Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Here is language from Monkey Beach which reminds me a lot of Rainy Lake. It's interesting because Rainy Lake was about the culture of Lake cabins in Minnesota among the Scandinavian and German descendents who live here... Something I'm very familiar with. And Monkey Beach was set in British Columbia on the sea in a Haisla community. The parallels came from the importance of water, families coming apart and coming together, and tragedy on the water.

This is just language that I love. Eden Robinson's use of language also reminds me of Robin McKinley's Deerskin. As soon as I unpack one of the dozen copies I have somewhere in my new house I will quote some of her stuff here. My favorite passage is one in which people are expressing disbelief by saying something like, "It was as if someone had suggested a tadpole might inherit the sea upon the death of water. " Which is not the best example of why her use of language reminds me of this, but oh well.

White feathers tumbled down from the half-eaten chickens caught near the top of the tree, where the hawks had dropped them. The chickens were still alive. They flapped their wings, kicked feet, struggled against the net. Their heads had fallen to the ground like ripe fruit. Their beaks opened and closed soundlessly, and their eyes blinked rapidly, puzzled and frightened. P124

A sea otter dives. Long streams of sunlight wash through kelp trees, undulating like lazy belly dancers. A purple sea urchin creeps towards a kelp trunk. The otter dips, snatches up the urchin, carries it to the surface, where the sound of the waves breaking on the nearby shore is a bitter grumble. Devouring the urchin's soft underbelly in neat nibbles, the otter twirls in the surf, then dives again. The urchin's shell parachutes to the ocean bottom, landing in the dark, drifting hair of a corpse. P131

The rain is easing. Sea gulls circle and land on something between the logs on the rocky shore. A flock of sea gulls is called a squabble, and they are doing that right now, fighting for a place on whatever has washed up on shore. As my speedboat buzzes by, some of the sea gulls hop away, revealing something dark, but then they cover it again. It must be big to have attracted so many. On the other side of the channel from me is a tanker on its way to Alcan's dock. It moves with the ponderous weight of a loaded ship, is low in the water and oblivious to me. When we were kids, Jimmy and I used to watch the tankers through binoculars and try to decipher the names. Some were Russian or Japanese, or rusted beyond reading.
The crows wait at the outskirts of the squabble. They are little black dots that flutter and edge nearer to the corpse until the sea gulls drive them away. A flock of crows is called a murder. P163

My fall from grace was spectacular. If I'd had head lice, scabies, worms and measles, I couldn't have been more unpopular. Rather than sit with me on the bus, kids would sit on the floor. Rather than be my lab partner in science class, kids would claim to be sick and have to go to the nurse's office. Rather than eat with me, kids would throw their lunch bags in the garbage and claim they weren't hungry. P172

Food is dust in my mouth without you.
I see you in my dreams and all I want to do is sleep.
If my house was filled with gold, it would still be empty.
If I was the king of the world, I'd still be alone.
If breath was all that was between us, I would stop breathing to be with you again.
The memory of you is my shadow and all my days are dark, but I hold on to these memories until I can be with you again.
Only your laughter will make them light; only your smile will make them shine.
We are apart so that I will know the joy of being with you again.
Take care of yourself, wherever you are.
Take care of yourself, wherever you are.