Murmur by Will Eaves

One said that it felt like a film. All agreed that it was well written.
Many enjoyed the science and realised that the author had done a lot of research (it took him seven years to write) while others found it baffling. Turing was prescient when he wondered about the existence of parallel universes.
The author experienced his grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s. Did this lead to his interests in the working of the mind?
I don’t agree where he says: The Church says: ‘People come in search of meaning, and to have their fears and anxieties allayed.’ But to think you can be finally satisfied on these points, or to imagine you can satisfy others, is the source of the misgiving. Churches, like Jesus, are supposed to respond to questions by asking further questions, going deeper.
I had to look up: truckle bed = a low bed on wheels that can be stored under a larger bed; volutes = a spiral or twisting turn, whorl; scrying = peeping
Are the phones in the canteen an anachronism or is he imagining the future?
It definitely would benefit from re-reading
Quotations:
Do I need to set down the circumstances? The results are in the papers, and for once in my life I am disinclined to “show my working”. It is strangely more instructive, for me, to imagine other conditions, other lives. But here they are, so that my friends, when they come to these few thoughts, may do likewise.
I had just finished a paper and decided to award myself a pick-up. I met the boy, Cyril, on the fairground. He seemed undernourished and shifty but not unengaging; living, he said, in a hostel, working casually. I bought him pie and chips on the grounds and invited him home for the weekend. He didn’t turn up, so I went back to Brooker’s, waited for the fair to close that night, and took him home soon after. He
was not unintelligent, I found – he’d liked the boys’ camp in the war, did some arithmetic there, and knew about Puzzles and Diversions. Cyril was, I’d say, the product of natural sensitivity, working-class starvation and nervous debility. He wouldn’t kiss. We treated ourselves to baths and listened to the late repeat of the Brains Trust programme on learning machines, with Julius Trentham opining, notimplausibly in my view, that the human ability to learn is determined by “appetites, desires, drives, instincts” and that a learning machine would require “something corresponding to a set of appetites”. And I said something like, “You see, what I find interesting about that is Julius’s suggestion that all these feelings and appetites, as he calls them, are causal, and programmable. Even these things, which we’re so sure, so instinctively certain, must be the preserve of freely choosing and desiring humans, may be isolated. They can be caused, and they have a cause.” And Cyril was fascinated. He was listening and nodding. I felt so happy and so peculiarly awful. We went to bed and in the morning I unthinkingly offered him some money. He was offended and left in a mood. I then discovered £3 missing from my wallet – he could have taken it at any time, I put nothing away – and I wrote to him at the hostel, calling things off. He turned up on the doorstep the next day, very indignant, making obscure threats which I did not take seriously. He mentioned an unlikely sounding suit hire debt, for £3 of course, and some other outstanding sums and then ended up asking for another £7, which I reluctantly gave him.“welter of connectedness, the phones and messages, commuters trailing wires, staring past bodies into space, the sound-image of ghostly callers in your head wherever you may be, whatever time it is”.

“The thirty lives in this cold room, seen from some distant vantage point, are like the hopeful lanterns of a struggling ferry.”

Fear of homosexuals is never far from the surface. The few people who have supported me after my conviction must be very strong-minded. I do not think most people are equipped to associate with pariahs. They have a shadowy sense of how frail they themselves would be in the face of institutional opposition and stigmatisation, how utterly cast down if they lost their jobs, if people they knew stopped serving them in shops or looked past them in the street. It is not hatred that turns the majority against the minority, but intuitive shame.

The King died in the early hours of the day on which two very kind police officers paid me a visit. Seven weeks after my arrest, I was found guilty of gross indecency with a male person and sentenced to receive a course of organo-therapy — hormone injections — to be delivered at the Royal Infirmary.

The world is not atomistic or random but made of forms that interlock and are always interlocking, like the elderly couple in Ovid who become trees.

Living on your own makes you more tolerant of people who say strange things.

You know your social life is in trouble when you spend the ‘ evening reading an -article on puzzles called ‘Recreational Topology’.

Dr Stallbrook encourages me to write. It is like making a will, he says — eminently sensible. If you’ve signed your papers and made a will, you know there will be an end.
You have already witnessed it, so to speak. And people who make this definite accommodation with their end, with the prospect of death — who get it in writing — live longer. He says this with a matter-of-factness I can’t help liking.
a process such as simple addition has human ‘meaning’ only because I am there to observe it and call it ‘addition’. And yet it certainly happens. Perhaps the larger process, too, is unmeaningful. If life works, it works. The character of physical law as it extends to biological material is that it should underpin the way cells and systems operate, and that is all.
‘I just don’t think you’d benefit from reading my notes. My job is to help you
encounter yourself.’
The observer is a participant, as the great revolution in quantum physics has taught us. Consider now that I am the set of notes that you wish to read. I might as well ask: how are you to benefit from reading me? Shall we condemn ourselves to solipsistic balance? The two sides of an equation must meet if they are to balance
nurse who injects me does it with a good will, because she has been told that it is her job. She doubtless thinks of herself as a freely choosing agent. She likes to think she does her job well, but at the same time she is just doing her job. (One hears this a lot.)
I said that I liked to trust people, which I do. Lying there, I seemed to float outside my
body and look down at us both.
feeling that marriage by and large has the most deplorably erosive effect on one’s
ability to think.
The ones that work, the marriages, are based on such tolerance, such frank distance, that one is bound to ask the point of them in the first place. The world’s opinion, I suppose, and maybe that’s a good enough reason.
Sex is a salve, partly mechanical, to join what can’t be joined.
Why are the intelligence services paranoid? Because they know you can’t force someone to conform, or learn the error of their ways. You can’t reach the inner life. I can’t be a model citizen — though, heaven knows, I’ve tried — because the menace lingers inside. You can’t simply change people, in other words, or double them, because you can’t know they’ve changed. Only they can know that. Only they know
what it’s like to be copied.
It is the evil of a certain social class, into which I was born, that its children are forever being told there are more valuable qualities which they do not have, and which, despite the expense and discomfort of their education, they must not imagine they could ever possess. That would be ‘getting ideas above one’s station’. Trentham is ambition, to Stallbrook’s cautionary counsel, d’you see? In any case, my response is:
getting ideas of any stripe would be a start. And in fact, what I honestly think, where children are concerned, is that they should be told that they are fine as they are,whatever that is or turns out to be.
Famously I have not had a child. But I have thought more about how I might bring one to some awareness of its value than many people who have.
Because child-rearing is a sympathetic calculation. If I arrange things in this fashion, the sum goes, my child will be clothed, fed and secure. The last element is the tricky one. It is the fairy tale of human existence, seen in my colleagues’ professional ambitions, in the ordinary person’s relationship to money, and especially in a parent’s hopes for his or her children: if I make a certain quantity of effort, a certain quality of life must result. But it will not. Actions have results and reactions, yes, but those
reactions repeat themselves and gain momentum in the stellar array of forces and contingencies beyond anything we might have conceived.
My own predicament — a mathematician and homosexual who has done serviceable work in logic and computational theory but who has run foul of an illogical system of justice — seems very unremarkable. Yes, there is distress. When I work back from it to the cause — a harmless exercise of sexual instinct by two male adults — my situation seems extraordinary, even to me. A walk down the same road five minutes later would have saved me. But that I should be surprised by a turn of events does not
in itself surprise me greatly.
I am sorrier for others. I feel sorry for my mother, who wanted success for me and cannot quite bring herself to believe in my fall, because it is evidence of her lack of control over her child’s future; of how nothing is guaranteed by education; nothing is assured; of how I am, and always was, alone, as she is. She, too, may find it interesting that she cares more about someone else’s aloneness than about her own.
I wonder, June, if you have ever experienced the following: sometimes, when I am doing a long and difficult calculation, which, after much tribulation, comes out right, I feel a sort of glow binding me to the work, in the calculation, in the latter stages when I can see things falling into place. The figures and symbols are so right that they seem to take on some of the self-conscious wonder of the person manipulating them.
They move towards their own awareness. They, and not I, seem to say: oh, but now I see. And when that happens it is like seeing a mind arise from matter to discover that it cannot go back to its former childlike state. It is matter transformed. It is responsible now.
We speak of realising something without seeing what that means. We are making something abstract real, an equation, say, and sending it out into the world. Our sum becomes a creation and it goes its own hectic way. It is a small thing, like a child, with untellable consequences. We can’t control it any more.
It should be a source of hope, this lack of control. It proves not that there is no influence over events or no free will but, rather, that influence — the sheer, startling happeningness of life — is promiscuous. We are both responsible and absolutely unable to make our responsibility stay the way it should.
June, dear friend, you can’t protect me. I can no longer protect you.
I think we are both making a long and difficult calculation. Mine is different from yours. But for both of us the light is coming — bleeding upwards from the horizon.There is no justice in the world and we are alone. The depressed are onto something.What they are apt to miss, thereby, is the spontaneous feeling that dawns all over the place — the aptness of a bird on just that branch and not another, the miniaturised sunin the drop of water on that leaf. Who could have foreseen them?
Misery is the broad river, but there are tributaries of joy and consolation. Writing to you has been one of them, and imagining that you write back another.
Ever,
Alec
Or a bit of a shock. When I heard that voice asking why I’d done whatever it is I’m supposed to have done, I had a strong memory of asking the fortune-teller if I would ever meet Christopher again, and she said yes, we are all made of the same materials, we are atoms, bits of Morse, and you are breathing him in even now. Her shawl smelled maternal — a hint of bergamot and talc — but her eyes were like
Indra’s net, inhumanly compound, and after that I must have passed out.
I came back from the station via the deep shelter, at the edge of the common’s south side, where I sometimes fancy the murmur has gone into hiding, along with the machines. They are down there, at the bottom of the spiral staircase, stuck in a loop, possessors of all the information they need to find out about the universe, but unable to sift any of it. Doubtless they find it unacceptable.
In the light of these winter afternoons, the eastern half of the entrance to the shelter stays white and frosty. The western section, caught by the sun, is like one of those bronze cauldrons the early Britons buried, not in fear of death, but to extend the feast of life. I had an impulse to go over and put my ear to the door.
There I stood, rattling the padlock like a madman. Stallbrook says that analysis is a little like the voyage of a shaman who goes down into middle earth to bring back the buried parts of a sick man’s soul, but I don’t know about that. One can have too much talk, which in any case tends to drive people away. It is better to listen. The machines are in council, down there, wherever they are, because they cannot decide on anything. That is why they suffer from a sense of persecution and abstraction. They
need a connection to something beyond themselves, which it may not be easy for them to achieve, or admit, given their prowess, but I’ve decided I’m willing to lend an ear. Before speech there was listening, and the dead rise with the love of it.
Time is the plane that reveals this interlocking, though time is not discrete. You cannot pin it down. Very often you cannot see the point at which things start to come together, the point at which cause generates effect, and this is a variant of the measurement problem. It must also be akin to asking at what point we begin to lose consciousness when we are given an anaesthetic, or at what point unconscious
material becomes conscious. Where does one cross over into the other? If the tessellation of forms is perfect, do they divide? Or are they one?
These are notes to pass the time, because I am in a certain amount of discomfort. I suppose it is fear, and keeping a partial journal distracts me. But I am also drawn to the pulse of that fear, a beat, an elevated heart rate – and something more than that, which comes through the thinking and is a sort of rhythmic description of my state of mind, like someone speaking quickly and urgently on the other side of a door.
I know that Pythagoras is said to have delivered his lectures from behind a screen. The separation of a voice from its origin gave him a wonder-inducing authority, apparently. Perhaps he was shy. Or ugly. Anyway, I’ve never had this experience before. This morning I could hear the inner murmuring accompanying trivial actions:
‘I’m up early, it’s dark outside, the path I laid haphazardly with my own hands is now

a frosted curve. I put some crumbs down for the blackbird singing on my neighbour’s chimney pot. Beyond my garden gate a road, beyond that fields speeding away towards the tree-lined hills and crocus light. I wait beside a bare rowan, its berries taken by the blackbird and her brood, the wood pigeons and jays.’ And then again, moments later, when I caught myself looking back at the garden through the doorway: ‘He passes through the silent streets, across wet roofs and closed faces, deserted parks. He moves among the trees and waiting fairground furniture.’

