Monday, February 17, 2014

Remember to Have the Marble Scratched

Something Natasha Allegri just tweeted ("SILKY CHICKENS" read the entirety of her tweet) made me think of some phrases from ABSALOM, ABSALOM!: "a cloud of chickens" and many pages later "a cloudy swirl of chickens." I had an actual vision of William Faulkner standing in his yard watching somebody (Estelle? Would she feed the chickens?) feeding the chickens, and thinking, "Wow! Those chickens are like a cloud. That is like a cloud of chickens." Old Faulkner! He is Shakespeare one minute and Beckett the next. "... all of a sudden it's all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they dont even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter." Just twenty or so pages later here he is on the same subject (mortality) describing a man's whole life in a succinct deadpan that anticipates Beckett's later innovations: "Yes. One day he was not. Then he was. Then he was not." You know, I almost thought this book had an owl in it, like every other book, but it was "huge fowl," my eyes tricked me, "the trees along the road not rising soaring as trees should but squatting like huge fowl." I have high hopes for an owl, though: there has already been a metaphorical bat ("He was the light-blinded bat-like image of his own torment" - ouch!) and as we have seen in DRACULA and as we have seen in JANE EYRE, bats and owls are cheeks by jowls - ha ha! that's a little rhyme I just made up - in your fancier literature. In conclusion, I am glad Faulkner did not have to bring ABSALOM, ABSALOM! to a fiction-writing workshop nor attend much college at all. "Hey, so this guy's dad is talking to him on the porch for like 25 pages? And then out of nowhere the dad goes into the voice of this other dude he never met? And like gives a whole long complicated monologue from the point of view of GOD in this other guy's voice he never even met?" And Faulkner would have been like, "Yeah?" That part made me think of Barry Hannah's story "Nicodemus Bluff" when the narrator's father "when he played chess, became the personality of a woman, a lady of the court born in the eighteenth century... The woman would 'invest' Dad and he would win at chess with her character, not his own man's person at all... The chess game, as it went on, changed him more and more into a woman, a crafty woman."