I can’t quit the vulture, Harrison’s vulture, that is. The scavenger’s been on my mind. It’s an arresting image, to be sure. Fingered wings tilting against a blue sky. Descending on an aspiring corpse, prostrate in the desert. Not only is it a powerful image, it’s an effective opening to Revenge, a story that contains graphic scenes of violence, purely and objectively rendered. What’s more dispassionate than a vulture? Only a novelist like J. Harrison (or C. McCarthy) with a highly evolved featherless literary aesthetic can stick his face in gore and write soberly about it. “Cochran stooped as if to take the blow and brought the knife upward, holding the handle in both hands, ripping upward with all his strength starting at the huge man’s balls, upward to his sternum where he pivoted and swiped the knife across the man’s neck laying it open to the neckbone.” Later, Cochran recalls the peculiar sound of blade on bone and says of his act of vengeance, “I gutted the fucker like a big fat pig.” Surely there are other examples of opening images in novels that announce the author’s narrative technique and method. Is there a particular one that comes to mind? A favorite of yours?
Postscript. Is the musical influence of today’s title too obvious?