Saturday, September 6, 2014

"The world is my bone-cave, I shall not want..."

In 1971, American writer John Gardner (1934-1982) published his novel Grendel based upon the Beowulf tale and told in the voice of the monster.  I am still reading this book - or perhaps savoring it in some strange way.  Gardner was a professor of medieval literature at the University of Southern Illinois. As it should be -  this is a dark and disturbing novel. 
Illustration by J.R. Skelton, 1908.

The book and I found each other on the discard shelf of the Carmel, California public library.  Discarded. Unwanted. The book had not been checked out for quite some time. Reason enough to be rid of it. I understand the process though I often question the choices made.  And this novel in particular - discarded and unwanted though well-read. Coffee stains that do not hinder the read; smudged fingerprints marking the time when we cherished such writing.  Dark and disturbing, indeed, as a reflection of the decline of our culture.

I share a moment in the novel:

"It's good at first to be out in the night, naked to the cold mechanics of the stars.  Space hurls outward, falconswift, mounting like an irreversible injustice, a final disease. The cold night air is reality at last: indifferent to me as a stone face carved on a high cliff wall to show that the world is abandoned. So childhood too feels good at first, before one happens to notice the terrible sameness, age after age. I lie there resting in the steaming grass, the old lake hissing and gurgling behind me, whispering patterns of words my sanity resists. At last, heavy as an ice-capped mountain, I rise and work my way to the inner wall, beginning of wolfslopes, the edge of my realm. I stand in the high wind balanced, blackening the night with my stench, gazing down to cliffs that fall away to cliffs, and once again I am unaware of my potential: I could die. I cackle with rage and suck in breath."

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