Thursday, October 7, 2010

Imitation Practice: Model 3

Imitation Practice: Model 3

Passage 3, “It happened at Aix-les-Bains, one of the pleasantest places in the world.  I was staying at the Grand-Hotel d’Aix, which opens on the sloping little square with the bronze head of Queen Victoria, commemorating her visits to that old watering-place in Savoie.  The Cassino and the Opera are next door, just across the gardens.  The hotel was build for the travelers of forty years ago, who liked large rooms and large baths, and quiet.  It is not at all small, but very comfortable.  Long ago I sued to hear old Pittsburghers and Philadelphians talk of it.  The newer hotels, set on the steep hills above the town, have the fashionable trade; the noise and jazz and dancing.

In the dining room I often noticed, at a table not far from mine, an old lady, a Frenchwoman, who usually lunched and dined alone.  She seemed very old indeed, well overy eighty, and somewhat infirm, though not at all withered or shrunken.  She was not stoud, but her body had that rather shapeless heaviness which for some detestable reason often settles upon people in old age.  The thing one especially noticed was her fine head, so well set upon her shoulder and beautiful in shape, recalling some of the portrait busts of Roman ladies.  Her forehead was low and straight, her nose made just the right angle with it, and there was something quite lovely about her temples, something one rarely sees." 

By Willa Cather, “A Chance Meeting”


I was in the second grade when Matt died, one of my clearer first memories.  Mom went to answer the phone, which still clung to the wall with a knotted cord in those days, dropping it as she fell to her knees among the rubble of shock and devastation.  Michael and Daniel came running up the stairs, to see what was happening.  Mom was inconsolable which wasn’t unusual on any occasion, but that day was more strange more traumatic, and real.  The news was terrifying, but not close somehow.  Back in the day I was not so doubtful about what happens when we die and what happens when we live.  My brothers, watching between the stair rails of the second story, they do not remember as I; the tragedy and questions and riddles that only the dead can answer.

That was the first time I met death, stared at dead body, smelt the velvet roses, watched the procession, and discovered my distaste for funeral potatoes.  It was quite unsettling indeed, to watch my aunt, who always had music in her eyes, shriveled up in a chair with a death wish written in her shaking frame.  The thing I will never forget was my black shoes, so polished that I scuffed up the red linoleum as I paced in the hallway, trying to answer those riddles with the limitless supply of peppermint breath mints, a taste that would hardly respond.


It was twilight, that pleasant transition between black night and blinding day.  I was sitting on the cement bench of the compound, tracing the cracks admiring the chipping pink paint, wondering why the tedious task was putting me in such a fit of restlessness so late in the day.  The green hill and the blooming orange tree, just up the hill called me.  The compound was soon behind me before I realizing my feet were carrying me, enjoying the strange impulse and strange inconvenience, and loneliness.  It was not planned, but that was the fun of it.  I used to lay in bed dreaming of these exotic trees and biology textbook insects.  The crinkled tin huts, lining the rust dirt roads among the trees, have that dreamy simplicity; with seclusion and solace and silence. 

To my disappointment I have discovered, that as typical scheduled days, the old magic, a childlike meditation, was more difficult to unbury.  I observed that I spend too much time looking at my feet, watching out for rocks, and somewhat disgusted by the red the dust has dyed them.  It didn’t make sense, but up the hill I went in my romantic delusion that for some reason people think died with Wordsworth.  Once I was far away from the compound, hidden in the trees and unweeded shrubs, I saw for the first time a fine tree that stuck out among the hues of blue and green on the distant mountain.  It wasn’t tall or small, but it had an angelic illumination that made it pop out of it’s busy world, and there was something quite hopeful about it, something that made me think I could dare to be that tree. 


Once in Aix-les-Bains I stayed at the Grand-Hotel d’Aix, built years ago for foreign travelers.  It was small but comfortable, and I always wanted to go—see the noise the jazz and dancing.

It was there a met a Frenchwoman.  She was old and alone, but not withered or shrunken, and had the aura of a portrait.  A certain something one rarely sees. 


What was the big deal about the Grand-Hotel d’Aix?  It may have been built for foreign travelers with certain tastes for quiet, but there was nothing particularly special about it.  Yet I always wanted to come, sued to hear old Pittsburghers and Philadelphians talk of it.

Now I am finally here, and I’m not sure why, but there is a woman.  Alone.  Who is she?  She is old but not infirm.  Shapeless but not ugly.  What was it about her head, the angle of her nose?  What was so lovely about her temples that I could not quite place? 

Inversion by Parts:

There was a woman in the corner with something quite lovely about her temples, something one rarely sees.  Her forehead was low and straight, her nose made just the right angle, and her head was set so beautifully, resembling some of the portrait busts of Roman ladies.  She was not stroud, but she had that shapeless heaviness that often settles upon old people, but in her age she was not infirm.  I couldn’t help but notice she often dined alone, and she had to be French.

She was just the sort of person you would expect to find in one of the pleasantest places in the world among the noise and jazz and dancing of a newer hotel.  I used to hear people talk of such places and swore I would make it one day.  Yes, situated between the Cassino and the Opera, just across the gardens where Queen Victoria used to visit Savoie, stands the Grand-Hotel d’Aix, the best part of Aix-les-Bains. 

    I like this form, but I feel like you have to have a specific location and have to be relating a particular event to really use it right and get the concrete details to line up.  In that sense it is more limiting in your content, but I like the way it sets the scene and gets you a sense of the voice and place before lunging forward.  You get a lot of detail in a very short amount of time.  I had a harder time with it.  Maybe it is because it is longer. 

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