“In Africa, you want more, I think.”
—from Norman Rush’s Mating
As sentences go, it’s not much, really—doesn’t plunge us into the sensuous muck, paint indelible images on our inner eyes, doesn’t thrust us into back-blistering Kalahari sun (soon), doesn’t Google Street View us into a village or even a country, doesn’t try to dazzle us with wordplay, turning a town “traditionopolis” or a nervous animal “postlion,” hasn’t yet unleashed the steady barrage of allusions, like that of a “fine grit [floating] like a painting of bedlam in the sfumato style,” that will send us groping for reference books (now Wikipedia); no, it’s really rather plain, actually, this opening sentence, blunt and exposed like bleached bone, a straightforward foray into a novel that will veer off and ruminate on nutritional anthropology, lust, the prospects of utopianism, the differences between men and women, the travails of post-colonial Africa, but not yet, as if the sentence (the author? no, the sentence has agency, has slipped away from “author,” can tie its own shoes thank you very much), fully aware of what is to come, realizes that bigger, fuller things are just around the corner and knowing this, leads with a firm handshake, quietly confident, meeting our gaze, brazenly assertive even when allowing some doubt to creep in, moving to the diminished seventh, the irresolution of one confident enough to admit to some limitations, to know subjectivity is no liability but part of the big ticket draw, why we’re here, what pulls us in and on, wide-eyed, hungry, no, famished—sialorrheic, damnit, Rush might put it (think saliva)—a sentence that withholds almost everything and in nearly every way, assured that it is not what it is about at all that matters but what it is doing, and what it is doing, among other things, is what it has to do, namely making you—without a clue who this is about or where it’s headed, without a rebel yell but most definitely in the midnight hour—want more, more, more.
Tim Horvath is the author of Circulation.
5 thoughts on “A Sentence About a Sentence I Love, by Tim Horvath”
This is so fucking comforting. It must be the word “sialorrheic.” Soothes my insomnia, somehow.
When it comes to Norman Rush, I also want more, I think. Not from either of his two novels — Mating and Mortals — because they’re just fantastic the way they are. I want more Norman Rush novels period! What is he, one of these one-book-a-decade guys?
EC, I’m right with you on this! I know there’s a new book in the pipeline, and a couple of years ago I even remember a title attached to some reading Rush gave at the 92nd Street Y. But that title evaporated and I haven’t heard a trace of it since. Probably some of what motivated this more-business.