its indifference roar over
his brain box. (80-81)

Tableland and nonworld continue to show off Carson's propensity for smashing words together, but I also appreciate the sheer amount of movement in these two sentences.

A moves through time. it means nothing except that,
like a harpoon, once thrown he will arrive. (81)

What is Geryon being thrown towards? Guess we will find out soon!


Coinage (Again)

We've done variations of this before, but it might be worth repeating. Combine two (or more words) into a new form (see: tableland, nonworld, cloudlight). Bonus points if you can combine in a way that alters or inverts broader connotations (see: the flatland of the clouds).

Tomorrow, assuming I don't blow up the blog again, we will attempt "Mitwelt"


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

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