Although written back in 1997, years before the plight faced by Syria's refugees, author Peter Robinson pInspector Banks Among the English for England
Although written back in 1997, years before the plight faced by Syria's refugees, author Peter Robinson penned a novel concerning national pride cloaked in vicious racism and intolerance. James Flood is found beaten to death in Banks' never peaceful Eastvale.
After the battered corpse is identified by Forensics, young members of Eastvale's Pakastani residents are prime suspects. Flood had a run in with George Mahmood at a local pub. He didn't take kindly to being run into by a G..d....d Paki.
Banks may have racial tension on the rise. It won't do. It's just not PC, nor good for the town's image.
Worse, James Flood was the technical Guru for a Neo-Nazi crew, the Albion League, headed up by a smooth talking chief, Nevil Montcombe, who not only has the ways to attract the local disaffected young to his growing ranks, but the money to pay the best Solicitors and Barristers to protect his interests.
While Banks is dealing with sticky political wickets on the job, his personal life is on the skids. He and wife Sandra have split.
It's enough to put Banks deep into his bottles of Laphroaig Scotch. It's bloody Hell when Chief Superintendent Jimmy Riddell suspends Banks for not properly investigating the Flood case when Banks own subordinates find an easy solve to the murder. Case closed.
Or is it? Banks may be suspended, but he's not a man to leave loose ends hanging. Especially when his experience tells him the evidence doesn't add up.
Robinson continues to write at the top of his game. Banks continues to develop as an increasingly complex man, torn between duty and family.
Bank's ninth appearance is a cracking good read. Robinson writes another first rate police procedural. This series just grows stronger with each successive entry. Excellent. Read it....more
In short, this is Banks' best outing in the series I have encountered. Peter Robinson departs fInnocent Graves: Banks at the Bar
Full review to follow.
In short, this is Banks' best outing in the series I have encountered. Peter Robinson departs from his usual plot line. For in this novel, the murder of a sixteen year old girl in a country churchyard leads to the arrest and trial of a small college English teacher. The suspects abound. However, the presence of convincing forensic evidence leads to a fascinating trial of the hapless suspect. This one is not to be missed. Robinson has outdone himself in Innocent Graves....more
Mondays child is fair of face, Tuesdays child is full of grace, Wednesdays child is full of woe, ThursdaysWednesday's Child: Inspector Banks' Discomfort
Mondays child is fair of face, Tuesdays child is full of grace, Wednesdays child is full of woe, Thursdays child has far to go, Fridays child is loving and giving, Saturdays child works hard for his living, And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Little Gemma Scupham is seven, the portrait of a child of woe. Da is long gone, if she ever knew him. Mum is Brenda Scupham, who frankly finds Gemma a child not wanted. Brenda prefers her liquor and her men, being undisturbed by the presence of her daughter, who has come to look upon her mother and the men in her life with a sad, knowing , look that seems to question why do you allow us to live in this manner? At times, it's enough to give a parent the guilts.
So Mum is quite relieved on the particular afternoon the story begins in Wednesday's Child, when two well dressed people, a man and a woman, knock on her door identifying themselves as representatives of the Department of Human Services, investgating a report that Gemma may have been abused--that it will be necessary that they keep Gemma overnight for evaluation, and they will return Gemma the next morning.
Of course, Gemma is not returned. We reach the heart of the matter.
Once again, Peter Robinson weaves the intricate details of a meticulous police procedural into this novel. And, has become more interesting over the course of the cases of Inspector Alan Banks, we see what the state of his life is over the passage of time, his state of mind at the time he is at work on the current case.
Through the course of the Banks series, I have followed the good Inspector's taste in music. It varies from novel to novel. Inspector Banks has journeyed through Opera, Classic American Blues and Jazz. In this novel we find him in a nostalgic state of mind, listening to music popular in his younger years, a time of relevant innocence and pleasure. Let's say he's in a "Yesterday" frame of mind. You know, "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away..."
Since Banks' first appearance, time has moved on. His children, daughter Tracy, and son Brian, have grown older. Brian is away at school. Tracy, now sixteen, is establishing her independence. With his children no longer needing his and doting wife's Sandra's close supervision, Sandra has sought more time following her interest in the sponsoring of Art events. To Banks, it seems his domestic life is unraveling a bit. Little time is spent with wife Sandra.
Gemma's mother, Brenda, is a contrasting foil to Banks, who in fact misses the company of his children. Gemma's disappearance greatly disturbs Banks because from experience he knows that abducted children, if not found within twenty-four hours, may never be found. After forty-eight hours, the chance that a child will be found alive is even less a possibility.
The abduction of Gemma Scupham, strikes Banks' supervisor, Chief Inspector Gristhorpe, with even greater force. In his youth, Gristhorpe was a junior constable part of the team investigating the Moor Murders, one of England's most infamous cases dealing with a pair of male and female serial killers who were responsible for a substantial number of child disappearances and murders. The real life pair of killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley terrorized the Manchester area of England between 1963 and 1965. The actual number of their child victims only increased as they began to confess to additional cases in the mid-1980s.
Unlike previous cases, Gristhorpe who is nearing retirement age, and has been contemplating stepping down for Banks to move up into his position, decides he will be actively involved in the investigation of Gemma's disappearance. The toll of an Inspector or Superintendent's work on his life is beautifullly described as it concerns the aging Gristhorpe.
Gristhorpe reflects on his construction of a stone wall about his home, an activity which he has shared with Alan Banks as they have discussed previous cases.
“He had been working at the wall for too long. Why he bothered the Lord only knew. After all, it went nowhere and closed in nothing. His grandfather had been a master waller in the dale, but the skill had not been passed down the generations. He supposed he liked is for the same reason he liked fishing: mindless relaxation. In an age of totalitarian utilitarianism, Gristhorpe thought, a man needs as much purposeless activity as he can find.”
How I recognize this. The thoughtless, purposeless activities I engaged in to relieve my stress during my years as a career
So you ask, why do you do this to yourself? You have a choice to read or not to read. It is absurd. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Watch "Miracle on 34th Street." Watch Benjy shoot his eyeglass lens out with his Red Ryder BB Gun.
I pour myself another Scotch. Light another cigarette. The smoke drifts up and slowly dissipates. Ah, smoking is not good for you, you say. I have news for you. None of us are getting out of this alive.
The attic fan is on. It sucks the smoke away. It is unduly warm. It does not feel like Christmas. There is no tree. There are no lights. Only the drone of the attic fan which not only brings a cooling breeze through the house, but also the coat of damp humidity that takes the crispness from the brown tops of the biscuits, uneaten, on the stove.
