Friday, April 26, 2013

On Words, Big and Li'l, All Those I do not Know.

In my last two posts, here and here, I reflected on how being thrown out of a story can sometimes be the mark of greatness in that tale. These musings were spurred by a post from Claudia about her love of big words.

I knew reading that post, that I wanted to write a post about my most unique reading experience.

Cloud and Ashes. Three Winter's Tales. By Greer Gilman

I felt in reading this collection of three interrelated stories that I was only understanding a smidgen's worth of the whole. There are many words, both big and small, whose meaning I did not know. Some still elude me, being unable to find them in any dictionary. Here's a sampling, taken from just a couple of pages:


But my aren't they pretty words?

Often, even when I knew the words, I didn't fully get the meaning of the sentences.

"And he was leaves. Brown leaves of oak, the lightfall of a thousand hallows. He was galls and tassels, traceries of veining; he was shards of acorns, shales of light. His lady's cups."

I could see that the story was referencing folk tales and Shakespeare and, and, and...., but mostly those references escaped me. Sometimes whole paragraphs escaped me. Pages. And yet...

The girl glanced at Kit. "I see thou's done already what thou can't undo." He felt her eflshot eyes. Her breasts were April, but the eyes were January, haily, and the tongue a cold and clashy March. Scathed, he felt himself, dishevelled in his raffish coat, with moss and toadstools in his hair. Leaves everywhere. And ramping after Thea, like a woodwose in a mumming. Mad for love.

Oddly enough, I love this novel. Because in reading this thing that I could not understand very well, I still felt it. There is a beauty and a melencholy that runs throughout and it was as though with the reading of each word, I was a bell that that word rang. A bell whose call would tear at your heart, sounding out low over the moor. A bell that weeped for things what cannot be undone.

It was curious, this not understanding/understanding. And I was so mesmerized by the language of the words, phrases, sentences I didn't mind not being able know. For me it was a book that wasn't at all about the head, it was about the gut. And it was my gut that kept me reading.

I'll end with a final selection. As you read it see if you can stop reading halfway through. I know I can't. Write me a comment and let me know. See if you can figure out why it wraps you up and won't let go. I think one reason is obvious, but I don't want to give it away.

The whitehaired child had slipped his lead; he whirled and jangled as he ran. His hair was flakes of light. He whirled unheeding on the moor. And childlike fell away from him, like clouds before the moon, the moon a hare, the hare a child. He lowped and whirled and ranted. Whin caught him; he was light, and turning in her blood to sun. He bore it. By its light, she saw the beggar's shadow, like a raven on the rimy earth, that hopped and jerked a shining in its neb, a glass. A thief! the raven cried. Whin stood, as if the cry had caught her, in the whirring of the light like wings, a storm of wings; held fast. The child was burning in her hands, becoming and becoming fire. And she herself was changing. She was stone; within her, seed on seed of crystal rimed, refracted. She was nightfall, with a keel of moon, and branching into stars. She was wood and rooted; from her branches sprang the light, the misselchild. In that shining she was eyes of leaves, and saw her old love's blood, like holly on the snow.

This is a novel for life. To be kept at my bedside and pondered over for all the years to come.

1 comment:

Qlaudie said...

I think I need to reread that about 80 times before I can form an opinion.
Marvelous post.