Total Heavy-ocity

Some probably seems like an awfully milquetoast word to get much exercised over, but I’m not thinking here of the everyday, approximate-amount, “Would you care for some tea?” incarnation, but rather the “occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention” variety—the “some pure dramatic economy,” “some almost omniscient conviction” sort.

Clearly, some is not meant in these cases to suggest “a rough measure of intervention” or “a nonspecific supply of economy” or “a shtickle of conviction”—instead, in Absalom, Absalom!, some is insistently employed as the all-purpose spice of “meaningful”-sounding vagueness, ever at the ready to preface any phrase with a dash of portentous indeterminacy.

This is, of course, the same gambit as all of Faulkner’s sort ofs and kind ofs—these conceptual targets at which he aims are so abstrusely unstrikable, you see, that a near-miss is one’s best hope.  No, it is not a particular lugubrious and painless purgatory to which he refers, but “some lugubrious and painless purgatory”; not any precise sophisticated and ironic sterile nature, but “some sophisticated and ironic sterile nature.”  (Such Deep Thoughts put me in mind of Alvy Singer asking Annie Hall about a rock concert she has attended without him—“Was it heavy? Did it achieve total heavy-ocity?”)

Not only is this device used repeatedly, it is done so in a very non-nonspecific fashion: not just “some blankety-blank,” but “some blankety-blank of blankety-blank.”  So while there are a lot of examples like “some perverse automotivation” and “some heathen Principle, some Priapus,” there are a lot of examples like “some opposite of respectability” and “some stubborn coal of conscience” and “some ascendancy of forbearance” and “some esoteric piece of furniture.”  (Esoteric furniture.  Yes.)

As it happens, this device even manages on a number of occasions to incorporate a few other notable Absalom! buzzwords like effluvium (“some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character,” “some tangible effluvium of knowledge”) and undefeat (“some incorrigibility of undefeat,” “some indomitable desperation of undefeat,” “some bitter and implacable reserve of undefeat”).  As for the rest of the list, well—it really is some sight to see:


On a related note, Absalom, Absalom! also contains “something of pride,” “something of pity,” “something of sanity,” “something of shrewdness,” “something of leisureliness,” “something of shelter and kin,” “something of weariness and undernourishment,” “something of will and intensity and dreadful need,” “something of that invincible despair,” “something of the old flavor of grim sortie,” “something of the ruthless tactical skill of his old master,” “something of that fierce impersonal rivalry between two cadets,” and “something of secret and curious and unimaginable delights.”


One comment on “Total Heavy-ocity

  1. Carrington says:

    Omitted from the “effluvium” list is my favorite: “the presbyterian effluvium [of lugubrious and vindictive anticipation]”

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