The error is supposed to be ‘looking back’, isn’t it? Poor Orpheus, etc.

Of course, it has occurred to me that the balance of my mind is disturbed, just as it has occurred to me that I am reckoning with a deliberate retreat from the world, a passing out of sight into, well, invisibility. What lesson might that passage have for me? It is an extension of my preference for anonymity, I suppose. It is commonly said, or felt if it is not said, that people respect others of importance who have achieved things or held office; but it is a curious fact that self-respect is often found to exist in inverse proportion to public status. It has learned to pass nights alone. It does not seek approval because it knows that estimation has nothing to do with achievement.

The problem with disguising or encrypting is that the original still exists. One has doubled the information, not made it less sensitive. Something has happened to it, but the semantic loaf persists behind a mask, a veil, a foreign accent, new papers, breasts etc., and really the only thing to do about that, if you’re still anxious, is to remove both bits of information – the original and the encryption- altogether.

It strikes me that a mirror reflects, but that, geometrically speaking it transforms rather than translates. One is turned back on oneself and in the process one sees a second person, a new person who one does not fully recognise. Always uncanny, this about-facing, and not unrelated to the common fair of automation, which people assume to be a sort of coming doom. The fear of robots, I take it, is like the fear of prophecy, the essence of which is repetition: of you can be repeated, you can be replaced.

Return to the home page

 

 

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

eng(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This is a ‘whydunntti’ rather than a whodunnit.

 Do we really have free will?

The public school bullying is true to life, including the boy who simply masturbates down the back of the protagonist. No wonder he and some others wonder if he is gay.

He talks about teleology a lot – does life have any meaning other that what we make it?

 Themes: education, class, politics

I was at uni. at the same time as these people and, like them, wrote long letters home every Sunday afternoon – no emails and few phones back  then.

Unreliable narration: from the perspective of Engleby himself, who often obscures and misrepresents the events around him. This is most noticeable in the disappearance of Jennifer, to which he gives no indication of his involvement until the very end of the novel.

psychosis. mental illness: Engleby suffers from numerous panic attacks throughout the course of the novel and takes medication to prevent symptoms of anxiety. He occasionally alludes to feeling isolated, but rejects the idea that he suffers from depression.

Treatment of women: Engleby objectifies Jennifer throughout the novel. He stalks her by following her into lectures and attending her societies. He is frustrated when she attempts to leave the car after he gives her a lift home and murders her for being scared of him when he drives her off into a secluded area. Both he and his friend Stellings consider women to be inferior, and dismiss demands for sexual equality as ‘flak from grumpy feminists’, calling ideas of female equality ‘lies’.

eng-2

Was it a deliberate mistake to say that ‘Pitchfork’ was a cleared of murder on DNA evidence? He was convicted.

Quotations:

Once I saw a mother in a supermarket in Paddington — an obese, poor woman with bare legs and a small child who was making a noise. She swore at him and slapped him in the face, which only made him howl more. It wasn’t her fault really; she was clearly exhausted, broke and stretched to snapping point. But I knew that when she got the child home she ‘d beat him more, and if there was a father (a bit unlikely) he too would hit him.

And that child would slowly ascend towards full awareness in a world whose sky was violence and whose horizons were fear. And however resourceful he was, however patient and fortunate in the events of his life that followed, he was like a creature in a nest of imprisoning boxes who could never really break free. That was his world and any attempt to persuade him that it was merely a `subjective’ or ‘individual’ experience could never convince him.

And all of us, I think, are like him. We may think as we grow older that we know more, but in truth no one has an overarching view, no one can see in the round. We are like cards in a pack, and the king of spades is a better thing to be than the two of diamonds; but none of us is a dealer or a player with free will and power to dispose; none of us can see or understand the value of the entire deck, let alone the rules of the game in which it’s employed. Even the best of us is no more than an inert piece of card with some markings.

My name is Mike Engleby, and I’m in my second year at an ancient university,

‘I sometimes saw it as that evolutionary drawing of the crouched ape who by stages turns into an upright human.’

‘Something happened to this country, perhaps in the 1960s. We lost the past.’

“ ‘Late work.’ It’s just another way of saying feeble work. I hate it. Monet’s messy last waterlilies, for instance — though I suppose his eyesight was shot. ‘The Tempest’ only has about 12 good lines in it. Think about it. ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood.’ Hardly ‘Great Expectations,’ is it? Or Matisse’s paper cutouts, like something from the craft room at St. B’s. Donne’s sermons. Picasso’s ceramics. Give me strength.”

“I suppose all human ‘personalities’ are at some level makeshift or provisional”

“I suppose all human ‘personalities’ are at some level makeshift or provisional”

“I’d never chosen to be alone, but that was the way things had turned out, and I’d grown used to it.”

“Have you ever been lonely? No, neither have I. Solitary, yes. Alone, certainly. But lonely means minding about being on your own. I’ve never minded about it.”
“Inhale and hold the evening in your lungs.”
“One thing about London is that when you step out into the night, it swallows you.”
“The end-of-summer winds make people restless.”
“My direction? Anywhere. Because one is always nearer by not keeping still.”
“Lonely’s like any other organism; competitive and resourceful in the struggle to perpetuate itself.”
“And sometimes in life, I imagine, good things do happen. Most of the time, it’s the opposite, obviously. But I don’t think you should rule out the possibility that just occasionally chance might deal you a good card.”
“Gradually the feeling wears off, and I feel swamped again by the inexplicable pettiness of being alive.”
“One of the hardest things about being alive is being with other people.”
“Oh, the sweetness of giving in, of full surrender.”
“This is how most people live: alive, but not conscious; conscious but not aware; aware, but intermittently.”
“The thing about opium is that it makes pain or difficulty unimaginable.”
“The physical shock took away the pain of being.”
“We’re deaf men working as musicians; we play the music but we can’t hear it.”
“It was entirely silent and I tried to breathe its peace.”
“We all operate on different levels of awareness. Half the time I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“I never for a moment considered killing myself, because it wouldn’t have achieved anything.”
“Time makes us pointless.”
“Why take drugs specifically designed to send you insane?”
“It’s only after the change is fully formed that you can see what’s happened.”
“…at such moments of extreme panic and anguish you do manage that trick with time: you are at last free from the illusion that time is linear.

In panic, time stops: past, present and future exist as a single overwhelming force. You then, perversely, want time to appear to run forwards because the ‘future’ is the only place you can see an escape from this intolerable overload of feeling. But at such moments time doesn’t move. And if time isn’t running, then all events that we think of as past or future are actually happening simultaneously. That is the really terrifying thing. And you are subsumed. You’re buried, as beneath an avalanche, by the weight of simultaneous events.”
“They’re so attached to their patterns that they’ve forgotten rule number one of human behavior: there are no patterns. People just do things. There’s no such things as a coherent and fully integrated human personality, let alone consistent motivation.”
“Grief is a peculiar emotion.”
“That’s what opium does to suffering: makes it of hypothetical interest only.”
“A bit of the vagueness of music stops you going completely mad, I imagine.”
“We’re not really conscious of what we’re doing most of the time.”
“All reality about me now appeared to be in tatters, taken down and reduced to the civil war of its particles. I held on very, very tight indeed. Because in addition to that feeling, that disintegration, there was rage. I wanted to break something.”
“I wonder what it’s like to be dead.”
“You can’t recall someone whose name has worn away.”
“I breathed and breathed and did feel some calmness enter in, though it was, as always, shot with a sense of loss. Loss and fear.”
“I don’t find life unbearably grave. I find it almost intolerably frivolous.”
“The thunder of false modesty was deafening.”
“Heisenberg and Bohr and Einstein strike me as being like gifted retriever dogs. Off they go, not just for an afternoon, but for ten years; they come back exhausted and triumphant and drop at your feet… a vole. It’s a remarkable thing in its way, a vole—intricate, beautiful really, marvellous. But does it… Does it help? Does it move the matter on?

When you ask a question that you’d actually like to know the answer to—what was there before the Big Bang, for instance, or what lies beyond the expanding universe, why does life have this inbuilt absurdity, this non sequitur of death—they say that your question can’t be answered, because the terms in which you’ve put it are logically unsound. What you must do, you see, is ask vole questions. Vole is—as we have agreed—the answer; so it follows that your questions must therefore all be vole-related.”
“I want to be careful not to throw all this away. This is happiness. I think this is what happiness is. I haven’t got it yet, but I can sense it out there. I feel I’m close to it. Some days, I’m so close I can almost smell it.”
“I’d become more adept at being with other people; I’d lowered my expectations of them and learned to let my mind drift into neutral when they spoke.”
“I felt trapped in a world that I couldn’t mould to my own desires. Others were in sunlight; I was in darkness.”
“She was so beautiful I had to move away.”
“The past was suddenly rushing in on me in a way I found hard to fight.”
“The best thing is the combined effect of nicotine with alcohol, greater than the sum of the two parts.”
“My own diagnosis of my problem is a simpler one. It’s that I share 50 per cent of my genome with a banana and 98 per cent with a chimpanzee. Banana’s don’t do psychological consistency. And the tiny part of us that’s different – the special Homo sapiens bit – is faulty. It doesn’t work. Sorry about that.”
“But I can hardly remember what it felt like. It’s like everything that happens to you. It doesn’t feel real.”
“I don’t like being rumbled, I like to be invisible.”
“There was a pretty young woman I used to see pegging out sheets and I worried that she would grow old there and that no one would know how beautiful she was. And maybe she would die without ever having really lived.”
“I looked at him on the bed. He coughed once and a trail of brownish dead blood came out of his mouth and ran down the side of his chin. Then he stopped breathing. And I thought, I’ll make sure I never end up here, either.”
“Until we can navigate in time, I’m not sure that we can prove that what happened is real.”
“These are things that help me if not lose then leave behind, what else, my self.”
“How grand, to be a Doctor of whatever and to weigh up and decide people’s future.”
“What a pair of frauds.”
“He really was a prize ass.”
“With no blame there’s no shame. A human society can’t exist without shame. Shame is like handedness or walking upright. It’s a central human attribute. In fact, it’s the first human quality ever recorded.’

