The House on Samarkand Hill Excerpt and a Musing on the Rising Sun

There are sometimes mornings that, walking or in the car, I see the red-gold disk of the sun rising from the horizon, more brilliant and pure of light than anything mortal but not too bright to look at, like molten metal. At once the urge seizes me to stare into it, knowing that to do so would be to go blind, and yet somehow that blindness would be worth it, as that perfect, glorious image would be burned on my mind for eternity.

Of course I don’t intend to go blind and have always resisted the urge, but at the same time I am curious if anyone else feels this way under the influence of such a sight.

The primary intent of this post is actually to submit a short stream-of-consciousness-type scene I just wrote for the novel I am working on in preparation for Mr. Bahr’s class. It is experimenting with a mixture of third-person narrative and first-person reminiscence. Here is a moderately-lengthy reminiscence section near the beginning of the book. Victor, the narrator, is recalling an episode when he was eleven.

I met Ignatius for the first time in the summer of 1836. Grandfather Damascus’s body was failing at last, and his other daughter-in-law Helen visited us with her children. She had been living with her father Alfred Brown in the village of Azotus, but out of a sense of Christian charity—or such is what I allow myself to believe—she chose to let Grandfather Damascus see his grandchildren again before he died.

I was reading of Urizen under the Samarkand hawthorn when I saw a boy and a girl walking toward me out of the eastern sun. The dew soaked into my trousers and into the air, and the sun granted gold to the dew and made gold everything the dew touched. The boy’s head was gold, and his eyes were as dark as storms. The girl’s dress was black and her hair was brown.

“You are Victor,” said the girl. I nodded. The girl turned to the gold-headed boy. “This is Victor,” she repeated to him. The boy made a shapeless noise and clapped his hands together, staring at me with his dark, handsome eyes and leaving his mouth hanging open. I looked at him with some curiosity, having never met an idiot before.

The girl spoke again. “I am Judith, and this is Natius.” She later married John Sword, a tenant farmer in Azotus. The boy said something quickly and indistinctly.

I looked at him again. “What did he say?”

Judith shrugged. “I think he said good morning. Mom trained him to do it. He drools sometimes.”

“How long are you here?” I asked. I noticed Natius reach down and pluck some grass from the ground to curl it between his fingers. Judith, with an expression of annoyance, dashed the wet blades from his hands and then turned to answer me.

“Three days. Mum is with us and Ida.”

Ida came at that moment. She had yellow hair like her brother and not like her twin. I can’t remember what she said to me that day. She is in Scotland now with her husband.

“Natius,” I once told her, “is like a pet dog.”

“Judith,” she answered then, “is like a wicked cat. She sets traps and games for Natius and watches him fall helplessly into them. He adores her, though, and that only makes her schemes more cruel.” My cousin Ida was wise even in those days. I ought to have listened to her more than I did. Perhaps I ought never to have gone to Sarepta.

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5 comments on “The House on Samarkand Hill Excerpt and a Musing on the Rising Sun

  1. salvageroost says:

    I like this–the flow, the texture, the psychology. And you should read The Sound and the Fury.

  2. Justin says:

    Pretty good. I’d change some of the little “info bits”, or take them out altogether, like…she was pretty, brown hair blue eyes, etc, she later married John Jingleheimeroppenheimerschmidt. They seem out of place.

    But as always, you are the best writer I ever felt challenged by in those classes. The only other person I felt so challenged by was Sarah Vanbiber…

  3. Justin says:

    but that’s of course a contextual issue, and they may be in place in context.

  4. salvageroost says:

    I like the parenthetical-type statements (“she later married a tenant farmer,” etc.)… they make it feel like thought rather than narration. I think they can be further polished to make them seem less strictly information, and more insight–bits of information from the future that have come to be seen as relevant to the moment being described. I especially like the last two lines of dialogue for that reason.

  5. The last bit is definitely the best, I agree. Good lines.

    I can say I think your last post was quite a bit more stream-of-consciousness. This one seems rather . . . narrative . . .

    The details do need to be inserted rather than simply declared, but you know this, no doubt.

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