Monday, March 17, 2008

Cozzens II

on another blog, Cozzens to Beethoven in his use of structure and form to arrive at a transcendent moment. The comparison is just.

Study the way, in his famous 5th symphony, in the first movement Beethoven begins with a simple theme-- four notes!-- then slowly and masterfully plays with them, interweaves them, until by the end of the movement he's achieving, quite unexpectedly, tremendously dynamic sound.

The novel contains movements also-- the expression of a narrative line. Just as a composer hooks the listener and carries him forward, the writer ideally does the same thing.

Study the long opening section of Guard of Honor: a plane flight from one air force base to another.

It's a textbook case of how to lay down plot threads. Everything which is to come later in the huge work is set up in the extended opening scene. This is what professors SHOULD be teaching in writing or English classes.

The leading characters are introduced; complex, adult characters; flawed, biased, arrogant, human characters.

Cozzens plays three themes: the characters; the shaky interior of the plane; the weather outside. Four themes, really, because there's the hidden theme of the suppressed conflicts of society. Quite unexpectedly the themes all come together, in a brilliant way, at the very closing moments of the first movement: this extended scene.

Anyone who takes sentences out of context to claim Cozzens can't write should study what he achieves with his sentences in this scene; how he puts the reader inside that plane, looking over the shoulder of General Beal, feeling the bouncing plane and the fast-tension of the moment. A moment filled with implication and meaning far beyond the landing of an airplane.

It's the kind of moment, unfortunately, you'll never discover in a book by Robbe-Grillet.

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