Posted by: sean | May 11, 2008

Niagara Falls

by John Barth

She paused amid the kitchen to drink a glass of water; at that instant, losing a grip of fifty years, the next-room-ceiling-plaster crashed. Or he merely say in an empty study, in March-day glare, listening to the universe rustle in his head, when suddenly the five-foot shelf let go. For ages the fault creeps secret through the rock; in a second, ledge and railings, tourists and turbines all thunder over Niagara. Which snowflake triggers the avalanche? A house explodes; a star. In your spouse, so apparently resigned, murder twitches like a fetus. At some trifling new assessment, all the colonies rebel.



  1. One time long ago not far from here the poet Simonides was gathered with his friends for dinner at a palace in the hills across this valley. Simonides stepped outside onto the terrace for a moment for a breath of air, and in that moment an earthquake shook the villa and brought it to the ground. All Simonides’ friends were crushed to death, their bodies mangled and torn apart, not even their own families could recognize them.

    But Simonides could picture in his mind’s eye just where each one of his friends had been sitting, and as he recalled them one by one their bodies could be pulled out from the rubble and identified. And from this moment came the beginning of mankind’s desire to remember exactly how the world has been at one moment or another.

    And so Simonides instructed his friends how to build their own palaces of memory, how to build each room how to furnish these rooms with the faces and figures of their friends, events of their lives, their treasures, books, poems, each room given things of singular beauty or distinctive ugliness, to make them vivid unforgettable memories disfigured, faces splashed with paint or stained with blood each moment suspended in this geometry of memory, thought and feeling.

    –Agamemnon 2.0

  2. […] body, in submission, with its ardor and its secrets. “Which snowflake triggers the avalanche?” John Barth wondered. Fate is best measured by near-miss inches and subtle degrees. Tragedy is always eruptive. “A […]

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