“If I had known. If I had known,” said Eliza. And then: “I’m sorry.” But he knew that her sorrow at that moment was not for him or for herself, or even for the boy whom idiot chance had thrust in the way of pestilence, but that, with a sudden inner flaming of her clairvoyant Scotch soul, she had looked cleanly, without pretense for the first time, upon the inexorable tides of Necessity, and that she was sorry for all who had lived, were living, or would live, fanning with their prayers the useless altar flames, suppliant with their hopes to an unwitting spirit, casting the tiny rockets of their belief against remote eternity, and hoping for grace, guidance, and delivery upon the spinning and forgotten cinder of this earth. O lost.”
A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.
Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.
On Sunday, I watched my team win in the eleventh hour. My favorite kind of win. But during the pregame hour of talking heads, Terry Bradshaw–reaching very hard for context–said something along the lines of “It’s like in this book by this guy Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel. He says we’re all just trying to get home again, you know? And we can’t, we just can’t.” And then he connected it to whatever football player he was talking about (I can’t remember who), and the other talking heads made fun of him for it afterward (“Well Terry, as I was just reading in this really inspirational book, Football 2.0…”), and the game commenced.
But I made note of the book because that’s–as I’ve mentioned before–one of my favorite themes in literature, even if I didn’t know it for many years. And I’ve tracked it down (fearing at first that it would be some footballer’s biography, which would precipitate a rapid decline in my interest, relevant themes or no) and in the author’s note Thomas Wolfe says:
But we are the sum of all the moments of our lives–all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape or conceal it. If the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has only used what all men must, what none can keep from using. Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood, fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose.
He’s saying this as a way of addressing those who may have known people who clearly appear in the book, in a form that may be recognizable to them. He addresses the impulse (impulse or directive delivered from the publisher, I do not know) to say “yup, it’s fiction, nobody real in here!” despite the necessary absorption of real people and experiences into his prose. Into everyone’s prose. And that’s all I was able to read–I’m at work–but I finished my other book on the bus this morning so I’m free to start this one. And I’m looking forward to it.
Thanks for the book rec, Terry Bradshaw.
“Yes indeed,” said I, cordially. “I was never so struck by anything in my life. I even embodied it in a small brochure with the somewhat fantastic title of ‘A Study in Scarlet.'”
He shook his head sadly. “I glanced over it,” said he. “Honestly, I cannot congratulate you upon it. Detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner. You have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which produces much the same effect as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”
“But the romance was there,” I remonstrated. “I could not tamper with the facts.”
“Some facts should be suppressed, or at least a just sense of proportion should be observed in treating them…”
So because listening to the soundtrack over and over again is how I prefer to relive things I’ve seen, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Sherlock soundtrack on Spotify. (Well, and I don’t own the show on DVD or Blu Ray either, so I’ve been listening to it a-lot-a-lot…) And there are parts where Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for the Robert Downey Jr. movies clearly played an influence–not just in instrument choice, but in melody shape. For instance, listen to the drop that happens 0:20-0:23:
Sound familiar, that carnivalesque BUM bum BUM bum, fat and sassy in the brass? And the little head-toss of the strings afterward? It should. Listen to 1:18-1:31:
I started it early enough to see the change, but the drop happens at 1:25. See? That–for lack of better words, because I really don’t have them, untrained musically as I remain–tipsy swaggering big-top sound. They kept that, David Arnold and Michael Price. It’s a whimsical sound, for all that the show takes itself more seriously, I think, than did the movies.
Something else I find fascinating is the song that plays, in the movies versus in the show, when Sherlock dies. The show has a separate theme, first seen in Season One’s “War,” for when things get serious and sad for Sherlock. We hear this theme again, more somber still, at Sherlock’s graveside:
Hear that swell kick in at 1:16 (before the main theme)? That is Sherlock’s theme. Thus, even though, on-screen, we’re focusing on his death, the music we are told to associate with his death is not in fact his own theme: it references something greater, the war between him and Moriarty. In the movies, however, when we think Sherlock is dead, we get a very soft and hesitant, but still familiar version of Sherlock’s own theme:
Which says what, exactly? That the Sherlock of BBC Sherlock is an entity unto himself, separate from the war between him and Moriarty, and that in the movies, the essence of Sherlock is bound up in all those almost-deaths, the miraculous returns? (Of course, you could argue the the other way too, given that, in that last scene of BBC Sherlock season two, we are met with Sherlock’s theme when we, too, are told that “Yep, he made it! Look, he’s standing right here!”)
I’m not sure what it says, but I thought the choices made by the respective composers were interesting, especially so close together in time.
I detour people into them a lot.
I’m aware of this, though I imagine it’s not immediately apparent. I hope it’s not immediately apparent. I don’t want to be so bald in my leading people into information they neither sought nor necessarily wanted. But lead them I will, because I cannot stand existing in a vacuum of context. Delivering all of it may be impossible, but I can pack in as much as I can, veiled in humor and self-deprecatory one-offs, as long as I can, and usually I manage to give someone a clearer picture of why I’m doing what I’m doing than they would otherwise have been able to glean.
Also, it shuts people up. If you start telling a story, most people are going to do you the courtesy of letting you finish, or at least let you get to a sensible stopping point before telling you they have to run. And I do hate being interrupted. I don’t interrupt people, and loathe when they do it to me. Even well-meaning people. There is a woman–a very kind and sweet woman, who gives me her reject theater costumes when she’s done with a show–who nevertheless cannot let me finish a sentence. And every time we bump into each other I want to turn the other way, because I know she’s going to act like she wants to have a conversation but then she’ll never let me finish anything I have to add. Even if she has a question for me! “How do I avoid shin splints after running? I’ve been wearing these flat sandals all summer and, I don’t know what I was thinking.” “Well actually, I haven’t had much problem with those after I switched to running this other–” “I mean, you know, I could’ve had decent arch support but noooo, I just went for the cute little slip-ons.” “Yes but that’s what I’m saying, you can built up your arches by–” “And I think my daughter is doing the same thing and that’s why she’s having trouble right now. What do you suggest?” “…Nothing. I don’t know. Google it.”
I say this about anecdotes because, spoken, they flow more naturally and people are willing to put up with them, but written–especially in email, a form from which people expect, legitimately or otherwise, a certain degree of brevity–they tend to try people’s patience. And I realized that yesterday even as I wrote an email containing a specific set of questions I needed answers to. But I don’t like just that flat delivery of a query. It doesn’t tell you why I’m asking, or who the kind of person is you’ll be answering. So I ball the questions up in an anecdote that details why I have an interest in the subject. And I think it annoys people. But if you make it humorous or elaborate enough, they can be wooed into hearing you out. And that is the challenge, always. “Listen to me as I tell you who I am.” Because I suppose that is the story you’re always trying to tell everyone. Novels would have you believe that one person is enough, but it never is. Everyone you interact with must know, or else they’re interacting with the idea of you–not the actual you. And even if the actual you is a nondeliverable item, you’ve got to come as close as possible, or you’re not living with enough…intensity.