Talking to Mersault
Ah, Mersault. You miserable soul. Did you not see it coming? From the very beginning I knew this was going to end badly.
“Maman died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.”
So you travel to the home where you have put your mother. The Director tells you to feel no guilt. Why should you? On your modest salary? Then not to want to see your mother. Not one last time? You sit vigil over her casket, but you smoke and drink coffee.
I understand a bit, Mersault. I saw my mother one last time. After a call from the hospital. Maman was dead. I went to see her. Of course, the nursing staff wanted the room cleared out. You expect to walk in and see your mother at rest. Reclining as if asleep. But they have not attended to her. Her jaw hangs slack and open. She couldn't breathe, you see. So, I forever think of her struggling for that last gasp of air. They want to know what I want to have done with "the body." I tell them the name of the crematorium. I do not remember whether I took her diamond earrings from her.
Perhaps it was a good idea not to open the casket. But you seem emotionless. You live in the moment. It is though you have no past, no future. You are indifferent.
Some would say you are entirely too honest. I don't think it is out of simple guilessness. No. At times, I myself have wondered what is the point to it all.
That you should seek out the comfort of a woman's companionship. That I understand. But after she has given herself to you, and asks if you love her. Well.
“She was wearing a pair of my pajamas with the sleeves rolled up. When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her.”
You react to only the basic desires of a person. You appreciate them. However, you have, or if you have, any emotions, you keep them well hidden. All this will haunt you Mersault. You are a stranger. You are an outsider. And all your lack of emotion is unacceptable to the society that surrounds you. You will be a pariah.
Oh, yes. We, the members of society practice conventions that make us comfortable. We practice behaviors that make us predictable. There is so much safety in that.
But what if you are right. What if nothing has any meaning. How does that make you comfortable.
“Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?" "Yes," I said.”
What assurance to you gain by being so damned cocksure of such absurdity?
You murder a man. You offer no explanation other than it must have been the sun. Suddenly you seem to recognize there will be consequences.
“I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness. ”
Yes. It was like that. And you will face trial. Because you are a stranger who does not possess the emotions and expectations of those who judge you, they will hate you. They will condemn you because you do not follow the rules of the game they play.
You see, it is dangerous to live in an indifferent world. You, with your unwavering honesty take away the comfort of those who sit in judgment of you. They want their lives to have purpose and certainty by following the rules.
They will kill you for that, you know. It is sad, but true. Hope that the guillotine works the first time. I know that requires you to become a co-conspirator in your own death. That is the only say you have in this game's outcome.
Perhaps you will find some comfort and open yourself "to the gentle indifference of the world."
Thirteen years after The Stranger was published, Albert Camus said,
"I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: 'In our society any man who does not weep at his mother's funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.' I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game."Carroll, David. Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice. Columbia University Press. 2007
**spoiler alert** A Necessary End: Banks and the Inevitable Conclusion
This is my third outing with good man Inspector Alan Banks. I'm coming to rather**spoiler alert** A Necessary End: Banks and the Inevitable Conclusion
This is my third outing with good man Inspector Alan Banks. I'm coming to rather like him. I've followed Banks from the beginning in Gallows View, published in 1987. To date the series strikes me as a fine ,well written police procedural told from a more gentle perspective, in a more peaceful and bucolic setting. In Yorkshire. The fictional town of Eastvale, more specific.
For Banks, in his debut, had left his more high pressure job in London as a member of the Unsolved Crimes Unit, and transferred to Eastvale, hoping to find a quieter life. A better place to raise his two children. Spend more time with his doting wife Sandra. All's well. Until Banks discovers that no place is immune to crime, not even the idyllic Eastvale.
Banks is quick to involve himself in investigations. He has a knack for interrogation. Some might suspect him of being a bit soft. But that would be entirely a mistake. Banks is capable of coming down as hard as necessary to uncover a killer.
Music is a passion with which he relaxes himself. And I have rather humorously followed him from his opera phase to his current fascination with classic American Blues and Jazz. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Billie Holliday. He's quite informed.
Banks dotes on his children. He misses his wife when she is away.
Contemporary readers, much younger than myself, might find A Necessary End quite dated. It is a novel revolving around a demonstration by Eastvale Villagers against a Nuclear Power Plant and also the presence of a new United States Airforce Base carrying nuclear weapons. You see, the Cold War is still quite real at the time of Robinson righting this case.
However, being a child of the late 1960s, I found no problem falling into the atmosphere of demonstrations, the exercise of civil disobedience. I who was a college student with a low lottery number was staring the possibility of heading to Vietnam with a forboding sense of my early demise. I attended my own share of demonstrations in my younger years. A member of the Student Mobilization Committee, allied with Vietnam Veterans against the war. Interesting thing about protest groups, how polarized they can be. And the bonds formed among folks for a common cause though of disparate personalities.
But enough of that. There is a Hell of a demonstration. A Bobby sent in from another district, Eddie Gill is killed. Stabbed. Over a hundred protestors are present. In otherwords, over a hundred suspects.
London sends out its own whiz kid from the Yard to quickly solve the copper killing. Consider him Banks opposite. Dirty Dick Burgess is an ultra right wing conservative. His immediate solution is that the dead Constable was killed by a terrorist. Possibly Communist, Possibly IRA, Possibly a Maoist. Never mind that Burgess has no proper head for politics and mixes contradictory philosophies at will, he sees conspiracies everywhere.
Alas. Banks has to face the problem in his beloved village without his wife or children who have gone away to aid Sandra's mother in the care of her ailing stepfather. So Banks finds himself with little excuse not to spend extra hours with the obnoxious Burgess.
There's a group of idealistic folk who live outside Eastvale at Maggie's Farm. The march to the beat of the different drum. The oldest are true children of the sixties. Mara, the perfect image of the earthmother. Her partner, Seth, a maker of fine furniture. Richard, a bitter man, an artist caring for his son Julian, while his wife is attempting to recover a life from drug addiction.
There are two younger among the crowd. Zoe, a modern day flower child who lives by giving Tarot reads, writing the local horoscope, and delving into the I Ching. She is an idealist of the New Age. Not really political, but happily at home in a new day form of communal living. And of course, there's Paul. The social outcast. The product of an abused home. Raised in foster care.
Mara, who was incapable of bearing children extends kindness to Paul. So, soon, does Seth, who takes Paul on as an apprentice in the fine art of carpentry and wood work.
