Friday, August 31, 2012

Signifying Nothing

31st August 2012

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
Til the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle, life is but a walking shadow,
A poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage
Then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I wrote this on the black board one hundred times for shooting my mouth off about Shakespeare last week. This speech is probably without parallel in the history of literature. Depressing, but unmatchable.
Try this:
The history of the meadow goes like this: No one owns it, no one ever will. The people, all ghosts now, were ghosts even then; they drifted through, drifted away, thinking they were not moving...Only one of them succeeded in making a life here...Before a backdrop of natural beauty, he lived a life from which everything was taken but a place. He lived so close to the real world it almost let him in. By the end he had nothing, as if loss were a fire in which he was purified again and again, until he wasn't a ghost anymore.
That's from the opening of "The Meadow," by James Galvin. I keep mentioning that book, because it is one of the few modern books that doesn't try to hook you with anything but language. There's not a whole lot of plot here, but there's a whole lot of why we like that Shakespeare speech. Perhaps we don't use the same guage anymore. Perhaps we've let ourselves become cheapened by the hook. We used to let ourselves be tickled out of the water, but now we wait for the hook, line and sinker. We have become an illiterate breed of fish.

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