16 July 2011

Random Literary Quotation

"A Sunday repose prevailed the whole moribund town, peaceful, profound. A certain pleasing numbness, a sense of grateful enervation exhaled from the scorching plaster. There was no movement, no sound of human business. The faint hum of the insect, the intermittent murmur of the guitar, the mellow complainings of the pigeons, the prolonged purr of the white cat, the contented clucking of the hens--all these noises mingled together to form a faint, drowsy bourdon, prolonged, stupefying, suggestive of an infinite quiet, of a calm, complacent life, centuries old, lapsing gradually to its end under the gorgeous loneliness of a cloudless, pale blue sky and the steady fire of an interminable sun."

- Frank Norris, The Octopus

That's a nice bit of stage setting.

I especially like the word "bourdon," for a low-pitched tone, a word that seems to have dropped out of use since Norris' day.  I also love the unexpected modifiers, "grateful enervation," "mellow complainings," "infinite quiet."  The generation of writers after Norris became very reflectively anti-adjective, but here one sees there is nothing disreputable about that form of speech.

1 comment:

Henry said...

I agree, except that it was a bit jarring to see "prolonged" twice in relative proximity.

Note also "suggestive of" rather than the more conversational "suggesting." "Suggesting" seems the more active form, with which the narrator would have been taking responsibility for the suggestion, whereas "suggestive of" suggests that the suggestion is passively out there on its own.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.