Archive for August 30, 2021

Page Seventeen II: Risk Addiction

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2021 by dcairns

It was very late when we were finishing the meal, and the sun was already low on the horizon. I was barefoot, and one of the girls in our group, who had been an admirer of mine for some time, kept remarking shrilly how beautiful my feet were. This was so true that I found her insistence on this matter stupid. She was sitting on the ground, with her head lightly resting against my knees. Suddenly she put her hand on one of my feet and ventured an almost imperceptible caress with her trembling fingers. I jumped up, my mind clouded by an odd feeling of jealousy toward myself, as though all at once I had become Gala. I pushed away my admirer, knocked her down and trampled on her with all my might, until they had to tear her, bleeding, out of my reach.

The office was furnished in sombre good taste that was relieved by a pair of bronze puppies on the chimney-piece. A low trolley of steel and white enamel alone distinguished the place from a hundred thousand modern American reception-rooms; that and the clinical smell. a bowl of roses stood beside the telephone; their scent contended with the carbolic, but did not prevail.

I continued to smell the flower, from time to time, for its oddity of perfume had fascinated me. I passed by the house on the cross-road again, but never encountered the old man in the cloak, or any other wayfarer. It seemed to keep observers at a distance, and I was careful not to gossip about it: one observer, I said to myself, may edge his way into the secret, but there is no room for two.

This view is mistaken. You underestimate even the foothills that stand in front of you, and never suspect that far above them, hidden by cloud, rise precipices and snow-fields. The mental and physical advances which, in your day, mind in the solar system has still to attempt, are overwhelmingly more complex, more precarious and dangerous, than those which have already been achieved. And though in certain humble respects you have attained full development, the loftier potencies of the spirit have not yet even begun to put forth buds.

The dead man was face down on the dark hardwood floor. He was frail and old, and the house was sturdy and old, redolent of Victorian dignity. It was the house where he had been born.

Next to Ken’s store was Milton. He dealt in furniture and bric-a-brac, and went by the soubriquet of Captain Spaulding, perhaps because of the lyric, in the song of the same name, ‘Did somebody call me schnorrer …?’

This observation and part of the surrounding narrative appear to have been borrowed from a passage in The Gothic War by the sixth-century Byzantine historian, Procopius. The passage is known to Celtic scholars as a particularly late reference to Celtic religious beliefs. Procopius describes how the Armoricans – the inhabitants of Brittany – would be woken by a low voice and a knocking at the door in order that they might ferry the souls of the dead over to the island of Britain. When they went to the harbour they would find boats, apparently empty, sunk to the gunwales. One common explanation of fairy origins was that they were souls of the dead, an explanation which accounts for Puck’s disguise as the dead Tom Shoesmith in this story. Hobden’s wife is a descendant of the widow herself and so the borrowing from the historian indicates the ancient descent and immemorial continuities imagined by Kipling for his embodiment of Sussex man as well as for his fairy spokesman.

Seven extracts from seven page seventeens from seven books bought from Edinburgh’s charity shops or sent in by readers. (Send me books!) Feel free to reply with extracts from some page seventeens of your own, especially if they make suitable rebuttals to the bold statements cited above.

The Secret Diary of Salvador Dali by Salvador Dali (natch); The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh; The Ghostly Rental by Henry James, in Classic Tales of Horror, Vol. 1; Olaf Stapledon’s introduction to his Last and First Men; There Hangs Death! by John D. MacDonald, from Stories to be Read with the Door Locked II “edited” by Alfred Hitchcock; A Whore’s Profession by David Mamet; Sarah Wintle’s introduction to Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling;