Sunday, 30 November 2014

...of a love-triangle

When he left we sat with the remains of breakfast. The two of us knew at precisely the same time. When Webb was here with all his stories about me and Nora, about Gravier and Phillip Street, the wall of wire barrier glass went up between me and Robin. And when he left we were still here, still, not moving or speaking, in order to ignore the barrier glass. God he talked and sucked me through his brain so I was a puppet and she was a landscape so alien and so newly forgotten that I was ridiculous here. He could reach me this far away, could tilt me upside down till he was directing me like wayward traffic back home.

Here. Where I am anonymous and alone in a white room with no history and no parading. So I can make something unknown in the shape of this room. Where I am King of Corners. And Robin who drained my body of its fame when I wanted to find that fear of certainties I had when I first began to play, back when I was unaware that reputation made the room narrower and narrower, till you were crawling on your back, full of your own echoes, till you were drinking in only your own recycled air. And Robin and Jaelin brought me back to that open fright with the unimportant objects.

He came here and placed my past and future on this table like a road.

[Coming Through Slaughter, Ondaatje, M.]

...of an alternative

Tired. Sulphur. When you're tired, the body thick, you smell sulphur. Bellocq did that. Always. Two in the morning three in the morning against the window of the street restaurant he'd rub a match on the counter and sniff it in. Ammonia ripping into his brain. Jarring out the tiredness. And then back to his conversations about everything except music, the friend who scorned all the giraffes of fame. I said, You don't think much of this music do you? Not yet, he said. Him watching me waste myself and wanting me to step back into my body as if into a black room and stumble against whatever was there. Unable then to be watched by others. More and more I said he was wrong and more and more I spent whole evenings with him.

The small tired man sitting on the restaurant bench or the barber chair never saying his scorn but just his boredom at what I was trying to do. And me in my vanity accusing him at first of being tone deaf! He was offering me black empty spaces. Revived himself with matches once an hour, wanted me to become blind to everything but the owned pain in myself. And so yes there is a need to come home Webb with that casual desert blackness.

Whatever I say about him you will interpret as the working of an enemy and what I loved Webb were the possibilities in his silence. He was just there, like a small noon shadow. Dear Bellocq, he was so short he was the only one who could stretch up in the barber shop and not get hit by the fan. He didn't rely on anything. He trusted nothing, not even me. I can't summarise him for you, he tempted me out of the world of audiences where I had tried to catch everything thrown at me. He offered mole comfort, mole deceit. Come with me Webb I want to show you something, no come with me I want to  show you something. You come too. Put your hand through this window.

[Coming Through Slaughter, Ondaatje, M.]

...of a cuckold

Jaelin and Robin. Jaelin and Robin. Jaelin and Robin and Bolden. Robin and Bolden. There was this story between them. There was this deceit and then there was this honour between them. He wanted to tell that to Webb later.

The silence of Jaelin Brewitt understood them all. His minimal stepping out the door saying he would be back the next day. And he would be back not before the next day. All three of them talking for hours about things like the machinery of the piano, fishing, stars. This year, he told Bolden, there is a new star, the Wold Ryat star. It should be the Wolf Star Bolden said it sounds better. It sounds better yes but that's not its real name. There were two people who found it. Someone called Wold and someone called Ryat, Jaelin Brewitt said. There was that story between them. Later both of them realised they had been talking about Robin.

[Coming Through Slaughter, Ondaatje, M.]

Thursday, 27 November 2014

...of grave-time

Time was moving as it usually moved upon a long November evening, moving all too quickly for him. Mr Grobe began to wonder at what evening hour, had he any choice in the matter, he would prefer time to stay, so that his thoughts, that at those times were not all unhappy, might stay with him.
He wouldn't wish to choose too late an hour for the longest one. He preferred to be meditatively inclined, rather than sleepily, when time stopped. He wanted to choose the time when the tobacco tasted the sweetest, and when the deeper night hadn't put its hand upon the fire.
He wouldn't wish any thought, however long and pleasing, to remind him that bed-time was come; 'bed-time' that, in the way of symbolism, might be called 'grave-time' too.
He might even, he thought, if the time halted at the right hour, sit and brood during the long evening, and discover his lost God, and even bring Him into that very room, and sit Him upon that chair and get Him to talk about the weather out-of-doors.
Alice was in her grave, and the Almighty in His, but the lamplight always cast a timid doubt upon His burial; and if a doubt lay there, then why, even she might come to him again, if He came.
Such feelings, even if they be but poetry and a lie - and for that matter, a lie may be as immortal as a truth - occupied Mr Grobe and gave his thoughts an everlasting trend. A time of quietude that is full of the right contentment, can solace, just as the fierce agony, the vast joy of passion, can arm each participator with so holy an ecstasy that the valley of the shadow is passed in a moment, and the yellow sun is seen rising over the mountains of eternity.
But even with death defeated in one manner or another, modest death still has his set duties to perform, and immortality, viewed in passion or solitude, can only be but the patches of sunlight seen upon a dull, hot summer's day, when the thin, soft clouds are above. But these patches should at least console us a little for the loss of ourselves.
Folly Down rectory was very silent now, and even the rats, as if each had taken to its hole a Latin grammar to study stolen from the late Richard Grobe, were utterly still.

