Wednesday, April 12, 2006
"He tried to remember when he had last walked in the open night at such an hour. He wasn't sure he even...God, years. Seven-about sixteen, when he still thought he was Shelley, watching the river. Leaning on the bridge rail and literally praying with gratitude for being alive."
Taking a fairly common place feeling, like one being thankful for being alive, Agee transforms this basic emotion into raw poetry. The image of Andrew thinking 'he was Shelley' is so unlike the Andrew we know from the rest of the novel that it is almost a hyper reality. A reality that flies by and that we all to often miss. Or a truth that remains hidden beneath, when what we say may be the right thing to say, but isn't the truth. When the only truth is in our thoughts. I can only liken Agee's mastery of the ordinary, death, or rather coping with death and the affects of death, to Proust in the way genius storytellers articulate feelings and express everyday life with more than just a turn of a phrase. They don't merely gloss over our sadness, they say what we can't. Whether it be a child not knowing how to feel about his father's death or a mother's grief, Agee doesn't dictate their emotions, he shows us their grief. It could be as simple as a child hating the strange man for sitting in their "father's" chair or the way an aunt cooks breakfast differently than a mother. The balance of family life has shifted and Agee broaches the "now what?" question. How do we go on? How can we go on? Agee may not have had the answer, but he knew that we do. We go on.
Though it's strange for a blogger (and amateur writer) to admit that they can't actually articulate the affect a book has on them, I just can't find the words. This novel was more intense than just calling it sad, but that's maybe all it was and for now that's what it is. Sad and beautiful.
Heidi Julavits The Effect of Living Backwards
Steven Heighton The Shadow Boxer
David Huddle The Story of a Million Years
Jazz on 89.7 FM WGBH with Eric Jackson