Outside Maggie's Farm there is a true activist named Ozmend. Not at all foreign to organizing demonstrations. And Ozmend clearly has a past showing him capable of violent behavior. A younger couple are also in the Ban the Bomb/Ban Nuclear Power movement. However, they appear to be pure idealistic hangers on.
The point of all this? Thanks to Burgess who will have his agitator's guts for garters and ballocks for sport, the above named parties are his sole suspects. That and any other agitator he can manage to create.
But, Banks, always the thorough careful one wonders if there might have been a personal motive for Eddie Gills murder. He launches his own investigation, kept from his supervising officer. Gill was not a good clean cop. He loved to volunteer for Demonstration Control. He was a head banger of long standing. Any number might have their motive. Of course, the problem is the most likely suspects are those whom Dirty Dick harries for purely political motives.
All things must come to an end. Unfortunately, an end must be necessary. However, it is an end that may solve a crime and at the same time offer a deeply human reason for taking another person's life. Unfortunate. But, I must say, I've had my dealings with enough victims to reach the conclusion they deserved killin' as we might say in the South. Problem is, the law allows no one the right to do that.
On an interesting side note, I'm discovering that our Inspector Banks is all to0 human. He's exhibiting a distinct attraction to Dr. Jenny Fuller, who first appeared in Gallows View. And that attraction appears to be returned to Banks.
So, without doubt, I will continue with Inspector Banks' Investigations. No Sturm und Drang series. Not at this point. However, Peter Robinson has a distinct knack for realistic dialogue, the establishment of place in Yorkshire, and deeply introspective abilities to portray men and women at their best and worst.
You can't find a thing wrong with that. And you younger, folks. Don't be deterred that this title isn't hot off the racks. It remains as relevant today as the issue of brutality by police remains a front burner topic. And, beware. Not all nuclear weapons have been destroyed. You might find yourself wanting to "Ban the Bomb," too.
“Job, actually. I read it once a long time ago. It seems more frightening now though. The man who be
Knots and Crosses: John Rebus and the Book of Job
“Job, actually. I read it once a long time ago. It seems more frightening now though. The man who begins to doubt, who shouts out against his God, looking for a response, and who gets one. ‘God gave the world to the wicked,’ he says at one point, and ‘Why should I bother?’ at another.”
“It sounds interesting. But he goes on bothering?”
“Yes, that’s the incredible thing.”
Conversation between Detective Sergeant John Rebus and Detective Inspector Gill Templer
, . Damned if I haven't met myself coming and going in Knots and Crosses, the first John Rebus novel by Ian Rankin. After sharing a quote from the novel, a friend from the UK responded it seemed I was identifying with John Rebus. An adept observation. However, I felt it more a matter of staring at myself in the mirror reading through this debut of a rather complex character. Considering some of the reviewers' opinions of John Rebus, he's either loved, hated, or merely shrugged off. Fancy that. Aren't we all? In spite of whatever opinion we may have of our own self.
While not a policeman, I was a career prosecuting attorney. I worked closely with law enforcement of all ranks. I was a go to Assistant District Attorney. Give it to Mikey. Mikey likes it. Well, I didn't like it. How do you like dead bodies in situ? The stench of voided bladders and sphincters. Floaters. Bodies undiscovered for days of temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Farenheit.
Cases involving children are the worst. I have mentioned it in other reviews. I will not repeat the detail here. However, I will say, having attended the exhumation of a child for a re-autopsy, whom I originally saw dead on a hospital gurney, and was present for the original autopsy, I recommend cremation if given the choice. Especially if the burial plot is beneath the water table. I have flashbacks to that case to this day.
Detective Sergeant John Rebus is involved in the investigation of a serial killer in Edinburgh, Scotland. All the victims are children between the ages of eight to twelve. He is only one of many. Really on the outskirts of the investigation. Assigned to the Incidents room scouring over reports looking for possible leads in the investigation. Tracking down reports involving a particular model of car following the report of a citizen having seen such a vehicle in connection with the abduction of one of the victims.
When you are a John Rebus, you realize most people go through life as tourists, just as the tourists who visit Edinburgh. They see the statue of Greyfriar's Bobby in the Kirkyard, the towering buildings, the usual sights, and take the usual photographs. Most people do live a Disney life, untouched by violence, safe in the knowledge that such things always happen to other people. That most of the time, whoever ends up dead did something they should have known better than to do, and all cases are solved within sixty minutes on the telly.
Rebus knows otherwise. So do I. That's why Rebus, the thinking man, isn't above having a go at the God of Job.
At times Rebus questions his own faith. “...trapped in limbo, believing in a lack of belief, but not necessarily lacking the belief to believe.”
As the investigation drags on and the number of victims increases, “Rebus reminded himself to stop praying. Perhaps if he stopped praying, God would take the hint and stop being such a bastard to one of his few believers on this near-godforsaken planet.”
Perhaps Rebus thinks Job's God is having the mickey off the innocent. I often thought so. I teetered on and off the road of faith for years. I've now reconciled myself to being what I call an "Orthodox Heretic," or perhaps a hopeful agnostic. Taking Pascal's Wager might be a safe bet.
It is far from a Disney World.
“Ah, but it was not a nice world this, not a nice world at all. It was an Old Testament land that he found himself in, a land of barbarity and retribution.”
Through the investigation of the abductions and murders of the young girls of Edinburgh, Rebus reviews his life as a policemen. Not unlike many of his comrades.
“Fifteen years, and all he had to show were an amount of self-pity and a busted marriage with an innocent daughter hanging between them. It was more disgusting than sad.”
Alarmingly, Rebus' daughter, Samantha, is twelve. It's hard not to have a chill run up the spine.
Once more I look into the mirror. For me, it was a marriage of twenty years, two children. Busted. I have grandchildren I've never met. I'm one up on Rebus. My second marriage is on the downhill run. It's never clear what exactly led to Rebus and his wife divorcing. I think it had to do with the work. The hours. The time away. I remember being told "You care about other people's children more than your own." The fact was, I knew mine were safe. I saw to that. But the work was relentless.
Rebus tells us.
“No sooner had he finished with a case than another two or three appeared in its place. What was the name of that creature? The Hydra, was it? That was what he was fighting. Every time he cut off a head, more popped into his in-tray. Coming back from a holiday was a nightmare. And now they were giving him rocks to push up hills as well.”
Ian Rankin makes Rebus a literate man. The allusions to Greeks and Roman mythology are most satisfying. The multiplying cases akin to the monstrous Hydra, one of the labors of Hercules. And pushing rocks up hills. Poor Sisyphus, doomed to roll a boulder up a hill without ever reaching the summit before it rolled back downhill.
