Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Of Gentle Hunger

Now Playing: Bear McCreary - There's a Storm Coming (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles OST)

[Introduction].

Here's something odd--I don't think I ever talk about Fahrenheit 451, except for that one post I made right after Ray Bradbury passed away. It's strange; it's one of my favorites. I read it at the age of thirteen, quite apprehensive when I started, pleasantly surprised when it ended.

I've heard some people criticize Clarisse for not acting entirely like a real person. It hurts to admit it, but the older I grow, the more I have to somewhat begrudgingly agree with that criticism. It is somewhat clear to me now that Bradbury wrote her to jump start Montag's arc. At her expense, no less.

And while it bothers me, the language makes her character and her introduction so effortlessly beautiful rather than completely contrived. If this scene hadn't happened so early on, I don't think I would have fallen so quickly in love with this book.

(art by Joshua Heinsz)

The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them. Her dress was white and it whispered. He almost thought he heard the motion of her hands as she walked, and the infinitely small sound now, the white stir of her face turning when she discovered she was a moment away from a man who stood in the middle of the pavement waiting. 
The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their dry rain. The girl stopped and looked as if she might pull back in surprise, but instead stood regarding Montag with eyes so dark and shining and alive, that he felt he had said something quite wonderful. But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix-disc on his chest, he spoke again. 
"Of course," he said, "you're a new neighbour, aren't you?" 
"And you must be"-she raised her eyes from his professional symbols-"the fireman." Her voice trailed off. 
"How oddly you say that." 
"I'd-I'd have known it with my eyes shut," she said, slowly. 
"What--the smell of kerosene? My wife always complains," he laughed. "You never wash it off completely." 
"No, you don't," she said, in awe. 
He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself. 
"Kerosene," he said, because the silence had lengthened, "is nothing but perfume to me." 
"Does it seem like that, really?" 
"Of course. Why not?" 
She gave herself time to think of it. "I don't know." She turned to face the sidewalk going toward their homes. "Do you mind if I walk back with you? I'm Clarisse McClellan." 
"Clarisse. Guy Montag. Come along. What are you doing out so late wandering around? How old are you?" 
They walked in the warm-cool blowing night on the silvered pavement and there was the faintest breath of fresh apricots and strawberries in the air, and he looked around and realized this was quite impossible, so late in the year. 
There was only the girl walking with him now, her face bright as snow in the moonlight, and he knew she was working his questions around, seeking the best answers she could possibly give. 
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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