Thursday, 23 August 2012

He began a sentence: "I am-" but when he was taken by surprise, every sentence became an adventure in the woods; as soon as he could no longer see the light of the clearing from which he'd entered, he would realise that the crumbs he had dropped for bearings had been eaten by birds, silent deft darting things that he couldn't quite see in the darkness but which were so numerous and swarming in the humour that it seemed as if they were the darkness, as if the darkness weren't uniform, weren't an absence of light but a teeming corpuscular thing, and indeed when as a studious teenager he'd encountered the word "crepuscular" in Mckay's Treasury of English Verse, the corpuscles of biology had bled into his understanding of the word, so that for his entire adult life he'd seen in twilight a corpuscularity, as of the graininess of high-speed film necessary for photography under conditions of low ambient light, as of a  kind of sinister decay; and hence the panic of a man betrayed deep in the woods whose darkness was the darkness of starlings blotting out the sunset or black ants storming a dead opossum, a darkness that didn't just exist but actively consumed the bearings that he'd sensibly established for himself, lest he be lost; but in the instant of realising he was lost, time became marvelously slow and he discovered hitherto unguessed eternities in the space between one word and the next, or rather he became trapped in that space between words and could only stand and watch as time sped on without him, the thoughtless boyish part of him crashing on out of sight blindly through the woods while he, trapped, the grownup Al, watched in oddly impersonal suspense to see if the panic stricken little boy might, despite no longer knowing where he was or at what point he'd entered the woods of this sentence, still manage to blunder into the clearing where Enid was waiting for him, unaware of any woods-"packing my suitcase," he heard himself say.

(From the first chapter of The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen)