Friday, June 20, 2008

Transitory Enchantment

Before crossing the GW Bridge, at 55 mph down the Henry Hudson Parkway, Sarah offered a thought in wonder. It was an innocent one, but it has an impressive pedigree. (Most of Sarah's thoughts do, and what would a road trip be without dramatic inferences drawn from shabby tid-bits?) We were discussing the Dutch colonization of Manhattan--of course--when she wondered what it would have been like to have been Hudson gazing upon the Pallisades for the first time. What mystery! What wonder! The word she used was "vast". Three or more things then occurred to me. First, the last page of the Great Gatsby, where Carraway muses upon similar waters:
"...for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic judgment he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate with his capacity for wonder."

And then there's Sinclair Lewis's speech given upon winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1930. Charge, he implored American writers, charge out of the stuffiness of safe, sane, and incredibly dull provincialism, drive across the GW Bridge, and with joy give
"the America that has mountains and endless prairies, enormous cities and lost far cabins, billions of money and tons of faith, to an America that is as strange as Russia and as complex as China, a literature worthy of her vastness."

And, yes, the obligatory Kerouac:
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old brokendown river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the west coast, all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks in the west and folds the last and final shore in and nobody, just nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old...

2 comments:

May said...

sarah and mike - i just KNEW your blog posts would be perfect. keep posting!!

bear-sophie said...

What is odder scenario:

* The kind of guy has those books with him to quote on a road trip from
* The fellow who already has them memorized to spout on a whim
* The fellow who pulled together the pithy quotes in advance of the trip ready to insert as relevant to seem like number 2.

I would be the last guy. Hats off to you, very appropriate! Think of Hudson thinking that river was the Northwest passage, repeatedly robbed by indians as he docked that's what I think of. Is sarah or he more "naive".