Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word sex

I am in awe of American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux, especially his travel writing. 

It's a magnificent winter's day here on the North Coast - 28 degrees Celsius without a single cloud in the sky, Tiffany's beach is 250 m away and depending on the direction of the breeze, I can hear the crashing waves. Yet I'm enthralled by Theroux's words; I'm putting off work and my morning dip so enthralled I am, yet again, by one of his books: The Pillars of Hercules: A grand tour of the Mediterranean, published in 1995.

I've long ago learnt to write down the words of the writers you admire: I'm to feel the tempo, the heat of their words; to imbibe their rhythm and style.

"I took a water-bus from the Lido to Venice proper, and approaching this city in the sea, glittering in brilliant sunshine, I began to goggle, trembling a little, feeling a physical thrill and unease in the presence of such beauty,  an exultation amounting almost to fear.

"Venice is magic, the loveliest city in the world, because it has entirely displaced its islands with palaces and villas and churches. It is man-made, but a work of genius, sparkling in its own lagoon, floating on its dreamy reflection,  with the shapeliest bridges and the last perfect skyline on earth: just domes and spires and tiled roofs. It is one colour,  the mellowest stone. There is no sign of land, no earth at all, only water traffic and canals. Everyone knows this, and yet no one is prepared for it, and so the enchantment is overwhelming. The fear you feel is the fear of being bewitched and helpless. Its visitors gape at it, speechless with admiration,  hardly believing such splendour can shine forth fron such slimy stones.

"Language cannot do justice to Venice and nothing can detract from its beauty. It floods regularly;  its marble is damaged amd decayed, its paintings rot, it has stinking corners. Its canals are green, some of it looks poisonous,  it is littered, it teems with rats that not even the masses of Venetian cats can cope with ... People still live in Venice, children play in its back streets,  where families turn the cranks of pasta machines, men congregate to smoke, women scorch tomatoes.  In the alleys beggar women cradle their children and hold signs: Please help my family - Ex-Yugoslavia.  Even the fact that Venice is actually sinking and might one day be destroyed if not disappear altogether,  gives it an air of fragility and drama, a passionate mortality."

1 comment:

Jeff Chandler said...

After reading this, I Googled Paul Theroux...He has such a beautiful musicality with words and seems to write from the heart. I can see why you admire him...and that's the same reason I admire you. Thank you!