10-second review: Impressions of the world as it looks during a total eclipse of the sun. The world no longer looks ordinary, setting off reflections on that changed world. A dead world. The world when the sun burns out. But then the eclipse is over and people hurry back to the now familiar world of their daily lives.
“People were climbing the nearby hills and setting up shop in clumps among the dead grasses. It looked as though we had all gathered on hilltops to pray for the world on its last day.”
“Without pause or preamble, silent as orbits, a piece of the sun went away.”
“I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong.”
“This color has never been seen on earth. The hues were metallic…. The hillside was a nineteenth-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead.”
“Seeing this black body was like seeing a mushroom cloud.”
“The world which lay under darkness and stillness following the closing of the lid was not the world we know.”
“The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience.”
“The sun was too small, and too cold, and too far away, to keep the world alive.”
Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan.