Thick with time

Thick with time

This conjures for me a heat-shimmering visibility to the normally invisible air, providing a sense of density that you can imagine being imbued with time. ‘The air was dense and shimmering, thick with time.’ Source: Russell Hoban, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin...
Silence seated with a finger to its lips

Silence seated with a finger to its lips

A sinister silence this, not an absence of sound, but an agent in its own right. ‘The silence sat down with them like an invisible creature with its finger to its lips.’ Source: Russell Hoban, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (London: Picador,...
A minstrel of defeat

A minstrel of defeat

An extraordinary idea: a minstrel of defeat, and even more so when used to describe an unpleasant smell of cooking.  Later, Hoban uses the smell of cooking to describe the pervasiveness of voices carried on the air.  He also refers to smell as a carrier of memory....
Eyes like oracle stones

Eyes like oracle stones

Goats, along with sheep, have a peculiar stare, sometimes vague and batty, sometimes sinister and glassy.  This reminds me of a description of sheep’s eyes by Vasily Grossman, as being like glass grapes. ‘Goats stared with eyes like oracle stones.’...
Vomited out like a Jonah

Vomited out like a Jonah

The first of several descriptions of this boy being ejected from childhood innocence and security by his father’s decision to abandon home in search of himself, or some such.  This reference to Jonah being spewed out of the whale is memorable. ‘He felt as...
Smell as a carrier of memory

Smell as a carrier of memory

For better or worse, few things can as quickly transport you to another place, time, or experience as a smell.  These olfactory reminders are often so strong and instantaneous that they can’t be avoided.  Ideally, they trigger happy memories, even...
Street dogs

Street dogs

I love dogs and the towns owned by them, always feeling reassured when you see dogs confidently, busily and independently trotting about the streets, checking that all is in order.  And this description of them as moving about ‘like businessmen’! I have a...
Of no human agency or purpose

Of no human agency or purpose

Ever had that grim feeling as you drive through some urban bleakscape? Utility and ugliness both begin with ‘u’ but they don’t need to be synonymous.  I coined the term ‘beautility’ to capture the meeting point of beauty and utility. ...
Vanishing childhood

Vanishing childhood

One of the great failings of the adult world is the collateral damage inflicted on children, with trauma yanking them out of childhood before they’re ready.  This vivid image conveys the suddenness of Boaz-Jachin’s ejection from childhood, later underlined...

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