“Masquerade ball, wolfhound century” and THE BASTARDS’ PARADISE

January 22nd, 2015

Everett Shinn - The Black Cat

Everett Shinn‘s image, Osip Mandelstam‘s poetry, both on my mind as THE BASTARDS’ PARADISE begins its journey to this fall’s release from Roadswell Editions.The POPPY trilogy has taken Istvan and Rupert on a very long, very private, very passionate journey; and offered to its readers a play, I hope, that’s worth the sharing . . . Act Three, then, and bring the gentlemen home.

 

. . . as he climbs to the fourth floor garret, one room with one washstand and one bed, where by the bare window, in a wooden chair to watch the hidden stars, Rupert turns his head to greet him, smelling of good whiskey, drowsy to ask “Did you find them?” and “I did,” shrugging off the jester’s jacket, setting down his case to sit atop it, beside Rupert’s chair, sharing the cigarette in careful puffs; their hands link.“The place isn’t half what it should be—and the puppets, Christ!—but one gathers times are hard.”

“Very hard, looks like. And we’re foxed, messire, the papers here say playing’s no longer allowed—”

“Really?” with a little smile; someone curses, down the stairs; someone else begins to sing, a drunken, circular song with no words and no end. Mr. Loup waits, eye closed or open it is impossible to say, as in the corner, on drab hooks meant for hat and coat, Misters Castor and Pollux hang silked in silent tandem, returned in reprise to this city once their home, past a journey still unfurling in the twinned shadows of war and the god of the train station, his theatre now nameless, yet an outpost of paradise all the same.

 

 

 

That mouth under the pillow!

January 12th, 2015

This interview with Mike Davis and the Lovecraft eZine panel was, first of all, fun. And it was serious, and seriously concerned with what makes writing indelible, and why you should quit your day job, and what makes fiction “weird” and thus resonant with everyone’s everyday life, and why certain carnival rides are, how shall we say, pretty hilariously sick-making.

And yes, we did explore the unending fascination with M.R. James’ dreadful little pillow-mouth. Sweet dreams!

Nobody’s bitch but her own

January 9th, 2015

On the page, Cathy Earnshaw is one tough female:

“She was never so happy as when we were all scolding her at once, and she defying us with her bold, saucy look, and her ready words.”

“Edgar had a deep-rooted fear of ruffling her humor.”

“You are acquainted with the Earnshaws’ violent dispositions, and [Cathy] caps them all.”

So how did Emily Brontë’s taut, ferocious novel of love and loss, Wuthering Heights, get labeled as a bad romance, misogynistic Heathcliff ruining poor Cathy’s life? I’ve met that interpretation more than once lately, almost exclusively from young women: “Oh, that book’s so sad—Heathcliff’s an abuser, and Cathy’s his victim.” Or “Heathcliff’s such a bad boy, that’s why Cathy loves him.” And that drives me crazy, because those misreadings drive away the story’s natural readers—self-questioning, passionate young people.

Adapting Wuthering Heights for nerve proved again what I knew was true: this narrative belongs to Cathy, its tragedy her own willed betrayal not of Heathcliff, but of herself.

From the start, she’s in charge. Befriending the orphan boy from nowhere puts her at serious odds with Hindley, her bully brother, but Cathy is determined to keep Heathcliff literally at her side: sleeping in the same bed, roaming barefoot on the moors, getting pinched while terrorizing the rich neighbors’ kids.

It’s those neighbors, the Lintons, Edgar Linton in particular, who offer the crossroads where Cathy takes the wrong turn. Her decision to marry Edgar is a choice not between two men who love her, but between the only two futures she sees available: “If Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars . . . [I]f I marry Linton I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother’s power.”

Yet that move toward a sheltered and smothering, inauthentic life, can never be a good one, and at her core, Cathy already knows it: “I dreamt once that I was [in heaven] . . . the angels were so angry that they flung me . . . on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. . . I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven.” Later, ill and heartsick, she speaks of being “converted at a stroke into Mrs. Linton, the lady of Thrushcross Grange, and the wife of a stranger: an exile, and outcast, from what had been my world . . . I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free!”

Cathy makes the wrong turn for the right reason: to try to shape her life using the only tools available. We can wish for her a better toolkit, better alternatives than marrying a guy she kind of likes to free herself and her soul mate from the bitter, alcoholic master of their house, but everything that follows—Heathcliff’s shattered departure into grief and revenge, their painful reunions, even Cathy’s death—grows from that sorry seed.

Heathcliff knows it. In their last moments, he asks, “Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.”

Even as she leaves this world, she stays in charge: Heathcliff, trying to prevent a deathbed confrontation with Linton, says, “I must go. For one hour,” but “Not for one minute,” Cathy insists. “You shall not, I tell you.” And he does as she says, he stays; and Linton enters to find the man he hates holding the woman he loves; and she dies.

What Heathcliff does next, for the following eighteen years, while he mourns and excoriates and yearns for his soul’s companion—what Cathy does next, as Heathcliff reveals how “I felt her by me—I could almost see her, and yet I could not! She showed herself, as she often was in life, a devil to me”—how she seeks, with a will stronger than the life she left unfinished, to bring their stories back together, to one eternally-united tale . . . Again, and even more powerfully, Cathy turns the wheel.

Her famous (and famously misunderstood) statement, “Nelly, I am Heathcliff,” finds its equivalent in Heathcliff’s cri de coeur about her: “I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul”—Heathcliff who loves as fully and furiously as Cathy does, beyond any pretense of “masculine” emotional distance.

But it’s Cathy who says “Be content, you always followed me!”—the real Cathy, nobody’s bitch but her own: the fierce little girl who grew to be a fiercer woman, Cathy Earnshaw at the Heights, where she belongs.

catherine-and-heathcliff

 [Illustration: Fritz Eichenberg.]

Upward, onward, and deploy the horns when needed

January 6th, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

capricorn5

As a zodiacal member of this all-terrain tribe, I admire and salute the goats: their hardiness and brio, their head for heights, their habit of butting you down when you aren’t looking. Riley, above (a resident of SASHA Farm), is a very cute exemplar of those attributes.

Riley’s my model to follow for this new year – to keep climbing up, where the vision is best – and the fish-tailed goat as an avatar of Enki – god of craft and moving water, of mischief (his planet is Mercury) – makes the perfect guide . . .

Let’s forget

December 30th, 2014

“Auld lang syne”? No.

It’s time to forget.

Yamamoto s:s 09

That circular argument, that useless failure, that afternoon filled with tears … Let’s let it go. Let’s forget whatever keeps us from going forward into this brave new, cold new, fresh new year. Forget me not unless it’s what you have to do.

Let’s go.

Happy New, really new, Year!

In the shadow of the ash-tree

December 26th, 2014

Heathcliff on the desk

He was there—leant against an old ash-tree, his hat off, and his hair soaked with the dew that had gathered on the budded branches . . . He raised his eyes and spoke: ‘She’s dead!’ he said; ‘I’ve not waited for you to learn that.

 

Fritz Eichenberg went to the Heights with his dark, iconic engravings.The edition including those engravings rests, now, on my work table, its shadows shadowed by the dried hand of a flowering branch, emptied by autumn, lost in its spring.