Yes. The filing cabinets filled. They were crammed. Up to a thousand cases at a time. My word for the job was "relentless."
The plot of the novel is slow to build. Carefully built. As young girls are kidnapped and murdered, Rebus is receiving cryptic letters. Each contains a knotted piece of string. A note saying the clues are everywhere. As the cases mount, the letters include little crosses tied with knotted string. Knots and Crosses. Rebus does not connect the letters to the investigation.
But he will. When the killer assaults his ex-wife and kidnaps his own daughter, Samantha. All the letters to Rebus have been a taunt.
The initial letters of the previous victims' name spell out Samantha. Suddenly the case is intensely personal. And the killer has murdered each child by strangulation. A nasty death. Strangulation with a garotte. There are the knots. The crosses signify the killer intends to crucify Rebus.
No slow pace now. But a careful race against the clock to the finish. When the killer calls to say Samantha will die tonight.
What secret lies hidden in John Rebus' past that does not allow him to connect the dots to realize who the killer is?
This is a fine series debut. It far exceeds the ordinary police procedural. And it's good to know that the Rebus novels have extended to twenty-four volumes. I have some fine reading ahead of me. I wonder if Rebus will continue to have me staring in the mirror.
The Monkey's Raincoat: The P.I. Who Didn't Want to Grow Up
“ ‘Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy.’ The
The Monkey's Raincoat: The P.I. Who Didn't Want to Grow Up
“ ‘Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy.’ The Blue Fairy said that. In Pinocchio.”- Elvis Cole Licensed Investigator, State of California
A dream is a wish your heart makes...
Mr. Cole, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Yeah, with you and the big guy, Joe Pike. Don't tell him I said so. I don't want him to jump to the wrong conclusion. But, after all, he said you taught him good things. Says a lot about you. Seems Joe can take things pretty literal. Know what I mean?
Don't get me wrong. I was a little skeptical about you to begin with. What kind of self respecting PI has a Mickey Mouse phone, a Pinnochio Clock, and Jiminy Cricket figurines spread around his office? Any client walking into the place might wonder if they stepped into the wrong office. Underestimate you. But that's part of that self effacing act of yours, isn't it?
I get it. I used to wear a Mickey Mouse watch in the courtroom. Me? Oh, yeah. I'm Sullivan. ADA, retired. I tried guys that hurt kids. So, the Mickey Mouse watch. You and I would get along. Yeah, call me Mike. I'm retired now. Thank God.
You know, I got what you meant about wanting to be Peter Pan, never wanting to grow up. I worked with a lot of guys that went to the Nam. Yeah, some of them came back different, real different. Effed up. So you saying you decided you didn't want to grow up when your were eighteen in a rice paddy In Country. I get that. You didn't say so, but I bet you saw a bunch of shit you wish you hadn't.
Like I say, we'll get along fine. I had days I wished I hadn't grown up. People don't get me sometimes. I've seen as much as you have. It's the eyes of dead kids get me. Sometimes they look surprised. Others...they don't. Look surprised. It's like they knew it was coming. Some almost looked like they were glad it was over.
That Mickey Mouse watch. It made the living kids smile. I liked that. It pissed off the lawyers who represented the beaters, the rapers, the killers. I liked that, too. It's good when you can get under the other guy's skin. Yeah, you know that, too.
I started figuring you out when Ellen Lang and that barracuda friend of hers came into your office. Ellen's husband Mort is missing. And her nine year old boy, Perry. Ellen, that little hausfrau from Kansas, who didn't even know how to write a check. And that girl friend of hers, riding her to get on with it. Hire you. Get rid of the shit husband. You took that case for less than it was worth. I liked that about you.
Then I got to thinking about that Haiku by Basho at the beginning of your story.
Winter downpour-- even the monkey needs a raincoat.
Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
That's the way your mind clicks. You are the raincoat, Mr. Cole. Aren't you? And your client is the monkey. When times get bad you protect your client. Whatever it takes. Joe Pike is your extra muscle. He was in the Nam, too. A Marine. And a cop. Maybe a little zealous. Maybe that's why he's not on the force, but with you.
You're a lot deeper than you let on, Mr. Cole. The records in your house, the music you listen to again and again. The shelf of books you read again and again. The books that fit your life, the way you live it, the way you work it. No wonder some folks don't see you coming, take you for granted. Like a man wearing a Mickey Mouse watch.
Nothing's ever simple as it looks, is it? Yeah, we all knew Hubby Mort was a shit. Had girls on the side. The little hausfrau at home probably knew about them, but wouldn't say a word. When Mort turns up with a bullet in his brain pan, neither you nor I were surprised.
But where's Perry? I wasn't surprised you tore up that fee check Ellen wrote you. All part of being that monkey's raincoat. Isn't it?
There's a real cute phrase the cool people. Wait a minute. The people who think they're cool, say today: "Not my circus, not my monkey." Ain't that a scream? No, I didn't think you would think so. But that's the way most folks are these days. You aren't. Yeah, I like that.
Let me just say, I like your style. And, Joe Pike? I wouldn't want him mad at me. Well, I wouldn't want you mad at me either, Mr. Cole. But I'd be glad for y'all to have my back.
Anybody reads this, I'll just tell them they will have to read this for themselves. I wouldn't want to spoil it for them. Let's just say the good guys win. That's not a bad thing.
Mr. Cole, I'll be back. Say, looks like you could use a good Mickey Mouse watch for your collection. Here. No, I won't miss it. I'm retired. You aren't. Besides, I'll be back to see it from time to time. I'll drop by with a bottle of Glenlivet like you like. Or I may try to talk you into some Glenmorangie Single Malt 18 Years Old. It's good. Like this story.
The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat— looking for cereal and spring water. Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?
Face it, we pass by others almost daily without giving them a second look. Because they don't look like us. They have no where to go. They make us uncomfortable. They make us fear becoming like them. By their very appearance. And, in our neighborhood, seeing one of those different from us, makes us think they do not belong there. They must be up to something. Lock the doors. Bring it up at the next neighborhood association meeting. Perhaps report the offender to the Neighborhood Crime Watch Program.
It is 1976 in the small southern town of Mayville. The residents there embrace their town as a reflection of Macomb, Alabama, of To Kill a Mockingbird. One jokes, "That May sure gets around." It is an indication that not many things have changed since the 1930s. But they have. Mayville seems unaffected by The Voting Rights Acr of 1965. Yet, the Civil Rights Movement was still active in the 1970s. These were the years of school desegregation. The times are changing.