‘Where?’

‘Genesis, Chapter Three. The covering of nakedness. The acquisition of shame was the first consequence of consciousness, of the speciating moment. Take shame from me and you are calling me pre-human.”
“All that once I’d known, I had forgotten.”
“If only I could have my time again.”
“The more you’re challenged, the more rigidly you assert your beliefs. You have nothing to lose because without your beliefs you’re nothing anyway: they make you what you are. It’s shit or bust.”
“The more I heard, the less I knew.”
“No, I want to take you out back and beat your fucking head on the floor.”
“All reality about me now appeared to be in tatters, taken down and reduced to the civil war of its particles. I held on very, very tight indeed.”
“To wake up and feel enlivened; to be in a hurry to get out of bed and into the day. To have friends you want to speak to, compare experiences with and be on the phone to…Well, to be honest, I’m still some way from that.”
“If you’re mad enough to have killed a dozen people you’re mad enough to be a fraction impatient. Surely?”

“That sense of happiness just out beyond my reach – I’m not sure I’d grasped that exactly, but I’d got something close to it, contentment maybe, or at least a functioning routine with regular rewards.”
“The thought of all that happiness was hard to bear. What’s the point of happiness when all it does is throw the facts of dying into clear relief?”
“I’m not going to miss all this, am I?”
“And in that history you’re trying to connect to something that once was yours – to something purer, better, something that you lost or something, maybe, that you never knew but that you feel you knew.”
“Busy is good, isn’t it? Busy means we’re hard at it, achieving our ends or “goals.” Haven’t had time to stop, or look around or think. That’s considered the sign of a life well lived. Although people complain of it – another year gone, where did that one go? – tacitly, they’re proud. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it: you put your time where your priority is.”
“And sometimes in life, I imagine, good things do happen. Most of the time, it’s the opposite, obviously. But I don’t think you should rule out the possibility that just occasionally chance might deal you a good card.”
Once I saw a mother in a supermarket in Paddington — an obese, poor woman with bare legs and a small child who was making a noise. She swore at him and slapped him in the face, which only made him howl more. It wasn’t her fault really; she was clearly exhausted, broke and stretched to snapping point. But I knew that when she got the child home she ‘d beat him more, and if there was a father (a bit unlikely) he too would hit him.

And that child would slowly ascend towards full awareness in a world whose sky was violence and whose horizons were fear. And however resourceful he was, however patient and fortunate in the events of his life that followed, he was like a creature in a nest of imprisoning boxes who could never really break free. That was his world and any attempt to persuade him that it was merely a `subjective’ or ‘individual’ experience could never convince him.

Return to the home page

 

UTS3(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The start, straightforward gay cruiser looking for hitchhikers – except that it’s a woman and nothing is straightforward thereafter.

Set in northern Scotland, it traces an extraterrestrial who, manifesting in human form, drives around the Scottish countryside picking up male hitchhikers whom she drugs and delivers to her home planet where her compatriots mutilate and fatten them so that they can be turned into meat, as human meat, or “vodsel”, is a delicacy on the aliens’ barren homeworld.

The novel is darkly satirical. Its themes include sexism, big business, factory farming, and environmental decay; and reflects on more personal questions of sexual identity, humanity, snobbery, and mercy.

Isserley spends her spare time walking on the pebbled beach by her cottage, marveling at the beauty of Earth compared to her home world, where most beings are forced to live and toil underground, and the wealthy Elite live on the surface, but are still unable to tolerate being outside.

Eventually, she is raped by a hitchhiker, and is forced to kill him and leave his body. The experience shakes her, and she captures the next hitchhiker without interviewing him to assess the risk, failing to discover that she actually shares many inner thoughts with him, as well as the fact he would be missed by family (usually a key factor). In anger, she demands to see what happens to the vodsel during “processing,” where she watches as his tongue is cut out and he is castrated. Due to her claustrophobia of the subterranean structure, she has never seen this, and is shocked and disappointed at how fast it goes. She insists on seeing one actually killed and becomes hysterical at not being able to see the entire gruesome process.

Isserley is calmed down by Amlis, himself an Elite, whose beliefs are that vodsel should not be consumed, suggesting they are more similar to him and Isserley than she admits. After he departs to their home world, to share with their people what he had witnessed (the beauty of Earth, the treatment of vodsel), Isserley’s attitude changes. She begins to doubt her job, and is especially nonplussed after learning that others are more than willing to take her place. She captures one last victim, but feels guilty for doing so knowing that his dog has been left trapped in his van. Returning to where she found him, she frees the dog from the hitchhiker’s van.

Isserley decides to quit, and not return to the base of operations. She is forced to pick up one last hitchhiker, a man who insists on needing a ride to see his girlfriend give birth, and mentions reincarnation on the way. Driving faster than usual, Isserley gets into a car accident. Isserley’s body is essentially ruined while the hitchhiker is thrown through the window, still alive. Isserley ponders what will happen to her body, as she must activate an explosive that will destroy all evidence of the crash, and her. She thinks her atoms and particles will become dispersed in the environment and air, and is at peace with that. She then hits the switch.

UTSQuotations

“Shared suffering, she’d found, was no guarantee of intimacy.”
“Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty.”
“The word troubled her, though. ‘Indispensable.’ It was a word people tended to resort to when dispensability was in the air.”
“The past was dwindling, like something shrinking to a speck in the rear-view mirror, and the future was shining through the windscreen, demanding her full attention.”
“she and they were all the same under the skin, weren’t they?”
“In the end, though, vodsels couldn’t do any of the things that really defined a human being. They couldn’t siuwil, the couldn’t mesnishtil,they had no concept of slan.”
“They both sat in silence for the rest of the journey, as if conscious of having let each other down.”
“The variety of shapes, colours and textures under her feet was, she believed, literally infinite. It must be. Each shell, each pebble, each stone had been made what it was by aeons of submarine or subglacial massage. The indiscriminate, eternal devotion of nature to its numberless particles had an emotional importance for Isserley; it put the unfairness of human life into perspective.”
“Strange how a specimen like him, well cared for, healthy, free to roam the world, and blessed with a perfection of form which would surely have allowed him to breed with a greater selection of females than average, could still be so miserable. By contrast, other males, scarred by neglect, riddled with diseases, spurned by their kind, were occasionally known to radiate a contentment that seemed to arise from something more enigmatic than mere stupidity.”
“Needs could not bully her.”
“MERCY. It was a word she’d rarely encountered”
“Nothing happened, and time stubbornly refused to pass.”
“You know,’ Amlis went on, ‘Some water fell out of the sky not so long ago.’ His voice was a little higher than usual, vulnerable with awe. ‘It just fell out of the sky. In little droplets, thousands of them close together. I looked up to see where they were coming from. They seemed to be materializing out of nowhere. I couldn’t believe it. Then I opened my mouth to the sky. Some droplets fell straight in. It was an indescribable feeling. As if nature was actually trying to nurture me.”
“it was already tomorrow. She should have known from the beginning that it would end like this.”
“I sometimes think that the only things really worth talking about are the things people absolutely refuse to discuss.”
“Unreality was swirling all around her like the delirious miasmas”
“The indiscriminate, eternal devotion of nature to its numberless particles had an emotional importance for Isserley.

UTS2“ISSERLEY ALWAYS DROVE straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her.”
“Isserley walked along the path the generations of sheep-flocks had made, up the tiers of the hill. In her mind, she was already”
“was a female. Isserley wasn’t interested in females, at least not in that way. Let them get picked up by someone else. If the hitcher was male, she usually went back for another look, unless he was an obvious weakling. Assuming he’d made a reasonable impression on her,”
“oh how she wondered, what she looked like to him, in his alien innocence.”
“The walls shrugged themselves loose from their foundations and slid towards the centre of the room, as if attracted by the struggle. The ceiling, a massive rectangular slab of concrete furrowed with fluorescent white, also shuddered loose and loomed bdown on her.”
“Their consciousness was rudimentary.”
“protective of his gleaming domain, beavering away in it alone like an obsessed scientist in a humid and luridly lit laboratory.”
“Vess Incorporated had simply dug them out of one hole and buried them in another”
“could indicate the cocky self-awareness of a male in prime condition.”
“behaving as if his actions didn’t need defending. Typical rich kid, typical pampered little tycoon. None of their actions ever needed defending, did they?”
“She couldn’t quite believe it, even after all these years. It was a phenomenon of stupendous and unjustifiably useless extravagance. Yet here it lay, soft and powdery, edibly pure.”
“Men! Armchair heroes the lot of them, while women were sent out to do the dirty work.”

Return to the home page

Inspiring Equality in Education School Resource – EACH

IEIE(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This is the culmination of a Department for Education programme, funded by the Government Equalities Office to help address the findings that schools often lack confidence and feel under-resourced to deal effectively with homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying.

The programme has seen EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) lead a consortium of local and national agencies to trial whole-school initiatives in ten West of England Schools, deliver training to over 700 professionals and produce a suite of quality assured practical resources.

EACH is based on Bristol and this work mirrors that done from the Bristol Diocese of the Church of England.

March 16th this PSHE Association approved resource is now available for download. The Resource draws on decades of professional practice gained from primary, secondary, rural, urban, faith and secular schools to ensure a safe and equal learning environment for all. It includes;

  • 7 primary school targeted lesson plans covering celebrating difference, families, relationships, gender awareness and LGBT people in history
  • 10 secondary school targeted lessons plans on prejudice-based language or bullying, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans lives, social media, prejudice and gender
  • Policy and practice guidance covering what the law says, teaching about LGBT+ identities and relationships, handling disclosures, staff training and development, improving anti-bullying policies and one-to-one support for LGBT+ young people

Anti-Bullying Alliance, the Jan Lever Group and Off the Record Bristol have all contributed to the resource adding their expertise in preventing all forms of prejudice-based bullying, mindful approaches to PSHE for KS1-2 and supporting trans and gender questioning young people respectively.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance also developed guidance to support schools address homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled pupils and those with special educational needs. This includes a short and long guidance for school staff along with a literature review outlining the importance of the topic.

