Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Shiver in the Curtain of the World

A few weeks ago, a salesman popped through one of the side entrances of the palace—a dark, Poesque little tunnel with aphorisms taped to the cobwebby walls—and tried to sell perfume and mineral makeup and motorcycles and assorted whatnot. I told him that he was not allowed to sell here, and that a footman would accompany him to the nearest door. To comfort him, I sent the footman in mineral makeup and an attractive perfume compounded from a lost buttercup and the remains of an exploded star, and I had the Pot Boy (who was standing around looking decorative and useless) wheel a beautiful motorcyle, sweet as perfume and as shiny as a bottle, to meet him at the door. Attorney Clendon had not yet vanished, and so served him with a writ; the salesman named Eric may not return in the guise of a salesman, although he may drop by for tea and books.

The infinite library of the web has shifts the world and set things askew. We have entered the world of magic. I say that I have a footman; he promptly appears and escorts my visitor away in an excess of politeness. He is an under-footman. I suspect that he wears mineral makeup because his skin is bad, although he is good-looking in a Jaggerish sort of way—the so-ugly-he’s-cute mode. Mack is his name. Mack the footman. I do not think that Mack is his real name. His pants are creased a little too sharply and fall without even the merest little twitch of a wrinkle. I am afraid that he is ambitious, but for what I do not understand. If I knew fully, I might be a little afraid.

Now don’t these unexpected encounters rock the world, just a little bit? The line between real and unreal, technology and magic is abraded and grows shadowy. Won't people quickly grow accustomed to this dreamy zone between what has been called real and what has been called imaginary? And won’t literature be changed because of it, for good or ill? Strange elements are seeping into the mainstream, sweetening or poisoning the waters that have long run the same, the very same.

Perhaps we will at last swim out of the fishnet of Modernism-and-after, into the deep green veins of the river. And there we may find ourselves more ourselves, though more strange. We may even meet the dreams of the past made fresh and new--Beowulf's monster, the Green Knight, Arcadian shepherds, and Mary with the sweet Medieval dew dropping onto her thigh.

***
The perfume bottles are courtesy of Laurelines.

12 comments:

  1. I laughed when I read the line about him being ambitious, but what for, you didnt even want to know.

    I think at one point in my life I was ambitious to speak in a conference center. I had stayed in them on school trips, with my fam, and so, and I just loved how everybody dressed and walked around.

    Then I became ambitious to support my hobbies and a dream of a lifestyle. THen I just wanted to work in my garden with hubby.

    Now I want to put money away for my people that are left behind because I see how important it is to make sure people have what they need.

    I dont even think I have a definition for true ambition. I am not sure it exists for me anymore.

    Lauralines is awesome. At first glace I thought that was a photograph.

    I am glad you like my velvet rose bit. I carried it through today with a play on word. Instead of Stop to smellt he roses I said stopped to count the buzzards. I thought it was fabulous.

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  2. But you're still working in the garden, Susannah! A good place to be.

    I would be ambitious for you to go on having vibrant days, even after loss--maybe in despite of death, or maybe to rejoice the heart of the one who has died. And your own. Whether it's grief or joy or laughter, be in it.

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  3. Fabulous. Quite.
    Who else could make that from that tacky bit of pourriel?

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  4. Pourriel is spam? I looked up pourri... Yes, it can be rotten!

    Thanks for the note of confidence--though I feel rather like a magic bag lady, fiddling with trash!

    You must be well-ish. I shall drop by anon.

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  5. Your post made me shiver, Marly, because I already have had encounters with some who seem to have grown so accustomed to this dreamy zone between what has been called real and what has been called imaginary that they've taken on the semblance of a modern-day Grendel. In many ways I like your take on this mai c'est vrai qu'il y a quelque chose qui a pourri — the imagination (which you know I love) can be a double-edged sword.

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  6. mb,

    When the door is always open, all sorts will come in and have their welcome... So you have had e-visitations from the rough beast.

    What a strange time we live in. It seems increasingly so, doesn't it?

    And now I go help one of my children (the one just rescued from a chest-high snowbank full of prickers) study for a test--groundwater and ice caps and heat loss and so on.

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  7. Hi,

    Found this great site with lots of weekly comps, any anyone can easily join. :)
    Girl.com.au

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  8. Speak of the devil.

    I left the door open.

    Luckily Mack was around to escort Star to a side exit. She was a glitzy little creature, all Kate Moss perfume and cheap jewelry, with her legs waxed to fare-thee-well. Last I saw, he was steering her firmly down a shadowy hall. He was gone for quite a long time, and came back with an alligator grin creasing his face.

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  9. I now call him Mack the Cannibal.

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  10. Got chill-bumps from this post, and MB's colloquy.

    (And I must say, Mack is quite Something Else.)

    One for a longer thread, but there's something about the Blog-World and the connections made that reminds me of a time when a writer-blocked friend decided to take a page from James Merrill and use a Ouija Board to unblock. In a nutshell, it worked, and then took on quite a life of its own before we unplugged the "Phone."

    Of course I helped him -- among many things I insisted on was not using a store-bought Board but using one that was home-made, and in this case, Lori-made.

    Why? The thinking was, if one is going to open a Party Line to elements and parties unknown/unreal, I didn't want it to be on a "Phone" assembled by a disgruntled assembly-line employee.

    Anyway, more of that another time. If you haven't read The Changing Light at Sandover or other Merrill works, you might enjoy 'em.

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  11. Thank you for the compliment, Ms. Lori.

    You are braver than I am--or else I am less foolhardy. Which is it, I wonder?

    I have no wish for the possibility of finding a demon on the other end of the ouijaphone. Just call me a raging chicken, okay? A homemade Ouija board gives me the downright shivers.

    Am I teasing, or am I serious?

    (Smile.)

    Take a guess.

    Granny Weatherwax says, "Don't forget to wear your hat."

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.