173 Gentlemen of the Road

November 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Filaq wiped the blade on the flap of his tunic and then handed it back haft first. “Thank you for saving my life,” he said.

“I don’t save lives,” Zelikman said. “I just prolong their futility.”

I didn’t suspect it at all. That there’s something special buried under that comical exchange between Filaq and Zelikman. Something unexpected. Something awesome.

A horse-and-swords adventure, “Gentlemen of the Road” is certainly packed with rousing swashbuckling action. And the language, it’s so filigreed the old-school way it probably actually dates back to A.D. 950.

Talk of adventure, author Michael Chabon put it quite aptly and crisply: “Because adventures befall the unadventuresome as readily, if not as frequently, as the bold. Adventures are a logical and reliable result—and have been since at least the time of Odysseus—of the fatal act of leaving one’s home, or trying to return to it again. All adventure happens in that damned and magical space, wherever it may be found or chanced upon, which least resembles one’s home.”

172 A Little Princess

November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is nothing so nice as supposing. It’s almost like being a fairy. If you suppose anything hard enough it seems as if it were real.

But for the uncanny verisimilitude that throws me way back to my childhood, I would have easily tossed Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Little Princess” into the melodrama bin. What it’s about is commonplace; its denouement—everything magically falling into their proper place to resolve Sara’s woes—too convenient to be believable.

Sara is probably the luckiest-unluckiest-luckiest girl in the world. I know of one just like her. It’s a friend from grade school. This friend had the coolest, most amazing toys in our street; and he always had a new one every time I’d come visit him in his house. He was sort of a drawing wunderkind too, so he always had new art materials.

Then his father died. He stopped getting new toys, new clothes. He stopped going to school. I didn’t see him for a long time. When I saw him again, he was driving a pedicab. Then I saw him again in the marketplace, doing errands for the meat vendors. I would also see him in the town bakery, helping sell bread. He was everywhere, always working his very thin body to exhaustion.

I saw him everywhere. But I never played with him again. I never talked to him again. I never went to his house again. Of course I felt sorry for him. I wanted us to still be friends but, seeing him in his dirty, worn out clothes, it felt like looking at someone I did not know. At all. He was so changed, I did not know what to say to him.

And then he just vanished. I never saw him again. From what I heard, he relocated to Zamboanga City. He has his own family now. Runs his own business. Like Sara, he probably became the luckiest boy again.

171 Hallowe’en Party

November 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nothing could be more agreeable than a juicy English apple — And yet here were apples mixed up with broomsticks, and witches, and old-fashioned folklore, and a murdered child.

In “Hallowe’en Party,” Agatha Christy takes on a most disconcerting subject. A child drowned in the middle of a festivity. But thank heavens for Hercule Poirot—who was not even at the revelry—such crime will not go unsolved and its perpetrator unpunished.

Of the conspiring murderers, I guessed the one but not the other. I always fall for beautiful gentle kind facades. Dammit.

Poirot must have a very clear head. His deductions are simply unassailable, his conclusions infallible, his insights clean and self-assured. Here’s the unrivaled Poirot:

But to everything that happens there has to be a past. A past which is by now incorporated in today, but which existed yesterday or last month or last year. The present is nearly always rooted in the past.

170 Tender Is the Night

November 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is Mrs. Speers to her lovestruck daughter, Rosemary, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night”:

You were brought up to work—not especially to marry. Now you’ve found your first nut to crack and it’s a good nut—go ahead and put whatever happens down to experience. Wound yourself or him—whatever happens it can’t spoil you because economically you’re a boy, not a girl.

It’s all true. The moneyed can buy treatment, husband, even years of gratification and happiness. Until their vulgarity rears its painful ugly sad head. Then it’s time to pay up some more—either with more money or with poised competence and plain good sense.

Up to us, or to some of us.

