Friday, March 9, 2007


The last Daily Themes assignments read before the break were for Sound, which sounds like a category for an Oscar. And the award for best achievement in Sound goes to...

It's a week I generally like because the writing moves closest to poetic effects without becoming verse. In fact, it's the week that reaffirms my commitment to prose as the more supple, the more expansive, the less precious form of writing. My preference for prose as the medium with which to do justice to the world we live in began to take root when I first became enamored of the prose of James Joyce in Ulysses. The sheer brilliance of that novel as prose (to say nothing of what it achieves with characterization or with verisimilitude or with symbolism) convinced me that few performances in poetry would ever come close to being adequate to the modern world in the way that Joyce's novel was and is. Of course there aren't many prose creations that come close to it either, but I think there are some that mine particular areas of the field that Joycean prose helped to lay out.

The assignment for Sound in prose that was the most difficult and the most interesting calls for creating aural textures with words that aren't intended to replicate sound but rather other textures or sensations. Food was a popular choice, but there were also a few that worked at achieving aural equivalents for interiors or landscapes, both of which seemed well worth trying.

In lecture, part of the following passage from Ulysses was cited for illustration:

Bag of corpsegas sopping in foul brine. A quiver of minnows, fat of a spongy titbit, flash through the slits of his buttoned trouserfly. God becomes man becomes fish becomes barnacle goose becomes featherbed mountain. Hauled stark over the gunwale he breathes upward the stench of his green grave, his leprous nosehole snoring to the sun.

And this, from Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight:

Life with you was lovely--and when I say lovely, I mean doves and lilies, and velvet, and that soft pink 'v' in the middle and the way your tongue curved up to the long, lingering 'l.' Our life together was alliterative, and when I think of all the little things which will die, now that we cannot share them, I feel as if I were dead too.

Though it wasn't included in lecture, I'll log the following:

Ah, but she was the queer old skeowsha anyhow, Anna Livia, trinkettoes! And sure he was the quare old buntz too, Dear Dirty Dumpling, foostherfather of fingalls and dotthergills. Gammer and gaffer we're all their gangsters. Hadn't he seven dams to wive him? And every dam had her seven crutches. And every crutch had her seven hues. And each hue had a differing cry. Sudds for me and supper for you and the doctor's bill for Joe John. Befor! Bifur! He married his markets, cheap by foul, I know, like any Etrurian Catholic Heathen, in their pinky limony creamy birnies and their turkiss indienne mauves. But at milkidmass who was the spouse? Then all that was was fair. Tys Elvenland! Teems of times and happy returns. The seim anew. Ordovico or viricordo. Anna was, Livia is, Plurabelle's to be. Northmen's thing made southfolk's place but howmulty plurators made eachone in person? Latin me that, my trinity scholard, out of eure sanscreed into oure eryan.--Finnegans Wake, I.8

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