The Equalities Act 2010 plus OFSTED all draw out the importance of this work.

We know that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying destroys young lives – this funding is vital to bring lasting change. Our particular role in the project is to consult with disabled young people about their experiences of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and to make sure schools are supported to make their anti-bullying work fully inclusive. Lauren Seager-Smith, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance

There is no place for bullying of any kind in our society. That’s why we created this fund and why we are delighted to support EACH – so that schools and communities can offer specialist support and training to tackle bullying head on. I’m delighted to see that such positive work is already taking place in Avon and Somerset to help stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.This work will ensure children can learn in a safe and nurturing environment, free from bullying and fear. Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, Carolien Dinenage

Quotations:

Teachers can help change the culture in their own classroom whilst Governors, Trustees and Headteachers can bring about whole school change by ‘leading from the front’ with confidence and conviction. Straightforward practice such as the use of appropriate language, what is placed on noticeboards (or is not) on websites (or not) and your choice of outside speakers all sends out powerful messages about what is valued, endorsed or matters in your school.

Do:

Celebrate difference in all its forms There are many, many opportunities to

celebrate difference in all its forms on a daily basis within schools. Cherish diversity in your pupils and make it absolutely possible for any pupil – regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, faith, disability or special educational need to thrive in your school environment. Test it. Ask pupils what the barriers are – and break them down one by one.

Ensure the school curriculum contributes to preventing all forms of bullying

Use your PSHE education curriculum to equip pupils with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves and others safe from bullying, and to recognise and challenge prejudice in all its forms. Preventative education and the development of protective characteristics are an essential element of the whole-school approach.

Be ever alert to behaviour and attitudes in your school community. Be a talking school where anyone can speak out and feel supported if they face prejudice, discrimination or bullying

Challenge all forms of prejudice If we genuinely care about the well-being of all children and young people then it’s vital not to pick and choose which type of

prejudice matters most. All forms of prejudice should be tackled – and that includes verbal comments and harmful attitudes related to sexuality and gender.

Lead from the front – There are always individual teachers that are passionate about tackling bullying but they need the support of a strong, united Senior Leadership Team that takes all forms of bullying seriously, and are not afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo if it means everyone feels safe and included.

Ask what would make a difference – Every incident of bullying is an opportunity to learn or do something differently. Consider what needs to change or even better do this before any bullying happens. What would it take for anyone to be able to walk into this school or college and feel valued and supported?

Involve the whole community – This is everyone’s issue. Make sure that

pupils, parents and carers, staff and the wider community all know that you take a strong position when it comes to tackling bullying, whether it happens in school or online. Make sure your anti-bullying policy includes tackling prejudice-based bullying and is shared far and wide.

Create forums for support and discussion – Help pupils to set up their own equality groups in school. These groups should then influence school direction and strategy in relation to prejudice-based bullying.

Know where to get advice – Find out what local services are available for LGBT+ young people and staff in your area and share this information.

Set clear ground rules for any anti-bullying lessons – These should include taking a non-judgmental approach, listening to one another, making no assumptions, avoiding

offensive language and, keeping the conversation in the classroom

Don’t:

Assume you know what’s going on – In schools there is so much that goes on under the radar. Take time to survey pupils and staff about how they feel about school – in particular how inclusive they think school environment is and whether or not they think it keeps all pupils – and staff safe.

Exclude anyone from sex and relationships education Don’t just assume that all pupils are heterosexual and looking forward to becoming a husband and wife combo with

2.4 children. This won’t reflect the families that your pupils come from – and will alienate young people that have other plans and desires. All young people need to be given the language and tools they require to enjoy positive and safe relationships.

Lose sight of who is most important – Never plan your PSHE and SRE programme based on the sensitivities of teachers and/or the perceived sensitivities of parents, rather than the needs of pupils.

Say  – ‘if only you weren’t so gay/bi/trans/ DIFFERENT’ It is simply not a solution for children to act more ‘straight’. Young people must be supported to be comfortable in their own skin, anything else is downright dangerous and irresponsible and risks serious impact to their health and well-being in the long term.

Go for short-term solutions to long-term problems – Children and young people who are bullied want the situation to change long-term. That means taking time to understand whether the behaviour is just down to an individual (who will need support to change) or influenced by a wider culture of prejudice and disrespect. If the latter is the case then it’s time to go back to the Do’s and work to change the school culture.

Make it impossible to access information – We know why schools install software to restrict what pupils can access online through school portals but this can make it difficult for pupils and staff to find information and advice that they may desperately need. Your school will probably need to revise its list of external support agencies to include EACH plus its range of statutory and voluntary agencies which offer complementary support services or training. Make sure this information is available through other means if necessary. Put up posters, hand out leaflets and ensure sources of support are clearly signposted through PSHE education lessons, including teaching about how to access support and what will happen if they do, rather than simply listing sources of support that exist.

Tips for Staff Training

One-off events rarely change habits effectively. Schools need to actively pursue, refine and embed their learning in school practice and may need refresher courses to help build upon their progress

Engage colleagues across the school in training rather than leaving a single staff member to ‘champion’ the cause. Teamwork will not only guarantee that initiatives have a wider impact but that expertise is not consolidated into a single staff member who may leave

Follow up on professional development initiatives allowing time for staff to share learning, identify new initiatives and discuss progress on the topic

Consult outside experts for training delivery to ensure it is fresh and dynamic.

In-house training can be impactful but should not be the only means of training.

Be wary of recycling ideas that are ineffective or not recognising how issues are changing

Network with other schools and learn from each other about successes, challenges and new opportunities to effectively address prejudice-based bullying

If people do not know where the policy is they are unlikely to access it. Once the anti-bullying policy has been published ensure that you promote it widely and celebrate the achievements of those who contributed to its formation.

It is okay for us to disagree with another person’s point of view but we will not judge, make fun of or put anybody down. We will ‘challenge the opinion not the p e r s o n’.

There are suggestions for most subjects in the curriculum but I was particularly interested in:

Religious Education – Looking at different religious attitudes towards same-sex relationships and experiences of LGBT+ people of faith Analysing equal marriage debates

English – Themes of love, identity, relationships, gender, sexuality and prejudice abound in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, the Victorian novel, war poetry, contemporary literature and so on, providing rich material for discussion and debate

Attaching themes of sexuality and gender to characters, authors, poets or playwrights allows pupils to explore these matters from a variety of perspectives without it becoming too personal

Celebrating iconic lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literary figures

Exploring the etymology of words, gendered vocabulary and societal

power, provides fruitful discussion not only for English but modern foreign languages, history, art, PSHE and citizenship.

The report is online here.

Return to the home page

Tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs – EACH

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

A survey of UK LGBT youth found that two thirds of disabled children and those with SEN had experienced homophobic bullying”

Compared to their peers, disabled children and those with SEN are twice as likely to report being bullied at school” – so this report was written.

Quotations:

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) spoke to disabled young people, including young people with physical, learning, and sensory impairments, deaf young people, young

people with SEN, and young people who had experienced emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. We use ‘disabled young people’ or ‘young people’ throughout this briefing to refer to all of the young people we spoke to.

The young people we spoke to also identified as trans, non-binary, lesbian, gay and bisexual, and young people who had or were questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

We also spoke to disabled young people who identified as heterosexual.

Young people told us their views and ideas about:

sex and relationships education in school and what they learnt about LGBT+ issues, where else they got information about this, and their ideas for how disabled young people should be given better LGBT+ information.

what schools could do to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying for disabled young people and young people with emotional or mental health dfficulties.

Sex education for disabled young people is c**p. There is none. In the whole 7 years I was at secondary school I had no sex and relationships education at all.”

Disabled young people said they had received little or no sex and relationships education (SRE) at school and:

what little SRE they had received was limited and narrowly focused on heterosexual sex, safe sex and there was little focus on developing healthy relationships.

they had learnt little or nothing in SRE about disability or being LGBT+ – and nothing at all that related to being LGBT+ and disabled.

that they were often withdrawn from SRE lessons to be given additional learning or health support.

“Mine was ok. They covered a few things but not much detail. Just safe sex. Nothing about disability or LGBTQ.”

“Just generic – boys and girls in different rooms. A video, ‘this is a penis…’ and not much else.”

“Nothing related to disability or LGBTQ.”

“Condom on a banana, a leaflet about puberty. That was it.”

“What sex education there is, is all physical. There’s nothing about healthy relationships.”

“In our [faith] school, the only sex education we got was ‘if you have sex before marriage, you’re bad and god will hate you.”

“People didn’t talk to me about sex, relationships because of my visual impairment. They didn’t think I would be attracted to anyone because I couldn’t see them, as if all attraction is visual.”

“People think disabled people are asexual as it is, so they don’t talk to you about any relationships, let alone about being or acknowledging that you are LGBT.”

Many disabled young people said they were not believed when they reported bullying and that this was even more of an issue if you were also LGBT+. Young people said that being a disabled young person meant they were often not believed on two counts:

when they reported being bullied.

about being LGBT+

“I got bullied for being gay. I told a teacher I trusted and they just said it was a phase I was going through. As if it being a phase made the bullying OK, or any less bad. They didn’t do anything about it. They treated it like it was nothing. It really affected me and how I felt about being gay. I thought it must be something bad.”

‘Disablist and HBT bullying –  It’s a double whammy…’

Young people told us that they experienced both HBT and disablist bullying in schools and that “If it’s not one thing it’s the other. If you’re not bullied for being disabled, you’re bullied for being gay. Or both”

“I was badly affected by my autism at school – that’s what most of my bullying came from. I wasn’t out as trans then, I was trying to hide it, but people also bullied me for being effeminate.”

“Lots of LGBT young people are much more likely to have mental health issues.”

“The teachers understood my autism, but the students were unbelievably harsh.”

“Even in the gay community, they can be stigmatising about disability.”

“Imagine, you have not one but two stereotypes to contend with! It’s a double whammy.”

“I’m not out as trans at school. But people think I’m gay and bully me because of that.”

Young people said that they often have to come out twice, as they have to come out as a disabled person and come out as LGBT+. They said this was made worse by poor attitudes towards disability, sexuality, and gender identity all of which made them worry about how people would react.

Make sure SRE covers issues that are important to disabled young people. This may include peer advice or support, so that they can learn and ask questions about some of the specific issues disabled people may experience. For example, this may include body confidence and self-esteem, or managing relationships when you have a personal assistant.

Support school staff to understand homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and disability. This is important so that they understand:

that disabled young people can be LGBT+ too.

what the issues are for LGBT+ disabled young people.

what to look out for and how to approach a young person that is struggling or being bullied.

what they can say or do to tackle bullying or challenge homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or disablist language.