169 Stonehenge

October 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

We had stumbled upon the reason why Stonehenge is where it is. The northeast entrance of Stonehenge is positioned at one end of a pair of natural ridges, between which are parallel stripes of sediment-filled gullies and chalk bedrock. It is not particularly unusual for Neolithic monuments to incorporate such aspects of the natural world into their design, but what is exceptional here is that this particular natural feature, by sheer coincidence, is aligned on the solstice axis. There is absolutely no doubt that the builders of Stonehenge were aware of the presence of this geological formation, because they enhanced the two natural ridges by digging the avenue’s ditches along their outside edges and heaping soil on top of each ridge to form parallel banks. The natural ridges would have formed what anthropologists call an axis mundi, an axis or centre of the world. For Neolithic people this was where the passage of the sun was marked on the land, where heaven and earth came together. Such a place might have been regarded as the centre or origin of the universe.

Mike Parker Pearson applies the principle of binary opposition to explain explore expose the mysteries that blanket the megaliths in Salisbury Plain. He is convinced that the Woodhenge is for the living, the Stonehenge for the dead.

Pearson, every chance he gets, bitches about the incompetence of the archaeologists who excavated the area in and around the Stonehenge before him, especially those whose findings and interpretation do not support his living-dead theory. This guy probably thinks he’s the only one who has a functioning brain in the entire nothingness, and all the rest of us are nothing but leptons.

But, his bitchings aside, Pearson’s “Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery” offers smart explanation and plausible evidence to reason why the Neolithic people built the Stonehenge, where they extracted the bluestones and sarsens from, and how they managed to move the trilithons (each sarsen weighing about twenty to thirty five tons), possibly from as far as Avebury and Clatford. Just how thousands of men dragged these huge stones, either by land or by water, is still a puzzle to this day.

168 The Dwarfs

October 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Harold Pinter’s “The Dwarfs” is the kind of material that makes you look forward to the unfolding of every chapter not for what will happen next but for what the characters will talk about next. For Len Pete Mark Virginia always have such interesting erudite comical discourses on just about everything – spirituality relationship philosophy politics education morality poetry. They make you think with them; sometimes you get a resolution, most times you don’t. Here’s Len and Mark:

  • Do you believe in God?
  • What?
  • Do you believe in God?
  • Who?
  • God.
  • God?
  • Do you, or don’t you, believe in God?
  • Do I believe in God?
  • Would you say that again?
  • Have a biscuit.

Of all their verbal jousting, however, it is the confrontation between Pete and Mark I find quite mesmeric. And I’d have to say Pete handily wins the match with this repartee alone:

Up to this point and no more, I have been proved a wiser and a better person than any of you. I am, I think it, though you may not believe it, a god in my essential dimensions. Of course, I cannot be worshipped. I have to be lived with.

167 The Mists of Avalon

October 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Well, so it must be, for as man saw reality, so it became.

Feminists would probably have a field day with “The Mists of Avalon”. For here, in this Marion Zimmer Bradley’s re-imagining of the Legend of Camelot, women take the front top center.

The men are relegated to the sidelines. Arthur is reduced to a whimpering gullible cuckold. Lancelet is no more than a simpering lovestruck string-puppet. Mordred, for someone who is supposed to take down the King Stag, is an unmemorable incompetent bore. And Merlin, a mere sidekick to the Lady of the Lake.

But the women. They rule. Viviane is the scheming High Priestess of Avalon who might as well be the Goddess herself. Gwynhwefar is the sanctimonious bitch who holds the strings that move Arthur and Lancelet whichever way she pleases. Morgause is the powermonger who holds her own against the men.

And Morgaine? I don’t know what she is. She could have everything but her unfettered angst gave her nothing. She goes from Cornwall to Avalon to Camelot to nowhere. She goes from being a Priestess to Lady-in-Waiting to Queen to nobody. After regretting the Beltane Fire Fuck with her stepbrother Arthur, she charms her cousin Lancelet to her bosom, gives Kevin the Harper a series of pity fucks, and carries an extra-marital affair with Acolon (son of her husband, King Uriens). I honestly find no virtue in this woman. I must agree with her own assessment of what she has become: “What a whore I have grown!


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