Solar Bones, Mike McCormack
1 hour ago
"The two ridges lay side by side. One was Kameno, the other was Makuyu. Between them was a valley. It was called the valley of life."
"Njahi was the season of the long rain. It was the favourite season with all the people. For then, everyone would be sure of a good harvest. The peas and beans, bursting into life, gave colour and youth to the land. On sunny days the greens leaves and the virgin gaiety of the flowers made your heart swell with expectation."At this particular moment Waiyaki is waiting for Nyambura, the girl of his dreams, to show up.
"Waiyaki and Nyambura would be placed in the hands of the Kiama, who would judge them and decide what to do. It was the best thing and the crowd roared back 'Yes' as if the burden of judging their Teacher [Waiyaki] were removed from them. They went away quickly, glad that he was hidden by the darkness. For they did not want to look at the Teacher and they did not want to read their guilt in one another's faces. Neither did they want to speak to one another, for they knew full well what they had done to Waiyaki and they did not want to know.It seems to me to be a very interesting 1965 novel; an unflinching look back by a Kenyan at the process of colonization in his newly de-colonized country. It was, as the cover of my edition shows, the 17th novel in the African Writers Series, a publishing effort to bring to greater recognition African writers, founded in 1963, and led by its advisory editor Chinua Achebe. Ngugi's first novel, Weep Not, Child, was the first novel by an East African in that series.
The land was now silent. The two ridges lay side by side, hidden in the darkness. And Honia river went on flowing between them, down through the valley of life, its beat rising above the dark stillness, reaching into the heart of the people of Makuyu and Kameno."
My grandfather said to me
as we sat on the wagon seat,
"Be sure to remember to always
speak to everyone you meet."
We met a stranger on foot.
My grandfather's whip tapped his hat.
"Good day, sir. Good day. A fine day."
And I said it and bowed where I sat.
Then we overtook a boy we knew
with his big pet crow on his shoulder.
"Always offer everyone a ride;
don't forget that when you get older,"
my grandfather said. So Willy
climbed up with us, but the crow
gave a "Caw!" and flew off. I was worried.
How would he know where to go?
But he flew a little way at a time
from fence post to fence post, ahead;
and when Willy whistled, he answered.
"A fine bird," my grandfather said,
"and he's well brought up. See, he answers
nicely when he's spoken to.
Man or beast, that's good manners.
Be sure that you both always do."
When automobiles went by,
the dust hid the people's faces,
but we shouted, "Good day! Good day!
Fine day!" at the top of our voices.
When we came to Hustler Hill,
he said that the mare was tired,
so we all got down and walked,
as our good manners required.
"...in every way except that of mere publishing date, it is a first novel."
"I have cordially detested allegory ever since I was old enough to detect its presence."
"I now know the generation whose mind it most attracts, and that it must always substantially remain a novel of adolescence written by a retarded adolescent."Ouch! Fowles is a little harsh on himself, but I can't say he's fundamentally wrong. However, to Fowles' credit, there is some of that same sardonic humor in the novel itself.
Heart of the heartless world,
Dear heart, the thought of you
Is the pain at my side,
The shadow that chills my view.
The wind rises in the evening,
Reminds that autumn is near.
I am afraid to lose you,
I am afraid of my fear.
On the last mile to Huesca,
The last fence for our pride,
Think so kindly, dear, that I
Sense you at my side.
And if bad luck should lay my strength
Into the shallow grave,
Remember all the good you can;
Don't forget my love.
"When the trip was over and I reread my notes, I swore I'd never write anything about Venice, simply because there's nothing more vulgar and futile than encouraging the production of even one more page about the city,...Writing about Venice is like emptying a glass of water into the sea."
|Georgetown street scene|
|From the Heurich House museum.|
This is the sort of thing you commission when you're a rich brewer.
|The reflecting pool doing its thing.|
Was the Monument leaning right or am I left-leaning?
|Sunset from the top of the Watergate. |
There may have been some jokes about unindicted co-conspirators.
Nightmare of beasthood, snorting, how to wake.
I woke. What beasthood skin she made me take?
Leathery toad that ruts for days on end,
Or cringing dribbling dog, man's servile friend,
Or cat that prettily pounces on its meat,
Tortures it hours, then does not care to eat:
Parrot, moth, shark, wolf, crocodile, ass, flea.
What germs, what jostling mobs there were in me.
These seem like bristles, and the hide is tough.
No claw or web here: each foot ends in hoof.
Into what bulk has method disappeared?
Like ham, streaked. I am gross--gray, gross, flap-eared.
The pale-lashed eyes my only human feature.
My teeth tear, tear. I am the snouted creature
That bites through anything, root, wire, or can.
If I was not afraid I'd eat a man.
Oh a man's flesh already is in mine.
Hand and foot poised for risk. Buried in swine.
I root and root, you think that it is greed,
It is, but I seek out a plant I need.
Direct me, gods, whose changes are all holy,
To where it flickers deep in grass, the moly:
Cool flesh of magic in each leaf and shoot,
From milky flower to the black forked root.
From this fat dungeon I could rise to skin
And human title, putting pig within.
I push my big gray wet snout through the green,Thom Gunn was a British poet who emigrated to the U.S., to San Francisco, in 1954. He died in 2004.
Dreaming the flower I have never seen.
"Sensitive students of music go one of two ways when they hear a really great performance; young violinists, specifically, come away from a Yehudi concert feeling either that they'd better take up tennis or else get more time somehow to practice. Rick was with the last class..."
"When he pushed a broom nothing much came of it; he had developed a style of sweeping that was good to listen to from start to finish. It had its drawbacks, however, from a utilitarian standpoint; it raised an awful dust and it didn't get anywhere."It's Smoke who's his entrance into a more committed world of jazz. Rick learns piano from Jeff Williams, a young black leader of a small combo; Smoke eventually takes over the drums for Williams' combo when the first drummer dies of appendicitis. Rick, though, decides he wants to play trumpet, mostly for its portability, and he studies under Art Hazard, the combo's trumpeter. He gets good. After the Jeff Williams combo moves to New York, Rick plays with a couple of other groups, moving his way up the food chain. Eventually, with a white band, he gets to New York himself.
"What I'm going to do is write off the story of Rick Martin's life, now that it's all over, now that Rick is washed up and gone, as they say, to his rest."Baker also writes well about jazz, informed without being didactic. Early on, the distinction between New Orleans-style and Memphis-style is a point, made clearly in the narrator's voice; musicians discuss technical points in a style authentic, but still lucid.
"This is sad; but so is everything, and in the end there is another thing to say about it. The good thing, finally, is to lead a devoted life, even if it swings around and strikes you in the face."Anyhoo, another successful reissue from New York Review Books. Very good. Reading back over, my description fails to note it can be quite funny so I'm squeezing that in, too. Really my only complaint is the naming of the characters. Rick Martin? Jeff Williams? Might as well have been John Smith. I'm not really convinced by the aggressive Everyman-ish quality of the names. The ability to name characters interestingly is a useful skill and one Baker either didn't have or decided to forgo.
Meeting her on the heath at the day's end,
After the one look and the one sigh, he said,
Did a spine prick you from the goosefeather bed?
Were the rings too heavy on your hand?
Were you unhappy, that you had to go?
Was it the music called you down the stair,
Or the hot ginger that they gave you then?
Was it for pleasure that you followed them
Putting off your slippers at the door
To dance barefoot and blood-foot in the snow?
What then? What glamoured you? No glamour at all;
Only that I remembered I was young
And had to put myself into a song.
How could time bear witness that I was tall,
Silken, and made for love, if I did not so?
I do not know.