The report is online here

Return to the home page

The Life to Come and Other Stories – E. M. Forster

TLTCAOS 2(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Many people know that he didn’t want Maurice published until after his death. Fewer, including me, knew that these stories existed and were left unpublished for the same reason. They were shown to an appreciative circle of friends and fellow writers, including Christopher Isherwood, Siegfried Sassoon, Lytton Strachey, and T. E. Lawrence, who considered one story “the most powerful thing I have ever read.” Forster described ‘The Life to Come’ as “violent and wholly unpublishable” It relates one poignant sexual encounter that takes place between a South American chieftain, Vithobai, “the wildest, strongest, most stubborn of all the inland chieftains” and the young priest with whom he falls in love, Paul Pinmay, who is in all ways, Vithobai’s inferior. In a single night their passion transforms into rejection.

The fourteen stories in this book span six decades—from 1903 to 1957 or even later—and represent every phase of Forster’s career as a writer. About a third of them deal with homosexuality.

The significance of these stories in relation to Forster’s famous abandonment of the novel is discussed by Oliver Stallybrass in his introduction. “[These stories] are often brilliant, aware both of the strictly contemporary…the contrast between Greek and Christian; between ‘Goth’ and Christian; between spontaneity and duty in matters sensual and instinctive. In short, they bring up all Forster’s usual preoccupations and at the same time orchestrate the new song and play it loud and clear.”

We get a character’s denial of love reveals the constricting effects of conventional society and leads to his physical, emotional, or spiritual death. In “The Life to Come,” a Christian missionary, who becomes a native’s lover for one night, denies his feelings for his lover who later stabs him to death before killing himself. In “Dr Woolacott” a dying patient refuses the aid of his doctor and chooses instead the spirit-saving love of an unknown boy, even though his choice causes his physical death. “.

‘The Other Boat’ begins with a group of children playing on the deck of a boat travelling from India to England. Lionel is attempting to get one of his friends, Cocoanut (named for his oddly shaped head), to play battle with him. Lionel is one of the five children belonging to Mrs. March, and is aboard the ship because his father had deserted his mother for a native he had met while fighting in a war abroad. Mrs. March makes several comments about how she disapproves of Lionel’s friend, Cocoanut. She refers to him as having a touch of the “tar brush” and not being entirely of European ancestry. However, she allows them to go ahead and play together for most of the voyage. When she observes that the children are playing in direct sunlight, she sees to it that they play under the awning before they become afflicted with sunstroke. Baby, the youngest of the March children, begins crying as Mrs. March is yelling at the children, so she picks him up to carry him inside. Before she can get inside, however, a young sailor hops out of his cabin and draws a white line around her—which puts her in a state of mind where she cannot escape the circle that surrounds her. Then, Cocoanut appears, screaming that she has been caught. She becomes infuriated with he as “a silly idle useless unmanly little boy.”

Years later, Lionel has become a Captain in the British army and a war hero, after he was injured in battle. He has grown into a handsome young man, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and broad shoulders and is aboard a ship to India, where he is to meet up with Isabel, a girl who we assume he is to marry. Cocoanut is also aboard, and had made arrangements for them to share a room together. Lionel seems rather shocked, and quite uncertain about sharing a room with a “half-caste”. But because the ship is already full, and because he acknowledges that his prejudices are tribal, and not personal, he seemingly agrees.

At first, things seem normal. They unpacked as they talked about old times, joking with each other. And then suddenly things became awkward. As Lionel was sitting on his top bunk, Cocoanut grabbed his leg, and began feeling up until he had reached his groin. Lionel’s mind begins to race. He is confused and disgusted as he leaps from his bunk, running out the door. At first he goes to see the Master at Arms, but he is nowhere to be found. He then heads to the Purser’s office, demanding that he have his room switched, without giving any reason whatsoever. When the Purser explains that all of the rooms are already full, Lionel furiously marches out of the office. He goes to the front of the ship and watches as he moves farther away from England as he tries to decide what to do. While at the front of the ship he runs into Captain Arbuthnot and his wife, and they form a group known as the Big Eight. After a few drinks and jokes, Lionel begins to loosen up a bit, and complains about having to room with a “wog”. Feeling a little bit better, Lionel decides to go ahead and deal with Cocoanut being his roommate for the voyage, and tries to forget about the strange incident that had happened earlier.

Everything seemed to be going well. “Order had been re-established”. But Lionel can’t help but think back on the night when Cocoanut had made his move, and even wonders what would have happened if he had granted Cocoanut’s desires. The ship enters the Mediterranean Sea, and one night, after Lionel returns to his cabin, he is awaited by Cocoanut and a bottle of champagne. After a few drinks, Lionel gave in Cocoanut’s seduction, and as they lay in bed together, they talked about their lives. At one point, Cocoanut questions the large scar that Lionel has on his groin area. It turns out that the scar was Lionel’s “battle wound”, which is what ended up making him a war hero. After the story of the battle wound, Lionel continues talking, getting further into deeply personal stories from his younger days. Cocoanut doesn’t go into much detail about his past. We are able to gather that he is in charge of some type of business, although his specific occupation is never revealed. We also know that he has several passports from different countries, which makes the reader wonder of who Cocoanut really is.

While the two men lay entwined in their cabin, they have become close with one another, not only on a physical but on an emotional level. Lionel says “I’m fonder of you than I know how to say”. Cocoanut’s response is that Lionel should have someone to take care of him. The two men ponder being together, but Lionel realises that it would be impossible.

Suddenly, Lionel notices that bolt on the door had been unlocked the entirety of their lovemaking. Anyone could have walked in. He blames himself for being too careless, but then Cocoanut claims that it was partly his fault also, because he knew that the door was unlocked the entire time. Furious with Cocoanut for not mentioning this before, Lionel decides to go out on the deck for a smoke. Realizing the seriousness of what just transpired, Cocoanut says, “When you come back you will not be you. And I may not be I.” As he is out on the deck for a smoke, he sees Colonel Arbuthnot sleeping, next to his wife. He thinks about everything which he would lose if anyone were to find out about the scandal with Cocoanut. He was the first born, and felt responsible for maintaining integrity of the family name. Thinking of Isabel, who is waiting on him in India, he decides what happened would not follow him any further. Hearing Lionel, Colonel Arbuthnot wakes up, and apologises to Lionel for having to bunk with a ‘wog’. It had just been discovered that Cocoanut was not supposed to be on the boat at all. He had sent some “fat bribes” out to get himself aboard the ship. After his discussion with the Colonel, Lionel leaves the deck.

Returning to the cabin, Lionel sees Cocoanut in his top bunk. Getting close to Lionel, Cocoanut insists that he kiss him. When Lionel rejects him, Cocoanut decides to go in for the kiss regardless and bites Lionel’s forearm. Lionel flashes back to the war and strangles Cocoanut, then kisses his eyelids tenderly, then commits suicide by throwing himself into the ocean. His body is never found. Typically depressing internalised homophobia from Forster.

In ‘The Obelisk’, I warm to the teacher who is reluctant to ask directions – typical male autonomy thing.

Some of the stories, however, are boring and the footnotes are somewhat pedantic.

And isn’t it very English to have ‘dice of friend bread’ with soup rather than croutes?

TLTCAOSQuotations:

“You can not possibly lie on hard asphalt,” he says.
“I have found that I can”, is the poignant reply

“Can’t you grasp, Barnabas, that under God’s permission certain evils attend civilization…Five years ago there was not a single hospital in this valley.” “Nor any disease, I understand.”

Love had been born somewhere in the forest, of what quality only the future could decide. Trivial or immortal, it had been born to two human bodies as a midnight cry. Impossible to tell whence the cry had come, so dark was the forest. Or into what worlds it would echo, so vast was the forest. Love had been born for good or evil, for a long life or a short.

“Let us both be entirely reasonable, sir. God continues to order me to love you. It is my life, whatever else I seem to do. My body and the breath in it are still yours, though you wither them up with this waiting. Come into the last forest, before it is cut down, and I will be kind, and all may end well. But it is now five years since you first said Not yet.”

“It is, and now I say Never.”

“This time you say Never?”

“I do.”

“When you come back you will not be you. And I may not be I.”

Dead silence ensued, which was well enough for Ansell, to whom it merely meant that neither of us had any more to say. But to educated people silence matters; it is a token of stupidity and lack of invention. Ansell.

But that was only the beginning of her mortification. Harold had proved her wrong. He had seen that she was a shifty, shallow hypocrite. She had not dared to be alone with him since her exposure. She had never looked at him and had hardly spoken. He seemed cheerful, but what was he thinking? He would never forgive her. Albergo Empedocle.

Had she only realized that it is only hypocrites who cannot forgive hypocrisy, whereas those who search for truth are too conscious of the maze to be hard on others – than the bitter flow of her thoughts might have been stopped and the catastrophe averted. But it was not conceivable to her that he should forgive – or that she should accept forgiveness, for to her forgiveness meant a triumph of one person over another. Albergo Empedocle.

‘Why are pictures like this allowed?’ he suddenly cried. He had stopped in front of a colonial print in which the martyrdom of St Agatha was depicted with all the fervour that incompetence could command.
‘It’s only a saint,’ said Lady Peaslake, placidly raising her head.
‘How disgusting – and how ugly’
‘Yes, very. It’s Roman Catholic.’ Albergo Empedocle.

She began to speak, but waited a moment for the maid to clear away the tea. In the waning light her room seemed gentle and grey, and there hung about it an odour (I do not write ‘the odour’) of Roman Catholicism, which is assuredly among the gracious things of the world. It was the room of a woman who had found time to be good to herself as well as to others; who had brought forth fruit, spiritual and temporal; who had borne a mysterious tragedy not only with patience but actually with joy. The rock.

This conversation taught me that some of us can meet reality on this side of the grave. I do not envy them. Such adventures may profit the disembodied soul, but as long as I have flesh and blood I pray that my grossness preserve me. Our lower nature has its dreams. Mine is of a certain farm, windy but fruitful, half-way between the deserted moorland and the uninhabitable sea. Hither, at rare intervals, she should descend and he ascend, to shatter their spiritual communion by one caress. The rock.

His hand came nearer, his eyes danced round the room, which began to fill with a golden haze. He beckoned, and Clesant moved into his arms. Clesand had often been proud of his disease but never, never of his body, it had never occurred to him that he could provoke desire. This sudden revelation shattered him, he fell from his pedestal, but not alone, there was someone to cling to, broad shoulders, a sunburnt throat, lips that parted as they touched him to murmur – ‘And to hell with Woolacott’. Dr Woolacott.

