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Once a Runner (again)

Upon re-reading Once a Runner (the novel by John L. Parker Jr.) I'm struck once more by how powerfully metaphorical the writing is—like the heart-pounding pressure of a too-hard race, like the chirping chaos one hears at dawn when jogging by a tree full of larks, like the steady water-wears-away-stone carving-crafting of muscles during training. Some of John Parker's images are rather too, ah, Georgia O'Keeefe-vulvic to repeat here. (e.g., in Chapter 20, "there are no secrets"). But an example from Chapter 17 ("Breaking Down") perhaps shows Parker's intense style:

Cassidy sought no euphoric interludes. They came, when they did, quite naturally and he was content to enjoy them privately. He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not only to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards, than he had been the week or the year before. He sought to conquer the physical limitations placed upon him by a three-dimensional world (and if Time is the fourth dimension, that too was his province). If he could conquer the weakness, the cowardice in himself, he would not worry about the rest; it would come. Training was a rite of purification; from it came speed, strength. Racing was a rite of death; from it came knowledge. Such rites demand, if they are to be meaningful at all, a certain amount of time spent precisely on the Red Line, where you can lean over the manicured putting green at the edge of the precipice and see exactly nothing.

A few paragraphs later that chapter concludes:

Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.

And there's a Zen moment, in Chapter 27 ("A Too Early Death"), when the protagonist describes deep-water free-diving in his youth:

One time, though, his best friend had pleaded until, when they were alone on the end of the jetty late one afternoon, Cassidy told him: "You've got to make yourself calm, right down to the little blood veins in your fingertips, and when you are as calm as you can make yourself, then you make yourself like a rock and start sinking, and the most important thing is that you've got to not care. That's the hard part, the not-caring part. And the deeper you go and the colder it gets the more you have to not care. And then when you start back up, back toward real life ... then you've got to start caring again. A lot."

(cf. OnceARunner (2006-09-17), ...) - ^z - 2010-06-06