Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Shadow Knows

I forgot yesterday to mention, among the handful of novels I ever re-read, to mention this--this novel, a novella really, possibly the best, the ugliest, the most horrifying and painful thing ever written. You want human condition? This is the human condition.

Some of my favorite passages, although I could go on forever:

"The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be expected), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine."

The whole postmodern dilemma.

Or:

"Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by a somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere."

Maybe we should all send copies of Heart of Darkness to the White House and suggest that George and Dick read them and distribute them among the staff. I would suggest Moby Dick, too, but I don't think that George has even the whiff of insane dignity about him that Ahab did.

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