It is better to have a home of one’s own than to always be a typist. Hilda did not talk quite as she should, and her husband had not scrupled to correct her. She had never forgotten – it was such a small thing, yet she could not forget it – she had never forgotten that night on their honeymoon when she had said something ungrammatical about the relative position of their limbs. The obelisk.

Before the civil war, Pottibakia was a normal member of the Comity of Nations. She erected tariff walls, broke treaties, persecuted minorities, obstructed at conferences unless she was convinced there was no danger of a satisfactory solution; then she strained every nerve in the cause of peace. What does it matter? A morality

we only caught one of them. His mother, if you please, is president of the Women’s Institute, and hasn’t had the decency to resign ! I tell you, Conway, these people aren’t the same flesh and blood as oneself. One pretends they are, but they aren’t. And what with this dis­illusionment, and what with the right of way, I’ve a good mind to clear out next year, and leave the so-called country to stew in its own juice. It’s utterly corrupt. This man made an awfully bad impression on the Bench and we didn’t feel that six months, which is the maximum we were allowed to impose, was adequate to the offence. And it was all so re­voltingly commercial — his only motive was money.’ Arthur Snatchfold

return to the home page

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

G ama

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Vacuous celebrities singing “We all live in a yellow limousine.” Then again, it was meant to be a satire.

The author of American Psycho and Less Than Zero this is set in and satirizes the 1990s, specifically celebrity culture and consumerism.

It features models-turned-terrorists. A character remarks, “basically, everyone was a sociopath…and all the girls’ hair was chignoned.” The novel plays upon the conspiracy thriller conceit of someone “behind all the awful events”, to dramatize the revelation of a world of random horror.

Ellis drops names in Glamorama so often that Entertainment Weekly describes “Nary a sentence… escapes without a cameo from someone famous, quasi-famous, or formerly famous. In fact, in some sentences, Ellis cuts out those pesky nouns and verbs and simply lists celebrities.” Namedropping and commoditization have a depersonalizing effect (a world reduced to “sheen and brands”); as the reviewer for The Harvard Crimson observes, “When Victor undergoes a transformation to a law student, we know he is different because he now wears a Brooks Brothers suit and drinks Diet Coke. London and Paris become nothing more than a different collection of recognizable proper nouns (Notting Hill and Irvine Welsh in the first case; Chez Georges and Yves Saint Laurent in the second).”

Victor Ward, a model with perfect abs who exists in magazines and gossip columns and whose life resembles an ultra-hip movie, is living with one beautiful model and having an affair with another. He is the novel’s lead character who lives by his catchphrase mantra “the better you look, the more you see”. As Harvard Crimson observes, “His lifestyle is the extreme of everything the current culture worships: he can’t avoid thinking in brand names and image and speaks with lines from pop songs. As narrator, “Victor’s perceptions” sum up “[the glamor world’s] disconnection from what the rest of us consider “real life”… [where] Everything he sees is a brand name.” CNN speculates when Victor begins speaking to the novel’s “film crew” (one of its literary devices), that this could mean that the character is schizophrenic. Victor comes across “oddly homophobic for a member of the pansexual New York fashion scene”; when his gay assistant accuses “I know for a fact you’ve had sex with guys in the past”, he retorts that he did “the whole hip bi thing for about three hours back in college”.

Fred Palakon first appears a quarter of the way into the novel, when he offers to pay Victor $300,000 to track down his former Camden classmate Jamie Fields, a double-agent working in the terrorist organisation with which Victor becomes involved.

The author said he is comfortable to be thought of as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual and that he enjoys playing with his persona, identifying variously as gay, straight, and bisexual to different people over the years.

Of this book, he said ‘It’s definitely the book that I can tell—I don’t know if other people can tell but I can tell as a writer–-is probably the most divisive that I’ve written. It has an equal number of detractors as it does fans. It doesn’t really hold true with the other books. It was the one that took the longest to write, and the one that seemed the most important at the time. It’s an unwieldy book… I like it.’

G ama 2Quotations:

“Yoki Nakamuri was approved for this floor,” Peyton says.
“Oh yeah?” I ask. “Approved by who?”
“Approved by, well, moi,” Peyton says.
“Who the fuck is Moi?” I ask. “I have no fucking idea who this Moi is, baby.”
“I’m Moi,” Peyton says, nodding. “Moi is, um, French.”

“The mannequin springs grotesquely to life in the freezing room, screeching, arching its body up, again and again, lifting itself off the examination table, tendons in its neck straining, and purple foam starts pouring out of its anus, which also has a wire, larger, thicker, inserted into it…there is, I’m noticing, no camera crew around.”

“‘But Bobby I’m not…political,’ I blurt out vaguely.
‘Everyone is, Victor,’ Bobby says, turning away again. ‘It’s something you can’t help.’…
…’We’re killing civilians,’ I whisper.
‘Twenty-five thousand homicides were committed in our country last year, Victor.’
‘But…I didn’t commit any of them, Bobby’
Bobby smiles patiently, making his way back to where I’m sitting. I look at him hopefully.
‘Is it so much better to be uninvolved, Victor?’
‘Yes,’ I whisper. ‘I think it is.’
‘Everyone’s involved,’ he whispers back. ‘That’s something you need to know.'”

G ama 3Specks—specks all over the third panel, see?—no, that one—the second one up from the floor and I wanted to point this out to someone yesterday but a photo shoot intervened and Yaki Nakamari or whatever the hell the designer’s name is—a master craftsman not—mistook me for someone else so I couldn’t register the complaint, but, gentlemen—and ladies—there they are: specks, annoying, tiny specks, and they don’t look accidental but like they were somehow done by a machine—so I don’t want a lot of description, just the story, streamlined, no frills, the lowdown: who, what, where, when and don’t leave out why, though I’m getting the distinct impression by the looks on your sorry faces that why won’t get answered—now, come on, goddamnit, what’s the story?

We’ll slide down the surface of things…

‘As a general rule you shouldn’t expect too much from people darling,’ and then I kiss her on the cheek.

‘I just had my makeup done, so you can’t make me cry.’

She staggers over to the bathroom door and grabs the edge of it to balance herself and blood starts running down her legs in thin rivulets and when she lifts up the robe we both can see her underwear soaked with blood and she pulls it off, panicking, and suddenly a huge gush of blood expels itself from beneath the robe, splashing all over the bathroom floor.

She gasps, a thick noise comes out of her throat and she doubles over, grabbing her stomach, then she screams. Looking surprised and still clutching her stomach, she vomits will staggering backwards, collapsing onto the bathroom floor. There are strands of tissue hanging out of her.

I’m Christian Bale”, Russel, says, taking [her hand].
“Oh right,” she says. “Yeah, I thought I recognized you. You’re the actor.

The stars are real.
The future is that mountain.

“The better you look, the more you see.”
“Baby, when you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live. You know you did, you know you did, you know you did.”
“At first she was so inexpressive and indifferent that I wanted to know more about her. I envied that blankness – it was the opposite of helplessness or damage or craving or suffering or shame. But she was never really happy and already, in a matter of days, she had reached a stage in our relationship where she no longer really cared about me or any thoughts or ideas I might have had.”
“What? Did we end up hating each other? Did we end up the way we thought we always knew would? Did I end up wearing khakis because of that fucking ad?”
“Baby, Andy once said that beauty is a sign of intelligence.’
She turns slowly to look at me. ‘Who, Victor? Who? Andy who?’ She coughs, blowing her nose. ‘Andy Kaufman? Andy Griffith? Who in the hell told you this? Andy Rooney?’
‘Warhol,’ I say softly, hurt. ‘Baby…”
“How is your father?” she asks disinterestedly.
“A contrivance,” I mutter. “A plot device.”

“The Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash into Me” played over the montage, not that the lyrics had anything to do with the images the song was played over but it was “haunting”, it was “moody”, it was “summing things up”, it gave the footage an “emotional resonance” that I guess we were incapable of capturing ourselves. At first my feelings were basically so what? But then I suggested other music: “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, but I was told that the rights were sky-high and that the song was “too ominous” for this sequence; Nada Surf’s “Popular” had “too many minor chords”, it didn’t fit the “mood of the piece,” it was – again – “too ominous.” When I told them I seriously did not think things could get any more fucking ominous than they already were, I was told, “Things get very much more ominous, Victor,” and then I was left alone.”
“Everything suddenly seems displaced, subtle gradations erase borders, but it’s more forceful than that.”
“Café Flore is packed, shimmering, every table filled. Bentley notices this with a grim satisfaction but Bentley feels lost. He’s still haunted by the movie Grease and obsessed with legs that he always felt were too skinny though no one else did and it never hampered his modeling career and he’s still not over a boy he met at a Styx concert in 1979 in a stadium somewhere in the Midwest, outside a town he has not been back to since he left it at eighteen, and that boy’s name was Cal, who pretended to be straight even though he initially fell for Bentley’s looks but Cal knew Bentley was emotionally crippled and the fact that Bentley didn’t believe in heaven didn’t make him more endearing so Cal drifted off and inevitably became head of programming at HBO for a year or two. Bentley sits down, already miked, and lights a cigarette. Next to them Japanese tourists study maps, occasionally snap photos. This is the establishing shot.”

“when you were young and your heart was an open book you used to say live and let live.”

“We all live in a yellow limousine,” Baxter sing-laughs. -A yellow limousine,”

We’ll slide down the surface of things . . .

return to the home page

Flame: A Life on the Game — ‘Flame’

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)Flame

True story about a (male) prostitute.

When a teacher told him he’d no ambition, Stephen just kept dumb and thought to himself: “I’m not going to stay around here working in a factory, honey. I’m going OUT THERE, where there’s LIFE. I’m going to be a prostitute, just like my mum”.

Hilarious and sad. Although the author has lived superficially and become wealthy, the cliche about use of the body for objective sex hindering the ability to love and be loved is clearly not true in this case. The prostitute has an almost pastoral role for clients.

Some intriguing allusions to fairly famous people in government.

return to the home page

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

GTIOTMIn 1998, the Modern Library ranked this book 39th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time Magazine included the novel in its 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

People in our group said that it was very well written with powerful prose and challenging, ‘absolutely brilliant’, ‘the most rewarding book I have read for some time’ ‘strong characters’ but also ‘hard going.’

I have read it twice, the second time after an interval of about forty years. The first time was when I knew little about racism and felt that black people ‘had a chip on their shoulder’.

The novel takes place in 1935, only 73 years after Emancipation so the characters are only slightly removed, by one or two generations, from their slave ancestors. John has internalised this racism, directing it against his own people and hence himself.

It jumps about, using flashback episodes to recount the lives of John’s parents and aunt and to link this urban boy in the North to his slave grandmother in an earlier South.

