Thursday, January 30, 2014

a somewhat ludicrous fashion

Anne will be praised and pitied no matter what she does and Kombo will be sabotaged no matter what he does, surely for the same reason that Job in She is sabotaged, which is to avoid the humiliation or confusion that the author assumes would blossom throughout the book if the wrong kind of person became the hero; the cornerstone of wrongness, wrote Leopardi in his Zibaldone, is the inappropriate.

"Please, sir," he [Job] said, touching his sun hat, which was stuck on to the back of his head in a somewhat ludicrous fashion.

It is right of Job to wear his hat in a ludicrous fashion. He has sacrificed himself for the good of the book. But if the hero of She stuck his hat on the wrong part of his head then the author would look the other way; it would not be conceived, it would not happen, the hero will be rescued from the word "ludicrous," poor man standing there with his hat on his head at some nutty angle, begging to be noticed, the author resolutely staring out the window and whistling; the hero realising with a sinking heart that his antics will only be tolerated within certain limits -- he is not loved unconditionally after all. The reader of Fugitive Anne will never read this sentence: "Kombo turned from the gaze of the Priestess to meet Eric Hansen's pathetic eyes looking appealingly from his little white face, so child-like, and now so weary."

If the characters are facts in a metaphor that is meant to convey the ideals of a society that was not born in this novel and deserves not to have any influence over it (but actually has absolute influence) then Kombo will never see that Hansen has a "little" face, nor will he ever witness Hansen's eyes looking "pathetic," nor will Hansen ever be expected to react to a "pathetic" expression on Kombo's face with the kind of loving sympathy that we are meant to presume he is giving to Anne when she regards him with her face so child-like and now so weary, even if Kombo, also, looks child-like and weary as why should he not, on occasions, when he was a child once too, and has a normal set of veins, skeletons, muscles, etc, like everyone else in the book?

Eric Hansen is allowed to hold firm in his heroism, with one peccadillo when an Aca priestess decides to seduce him, but the seduction is a temporary lapse and he is allowed to explain himself, whereas Kombo will go on being a clown forever no matter how good he is, and Anne will go on being Hansen's little Chummy, "very childlike and very feminine," without a break, no matter how many chunks of scrubland she hikes through, or how many cannibals she outwits or brutal bullocky husbands she escapes by vanishing from her cabin with her friend Kombo's flawless assistance.


  1. This is good, and also the cul-de-sac idea from your post a couple back, like Praed was building--not mazes through which rats would run, which was my first thought--maybe stage sets into which she'd drop her actors in their cages. Nabokov said more than once that his fictional characters were pawns that he moved around as he liked. There's the old saw about how some writers let their characters do whatever they like and just write it all down, but I don't believe that, not even as a metaphor. It's all happening inside one novelist's head, right? Limited by the limitations of that novelist.

    Anne keeps failing to escape, is what it sounds like. Why does Praed keep showing us Anne failing to escape? The wisdom of nature, I guess. I might read Fugitive Anne.

    1. Thank you for the "good." (I appreciate the time you're putting into reading these posts, I do.) I wonder about that "I just let the characters do what they want" line. Assuming that the person is sincere, is it possible that they could have absorbed the behaviours and structures and tics and rules from other books so deeply, that those things rearrange themselves inside their author-brains absolutely naturally and utterly effortlessly until it feels as if the characters are independent people, building themselves? And that, therefore, the actions and lines of those characters feel right? I don't know. What are the characters made of?

      Nature's dictum in this book states that Anne must marry Eric Hansen and end up in the Albert Hall with journalists describing her faithful Kombo in all the popular newspapers. Nature's dictum is pretty specific with its opinions I have to say.

      What are the people in Praed books fleeing? In the Praed's I've read they're always fleeing something. Fleeing is huge in Praed. Some situation is always intolerable. It's not always dangerous, but it's always intolerable. The cannibals in Anne are both dangerous and intolerable. The marriage to the old bullock driver is intolerable. Bridget in Lady Bridget isn't in any danger but she can't tolerate her life. She finds something else to do and that's intolerable as well. The woman in Countess Adrian can't even tolerate wind on the deck of a ship. Someone is always being abraded.

      There is one time when the others sympathise with Kombo because he's come back from an expedition looking tired and battered, but the consistent stream of support and love that flows across Anne is just not there.