Welcome to week one of The Earth Will Shake online reading group. As several loyal readers suggested taking a slow pace, I thought at first we might read 20 to 25 pages at a time, and see how that goes. Please begin the book and read until page 20, to the sentence that ends, "we have to comprehend why, when a priest calls for God to enter the church, Death can come in answer."
I am using the Hilaritas Press printed edition, although I assume if I give the passage and page number, most readers will be able to follow along using other editions or the Hilaritas ebook. Perhaps surprisingly, there have been six editions so far: The 1982 Tarcher, the 1984 Bluejay, the 1988 Lynn, the 1991 ROC Penguin, the 2003 New Falcon and the 2018 Hilaritas, which features the seven new Bobby Campbell illustrations.
I was struck reading the first 20 pages on how RAW is at the top of his game; I felt like he must have put a lot of effort and inspiration into the opening pages and had many vivid passages:
Because Sicily itself and every last Sicilian could be wiped off the face of the earth, extinguished, erased, and every Sicilian would agree to it, stubborn as a mule, if it were necessary to go that far just to make sure nobody anywhere ever lost respect for the Sicilians. Uncle Pietro said that a master swindler could cheat an Armenian rug merchant once in a million times, and a demon from hell might frighten a Spaniard once in a million million times, but not even God Himself with the Twelve Apostles to help him could stop a fully resolved Siciliano without first killing him and then methodically killing his brothers, and then his cousins and uncles, and next his second cousins and great-uncles, and of course his women cousins, and any toddling infant old enough to throw a rock, and so on forever, but until God himself killed the last Sicilian great-great-grandfather still able to totter weakly on his crutches and hawk to spit, they would keep coming against Him, ineluctable as He Himself, because that was the way Sicily had survived the Greeks and the Sullas and Belisarius and the Normans and the Hohenstaufens and everybody and everything thrown against them and Southern Italy in general since time itself began.
I also noticed how saturated the book is with music; the composers mentioned in the first few pages include Domenico Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi, Niccolò Jommelli, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (misspelled as Pergolese in the text) and Georg Philipp Telemann. And of course we haven't gotten to Mozart yet. Scarlatti especially is discussed, and RAW also talks about his love of Scarlatti in the just-released Hilaritas Press edition of Cosmic Trigger II. I plan to listen to Scarlatti this week.
It was the music, always the music. Because if he pursued a vision of the heroic, an eidolon of human perfectibility that was to seem insane to some and eventually farcical even to himself, it had been the music that had maddened and inflamed him -- the music that was produced by human beings, by men who were not in all cases admirable or noble people at all, produced many times by men who were as petulant and prancing as a French contessa's spoiled poodles, but still, in the music, there was that voice, that insistent cadence of something that was not human, something toward which humans only aspire and to which they only approximate, as any circle drawn with chalk approximates to a true Platonic circle, as every soul aspires toward God ....