Sleepers Awake on the Precipice
"The moon's astonished mug stares in at her window. Sad, ghostly herds wander down the blue courses of heaven. The air tastes of comfortable, tired clockes and the gingery sleep of old houses. In the lives of wells and orchards and ruined fences there is a strange quickening--almost as though the history of what is seperate from the knowledge of men, were merged, in some hidden manner, and by an agency as mysterious as that of sea and wind and stone, in a fiery river whose one bank is life and whose other bank is not death. The most beautiful and desolate thing in the world is a country village at night. Every sounds should be the gentle conspiring of angels ; the steeple of a church, it is the up-stretching pinky of some forgotten queen; this hillside, a cluster of brown deer awaiting only the horn of a terrible huntsman to set them down lanes where positions of black stars hurry. Given a voice, this village would say: Nothing can alarm God. Given feet to walk, it would go where the most pitiful cry moves the sternest heart. So still is this wonder; so without change is the grandeur of a leaf-O Father the bell-brooding streets of this dear and horrible place..."
I've chosen this passage for its lyricism, but it is neither typical nor atypical of the novel. It steals words and styles from noir detectives, polemicists, poets, pornographers, absurdists, prayer books, surrealists, and sea adventures, loads the prose into a shotgun and fires the bits into the pages. Here's a more or less random sample of other text.
"Then be thankful she acts grown up about it. I was expecting her to take it pretty hard. I wish you didn't feel it necessary to drink a quart of whiskey before breakfast everyday, Haz."--But is she being grown up about it, Tom? Oh that's just a habit."--"What do you mean? I must say it's one hell of an expensive habit."--Well, for one thing, she hasn't cried...not even once. I have to get a little fun out of life."--"What good would crying do her? Besides, how do you know she hasn't? She's been off alone enough to have cried it all out of her system. I should fun you with a baseball bat."--"I'd know if she had. She's just sort of all tense and knotted up. Keep Freud out of this."
S CARRY O
FF THE SKY
Gee the girls were pretty. In the grove where the stranger lay, his throat slit from ear to ear--I'd heard about it, of course, how the girls would suddenly turn into clouds and trees and rabbits etc. But Plusis--Well, perhaps Plusis just wasn't too quick in the head-such a lovely one too...golden hair and the bluest eyes...Plusis well off first base and just rounding second when--
Plusis, I'm ashamed of you... a poor innocent tree...
But how the hell am I going to get out of here!
It was a pretty delicate operation.
You'd naturally think something like that would be enough for anybody. But not our Plusis! The next an extremely nifty brunette and I could almost hear him saying to himself Boy here is some really hot stuff. And he was right--I have never see a finer bonfire...
It was all of three months after the accident. That day I sat with my enemy on a wooden bench near the Tree of Sorrow. His skin was the color of a carrot's liver. The weather was all over everything and we talked loudly to drown out the sound the elves made as they ran over the counters where the wind had his coughsyrup in big jars of leaves and the dreams of little birds.
"How did you lose you eye?" he asked timidly.
"It was gouged out while I was building a city."
We watched a ligenna swim past in the cold grey lake.
"She can't be more than a thousand miles out," he said deliberately. "I don't remember ever seeing one so far inshore before."
I nodded. "It has my whole sympathy," I said.
Rain. I regretted that I had not bothered to dress. Frightening--wet branches against your hide. Too fish near.
"What's it made of?" he demanded suddenly-- "glass?"
I told him it wasn't.
We--"What then! Speak up, man!"--watched two ancient hags uncouple a chapel from a ten-ton truck. Their faces had grown over their eyes.
I knelt at the altar. A comic book had been places squarely between seven orange candles.
"What then? If not glass--speak, man, for the love of God!"
I told him I was not at liberty to tell him. He sank his teeth into his wrist and started to drink as fast as ever he could.
The best cure for insomnia is to sleep with all the windows open.