Ora Lee Beckworth, a recent widow, narrates the story.
“The events of that year were the real driving force behind the mass exodus from the neighborhood. It was the year of the Pecan Man. None of us knew how much impact one skinny old colored man could have in our lives, but we found out soon enough.”
“When you're as old as I am, it takes a while to make a point. The Pecan Man had a name - Eldred Mims. I called him Eddie. The people of Mayville didn’t know his name at all, until he was arrested and charged with the murder of a sixteen year old boy named Skipper Kornegay.”
Ora Lee, through this short novel, must acknowlege she has looked the other way. In the process she learns a great deal of truth about herself. She surprises us by telling that after twenty-five years, she has decided to tell the truth about the Pecan Man no matter what the cost. Twenty years after Eldred Mims was tried and convicted for the murder of Skipper Kornegay, who just happened to be the son of the County Sheriff.
“Once a lie is told, you have to keep on telling it. You not only have to repeat it time and time again, you have to embellish it, layer upon layer until you don‘t even remember the truth.”
Ora Lee is not without her faults. She is a flawed character, which she comes to realize. In her 1970s world, Ora Lee hires Eldred Mims to cut her grass. She has a maid Branch Lowery, whom she requires to wear a uniform. They are servants to her.
But through the course of the story, Blanche, her children, Grace, Patrice, ReNetta, and the Pecan Man become intimately known to her. Ora Lee learns that family does not mean only blood kin. Each of these former servants and the children become an integral part of her life. In sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas with them, she is transformed into a much more loving and caring woman.
Why was Skipper Kornegay killed? Why was the Pecan Man arrested? Why did Ora Lee Beckwith withold the truth for twenty-five years before deciding to tell the truth?
These are the questions that form the central themes of Selleck's novel. To disclose the answers would spoil this nice story for future readers. I won't do that.
As the reader discovers the answers to those questions, a quandary arises. The individual reader must decide whether they find themselves comfortable with Ora Lee's tale, or whether the Truth of the matter makes them squirm with what to me were uncomfortable answers. Perhaps, reader, you find this remark cryptic. Accept it. Each reader must determine their reaction to this story.
Without doubt, this is a poignant story that has the possibility of touching the reader in more ways than one. None of us is perfect. Being human, we make mistakes we regret and wonder whether we or deserving of forgiveness or the hope of redemption. In some ways, each of us owes a debt for each of our mistakes. Eldred Mims sums it up:
“I reckon I'm the bes' judge of that. Sometimes the debt you pay ain't exactly the one you owe, but it works out jus' the same anyway. Lord knows I done caused my share of heartache in this life.”
Hasn't everyone? The heart of every fable is the moral of it. Each reader must determine the moral of this one. You may find some truth about yourself when you do. Perhaps, go shopping down at the Star Market.
This is the first of a planned two volume history of Europe during the Twentieth Century by Kershaw. It was earlier released in the UK and hit American shelves on November 17, 2015.
Kershaw was the ideal author for this history. He is perhaps the pre-eminent historian regarding Germany, World War Two, and the author of the highly lauded two volume biography of Adolph Hitler.
It should come as no surprise that Germany occupies the central role in this history. Kershaw places the blame for both the First and Second World Wars at Germany's feet. All of the facts are impeccably documented. Kershaw's point to this thoughtful work is a question. Why?
This is not a military history. Nor do the personalities of the key players take center stage. Consider this a work of analytical history. Kershaw's analysis works from start to finish.
This is an astute portrait of nationalism, class struggle, and racial intolerance. Kershaw depicts the effects of the rise of Bolshevism resulting in the development of a movement to right wing politics and the development of fascism.
Kershaw also paints a portrait of a desperate Britain, France, and Soviet Union, all playing for time, delaying the onset of war with Hitler. The policy of Appeasement is painted with absolute clarity. Kershaw's treatment of Stalin's Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler seems a bit mild in light of Soviet atrocities committed during the invasion of Poland.
What is missing from this thorough history is the human touch. The result is a work that would be more at home in the University lecture hall. Kershaw's history would make an excellent textbook. This is one for those who take their history neat. ...more
The Sharpshooter Blues: Guns, Loving and Loss, a Half Bubble off Plumb
Slightly more than three years ago I founded a group On the Southern Literary TrThe Sharpshooter Blues: Guns, Loving and Loss, a Half Bubble off Plumb
Slightly more than three years ago I founded a group On the Southern Literary Trail. It is not a "moonlight and magnolias" site. Here readers choose works by iconic authors of Southern literature and new voices in what I call the Southern choir. Along the way, my fellow moderators and I added an alternative read, The Moderator's Choice, usually an author previously unread by the group. I chose The Sharpshooter Blues by Lewis Nordan for February, 2015, the "Trail's" introduction to the works of Lewis Nordan.
First Ed., Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 1995
“Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one...Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.”― Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional ProseMystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
Lewis Nordan, b. August 23, 1939, Forest, MS; d. April 13, 2012, Pittsburgh, PA
I have loved the writing of Lewis Nordan since I discovered him on a summer trip to the crystal shores of the southern coastline of my home, Alabama, more than fifteen years ago. Having read all of his work since that time, I'm pretty sure that Nordan would appreciate that folks around these parts refer to that area as "The Redneck Riviera." He would also appreciate it because it is a place where it's not hard to find magic if you take a little time to look.
Nordan came to writing relatively late in life, not deciding to pursue it until age thirty-five. He graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, served a two year hitch in the Navy. Took a Masters Degree from Mississippi State and finally a PhD from Auburn University. Along the way he taught high school, was a college instructor, was a night watchman, an orderly in a hospital. Life didn't come easy. Two marriages. The first one failed. But it was his first wife who recognized his desire to write. He began with short fiction, was awarded the John Gould Fletcher Award for fiction in 1977 from the University of Arkansas. The hardest part of life was the death of two children, one at an early age, the other a suicide at the age of twenty.
Lewis Nordan was a likeable man. His friends called him "Buddy." All of his friends. He was a careful writer, constantly revising, getting the words right. He followed in Faulkner's footsteps creating his own little "postage stamp size piece of soil" as Faulkner called his Yoknapatawpha County. But Nordan's was Arrow Catcher, Mississippi.
Arrow Catcher came to life in his first collection of short stories printed by LSU Press in 1983, Welcome to the Arrow-Catcher Fair. It was such a short print run, it is now a choice collector's item for the bibliophile. I can't touch it. Can't even come close.
