to walk worthily of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What's your favorite prose?

I have been reading Rowling's Order of the Phoenix to the boys. They are really into Harry Potter right now, which means I am really into HP as well. I read Goblet of Fire to them a little while ago (and have seen GofF again in an on-campus showing, and have been reading snippets of Year 1 and Year 6, etc.). Though Order of the Phoenix is not my favorite (GofF and PofAzk are), I think Rowling creates some very compelling scenes therein. I've decided I think very highly of Hermione's character (even if I can't pronounce her damn name - and yes I know Rowling provides the pronunciation in one of her books, though I forget where).

Anyway, reading Rowling's decent and sometimes outstanding prose has gotten me to think about the prose passages in fiction books I enjoy most. Here are a few, in no particular order:

The Quarter Deck, The White Whale, A Squeeze of the Hand chapters and numerous passages in Moby Dick
The Bishop of Digne and Javert sections in Les Miserables
The Bridge of Khazad Dum in The Fellowship of the Ring
The Battle of the Pelanor Fields in The Return of the King
Any paragraph in Charlotte's Web

And I just love the end of Stuart Little, when Stuart meets the telephone lineman on his search for Margalo ('from fields once tall with wheat, from pastures deep in fern and thistle...from vales of meadowsweet, and [who] love[s] to whistle'). The lineman tells Stuart:

"Following a broken telephone line north, I have come upon some wonderful places,.... Swamps where cedars grow and turtles wait on logs but not for anything in particular; fields bordered by crooked fences broken by years of standing still; orchards so old they have forgotten where the farmhouse is. In the north I have eaten my lunch in pastures rank with ferns and junipers, all under fair skies and with a wind blowing. My business has taken me into spruce woods on winter nights where the snow lay deep and soft, a perfect place for a carnival of rabbits. I have sat apeace on the freight platforms of railroad juncitons in the north, in the warm hours and with the warm smells. I know fresh lakes in the north undisturbed except by fish and hawk and, of course, by the Telephone Company, which has to follow its nose. I know all these places well. They are a long way from here - don't forget that. And a person who is looking for something doesn't travel very fast."

"That's perfectly true," said Stuart. "Well, I guess I'd better be going. THank you for your friendly remarks."

"Not at all," said the repairman. "I hope you find that bird."

Stuart rose form the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that led toward the north. The sun was just coming up over the hills on his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.

So, what's your favorite prose?

I thought I would add that, with respect to non-fiction prose, William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill is my benchmark.


Xander said...

Maybe a bit of hasty response, but the first thing that comes to mind is chapter 11 of Perelandra (it's the Gethsemanesque scene). And The Houses of Healing from Lord of the Rings.

Mark Lackowski said...

Toward the end of The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain) when the Lord Pryderi is sent by Arawn to seek Dallben's death, Pryderi claims to have been given knowledge of a fatal secret about Dallben: "'Of all powers one is forbidden you on pain of your own death. . . . You cannot kill'" But, as Dallben replies, this is merely a half-truth. While Dallben has never killed, there exists nothing to prevent him. Pryderi has been betrayed by Arawn and he does not escape Caer Dallben alive, although ultimately Dallben has no part in his demise except an attempt to prevent it.

Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 “The Only One He Ever Feared”. What can I say, other than I have a thing for Wizards, and this entire chapter is incredible. By pitting these two characters against each other, it really illuminates their difference in nature, especially at the end when Voldemort possesses Harry and tempts Dumbledore into killing him once and for all.

The Council of Elrond, from The Fellowship of the Ring, in which Gandalf is retelling his entrapment by Saruman in the tower of Orthanc. Once again its two wizards pitted against each other in order to reveal character differences. Saruman has been seduced by the power of the ring resulting in the destruction of Fangorn forest and everything else in his path. Whereas Gandalf resists the lure of the ring by maintaining hope for Middle earth and everything that “can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come.”

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