Thursday, December 07, 2006

A two-headed child or a headless calf?

I've been suffering through a period of brain death lately and have not written, or created by other means, much of anything. Fortunately, the big television died and there isn't much on anyway, so I've been passing the passing of my intelligence by reading. I read Brooklyn Follies by the bad man, Paul Auster, the children's book Holes, and several books of science fiction nonsense.

Now I'm bogged down in more challenging stuff: Blood Orchid by Charles Bowden, Tests of Time by William H. Gass, and Rios Profundos by José María Arguedas.

These books are not what you'd generally call page turners. The writing is so great that you stuck in sentences, or paragraphs, or perhaps on rare occasions, even pages, and they fill your head so full that it's difficult to keep reading. So I switch off to another book and the style is so radically different that it takes a several minutes to make sense of the words and I have to read again.

In any case, maybe when I'm smart again I'll tell you about it. I know there's a lot of demand for the ol Bowden/Gass/Arguedas review, but it will have to wait. In the meantime, though, I will share with you this paragraph from Rios Profundos, just because it's about words, and me like words.

The Quechua ending yllu is onomatopoeic. Yllu, in one form, means the music of tiny wings in flight, music created by the movement of light objects. This term is similar to another broader one –illa. Illa is the name used for a certain kind of light, also for monsters with birth defects caused by moonbeams. Illa is a two-headed child or a headless calf, or a giant pinnacle, all black and shining, with a surface crossed by a wide streak of white rock, of opaque light. An ear of corn with rows of kernels that cross or form whorls is also illa; illas are the mythical bulls that live at the bottom of solitary lakes, of highland ponds ringed with cattail reeds, where black ducks dwell. All illas bring good or bad luck, always to the nth degree. To touch an illa, and to either die or be resurrected, is possible.

Kinda makes me want to learn more Quechua.