Nordan returned to Arrowcatcher with his second collection of short fiction in 1986 with The All-Girl Football Team: Stories, again published by LSU Press. It is as equally rare as the first Arrow Catcher anthology.
Nordan said in an interview with Blake Mahler, "writers will find a little postage-stamp size plot of land, their spiritual geography and a handful of people that live there, and they will write those people’s stories over and over again.… I’ve just invented out of pain and joy a family and a place they live and have watched them move in love through that place.” Sounds a lot like Faulkner, doesn't he?
And on magic, we can't forget magic, this is what Buddy Nordan had to say: “Magic is the imagination” [something that} “seems to be both necessary and evil and destructive in these characters.” Comments made after Nordan had been signed by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, NC. The novel was immediately recognized with best fiction awards from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and the Prize for Notable Fiction from the American Library Institute of Arts and Letters.
Lewis Nordan would go on to become a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas. From there, he would become the professor of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh where he ended his professional career.
Nordan died of complications of pneumonia in 2012. His last work was [book:Boy with Loaded Gun: A Memoir|672273] published in 2007. In an interview conducted at the 2006 Faulkner Conference at the University of Mississippi, Nordan said he planned on returning to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. I wish he had. But he never did. I miss the writing of Lewis Nordan. When you read him, if you read him, you will grow to miss him too.
The magic place I discovered Lewis Nordan was a little book shop, long gone. It was called Just Books. The owner's appearance was deceiving. Not who you would expect to carry the eclectic selections on the tables and shelves. She was elderly, quite prim, coiffure that perfect bluish white. Always dressed in a dark navy suit, crisp white blouse, hose, matching navy pumps. I never caught her name. However, I expected to see her at a tea celebrating an upcoming marriage, or at early church service on a Sunday morning. She dressed as though the temperature was a cool spring afternoon, not a humid summer afternoon, where the pavement was hot enough to burn the soles of your feet through your shoes.
This particular day I found first editions of Music of the Swamp, Lightning Song, and Wolf Whistle. I read the dust jackets. Perused the first chapter of each of the books. I was immediately lured into the world of Lewis Nordan. I was puzzled. Curious. I had never heard of him. The lady waited patiently at the register.
I took my purchases to the counter. Her voice was not that of an old woman. More of a siren's song. A southern siren, her tones soft and honeyed. "You have found something quite special. If you can believe in magic. Can you?"
"Why, I think I can."
"Tell me something you've seen that was magic."
"The lillies blooming in the Cahaba River. Trilliums on the forest floor. Scarlet Buckeye in flame along a back road in spring."
Cahaba Lillies in bloom, Cahaba River, June, 2009, photograph by the reviewer. The largest stand of these rare flowers in the world.
Red Trillium, Mount Cheaha, highest point in Alabama, mountain hiking trail, May, 2008
Scarlet Buckeye, April, 2008, outside Ashville, Alabama
"Oh, I think you and Buddy Nordan will get along just fine."
I have often wondered what became of her. She clearly knew her stock. And she knew Nordan's books.
I never got to meet Lewis Nordan. I hate that. I loved his books. I love this one. Welcome to Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. It does not exist. However, it stands in for the Mississippi town in which Lewis Nordan grew up, Itta Bena. Nordan laughingly said in an interview he wanted to title his memoirs, "Don't Cry for Me, Itta Bena." However, he refrained for fear that readers wouldn't know how to pronounce it. Yes, it rhymes with Argentina.
Were Nordan to be reading over my shoulder, he would tell me he doesn't like being compared to Flannery O'Connor. To him, her world is too stark, her characters too cold, and her God too harsh. Buddy Nordan believed that humans could save one another through their love. He acknowledged critics' comparison to O'Connor. Yet, he preferred to consider himself descended from Faulkner and a much closer relative of Eudora Welty.
So, what of The Sharpshooter Blues? Nordan's work is one of love, loss, and humanity. Yes. He is closely akin to Eudora Welty. However, freaks abound in this novel. They live in all his work. There is a great degree of the grotesque in Nordan's work.
Meet The Prince of Darkness, Arrow Catcher's mortician, resurrected from the Dead by Aunt Lily, the local Hoodoo Woman. The Prince can throw a funeral like nobody's business.
Then there's The Sharpshooter, Morgan, a trick shot artist. It's fitting he's the offspring of two circus workers who abandoned him, left him floating in the swamp around Arrow Catcher, to be retrieved and raised by a black woman, the same Aunt Lily who resurrected the Prince of Darkness from the Dead.
Preacher Roe likes to go down to the William Tell Grocery and take the sordid confessions of those like Leonard, who tries to resist the urge, but can't resist a tryst with the truckers down at the truck stop.
And down at the William Tell, the cashier is Hydro Raney, the hydrocephalic son of Mr. Raney, widowed since his wife died giving birth to Hydro.
Hydro and his father live in the fish house out in the swamp. There are no other houses there. Mr. Roy, the postman brings the mail by boat, once a week.
However, it is magic in the swamp. The trees are filled with parrots and monkeys. The water splashes with dolphin and porpoises. Hydro's father calls him "Peaches," "Honey," and loves him dearly.
It is a tale of father and sons. Those who clearly love one another. Those who seem to be completely detached.
It is a tale of husbands and wives. Those who clearly love one another. Those whose marriage is on the rocks.
There is definitely magic in Nordan's world. However, it goes beyond what we commonly know as magical realism. It seems more akin to the "Marvelous Real," a concept deeply ingrained in the works of Latin American authors. One thinks of the opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
This is a world where love and death are separated by an instant. Where the grotesque lives beside the apparent normal. Where swift, unexpected violence alters life in a second.
What occurs in The Sharpshooter Blues is what happens when guns come out on a summer day and two "lovely young children" decide to rob the wrong grocery store. They run into a sharpshooter.
The question is just who is the sharpshooter and why is he singing the blues?
No, I've already told you about Morgan, the trick shot. He shot a cantaloupe off Hydro's head. Then he invited Hydro to shoot one off of his.
Morgan's got the blues. He's been putting the wood to Doctor McNaughton's wife, Ruthie. Even the Doctor knows it and has become rather detached over the whole idea. However, Ruthie may be done with Morgan. Morgan may have a death wish and hopes Hydro just puts him out of his misery. But Hydro turns out to be a crackshot, too. Morgan's still got the love sick blues.
When the two lovely children robbers all dressed in black come rob the William Tell Grocery, they end up dead for their trouble. Morgan ends up in jail.
