Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Stanley Crouch excerpt, with sincere editorial suggestions

I was a little restrained in commenting on Crouch/Peck last week because I hadn't actually read any of Stanley Crouch's fictional prose.

But today, through Ed Rants (see his parody of the Crouch/Peck encounter), I came across an excerpt from Crouch's novel Don't the Moon Look Lonesome. It's a novel that begins, at least, with an account of an interracial romance in trouble:

This contrast, which they used to joke about, meant too much right now. That put a gash in her spirit. They were no longer so damn superior to the dank rhetoric of racial talk. The two had been together for five years. The first four were so good they presently seemed like no more than an elaborate fantasy, a tale she told to herself about an idiotically wonderful life she had never lived. Over the last ten or twelve months, the supreme closeness of their love was suffering. Their home, as if from nowhere, was invaded by emotional disorder. It might linger, it might not. She hated most the mystery of wondering just how long that divisive prickliness would dominate his mood, then infect hers. If she had to experience the sudden spread of this interior cactus, Carla preferred the times when it disappeared almost immediately and Maxwell became himself again, not a perfect guy by any means, but her man. Then, sure, there was reaffirmation in his tone of voice, in his touch, in the way his eyes put themselves on her, as if she were now clear to him again, not a blue-eyed fog he could almost see through, knowing no warmth, no substance. At first, it always felt like a gleaming gift to know that her soul and flesh had risen from beneath a dehumanizing abstraction and had returned to their rightful place. Way inside, however, her heart eventually felt like a rubber band that had been pulled and pulled until it could not go back to its original size. Some hard, hard bitterness went with that.

The word for this is: truly and seriously overwrought.

My shortened, simplified version:

Carla considered their five years together during the flight. Over the past few years, their intimacy had suffered, and Carla now wondered if the relationship would survive at all. Maxwell had become prone to a fearful moodiness that, as now, seemed to begin and end inexplicably. As the airplane finally approached Houston, she worried that the gap of racial difference that lay between them--always such a liability when they traveled together--had hardened in his mind.

Does my revision convey anything less than Crouch's original prose? Do all of Crouch's metaphors about rubber bands, interior cactuses, and blue-eyed fogs really add anything? And I haven't said anything about some of the grossly misogynist writing that comes later in the same chapter (which I won't quote).

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