There is an obsession with what is perceived to be ‘sin’. John “sinned his hand” (masturbated) and, in his eyes, his home is dirty, irredeemably filthy. The air of the church reeks permanently of “the odour of dust and sweat”; the family surname, Grimes, connotes a dirtiness handed from one generation to the next.

Musing on his father’s hatred of white people, he thinks that they surely do not read their Bible every night or go to a holy church; yet he has difficulty imagining them burning in hell for eternity. Some white people have been friendly to him at school, including teachers. Thus, he feels certain that white people are kind and will honour him when he distinguishes himself. His father, however, claims that all whites are wicked and deceitful and that God will “bring them low.” However, he recalls reading about the atrocities committed by whites against blacks in the South. He realizes that, in fact, he doesn’t dare enter any of the shops from which white ladies emerge, that this is not his world—that he could grow to hate these people.

John is illegitimate and Gabriel loves his own son, Roy, more. John thinks, there must be something wrong with him that causes his father to hate him so. His reaction is natural: he returns his father’s hate but also hates himself for doing so and further hates himself for provoking his father’s hate. Did Baldwin write this as therapy?

John’s wrestling match with Elisha echoes Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel of the Lord in the Bible. To wrestle with the Lord’s anointed (Elisha has been saved) is a portentous experience for John yet the struggle is also coloured by the attraction John harbours for Elisha. Its overtones are as erotic as they are religious.

John’s “cruel choice” to follow the narrow path, renounce the things of this world and join the saints, or to strive for worldly success is linked to his conflict with his father. John feels the pressure to follow his father, to please him and to prove himself by virtue and piety. But he despises his father deeply. He realizes that his father is “God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven,” and that he, therefore, cannot “bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.” We read, “On his refusal to do this had his life depended….”

One reviewer suggested that its structure was like sonata form in music, with the first part equivalent to the exposition, the tarry service/reminiscences/religious transformation as development, and the post-service elements as the recapitulation, with some of the tensions now resolved or altered; the novel’s being split into three parts, the middle one its most complex.

All of the major characters, Florence excepted (effectively a heathen in Gabriel’s eyes, who has not attended church in years before the night of the tarry service), have biblical names though it’s difficult to view his calling the least angelic character Gabriel as anything other than ironic.

Churchgoing was an all-day affair then, as it is still is in many of what we now call ‘black-led churches’. Sunday school, morning service and the rest of the day are taken up. They provide a solid bedrock that can help anchor family life but they also foster an escapist, otherworldly of “pie in the sky,” which distracts people from taking actions that would remedy the injustices that society imposed, as the legacy of slavery lingered.

I was surprised to hear a pastor with the title ‘Father’.

On his fourteenth birthday, he fears that the awakening of his sexuality might lead to him being left behind at the Rapture.

I still find it odd when black people call their hair ‘kinky’.

“Florence’s Prayer” takes us back to the South into slavery times, establishing ties between the action of the present (1935 New York) with a larger history of bondage, Reconstruction, and the Great Migration northward. John and his siblings are grandchildren of slaves and have uncles they will never know, born into slavery and separated from their mother. John is the first member of his generation to be born in the North, to know nothing of the South but what he has learned from stories. Baldwin himself, when he wrote Go Tell It on the Mountain, had never been to the South.

Just as Abraham viewed Ishmael, Gabriel saw John as an illegitimate usurper to the legitimate son, Roy’s, rightful inheritance. A nearer Biblical parallel is Jacob who usurped brother Easu’s place.

Gabriel was the fatherless son of a freed slave; his own biological sons are either betrayed by him or betray him like the prodigal son. John was the son who accepted the Christian faith and later rejected it. Gabriel’s life hasn’t been easy so it’s possible to have some sympathy and not judge him too harshly if you haven’t grown up having had to watch our friends and neighbours raped or lynched. His hatred of white people has some justification.

I didn’t like the bit where the older preachers were leering at Deborah.

When Gabriel sees the castrated black soldier, hew feels impotent. Race touches on sexuality. White people’s obsession with the sexuality of black men is also echoes in Royal’s taunt, I bet he’s got a big one.’ The emasculation of the black man is part of a lynching as is the rape inasmuch as white men know they can have their way with a black girl and get away with it. In the short story,

No wonder that some black people internalise their hatred.Florence hates her brother, she hates “common niggers,” she ultimately hates her own blackness and uses skin whiteners despite her husband telling her that “black’s a mighty pretty color”.

Others externalise it. Gabriel tells his family that white people can never be trusted, that all white people are “wicked,” that none of them have “ever loved a nigger,” and that God will “bring them low.” Richard nurses an abiding hatred for white people and educates himself so that no white person will be able to talk down to him.

The final chapter, the threshing floor, is difficult because it portrays some sort of psychological and/or mystical experience and uses imagery from the Book of Revelation.

What is the value of this religious awakening? Is the only choice available to young black men between the perdition of the street and a retreat from reality? John wants to be unlike his father but how long will he look forward? The novel doesn’t say but for Baldwin himself this optimism lasted merely three years.

Quotations

Nothing but the darkness, and all around them destruction, and before them nothing but the fire–a bastard people, far from God, singing and crying in the wilderness!

‘You children is young,’ their mother said, ignoring Sarah and sitting down again at the table, ‘and you don’t know how lucky you is to have a father what worries about you and tries to see to it that you come up right.’
‘Yeah,’ said Roy, ‘we don’t know how lucky we is to have a father what don’t want you to go to movies, and don’t want you to play in the streets, and don’t want you to have no friends, and he don’t want this and he don’t want that, and he don’t want you to do nothing. We so lucky to have a father who just wants us to go to church and read the Bible and beller like a fool in front of the altar and stay home all nice and quiet, like a little mouse. Boy, we sure is lucky, all right. Don’t know what I done to be so lucky.’

He stood for a moment on the melting snow, distracted, and then began to run down the hill, feeling himself fly as the descent became more rapid, and thinking: “I can climb back up. If it’s wrong, I can always climb back up.

It’s a long way,” John said slowly, “ain’t it? It’s a hard way. It’s uphill all the way.
It was not only colored people who praised John, since they could not, John felt, in any case really know; but white people also said it, in fact had said it first and said it still.

Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father. It had been said so often that John, without ever thinking about it, had come to believe it himself.” Not until the morning of his fourteenth birthday did he really begin to think about it, and by then it was already too late.

He awoke on this birthday morning with the feeling that there was a menace in the air around him – that something irrevocable had occurred in him.

He lived for the day when his father would be dying and he, John, would curse him on his death-bed. And this was why, though he had been born in the faith and had been surrounded all his life by the saints and by their prayers and their rejoicing, and though the tabernacle in which they worshipped was more completely real to him than the several precarious homes in which he and his family had lived, John’s heart was hardened against the Lord. His father was God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven, and John could not bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.

Once he and Roy had watched a man and woman in the basement of a condemned house. They did it standing up. The woman had wanted fifty cents, and the man had flashed a razor.

“Your Daddy beats you,” she said, “because he loves you.”

Florence was a girl, and would by and by be married, and have children of her own, and all the duties of a woman; and this being so, her life in the cabin was the best possible preparation for her future life. But Gabriel was a man; he would go out one day into the world to do a man’s work, and he needed, therefore, meat, when there was any in the house, and clothes, whenever clothes could be bought, and the strong indulgence of his womenfolk.

There was sin among them. One Sunday, when regular service was over, Father James had uncovered sin in the congregation of the righteous. He had uncovered Elisha and Ella Mae. They had been “walkin… disorderly”; they were in danger of straying from the truth.

Every Sunday morning, then, since John could remember, they had taken to the streets, the Grimes family on their way to church.

“She was in a terrible state, for she found that she could neither take her eyes off him nor look at him.”

“Looking at his face, it sometimes came to her that all women had been cursed from the cradle; all, in one fashion or another, being given the same cruel destiny, born to suffer the weight of men. Frank claimed that she got it all wrong side up: it was men who suffered because they had to put up with the ways of women—and this from the time that they were born until the day they died.”

“all that befell: in her joys, her pipe in the evening, her man at night, the children she suckled, and guided on their first short steps; and in her tribulations, death, and parting, and the lash, she did not forget that deliverance was promised and would surely come. She had only to endure and trust in God.”

“She, who had descended with such joy and pain, had begun her upward climb—upward, with her baby, on the steep, steep side of the mountain.”

“The woman on the bed was old, her life was fading as the mist rose. She thought of her mother as already in the grave; and she would not let herself be strangled by the hands of the dead. “I’m going, Ma,” she said. “I got to go.”

“You going North,” her mother said, then. “And when you reckon on coming back?” “I don’t reckon on coming back,” she said.

He smiled, watching her, and felt a great tenderness fill his heart. ‘You just stay in the Word, little sister. The windows of Heaven going to open up and pour down blessings on you till you won’t know where to put them.’
When she smiled now it was with a heightened joy. ‘He done blessed me already, Reverend. He blessed me when He saved your soul and sent you out to preach His gospel.’
‘Sister Deborah,’ he said, slowly, ‘all that sinful time–was you a-praying for me?’
Her tone dropped ever so slightly. ‘We sure was, Reverend. Me and your mother, we was a-praying all the time.’
And he looked at her, full of gratitude and a sudden, wild conjecture: he had been real for her, she had watched him, and prayed for him during all those years when she, for him, had been nothing but a shadow. And she was praying for him still; he would have her prayers to aid him all his life long–he saw this, now, in her face. She said nothing, and she did not smile, only looked at him with her grave kindness, now a little questioning, a little shy.
‘God bless you, sister,’ he said at last.

“For the rebirth of the soul was perpetual; only rebirth every hour could stay the hand of Satan.”

stiffness…that would be hard to break, but that, nevertheless, would one day surely be broken.

“‘Praise the Lord,’ said his father. He did not move to touch him, did not kiss him, did not smile. They stood before each other in silence, while the saints rejoiced; and John struggled to speak the authoritative, the living word that would conquer the great division between his father and himself. But it did not come, the living word; in the silence something died in John, and something came alive.”
The saints rejoice. John cries. His mother and aunt are proud and encouraging. His father, however, remains cold; when John tells his father that he knows that he is saved, Gabriel is skeptical: “It come from your mouth,” he says. “I want to see you live it. It’s more than a notion.” The congregation heads out into the dawn.

Elizabeth walks with the praying women of the congregation who rejoice and congratulate her on her son. She cries, overcome with emotion. The women think she cries because her heart is full of gladness, but there is a bitterness to her tears that they

“Yes, Mama. I’m going to try to love the Lord.” At this there sprang into his mother’s face something startling, beautiful, unspeakably sad—as though she were looking far beyond him at a long, dark road, and seeing on that road a traveler in perpetual danger. Was it he, the traveler? or herself? or was she thinking of the cross of Jesus?”