Young Louis McNaughton says Morgan did it. But did he?
Hydro disappears. Why?
Can the McNaughton marriage be saved?
Will Louis ever feel acknowledged by his own father?
How come "Having a pal with a firearm is a blessing?"
What's up with all these parrots?
Where did all these porpoises come from all the way from the Gulf?
This is a novel that will enchant you. Nordan will make you laugh. He will make you cry. As one of my great reader friends, Diane Barnes, Co-Moderator on "The Trail" said, "Start a sentence with laughter and end with tears." Buddy Nordan will leave you with the belief that love does save us. Forgiveness frees us. And, no, we are not meant to be alone. That is, if you have the ability to look for the possibility of magic in this world. It's not just in Arrow Catcher, Mississippi. All those folks that strike you being a half bubble off plumb? They're not all that different than you and me. Nordan will make you squirm. But life is a little easier when you can laugh at yourself and know when to cry with your neighbors.
Lewis Nordan on the Marvelous Real:
The idea of the "marvelous realist" strikes me as exactly right, better than "magical realism," for sure.... The idea of just plugging in magical elements to reality is not what I do; it is a way of seeing reality, which is completely different, it is from the inside rather than from the outside.... When I look at the world, I can understand what other people are seeing, but I am seeing something else at the same time....It is entirely a matter of vision, and that vision can be described as comic, or can be described as grotesque, or otherworldly.... When somebody says, "What does this mean, and how can this be?" I just have to say, maybe this world is not the real world, maybe this is another planet, maybe this is some other dimension of life that we can't see clearly. Because for me it is as real as anything, though I understand that they [the stories] do not actually happen in this world.' See: An Interview with Lewis Nordan, Russell Ingram and Mark Ledbetter, Missouri Review Volume 20, Issue 1 (1997): pp73-89.
Lewis Nordan and Parrots: It just so happens that Lewis Nordan liked parrots. When Thomas Bjerre interviewed Nordan at his home in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2001, he noticed a number of Parrot prints on the walls and commented on them. Rather glibly, Nordan answered, "I really like parrots." See: Interview with Lewis Nordan, at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001, Thomas Bjerre, Mississippi Quarterly Summer 2001, Vol. 54 Issue 3, p365.
Of course, parrots and their ancestors and relatives in the United States are not that rare. Five and a half million years ago, what we know as the Carolina Parakeet made famous in Audobon's Print ranged from the southernmost point of the North America to what is today's New England. They became extinct in 1918 as a result of man's gradual deforestation of the east coast.
The last Carolina Parakeet died in a Cincinnati Zoo in 1918.
Print by Audobon
A species of parrot is native to the mountains of Arizona. Another is native to Louisiana.
Porpoises in the Mississippi Rivers? No, Nordan's trolley didn't slip the tracks. The presence of Porpoises and Dolphins in inland Mississippi Rivers are routinely studied by Mississippi scientists. See Writing in the Caribbean with a Mississippian Accent: Lewis Nordan and the Magical Grotesque,MANUEL BRONCANO,University of León, Spain, Mississippi Quarterly. Fall 2007, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p661-675.
What's the significance of guns in The Sharpshooter Blues Lewis Nordan Speaks!
"Guns are a metaphor for power, and sometimes power is expressed just in a hoop or a shout or a celebratory yell. And that's in a way what shooting a gun is. It's yahoo. bang-bang! oh-boy ain't life great. I'd hate to see that statement taken out of context, but in fact that is a part of what the people in The Sharpshooter Blues are doing; they're saying life is great and these gunshots are a kind of shouting. (view spoiler)[So when Hydro kills people and does the opposite of what I and I think Hydro and all others believe about guns the shock is terrible. (hide spoiler)] Not only have I done this thing but I have betrayed the whole idea of guns as something celebratory."
See: Interview with Lewis Nordan, at his home in Pittsburgh, May 19, 2001, Thomas Bjerre, Mississippi Quarterly Summer 2001, Vol. 54 Issue 3, p370-371.
Some of my fellow readers have questioned whether Nordan takes on America's fascination with the gun culture. In this and other comments within this review, Nordan flatly states he confronted the issue of gun violence and its consequences.
WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.
Those words first appeared in print in Forum: The Magazine of Controversy, in the April edition, 1930. It was fitting. Forum was at its height as a magazine of literary significance and had served as a clarion call on issues of social significance since the 1890s. It ceased publication in 1950. I can only surmise the editorial staff threw up their hands in the face of rising McCarthyism.
I KNOW it's not the April issue. I couldn't find one! "A Rose for Emily" is in it!"
These Thirteen, First ed.,Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, New York, 1931
As always, you can find contradictory opinions by William Faulkner regarding the value of Novels, Short Stories, and Poetry. He has referred to writing short stories as "whoring," especially when he was sending stories off to The Saturday Evening Post, his favorite market for his short fiction. However, consider his remarks while writer in residence at the University of Virginia.
Yes sir. You can be more careless, you can put more trash in [a novel] and be excused for it. In a short story that's next to the poem, almost every word has got to be almost exactly right. In the novel you can be careless but in the short story you can't. I mean by that the good short stories like Chekhov wrote. That's why I rate that second – it's because it demands a nearer absolute exactitude. You have less room to be slovenly and careless. There's less room in it for trash. Faulkner in the University,Introduction by Douglas Day,Frederick Landis Gwynn, Joseph Blotner,University Press of Virginia, 1995
I ascribe to that statement by Faulkner where "A Rose for Emily" is concerned. For this story is a remarkable construction of plot, characterization, theme, and the use of a unique narrative technique. It is only through close reading, repeated reading, that the perfection of this story reveals why this story has become the most anthologized American short story.
Alas, Andalusia, aka Martha Jo, aka "The Queen" has decreed that I, who has decreed himself Jeeves around this abode WILL squire her to Kentuck, the local festival of Arts. And here, Dear Reader, I will leave you until I have returned, covered in the dust of the trodden paths, bearing objects of art, smelling of funnel cake, deafened by strains of music played too loudly through poor public address systems. Goodbye Faulkner. I will think of your story while I am gone.
Actually in route, I have in mind the ideal photograph for Miss Emily's house. Paint peeling, the grey cypress revealed underneath. And our town's oldest cemetery along the way. Perhaps time well spent. Happy reading.
The afternoon has passed as I told you, reader, it would. I have shaken the dust of well trodden paths from my shoes, my beloved is content with purchases made. I am content with photographs taken, downloaded, edited, and shortly to be uploaded and shared.
