black, gray, and brown
Posted: 10 September 2017 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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You folks were so helpful about “rupe” a few days ago that I turn to you with another lexical mystery from the same source.  Here’s the start of Chapter 11 of Augie March:

Now there’s a dark Westminster of a time when a multitude of objects cannot be clear; they’re too dense and there’s an island rain, North Sea lightlessness, the vein of the Thames. That darkness in which resolutions have to be made — it isn’t merely local; it’s the same darkness that exists in the fiercest clearnesses of torrid Messina. And what about the coldness of the rain? That doesn’t defeat foolishness in its residence of the human face, nor take away deception nor change defects, but this rain is an emblem of the shared condition of all. It maybe means that what is needed to mitigate the foolishness or dissolve the deception is always superabundantly about and insistently offered to us — a black offer in Charing Cross; a gray in Place Pereires where you see so many kinds and varieties of beings go to and fro in the liquid and fog; a brown in the straight unity of Wabash Avenue. With the dark, the solvent is in this way offered until the time when one thing is determined and the offers, mercies, and opportunities are finished.

That may be more context than is needed, but at any rate it illustrates Bellows’ occasional high-rhetorical mode and parading of fancy-dancy European/classical references, which to my mind are a minor blemish on a wonderful novel.  But to our muttons: what the devil does he mean by “a black offer in Charing Cross,” “a gray in Place Pereires,” and “a brown in the straight unity of Wabash Avenue”?  Charing Cross is of course in London; Place Pereire (sic: not “Pereires") is in Paris, except that it’s been Place du Maréchal-Juin since 1973 (there is nothing in the brief French Wikipedia article that helps); Wabash Avenue is in Bellows’ beloved Chicago, where the novel is set.  In another context “a gray” might be a horse, but not here.  And what on earth is “a black offer”?

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Posted: 10 September 2017 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It may or may not be helpful to say that I think “offer” is the unstated referent of the adjectives “grey” and “brown”, as well as “black”.

My sense is that we see indistinct things in the dark and rain, vague shapes that are offered up to us.  These colors are all neutral, indistinct, suitable for shadowy things barely visible in the mist and rain.

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Posted: 10 September 2017 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Ah, I’ll bet you’re right, and I was reading too literally.  In which case: nothing to see here, move along indistinctly in the dark and rain!

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Posted: 12 September 2017 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Somehow I feel slighted!

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Posted: 12 September 2017 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Heh.  At least you’re not BlackGreyBrown!

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