A.E. Reiff's Reviews > A Sense of Reality: And Other Stories

A Sense of Reality by Graham Greene
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Read 2 times. Last read June 8, 2011 to August 2, 2011.

II. (Part I here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...)

PURGATORIO Explorations

Is the underworld polluted? It goes without saying, but if it reaches up to daylight it is not only under ground. The upper Allegheny in early spring, cold as ice, made steam from the effluent that poured from bordering factories. This happened on the Clarion river too but not the upper Susquehanna. Factory after factory rose from the steam and a white brown foam over the river. This is my introduction by canoe to the drains and the storms that fuel.

Why would you explore storm drains along elaborate branches of effluent? Because you are a boy and can. The neighboring towns of Chartiers Creek installed drains that boys walked miles up until the concrete tubes got small, as if a sphincter checked the flow, the water a trickle at feet. Creeks, rivers, air and earth that flood their banks in season over farms that bordered that creek, flooded the golf course on the other side and froze in winter to a nine hole skating rink. In summer the flood ran over felled tree trunks and railroad scrap from train wrecks of railroad cars and giant cubes of metal in the flood. One walked the tracks with a .22 to shoot glass insulator bulbs of the power lines beside, with flares and torpedoes picked up, strapping torpedoes to a rock, dropped upon another rock from twenty feet above to see how it would explode.

It wasn't just storm drains and polluted rivers and wrecks, slag piles from strip mining were still fresh in their deep pits. There were swells of green water a hundred feet below, down sides too slippery to run, even then, for fear of not surviving the Pittsburgh slag and fire.

Water, earth and air! Freight trains boiled black soot from stacks. And fire! The overground of that world raged a hundred feet above the hill, fought on the ground by boys and men, where before, in the 50's, the oil well across from the two room school shot against the window pane of the school where they read the Psalms each morning. That was where I began to read them in the valley. The hills had paths around the back to a cave where white scorpions swam. Symbols of scorpion, come with a friend. It was there on the red dirt floor of the firehouse under the school, among crank engines and hoses, and under the stage in the basement, where events are covered by pitch and musty dreams of sailing a glider down stairs lined with boots and coats I sailed.

Underworld, overworld down to caves, inside and out of Delaney's Cave http://books.google.com/books?id=dbf1... outside Uniontown, an intimate, School House Cave in W VA, where drips to a trough of water overflowed in deionized refrigerated waves. No photographs, memory extant, one record left in the Easter Sunday 1953 Pittsburgh Press, where Gilbert Love reprinted an article written then. These caves, psychologies, ideas that "could quite well have filled in the entrance too, with a thin layer of hard earth on top and with loose soil further down...but that plan is impossible." Now from Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, realization comes with speaking.

When the walls go up that separate abuse and torture the child suffered in memory they are also permeable in an odd way. The memory exists but as cut off.

Is it outside or is it in we must face disfigurement, the making monstrous, the comprachicoes? Shall it be a life of ease, an earth vacation, riches, dreams of ease unopposed we come or is there reason for being's obstacle? "Load every rift of your ore with gold," Keats tells Shelley, a life of such difficulty it drives us to the end of vanity of flesh and spirit. If we can't know who we are until then life must be prove character. Proof of suffering in the prisoners of B. Traven, The Fixer, Solzhenitsyn, the martyrs,
http://pennsylvaniafathers.blogspot.c... Timmerman. The sufferers, least of sufferers, cry, "why have you forgotten me?" But where the bottom is below which no one can sink, (http://insightstatutes.blogspot.com/2...), the humanity of the dispossessed shows the life of ease for what it is, hallucination, the truth being that what we take from life are our choices and the character formed by our mistakes and inquisitions. This informs Operation Proper Exit http://www.troopsfirstfoundation.org/... where Iraq vets revisit the site of their wounding. However revisiting the killing fields of all kinds heals even in virtual visitations http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/...

The images of disfigurement where he is marred as a man, are not fictional, they are images of programmed ritual abuse. Des Essentes's Huysmans, growing poison plants in his greenhouse connects with the Montressor of Poe walled up below and to the great gargoyle of pain of churches in the Villa Palagonia outside Palermo, Sicilian Baroque, garden of chimeras, 600 human beasts, we should have said hearts of every bizarre form of that wasted spirit in imagination, a public ignoble sculpture garden, not Rodin. What monster's this? Artists are still making dragons in every pottery club, making monstrous so Rimbaud can rue he ever took the uninitiate to this sink. It is a revelation of the middle class consumer in an avalanche of denial, monstrous groves of maple, the mission of Updike, at least he could write, but he was misshapen. Being so you would think poetry schools would fire up their MAs to work in soup kitchens, volunteer at earthquakes with FEMA instead of take summer workshops on the Hudson to confect, but not live the real. The life of illusion.

Deniers of pain have to make it up while "on the back of this monster he puts another, if possible, still more hideous, five or six heads, and a bush of horns, that beats the beast in the Revelations all to nothing" (T.H. White, The Scandal Monger, 111). Everywhere in front of their eyes, if not in the gardens, no hydroponic, you can buy reproductions to take home from the labyrinth to find out who you are and come out changed if you don't forget. This admits Gardner's Grendel humanity as appealing as our own http://encouragementsforsuch.blogspot..., it admits the filth of the Ganges, the asylums we walk through. How not to contaminate is no question of Mandeville's Travels, the Immram, Dante's descent,those avoidances of the human where "you make your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over," "appalled at his appearance so disfigured beyond that of a man, form marred beyond the human," "poured out like water," "heart turned to wax," "in the dust of death."

Why look at it? To get straight off this path burn the fumes of illusion http://orionheadless.com/jonahs-child....

Part III continues at: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

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Reading Progress

September 2, 2010 – Started Reading (Paperback Edition)
September 2, 2010 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
November 12, 2010 – Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)
June 8, 2011 – Started Reading
June 8, 2011 – Shelved
August 2, 2011 – Finished Reading

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