the enormous room

Fri, 2010-01-01 12:36

Finished reading E. E. Cummings' memoir The Enormous Room about his time in a French prison during World War I. I'd never read anything but his poems. This was quite a good piece of writing, and you can find it from Dover for only three bucks. It's got a good bit of french in it, so if you are like me and only know a few french words, keep a dictionary nearby.

It is available to be read electronically at the awesome Gutenberg Project.

I'd be happy to pass my copy on to anyone who would like it.

This is perhaps my favorite passage:

Lily was a German girl, who looked unbelievably old, wore white, or once
white dresses, had a sort of drawling scream in her throat besides a
thick deadly cough, and floundered leanly under the eyes of men. Upon the
skinny neck of Lily a face had been set for all the world to look upon
and be afraid. The face itself was made of flesh green and almost
putrescent. In each cheek a bloody spot. Which was not rouge, but the
flower which consumption plants in the cheek of its favourite. A face
vulgar and vast and heavy-featured, about which a smile was always
flopping uselessly. Occasionally Lily grinned, showing several
monstrously decayed and perfectly yellow teeth, which teeth usually were
smoking a cigarette. Her bluish hands were very interestingly dead; the
fingers were nervous, they lived in cringing bags of freckled skin, they
might almost be alive.

She was perhaps eighteen years old.

The beautiful final paragraph is more cummings-like than the rest of the book:

The tall, impossibly tall, incomparably tall, city shoulderingly upward
into hard sunlight leaned a little through the octaves of its parallel
edges, leaningly strode upward into firm hard snowy sunlight; the noises
of America nearingly throbbed with smokes and hurrying dots which are men
and which are women and which are things new and curious and hard and
strange and vibrant and immense, lifting with a great ondulous stride
firmly into immortal sunlight....