Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"The knocker on the door was rusted red"

Astral Weeks' renowned opening stanza is undeniably wondrous; it's a tingly tumble down the rabbit hole, four lines of labyrinthine wordplay and complex imagery. But I have to be honest: It's the album's sharp simplicity that I have long favored. Those moments when Van Morrison creates the same air of mysterious excitement found in "Astral Weeks," only with language that's crisp and clean. Like these lines from "The Way Young Lovers Do": "We strolled through fields all wet with rain / And back along the lane again / There in the sunshine / In the sweet summertime."

Morrison's lyrics are reminiscent of two recent literary passages I stumbled across, two passages by Irish writers that are beautiful in their straightforwardness. From Colum McCann's 2009 novel Let the Great World Spin: "Dublin Bay was a slow heaving thing, like the city it horseshoed, but it could turn without warning. Every now and then the water smashed up against the wall in a storm. The sea, having arrived, stayed. Salt crusted the windows of our house. The knocker on the door was rusted red."

And from Aidan Higgins' 1966 novel Langrishe, Go Down: "The autumn came and went and winter began, damp and cold. The saturated trunks of the trees turned dark in the rain and the house appeared through the thinning plantation. An ash tree was sold and felled near the ring pump. From the house Imogen had heard it fall."

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