Monday, October 31, 2011

Vol. I, Part One, VI: First View of the City

On p. 30, another thing amazed me-- we've come from Anna Scherer's party, then a series of tight, close indoor scenes, and all of a sudden:

"It was already past one o'clock when Pierre left his friend's house. It was a duskless Petersburg June night. Pierre got into a hired carriage with the intention of going home. But the closer he came, the more he felt the impossibility of falling asleep that on night, which more resembled an evening or a morning. One could see far down the empty streets."

One could see far down the empty streets.

Is this not vivid? Refreshing? Huge? I feel transported, zoom, I can see it.

Ah, but I know this trick. My amiga the travel writer and memoirist Sara Mansfield Taber (pictured left) spelled it out for me once, when reviewing one of the drafts of my essay, "Picadou's Mexico City or, the Essential Francisco Sosa." As I recall, she said, of a somewhat flat description of the street, "can you tell me, what's behind you? What's ahead of you?" Instantly I realized this is a technique for, at once, "grounding" and scene and making it "pop." (Just because you come up with some description, however, doesn't mean you have to use it.)

It's funny, but when I come across a line like "One could see far down the empty streets," I feel such gratitude-- and then I really want to keep reading.

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