Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching
“Awakened” by “the Sacred Whispers” in James Salter’s “Akhnilo”
B. W. JORGENSEN
Suppose that in the last quarter of the 20th century an ordinary “post-Christian”1 American had something like a “religious” or “mystical experience.” Suppose he heard and hearkened to the call of a being from “an order vaster and more dense than our own” (108);2 a sort of “pioneer” (109), this caller, a footsoldier or scout, a messenger, angelos, from Somewhere Else. The man who hears the call of course cannot be just everyman or anybody, a generic brand-x American; he must be somebody particular, with his own singular undistinguished history. Not a paragon, neither of Classical nor of Christian virtues. He’s “a carpenter,” say, “though he’d gone to Dartmouth and majored in history,” “thirty-four,” nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita minus one, with “thinning hair and a shy smile. Not much to say”; and mostly “he worked alone.” A man with “something quenched in him” that, “when he was younger … was believed to be some sort of talent, but he had never really set out in life, he had stayed close to shore”—like most of us, most of the time. He’s married, has daughters; his “tall and nearsighted” wife is the daughter of a banker (105). He can admit to himself that “his life had not turned out as he expected but he still thought of himself as special, as belonging to no one.” “He carved birds, or he had,” but now “the tools and partially shaped blocks of...
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