[Mr Weston's Good Wine, Powys, T. F.]

...of longing

Tamar turned, and sat looking into the fire. The flaming tree had died down. Tamar stretched both her hands over the fire. She wished to see, rising out of the hot coals again, that tree of flame. But the fire was sluggish, and refused to rise for her pleasure.
If Tamar doubted at all about the coming of her angel, she doubted in the winter. In the spring, when the gorse bushes became as yellow as the sun's beams, she believed in his coming. In the summer the warmth of the coloured days made her feel that her lover must be near. But now she only had the fire to tell her pretty tales.
Would all her days, she wondered, be passed in Folly Down, in the company only of shepherds, and perhaps a badger, as Miss Pettifer had hinted? Would her years gather, weeping, about her and find her, as their number increased, still a maid? Would they, and later years as forlorn as they, lead her on into the darkness? Tamar hid her face in her hands.
Jenny began to tidy the room. She deplored the fact that her mistress so soon renounced and gave over a conversation that, had she been with anyone else, would have meant long hours of amiable talk.
Jenny looked at Tamar's back. No other servant, she felt sure, could have so charming a mistress, and certainly never see her - with such queerly mixed feelings of fear and admiration - unclothed.
But Miss Tamar might have gone on talking a little longer.
Jenny was at liberty to go to her home that evening. But she did not wish to go there. She had done all she could in Tamar's room, but now, as Tamar was so silent, she believed that her mistress wished her to go away.

[Mr Weston's Good Wine, Powys, T. F.]

...of a thief

The boy, although he could not read so quickly, was ready enough to listen, and as soon as he heard what the advertisement was, he at once became inquisitive to see, so that he might tell those at home, how many bottles - if they were bottles - Mr Weston, for that indeed was the driver's name, carried in his covered car. And if he were lucky - and fortune, it is said, sometimes favours the brave - the child thought he might be able to steal one.
Tom Burt, who was already honoured by a little local fame as a cunning thief, ventured, putting his finger to his lips to keep the girls still, on tiptoe to the front of the car, very softly and silently, hoping and even expecting that the driver of the car would be looking a little to the right hand, at the lady who was now coming nearer.
Tom Burt's knowledge of the habits and ways of men did not betray him. Mr Weston was watching her. Tom saw his chance; he climbed silently up into the car, hoping that he might open the curtain that guarded the contents, look in, take something, descend as quickly, and stand innocently beside the little girls.

[Mr Weston's Good Wine, Powys, T. F.]

Sunday, 16 November 2014

...of distance

When Mendel Singer had finished the letter there was a vibrant silence in the room that seemed to melt into the stillness of the late summer afternoon, and out of which all the members of the family seemed to hear the voice of the emigrant son. Yes, Shemariah himself spoke over there in faraway America, where in this hour it was perhaps night or morning. For a moment they all forgot Mac's presence. It was as though he had become invisible behind the distant Shemariah. He was like a messenger who delivers a letter, goes on, and disappears. He himself had to remind them of his presence.
He got up and reached into his trousers pocket like a magician who begins to conjure something. He brought out a pocketbook, and took out of it ten dollars and two photographs. One depicted Shemariah with his wife Vega on a bench in a park, and in the other he was alone in a bathing suit on a beach, one body and one face among a dozen bodies and faces, no longer Shemariah but a Sam.
The stranger handed the money and the pictures to Deborah, after he had looked them all over as if to assure himself that each one of them believed in his trustworthiness. She held the note folded in one hand; with the other she put the pictures on the table beside the letter. All this lasted a few moments, in which everybody remained silent.

[Job: The Story of a Simple Man, Roth, J.]

...of misfortune

The brothers arrived home out of breath. Twilight had already begun. From afar they heard the sing-song of the studying children. It was wafted towards them like a mothers voice, like a father's words; it carried their whole childhood out towards them. It meant and contained everything that they had seen, comprehended, smelled, and felt since the hour of their birth: the sing-song of the studying children. It contained the aroma of hot and spicy dishes, the black and white shimmer of their father's face and beard, the echo of their mother's sigh, the whimpers of Menuchim, Mendel Singer's whispered evening prayers, millions of indescribable common and special experiences. Both brothers reacted in the same way to the melody which floated towards them through the snow as they neared their father's house. Their hearts beat in the same rhythm. The door flew open at their approach; their mother, Deborah, had watched them coming though the window.
'We have been taken,' said Jonas, without any other greeting.
A dreadful silence suddenly filled the room in which a moment before the voices of the children had sounded, an infinite silence much vaster than the space which contained it, and nevertheless born out of the one little word 'taken' that Jonas had just spoken. In the middle of a word that they had memorised, the children stopped their lesson. Mendel who had been walking up and down in the room stopped in his tracks, stared before him, lifted his arms and let them fall. The mother, Deborah, sank upon one of the two stools which always stood near the stove as though she had long been waiting to take up the role of a mourning mother. Miriam, the daughter, groped her way to the corner; her heart beat loudly; she thought that everyone must hear it. The children sat as though nailed to their places. They legs in gaily striped woollen stockings, which had swung continually through the lesson, hung lifeless under the table. Outside, it snowed uninterruptedly, and the soft white of the flakes sent a dull stream of light through the window into the room and upon the faces of the silent people. Sometimes one heard an ember crackle in the stove, and the gentle rattle of the doorposts as the wind shook them. With their sticks still over their shoulders, the white bundles still on the sticks, the brothers stood in the doorway, heralds of misfortune and misfortune's children.

