Archive for Russell Hoban

Page Seventeen III: The Final Conflict

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2022 by dcairns

They asked these questions. They always asked the same questions, and they always got the same answers. It had nothing to do with what you said. It had nothing to do with how you shaved or how you combed your hair because you combed your hair the way everyone else did, and the day you went up to Board you shaved twice. Maybe, it had to do with how many shaving cuts you had, but I didn’t have any. I had taken care, wow. Suppose it had to do with the way you moved. If two of the three men on the parole board liked the way you moved, you were all right, provided they didn’t like the way you moved too much. Sex. No matter who I’m with, man or woman, I always get a feeling off them. At least I used to. I always could tell if they were moving inside or moving away, and I could tell if anything was going on inside. If we ever touched, I could tell better. Once I was in a streetcar and a girl sat down next to me. She was a full barrel. A very fat girl. Pretty face. I don’t like fat. Very fat people have no quick. They can always stop. They can stop from doing a lot of things.

Narcissa was a big woman, with dark hair, a broad, stupid, serene face. She was in her customary white dress. “Horace this is Gowan Stevens,” she said. “My brother, Gowan.”

He grimaced, which involved the total disappearance of his eyes and mouth and most of his nose, only the very end of which protruded like one fingertip of a clenched fist wearing a shabby leather glove.

‘The condition is called aphasia. Sometimes, in younger patients, the right side of the brain can be trained to take over communication. But one could not hope for such a result in the case of your wife, sir. Yes, to a certain extent she is aware of her surroundings. And she would recognize you, yes. As you may have noticed, she attempts to communicate on a subverbal level, to make certain wants known with . . . those sounds. Words are essential to the processes of thought, we now believe. Much of our thinking is in word forms. Deprived of the tools of words, the processes become more primitive and simplified: hot, cold, hungry, thirsty. No, I wouldn’t say her life expectancy is seriously impaired. At sixty-three she is quite a healthy woman, aside from her traumatic informities.’

Boaz-Joachin thought about the surveyor’s words. He understood the words, but the meaning of them did not enter him because their meaning was not an answer to any question in him. In his mind he saw an oblong of blue sky edged with dark faces. He felt a roaring in him, and opened and closed his mouth silently. ‘No,’ he said.

Happily our geography text, which contains maps of all the principal land-masses of the world, is large enough to conceal my clandestine journal-keeping, accomplished in an ordinary black composition book. Every day I must wait until Geography to put down such thoughts as I may have had during the morning about my situation and my fellows. I have tried writing at other times and it does not work. Either the teacher is walking up and down the aisles (during this period, luckily, she sticks close to the map rack in the front of the room) or Bobby Vanderbilt, who sits behind me, is punching me in the kidneys and wanting to know what I am doing. Vanderbilt, I have found out from certain desultory conversations on the playground, is hung up on sports cars, a veteran consumer of Road & Track. This explains the continual roaring sounds which seem to emanate from his desk; he is reproducing a record album called Sounds of Sebring.

I could feel my feet beginning to weigh less and less as he smiled at the phonograph record. It smiled back. I now weighed a trifle over seventeen pounds and danced like a giant dandelion in his meadow.

Seven bits of page seventeens from seven books by American authors stacked in a precarious heap by my armchair.

The Killer: a story by Norman Mailer, from The Short Fiction of Norman Mailer; Sanctuary by William Faulkner; Little Big Man by Thomas Berger; Condominium by John D. MacDonald; The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz by Russell Hoban; Me and Miss Mandible from Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme; A Confederate General from Big Sur by Richard Brautigan.

Page Seventeen II: The Klumps

Posted in FILM, literature, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2021 by dcairns

But while the Americans were pussyfooting around the English language trying to invent new ways of describing an old deed, the British had few (if any) qualms and certainly had no particular ethical problems about assassination.

In these assassinations of princes and statesmen, there is nothing to excite our wonder: important changes often depend on their deaths; and, from the eminence on which they stand, they are peculiarly exposed to the aim of every artist who happens to be possessed by the craving for scenical effect. But there is another class of assassinations, which has prevailed from the early period of the seventeenth century, that really does surprise me; I mean the assassination of philosophers. For, gentlemen, it is a fact, that every philosopher of eminence for the last two centuries has either been murdered, or, at the very least, been very near it; insomuch, that if a man call himself a philosopher, and never had his life attempted, rest assured there is nothing in him; and against Locke’s philosophy in particular, I think it an unanswerable objection, (if we needed any) that, although he carried his throat about with him in this world for seventy-two years, no man ever condescended to cut it. As these cases of philosophers are not much known, and are generally good and well composed in their circumstances, I shall here read an excursus on the subject, chiefly by way of showing my own learning.

The true and detailed story of how the young Dowager Empress managed to defeat the Regency Council in her struggle for power is unknown to us. We do, however, know the result. Tzu Hsi won and one of her first edicts which ushered in her 47-year rule of China read:

You know what it is to be born alone, baby tortoise!

