25 March 2006

Grooving on Pico Iyer

I first stumbled across Pico Iyer in Time magazine. He had written his essay on the comma, and I had never before seen an example of punctuation being used so effectively. Later I did a search for that essay and discovered that it could be found in his collection Tropical Classical. I bought it, and when I read another section of the book, I found that travel literature, a genre that had previously held no appeal to me, could in fact be gripping. Here's an excerpt from his piece "Ethiopia: Prayers in the Wilderness" "Yet one Sunday morning, sitting in the corner of a tower and looking over the pieces of rock, suddenly I heard wild chanting and the steady, insistent pounding of drums and a trilling, thrilling ululation of women down below, and when I looked down, I saw them moving all as one, swaying back and forth, with the jacarandas behind them. When I went down, I found myself in a whole avenue of churches, crowded with worshipers, the streets all but palpitant with prayer, and, along the ancient mud walls, long lines of mendicants and beggars. On every side, around the center, people were gathered under trees, and children were scampering around broken gravestones, and petitioners with white crosses chalked upon their foreheads were giving alms. There were golden robes and rows of multicoloured umbrellas and bells tolling constantly and, lined up outside the round churches, a terrible, haggard row of people in rags: the leprous, the lame, the palsied, and the blind. The notion of a savior had never made more sense to me; I half expected to see Jesus and the Apostles walking down these muddy lanes." Once I start to read his work, I am drawn in just by his use of languageā€”even if I have no interest at all in the topic.

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