Ah, Mr. Faulkner. There you are. Well, you weren't whoring with this one. Nor were you telling a straight forward ghost story, although you have said so more than once. Your favorite themes are there, rising from the page. The changing South is there. Miss Emily's house itself is a symbol of it. The past is never past. That's there.
Once the Grierson mansion was a brilliant white on the finest street in town. Now it is falling into disrepair. No longer on one of the finer streets, it is surrounded by businesses, within the sound of the passing trains, near the cemetery where the rows of Union and Confederate dead lie. Miss Emily herself, dead, is a monument.
And we begin the story in the present with Miss Emily taking her place among the eternally peaceful. It is all fairly straight forward. Those first few paragraphs.
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.-Edgar Lee Masters, The Hill, Spoonriver Anthology, 1915
However, Mr. Faulkner tells his story in anything but a conventional manner after the seemingly innocent beginning narrative. Time becomes non-linear. The initial narrator who might have been an omniscient third person observer, a single first person voice, becomes the curiously effective first person plural narrator. The narrator is not I but We. Should you be patient and count, you will find "we" used forty-eight times. It is not a mere whim. Faulkner did nothing by whim.
Through multiple sets of eyes, through multiple generations, we learn the story of Emily Grierson's life and her place in the community.
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity. Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.
When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply. They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment.
Read carefully. It's like asking Salvador Dali for the time.
Emily's father found no suitor acceptable for his daughter. He stood in the doorway, chasing them away with a horse whip. He left her nothing but the house. So the good Old Colonel Sartoris fabricated the scheme to save her the taxes. Notice the narrator(s) observed her to have an angelic appearance.
The Griersons always had that superior attitude. The town resented that. However, Emily was to be pitied. Left a spinster at her father's death. No wonder she denied he was dead and the preachers had to talk her into surrendering his body after he had been dead for three days.
We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.
Faulkner continues to play with time. He plays with the reader. Unless particularly wary, the reader does not realize he is being played by a master but merciless mouser.
That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart--the one we believed would marry her --had deserted her. After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man--a young man then--going in and out with a market basket.
Then there's that peculiar odor that emanates from Miss Emily's house shortly after the missing sweetheart was believed to have married Emily.
So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or two the smell went away.
An idol is feared as much as it is worshiped. Or did they not want to know the truth?
Faulkner spins the hands on the clock again. The sweetheart was Homer Barron, a common laborer and a Yankee at that. A drinker who enjoyed the company of young men whom he told he was not the marrying kind. The Town decided reinforcements were necessary, summoning two Grierson cousins from Alabama.
Barron leaves town, but returns when the Grierson cousins leave. The Town decides it's just as well. Those Alabama Griersons were more superior than Mississippi Griersons.
Emily buys a man's dressing set with the initials "HB" on each piece. A man's nightshirt completes the ensemble. After Homer enters Emily's home he's never seen again.
Emily offers china painting lessons to a generation of Jefferson's children. Until the children stop coming.
The hands on the clock spin wildly.
She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. That was over a year after they had begun to say "Poor Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her.
"I want some poison," she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look. "I want some poison," she said.
"Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I'd recom--"
"I want the best you have. I don't care what kind."
The druggist named several. "They'll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is--"
"Arsenic," Miss Emily said. "Is that a good one?"
"Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma'am. But what you want--"
"I want arsenic."...
So THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing.
Time passes inexorably. Miss Emily is thirty when she abandons noblesse oblige and takes up with Homer Barron. She dies at the age of seventy-four. At last in death she can be openly acknowledged as one of the community's own. Her air of superiority is gone. Her peculiarity is gone. There is no trace of madness. She is no longer a burden or a duty. Two generations have passed. It is a new generation that rules Jefferson now. Only a few remain of Emily's own age. And they remember her as they wish to.
...and the very old men --some in their brushed Confederate uniforms--on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.
There is but one thing more for Faulkner to do, the final pronouncement of the omniscient "we" that gives "A Rose for Emily" its indelible shudder up the spine of generations of readers.
Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.
Just who knew about that closed room? How many knew?
(view spoiler)[Behind the door the body of Homer Barron rots inside his night gown into the bed. Beside his grinning face there is an indentation on the pillow. There is a single iron gray hair in the hollow there. (hide spoiler)]
It is this knowledge that not only establishes the town as narrator but also accomplice. We act not only affirmatively but also by failure to act, by passivity, indifference, and our own self interest. Rest well Emily, Homer, for all, all, will sleep, sleep, sleep on the hill.
Mr. Chekhov,allow me to introduce you to Mr. Faulkner.
"All Germans carry an image of Adolph Hitler inside them," I said. "Even one
A Quiet Flame: Memories Die Hard
First Edition, Quercus, London, UK, 2008
"All Germans carry an image of Adolph Hitler inside them," I said. "Even ones like me, who hated Hitler and everything he stood for. This face with its tousled hair and postage-stamp mustache haunts us all now and forevermore and, like a quiet flame that can never be extinguished, burns itself into our souls. The Nazis used to talk of a thousand -year empire. But sometimes I think that because of what we did, the name of Germany and the Germans will live in infamy for a thousand years. That it will take the rest of the world a thousand years to forget. Certainly if I live to be a thousand years old, I'll never forget some of the things I saw. And some of the things I did."- Bernie Gunther
Fear:A Novel of World War I, The one novel you must read about the Great War
Gabriel Chevalier in service during World War I
Much more to come. Not toFear:A Novel of World War I, The one novel you must read about the Great War
Gabriel Chevalier in service during World War I
Much more to come. Not to heighten suspense, this novel is superb. Chevallier holds nothing back in his depiction of war. It is a scathing portrait of indifferent leaders mindful of their reputation but not the fate of their men. Discipline is brutal. Armed Gendarmes on horseback are stationed behind the lines to send men moving to the rear back to the front. Gendarmes who do not fight have the authority to execute soldiers who do not obey. Medals are distributed, but to the commanders safely ensconced in fortified dugouts far in the rear of combat. Those at the front whose actions lead to success are not recognized. Newspapers cover up failures at the front. Civilians accustomed to seeing soldiers home on leave are unaware of the massive deaths at the front unless they have received personal notification of their own loss. This is a bold tale of bitterness and black humor. It is not to be missed. This may be THE WWI novel you've not heard of. It's tone is completely different from All Quiet on the Western Front and Grave's Goodbye to all That. Chevallier spares the reader nothing. Because of that this novel carries with it more power than anything else this reader has encountered written as a result of the Great War.