[Job: The Story of a Simple Man, Roth, J.]

...of guilt

One rainy summer day the children dragged Menuchim out of the house and stuck him in a vat, in which rainwater had collected for half a year. Maggots swam about in it, decayed fruit and mouldy bread crusts. They held him by his crooked legs and pushed his broad grey head a dozen times into the water. Then, with pounding hearts and glowing cheeks, they pulled him out in the joyful and gruesome expectation that they were holding a corpse. But Menuchim lived. He rattled in his throat, spat up the water, the maggots, the mouldy bread, the fruit rinds, and lived. Nothing happened to him. Silent and anxious, the children then carried him home. They thought they had seen God's finger shaken at them and the two boys and the girl were gripped with fear. For a whole day they said nothing to each other. Their tongues clove to the roofs of their mouths; their lips opened to form a word, but no sound issued from their throats. The rain stopped, the sun shone, the little brooks flowed gaily along the edges of the streets. It was time to launch paper ships and watch them sail along the canal. But nothing happened. The children crept back into the house like dogs. All afternoon they waited for the death of Menuchim, but Menuchim did not die.

[Job: The Story of a Simple Man, Roth, J.]

...of unenlightenment

I must have lived years in this place, but I cannot measure the time. Beings must have cared for my needs, yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiseless rats and bats and spiders. I think that whoever nursed me must have been shockingly aged, since my first conception of a living person was that of something mockingly like myself, yet distorted, shrivelled, and decaying like the castle. To me there was nothing grotesque in the bones and skeletons that strowed some of the stone crypts deep down among the foundations. I fantastically associated these things with every-day events, and thought them more natural than the coloured pictures of living beings which I found in many of the mouldy books. From such books I learned all that I know. No teacher urged or guided me, and I do not recall hearing any human voice in all those years - not even my own; for although I had read of speech, I had never thought to try to speak aloud. My aspect was a matter equally unthought of, for there was no mirrors in the castle, and I merely regarded myself by instinct as akin to the youthful figures I saw drawn and painted in the books. I felt conscious of youth because I remembered so little.
Outside, across the putrid moat and under the dark mute trees, I would often lie and dream for hours about what I read in the books; and would longingly picture myself amidst gay crowds in the sunny world beyond the endless forest. Once I tried to escape from the forest, but as I went farther from the castle the shade grew denser and the air more filled with brooding fear; so that I ran frantically back lest I lose my way in a labyrinth of nighted silence.

[The Outsider, Lovecraft, H. P.]

...of barren immensity

The change happened whilst I slept. Its details I shall never know; for my slumber, though troubled and dream-infested, was continuous. When at last I awaked, it was to discover myself half sucked into a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see, and in which my boat lay grounded some distance away.
Though one might well imagine that my first sensation would be of wonder at such a prodigious and unexpected transformation of scenery, I was in reality more horrified than astonished; for there was in the air and in the rotting soil a sinister quality which chilled me to the very core. The region was putrid with the carcasses of decaying fish, and of other less describable things which I saw protruding from the nasty mud of the unending plain. Perhaps I should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity. There was nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight save a vast reach of black slime; yet the very completeness of the stillness and the homogeneity of the landscape oppressed me with a nauseating fear.
The sun was blazing down from a sky which seemed to me almost black in its cloudless cruelty; as though reflecting the inky marsh beneath my feet. As I crawled into the stranded boat I realised that only one theory could explain my position. Through some unprecedented volcanic upheaval, a portion of the ocean floor must have been thrown to the surface, exposing regions which for innumerable millions of years had lain hidden under unfathomable watery depths. So great was the extent of the new land which had risen beneath me, that I could not detect the faintest noise of the surging ocean, strain my ears as I might. Nor were there any sea-fowl to prey upon the dead things.

[Dagon, Lovecraft, H. P.]

Monday, 3 November 2014

...of insulation

Nobody heard the shots. All the houses in the neighbourhood were too well insulated for sound ever to get in or out. A sound wanting in or out of Dwayne's dream house, for instance, had to go through an inch and a half of plasterboard, a polystyrene vapour barrier, a sheet of aluminium foil, a three-inch airspace, another sheet of aluminium foil, a three-inch blanket of glass wool, another sheet of aluminium foil, one inch of insulating board made of pressed sawdust, tarpaper, one inch of wood sheathing, more tarpaper, and then aluminium siding which was hollow. The space in the siding was filled with a miracle insulating material developed for use on rockets to the Moon.

[Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut, K.]

...of Armistice Day

So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance,
And all music is.
                                                                                                       - PHILBOYD STUDGE

[Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut, K.]