Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Devil in the Details

Last week I discussed my love for “place”. This week I will discuss my love for details, which in turn, adds to place and often teaches me new things. Trivial things sometimes, but interesting to me. I love learning. I love reason. In a nerdy way facts connect me to the universe. Jon Krakauer knows climbing, Herman Wouk is a military geek, and Laura Hillenbrand loves horses… and it shows. I can see, feel, and smell their worlds and characters.

"I’d gained nearly seven hundred feet of altitude since stepping off the hanging glacier, all of it on crampon front points and the picks of my axes. The ribbon of frozen meltwater had ended three hundred feet up and was followed by a crumbly armor of frost feathers."  Jon Krakauer, describing his ascent of The Devil’s Thumb in Alaska from, Into the Wild. (Meltwater and frost feathers? Are those his own word combinations? Bully, bully, Mr. Krakauer) 

"Charles Howard had the feeling of a giant onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn’t help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick."  Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit. (Note that among all of these descriptors, somehow Ms. Hillenbrand is able to "tell" us that "They couldn’t help themselves" and yet it comes off looking like a "show". Get it?)

"The focus of Willie’s mind widened beyond the plank now and took in the quarterdeck of the Caine. It was a place of noise, dirt, bad smells, and thuglike strangers. Half a dozen sailors were clanking at the rusty deck with metal scrapers. Other sailors were walking past, cursing under crates of cabbages on their backs. One man in a welding mask was burning a bulkhead with a crackling sour-smelling blue flame. All around were patches of new gray paint, patches of old gray paint, patches of green prime coat, and patches of rust. A tangle of snaky hoses, red black, green, yellow, brown, lay all over the deck. The deck was covered with orange peel, fragments of magazines and old rags. Most of the sailors were half naked and wore fantastic beards and haircuts. Oaths, blasphemies, and on recurring four-letter word filled the air like fog." …  Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny. (If you haven't smelled The Caine Mutiny, it's time for you to do so. Don't be put off by the length of description here, the book is a character piece and in this scene Willie is entering his new world, much to his chagrin.)

Munk's opening line:
The boat was powered by the souls of frogs.
Discuss, Munk

Please fall into this week's music... Fishing Blues by Taj Mahal, it's like one last breath of summer.

And thanks go out to TJ Riles... for being cool. Go GB.