Things Other People Said: Long Ago or Far Away

“‘Don’t go, Peter,’ [Wendy] entreated, ‘I know lots of stories.’  Those were her precise words, so there can be no denying that it was she who first tempted him.” — Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

They have everything in Neverland: hideouts, pirates, mermaids, caves, treehouses, wild animals, natives.  Everything except stories.  Neverland is only in the present.  Stories are all in the past.  Wendy is going to travel to Neverland to be maternal, which includes storykeeping.  Although all the wild characters in Neverland care nothing about the future, they still appreciate a bedtime story.  It’s the only thing they don’t have.  Wendy’s flirtiness here is a cute sideline.  I want to go/no I can’t possibly/well, all right.  No means maybe.  And exotic, in Neverland, means connected and clear.

“And the youngest daughter, Felicia, wrote a novel called Carpathia, about a headstrong, high-born young woman in the Mohiga Valley who fell in love with a half-Indian lock-tender on that same canal.” — Hocus Pocus, Kurt Vonnegut

This is a long, curly sentence for Vonnegut.  He often doesn’t want to give us so many petals on the flower, but right here he couldn’t help it.  It’s a sentence I remember from the first time I read it…in 1994.  It has little to do with the plot, as I recall– it just makes everything classier, with its cold music. Like high heels.  Vonnegut is so plain that he’s classy.  Quite a feat.  No pun intended.

“And to the question asked by Ecclesiastes 3000 years ago, ‘That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?’ two men alone of all now living have the right to give an answer– CAPTAIN NEMO AND MYSELF.” — 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

You would think Jules Verne was writing the goddamn Bible, not merely alluding to it.  Writers of unrespected genres, and writers of early novels (this is 1869) weren’t afraid to set off the fireworks.  Verne was writing about going to the moon, and to the center of the earth, and down in a nuclear submarine, so he’s gotta be comfortable with flash and drama.  Still, seriously, this is the cannon shot in the 1812 overture.  “Two men alone of all now living.”  I couldn’t find who translated my Wordsworth classic edition, or the original sentence in French, but I would guess it sounds more ass-kicking in English.  “Myself” instead of “moi” or “me.”  There are other translation issues with this novel, because of Nemo’s sorta pacificistic politics.  Like a lot of science fiction, Verne’s work is burning with political messages.

“Best, therefore, withhold any amazement at the strangely gallied whales before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.” —Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Melville loves alliteration, inside and outside words, and I love that, too, so much I have to rein it in with revisions.  (Although not here, see?)  English prose likes to go rah-rah-ruh and la-luh-vull.  Play in and out with consonants.  I’ve never been a fan of rhyme, outside of lyrics for hymns and songs.  Emily Dickinson’s rhymes are as as far as I can go.  Too rhymey gets too yellow and Kool-Aid.  The g’s in “strangely gallied.”  (“Gallied” means worried or frightened.  While the mouthfeel of Melville’s words is great, needing to use a dictionary while you’re reading a book is annoying.  Maybe that’s the only word you know to express that idea, but if it’s not in my vocabulary, as a regular reader of literature, it interrupts and distracts.)  The relationship between the t’s in “beasts,” “earth,” and “not,” all close together, and all slightly different, but still tapping to the t’s, a bit.

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