He remembered how, ten months or possibly ten years ago, he had encountered a box turtle in a forest clearing, and had shouted at it: “They went that-away!” The turtle’s rigidly comical face, fixed in a caricature of startled disapproval, had seemed to point up some truth or other. Brian had hunkered down on the moss and laughed uproariously, until he observed that some of the laughter was weeping.

I am still not clear how I got here. There are no turtles. There is no bay.

This afternoon I bought a marked-down bird book with plates by John Gould (1804-1881). There’s a handsome picture of two oyster-catchers. ‘At running, diving and swimming they are unrivalled, while their vigilance is greatly appreciated by the other birds of the shore,’ says the book. The newer bird books have hundreds of posh pictures, the proficiency of the artists is dazzling. But the birds all looks as if they’d been done from photographs. Certainly there were no such bird pictures before the camera came into use. Gould’s birds are beautiful but modestly done and he seems to have looked at each one carefully and long. His eagle owl, Bubo bubo, is all ferocity but without malice. Dangling from his beak is a dead rabbit who looks exactly like Peter Rabbit without the blue jacket. Bubo bubo’s dreadful amber eyes say simply, ‘It has fallen to me to do this. It is my lot.’ His fierce woolly owl-babies huddle before him waiting for their dinner.

Terminate with Extreme Prejudice: An exposé of the assassination game, its killers and their paymasters by Richard Belfield; On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts by Thomas DeQuincey; The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi: The Last Manchu edited by Paul Kramer; Baby Tortoise by D.H. Lawrence, from The Faber Book of Beasts edited by Paul Muldoon; The Music Master of Babylon by Edgar Pangborn, from The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction Volume One, edited by David G. Hartwell; Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut; Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban.

The charity shops are open again

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2020 by dcairns

My favourite is St Columba’s Bookstore.

Kevin Brownlow’s book on Gance’s NAPOLEON is amazing — the wealth of stills, and detail. Breathtaking.

Maybe I’d see The Autobiography of British Cinema about in the past but hadn’t looked into it because I didn’t know what it was. It’s collected interviews in fact, with everyone from John Addison to Freddie Young. Lovely for dipping into. Here’s Wendy Hiller:

“Carol Reed was not an intellectual, he saw life entirely visually, through little squares, as did David Lean.”

Here’s Thora Hird, in her eighties (most of her stuff is grumbling about early mornings):

“I liked working with Larry [Olivier] because we got on well, but there were little things about him that annoyed me. For a start, if I had to do complimentaries (standing off-camera giving him my lines while the took his close-ups), I would have to be in at eight-thirty in the morning for make-up because Larry insisted everyone be in character, even if they weren’t on camera. I asked him about it, and he told me he couldn’t act to the character if he was looking at meas me. I told him that everyone thought he could have done the scene without me even being there.”

Thora also says that she calls all her directors “Mr. De Grunwald,” “and they know I do it with respect.”

Glenn Mitchell’s A – Z of Silent Cinema is terrific. I had the feeling it might be useful sometime, also.

Charlton Heston’s memoir might also be useful for a potential upcoming project, but is interesting anyway. He seems like a dick, though.

Goddamn this War! is a WWI epic graphic novel by Jacques Tardi. Extremely grim and exhausting, but remarkable.

David Bordwell & Kristin Thompson’s Film History is sure to come in handy as well as being a readable and awe-inspiringly comprehensive work. I bought it because I’d never encountered the Sergio Leone quote where he calls Ennio Morricone “my scriptwriter.”

Three short stories by Shirley Jackson which I was almost certain I already owned in another collection, but the book was 50p and it turns out I was wrong. Read two last night and they’re excellent, of course.

Richard Schickel’s Conversations with Scorsese is fine and all, and covers stuff not in my copy of Scorsese on Scorsese. There are lots of bits where MS says something intriguing and I was rooting for RS to press him for more detail. No such luck.

Thurber’s Dogs. No explanation required, I assume.

Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diaries — I love Riddley Walker and liked several of his late books and am intrigued. Saw Ben Kingsley talk about making the film version once. Great talker, that man.

Irish Ghost Stories is tremendously fat, and has a very large amount of Sheridan LeFanu in it, which is no bad thing.

Movies: I hesitated about THE TRAIN on Blu-ray as I own a DVD but it’s a fine-looking film and the sterling array of extras provided by Arrow decided me. I didn’t hesitate on THE WILD BUNCH. I thought I owned THE ILLUSIONIST but didn’t, so now I do. TO THE SEA AND THE LAND BEYOND seems epic, and Penny Woolcock is revered among documentarists so I should check it out: the BFI provides quirky extras. THE WRONG BOX isn’t altogether satisfying but has great bits. I had an old DVD of LA DOLCE VITA in the wrong ratio so this is an upgrade.

Now I just have to find time to consume this stuff.