Sunday, February 25, 2024

BW9: I is for imagery


Happy Sunday!  I am in the midst of reading In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin who uses a great deal of imagery in his books.   From Winter's Tale to A Soldier of the Great War to In Sunlight and In Shadow, Helprin's use of imagery tickles your senses - what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, as well as emotion, and even employ the use of metaphors or similes.  All chunky books, Helprin brings not only the stories of the characters to life, but the settings as well.  

Winter's Tale is an historical, magical realism, romance story about a middle aged burglar and a young girl dying of consumption and how their paths crossed in a city consumed by an arctic winter.  The imagery in the story took my breath away. 

“Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. And what it did to Northern forests can hardly be described, considering that it iced the branches of the sycamores on Chrystie Street and swept them back and forth until they rang like ranks of bells.” ~ Winter's Tale

A Soldier of the Great War is one of those books that once finished, you have to let yourself ponder what it is you've just read, let it sit with you for a time, while you formulate your thoughts. After being immersed in Alessandro's world for three weeks, took me a while to surface. It's epic, poetic, heart wrenching, funny, scary, breathtaking, maddening, and leaves you with much to ponder.

“And then one morning the soldiers grew suddenly still as the heavy latches were lifted and turned. Just before the doors slid apart, a man from Pisa took the opportunity to say, "The air is thin. We're in the mountains." Alessandro straightened his back and raised his head. The mountains, unpredictable in their power, were the heart of his recollection, and he knew that the Pisano was right. He had known it all along from the way the train took the many grades, from the metallic thunder of bridges over which they had run in the middle of the night, and from the white sound of streams falling and flowing in velocities that could have been imparted only by awesome mountainsides.”  A Soldier of the Great War

Which brings me to In Sunlight and In Shadow, a novel set just after WWII, is a romance set in New York between Harry who has just returned from the war and Catherina, a wealthy aspiring actress. 

I had to stop and read my husband a passage when the narrator of the story was describing the female character as he watched her rehearsing on stage. 

"The lenses, plumb-set and perpendicular to the plane of the floor, were a foil to the sharp assertiveness of her nose, which was small, perfectly formed, gracefully projecting.  Her upper lip was larger than her lower, which suggested imminent speech protected nonetheless by careful reticence.  Her teeth, unnaturally white in the glare of the spotlights, were even straight, and large, in alluring palisades that cried out to be kissed."

And his thoughts as he sat across from her at a restaurant: 

"He wondered if women understood that their apparently insignificant attributes often have a power greater than that of armies. It was what he had meant when he had said that the war had been fought for her. Like the atom, which in its internal bonds contains the essence of matter and energy, in her glance, the sparkle of her eye, the grasp of her hand, the elasticity of her hair in motion, the way she stands, the blush of her cheek, sweep of her shoulder, tone of her voice, and snap of her locket, a woman is the spur and essence of existence." 

Helprin's imagery makes me slow down and read the story slowly,  makes me stop and think, takes my breath away, and yes, makes me laugh at what one could consider absurd but also beautiful.  These stories aren't full of purple prose, but descriptive imagery which is very much part of the over arching story.   

What authors or stories come to your mind that are full of imagery that tickles your senses and adds to the story? 


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