LITERATURE: Tropic of Cancer – Close Reading

No, I didn’t put this down yet.  Slugging my way through and came across something nice:

Even before the music begins there is that bored look on people’s faces.  A polite form of self-imposed torture, the concert.  For a moment, when the conductor raps with his little wand there is a tense spasm of concentration followed almost immediately be a general slump, a quiet vegetable sort of repose induced by the steady, uninterrupted drizzle from the orchestra.  My mind is curiously alert; it’s as though my skull had a thousand mirrors inside it.  My nerves are taut, vibrant! the notes are like glass balls dancing on a million jets of water.  I’ve never been to a concert before on such an empty belly.  Nothing escapes me, not even the tiniest pin falling.  It’s as though I had no clothes on and every pore of my body was a window and all the windows open and the light flooding my gizzards.  I can feel the light curving under the vault of my ribs and my ribs hang there over a hollow nave trembling with reverberations.  How long this lasts I have no idea; I have lost all sense of time and place.  (p. 74)

It continues on, perhaps a bit too long, but the idea is clear that the sudden hush of the audience, the expectant air just prior to the opening notes of the concert are felt within the narrator’s whole sense of being. 

Yet it’s not the sounds of anticipation, the rustlings of audience members settling into their seats, the test notes of the players that he mentions.  And it’s not the much beyond the visibility of the bored faces.  It’s a visceral effect that the environment has on him.  The lighting  he does not see with his eyes but with his gizzards.  Why is he absorbing so much of what is around him?  Is this his nature?  Is this transition we see just one example of a good scenario after he’s absorbed so much of the fetid atmosphere in which he’s been living? 

Up to this point I did not like this narrator/protagonist much, felt he was aimless and a bit of a sponge.  He brought to my mind the spoiled schoolboys of an earlier era who welched on deals, lived on family allowances, drained his friends who were often not much better off.  Here he seems to redeem himself in that he is open to the good that mankind has produced, that there is a new sense of optimism that may push him into producing artistically what he is taking from this experience.

I certainly hope so.

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One Response to LITERATURE: Tropic of Cancer – Close Reading

  1. Anne says:

    Well, you stopped me cold with the first sentence, so i’ll just wish you a happy holiday weekend.

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