“And her smile remained unreadable; he could not tell what it hid. And to escape her eyes, he kissed her, saying; ‘Yes Mama. I’m coming.'”

“John and his father stared at each other, struck dumb and still and with something come to life between them – while the Holy Ghost spoke. Gabriel had never seen such a look on John’s face before; Satan, at that moment, stared out of John’s eyes while the Spirit spoke; and yet John’s staring eyes to-nigh reminded Gabriel of other eyes; of his mother’s eyes when she beat him, of Florence’s eyes when she mocked him, of Deborah’s eyes when she prayed for him, of Esther’s eyes and Royal’s eyes, and Elizabeth’s eyes to-night before Roy cursed him, and of Roy’s eyes when Roy said: ‘You black bastard.’ And John did not drop his eyes, but seemed to want to stare for ever into the bottom of Gabriel’s soul.”

“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”

“There are people in the world for whom “coming along” is a perpetual process, people who are destined never to arrive.”

“The morning of that day, as Gabriel rose and started out to work, the sky was low and nearly black and the air too thick to breath. Late in the afternoon the wind rose, the skies opened, and the rain came. The rain came down as though once more in Heaven the Lord had been persuaded of the good uses of a flood. It drove before it the bowed wanderer, clapped children into houses, licked with fearful anger against the high, strong wall, and the wall of the lean-to, and the wall of the cabin, beat against the bark and the leaves of trees, trampled the broad grass, and broke the neck of the flower. The world turned dark, forever, everywhere, and windows ran as though their glass panes bore all the tears of eternity, threatening at every instant to shatter inward against this force, uncontrollable, so abruptly visited on the earth.”

“Elisha,’ he said, ‘no matter what happens to me, where I go, what folks say about me, no matter what anybody says, you remember – please remember – I was saved. I was there.”

“And the darkness of John’s sin was like the darkness of the church on Saturday evenings[…] It was like his thoughts as he moved about the tabernacle in which his life had been spent; the tabernacle that he hated, yet loved and feared[…] The darkness of his sin was in the hardheartedness with which he resisted God’s power; in the scorn that was often his while he listened to the crying, breaking voices, and watched the black skin glisten while they lifted up their arms and fell on their faces before the Lord. For he had made his decision. He would not be like his father, or his father’s fathers. He would have another life.”

“And his mind could not contain the terrible stretch of time that united twelve men fishing by the shores of Galilee, and black men weeping on their knees tonight, and he, a witness.”

“It was he who had told her to weep, when she wept, alone; never to let the world see, never to ask for mercy; if one had to die, to go ahead and die, but never to let oneself be beaten.”

“On the threshing-floor, in the centre of the crying, singing saints, John lay astonished beneath the power of the Lord.”

“Then John knew that a curse was renewed from moment to moment, from father to son. Time was indifferent, like snow and ice; but the heart, crazed wanderer in the driving waste, carried the curse for ever.”

” ‘Elisha,’ he said, ‘no matter what happens to me, where I go, what folks say about me, no matter what anybody says, you remember – please remember – I was saved. I was there.'”

return to the home page

Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray: A Reader’s Edition by Oscar Wilde Nicholas Frankel

UPODGThomas Hardy complained that censors were prudish so it isn’t just this book which had parts cut. One translator was sent to jail so publishers were under legal threat.

There is much repetition in the textual introduction of material in the general introduction.

Some of our group thought that we were sold this version under false pretences since there is hardly any extra material and yet there are seven chapters from the World Classics edition missing here. https://gaymensbookclubbristol.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/the-picture-of-dorian-gray-oxford-worlds-classics-by-oscar-wilde-author-isobel-murray-editor/

Wilde’s view of marriage was shocking to many of his time. Was that why the book was censored. If can’t be because of homosexuality per se because the uncensored version still had: Why is your friendship so fatal to young men ? There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend. There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave. England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable. What about Adrian Singleton, and his dreadful end ? What about Lord Kent’s only son, and his career ? I met his father yesterday in St. James’s Street. He seemed broken with shame and sorrow. What about the young Duke of. Perth? What sort of life has he got now ? What gentleman would associate with him ?’

Is Basil the angel and Lord Henry the devil in Dorian’s ears? The latter urges a pre-Christian, Greek morality.

One chapter is self-indulgent and contains much tedious description but otherwise the book skilfully leaves much to the imagination.

The anti-Semitism when referring to the theatre manager is typical of its time.

The portrait painter acted out of adoration for Dorian.The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals him­self. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul.’ (And Wilde being a Roman Catholic, would have known that ‘accident’ was a technical term in the notion of transubstantiation – if Dorian is the accident, does the painting become the substance – art as sacrament? the painting as the real presence?)

The name Dorian evokes ‘Greek love’.

The portrait remains ‘in the closet’.

Algiers is mentioned – a hangout for English homosexuals.

Wilde’s typical bon mots are amusing to start with but become tiresome after a while.

Is it autobiographical? Wilde once remarked that it “contains much of me in it. ….that Basil Hallward is “what I think I am” but “Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” Wilde’s comment suggests a backward glance to a Greek or “Dorian” Age, but also a forward-looking one to a more permissive time. That Dorian and Lord Henry contain elements of John Gray and Lord Ronald Gower: does not begin to account for the com­plexity of these characters or for their vibrancy on the page.

Quotations

there is only one thing in the world worse than being I talked about, and that is not being talked about then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen

It is better not to be different from one’s fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and with­out disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands. Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such, as they are—my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray’s good looks—we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.’

With an evening coat and a white-tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stock-broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized

I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray. Then—but I don’t know how to explain it to you. Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life. I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows. I grew afraid, and turned to quit the room. (awe)

Lady Brandon treats her guests exactly as an auctioneer treats his goods

It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.

Women have no appreciation of good looks

to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.

You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.

Beauty is a form of Genius—is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.

You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it…….Every month as it wanes brings you nearer to something dreadful. Time is jealous of you, and wars, against your lilies and, your roses. You will become sallow, and, hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed.

`I am jealous of everything whose beauty does not die. I am jealous of the portrait you have painted of me. Why should it keep what I must lose ? Every moment that passes takes something from me, and gives something to it. Oh, if it were only the other way! If the picture could change, and I could be always what I am now ! Why did you paint it?

‘What a fuss people make about fidelity!’ exclaimed Lord Henry. ‘Why, even in love it is purely a question for physiol­ogy. It has nothing to do with our own will. young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot: that is all one can say.’

Lord Henry had not yet come in. He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.

‘The formal monotonous ticking of the Louis Quatorze clock annoyed him. Once or twice he thought of going away.

Dorian smiled, and shook his head: ‘I am afraid I don’t think, so, Lady Henry. I never talk during music—at least, during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.’

Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

`Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.’

`I don’t think I am likely to marry, Harry. I am too much in love. That is one of your aphorisms. I am putting it into practice, as I do everything that you say.’

`My dear, boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.’

As for conversation, there are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these can’t be admitted into decent society

I remembered what you had said to me on that wonderful evening when we first dined together, about the search for beauty being the real secret of life.

`Half-past six! What an hour! It will be like having a meat ­tea, or reading an English novel. It must be seven. No gentle­man dines before seven.

I am a little jealous of the picture for being a whole month younger than I am.

Basil, my dear, boy, puts, everything that is charming in him into his work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for life but his prejudices, his principles, and his common sense. The only artists I have ever known, who are personally delightful, are, bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are.

The pulse and passion of youth were in him, but he was becoming self-conscious. It was delightful to watch him. With his beautiful face, and his beautiful soul, I he was a thing to wonder at. It was no matter how it all ended, or was destined to- end. He was like one of those gracious figures in a pageant or a play, whose joys seem to be

Remote from one, but whose sorrows stir one’s sense of beauty and whose wounds are like red roses.

drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality.

The love that he bore him—for it was really love—had nothing in it that was not noble and intellectual. It was not that mere physical admira­tion of beauty that is born of the senses, and that dies when the senses tire. It was such love as Michael Angelo had known, and Montaigne, and Winckelmann, and Shakespeare himself.

There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamoured of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself……Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room, and crouch there

It was rumoured of him once that he was about to join the Roman Catholic communion; and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the cold marble pavement, and watch the priest, in his stiff flowered dalmatic, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or raising aloft the jewelled lantern-shaped monstrance with that pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the ‘panis celestis,’ the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice, and smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers, that the, grave boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt flowers, had their subtle fascination for him….. But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellect or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail. Mysticism, with its marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the subtle antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for a season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic doctrines of the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious pleasure in tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly cell in the brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the conception of the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain physical conditions, morbid or healthy, normal or diseased. Yet, as has been said of him before, no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance com­pared with life itself. He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal.

He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments,’ as indeed he had for everything connected with the service of the Church. In the long cedar chests that lined the west gallery of his house he had stored away many rare and beauti­ful specimens of what is really the raiment of the Bride of Christ, who must wear purple and jewels and fine linen that she may hide the pallid macerated body that is worn by the suffering that she seeks for, and wounded by self-inflicted pain.

For these treasures, and everything that he collected in his lovely house, were to be to him means of forgetfulness, modes by which he could escape, for a season, from the fear that seemed to him at times to be almost too-great to be borne.

Dorian Gray had been poisoned by a book. There were moments when he looked on evil simply as through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.

Censored bits:

Basil Hallward to Lord Henry about Dorian: “I find a strange pleasure in saying things to him I know I shall be sorry for having said. I give myself away. As a rule, he is charming to me, and we walk home together from the club arm in arm.”

Wilde’s narrator tells us in the 1890 Lippincott’s edition and the typescript that “rugged and straightforward as he was,” there was something in Hallward’s na­ture “that was purely feminine in its tenderness.”

In the present typescript version Hallward says to Dorian: “It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more ro­ mance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman. . . . From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me . . . I adored you madly, extravagantly, absurdly. I was jealous of every­one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you.”

“Why is it that every young man that you take up seems to come to grief, to go to the bad at once?” changed to “Why is your friendship so fateful to young men?”

“A man with curious eyes had suddenly peered into his face, and then dogged him with stealthy footsteps, passing and repassing him, many times.”

“Upon the other hand, had she become your mistress, she would have lived in the society of charming and cultured men. You would have educated her, taught her how to dress, how to talk, how to move. You would have made her perfect, and she would have been extremely happy. After a time, no doubt, you would have grown tired of her. She would have made a scene. You would have made a settlement. Then a new career would have begun for her.”

“she promised to come with me to town. I had taken a house for her, and arranged everything,”

“I don’t suppose that ten per cent of the lower orders live with their wives” changed to “I don’t suppose that ten per cent of the lower orders live cor­rectly.”

“the sinful creatures who prowl the street at night [and who] cursed him as he passed by, seeing in him a corruption greater than their own.”

return to the home page