Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Lenten Reading

This is the most ridiculous sentence I've ever read:

'She would say: 'At last, one can breathe!' and would roam the soaked paths - too symmetrically aligned for her liking by the new gardener, who lacked all feeling for nature and whom my father had been asking since morning if the weather would clear - with her jerky, enthusiastic little step, regulated by various emotions excited in her soul by the intoxication of the storm, the power of good health, the stupidity of my upbringing and the symmetry of the gardens, rather than by the desire quite unknown to her to spare her plum-coloured skirt the spots of mud under which it would disappear up to a height that was for her maid always a source of despair and a problem.'

One sentence. It's more convoluted than 2 hours of Inception; the characters have crawled inside so many clauses that the outer-layer "real" narrative has entirely stopped and the characters are all lost inside the infinitely tedious wallowings of their own dreams within fantasies within dreams. Like a child sans ritalin scribbling out all her thoughts till she forgets what she's doing and goes back to gaping, wild eyed, little legs pumping up and down on a pint-size trampoline.

Only a little later down the page we have:

'My poor grandmother would come in, ardently beg her husband not to taste the cognac; he would become angry, drink his mouthful despite her, and my grandmother would go off again, sad, discouraged, yet smiling for she was so humble at heart and so gentle that her tenderness for others and the little fuss she made over her own person and her sufferings came together in her gaze in a smile in which, unlike what one sees in the faces of so many people, there was irony only for herself, and for all of us a sort of kiss from her eyes which could not see those she cherished without caressing them passionately with her gaze.'

It's like a little Homeric excursus into utter banality. It's nearly a book in two sentences. And we all know the real story, written (much better) by yours truly:

'The old swine boozed down his cognac while his mean old girl played out her usual passive-aggressive routine.'

This, I suppose, is why I'll never be a novelist.
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