1. And now to another novella:


    I can’t resist quoting a whole paragraph from this work’s opening pages:
    “Imagine what it must have been for her when I first came to the house, a loud and prying boy of eleven. She [Dolly] skittered at the sound of my footsteps or, if there was no avoiding me, folded like the petals of a shy-lady fern. She was one of those people who can disguise themselves as an object in the room, a shadow in the corner, whose presence is a delicate happening. She wore the quietest shoes, plain virginal dresses with hems that touched her ankles. Though older than her sister, she seemed like someone who, like myself, Verena had adopted. Pulled and guided by the gravity of Verena’s planet, we rotated separately in the outer spaces of the house.”
    The narrator, at eleven years old, is adopted by his Aunt Verena after his mother died…and he falls in love with Dolly, living with Verena.
    I infer Dolly tantalisingly told him about the grass harp…
  2. \”the dwelling whippoorwills.”
    “If some wizard would like to make me a present, let him give me a bottle filled with the voices of that kitchen, the ha ha ha and fire whispering, a bottle brimming with its buttery sugary bakery smells–”
    Growing-up measurement marks still there on the wall like scars, the boy narrator reaches the age of 16 in an idyllic world with Dolly (and her commercial dropsy medicine) and her friend Catherine – exquisitely characterised – and the tree house like a ship that seemed to “sail along the cloudy coastline of every dream.”
    And Aunt Verena once scorned in Sapphic love…
  3. \”shook down their dew.”
    “…the autumn winds would be curving through the taut red grass, releasing all the gone voices,…”
    I gain more of a sense of the magical domain of the China Tree, the Tree House and the ghosteopathic grass…when the trio of us — Collin the narrator, together with Dolly and Catherine — plan to billet there, to escape Verena (and her wide-boy accomplish, Dr Ritz – what a characterisation!) who plan to exploit Dolly’s marketable dropsy medicine, a recipe known only to Dolly…
  4. \”Do I remember you offering a drumstick to anybody who would like it?”
    Hilarious, well-characterised group of holy citizens hunt out the trio in the tree house, the trio who have just been fraternising with a local lad who gave them cigarettes.
    One thing about Capote is that age is often defined but is equally indefinable. I am not sure if this section’s quoted telegram from Dr. Ritz to a sheriff in another town giving the trio’s ages is correct. If it is correct, the formidable Dolly and Catherine are much older than I anticipated. It seems certain Collin is only 16, but probably older than his actual age, too. The reader is ever on a shifting ground of wild precociousness or miniaturised maturity.
  5. \”But here we are, identified: five fools in a tree.”
    “Spirits are accepters of life, they grant its differences — and consequently are always in trouble.”
    The trio in the the tree thus becomes five, honest-to-goodness outliers all, and the atmosphere and bonhomie over a drumstick of chicken: one of the most heart-warming scenes in all literature, I suspect. Particularly by the characterisation of Judge Charlie Cool, one of this famous five in the tree. They could all be in their teens or ninety-something.
  6. \”It was the last thing I saw.”
    “Wind surprised, pealed the leaves, parted night clouds; showers of starlight were let loose: our candle, as though intimidated by the incandescence of the opening, star-stabbed sky, toppled, and we could see, unwrapped above us, a late wayaway wintery moon: it was like a slice of snow, near and far creatures called to it, hunched moon-eyed frogs, a claw-voiced wildcat. Catherine hauled out the rose scrapquilt, insisting Dolly wrap it around herself; then she tucked her arms around me and scratched my head until I let it relax on her bosom–You cold? she said, and I wiggled closer: she was good and warm as the old kitchen.”
    Another whole paragraph I could not resist quoting.
    Despite the exquisite nature of this sentimental setting of a human quincunx and the tree house, despite the call by the cool Judge for them all to issue secrets and make them into one face, one body, there is a suspicion of things more than meet the eye, of at least one hidden desire, of secrets below secrets, and of a certain antipathy about other races…. Unpolitically correct?
    That edge to the sentimentality makes it even more exquisite.
    And there is an an aura of Stephen King, as I pointed out earlier about Capote’s story ‘Master Misery‘…
  7. \”…singing a music that seems a blizzard of butterflies flying,”
    “…Dolly and the Judge, who, like two children lost in a witch-ruled forest, were asleep with their cheeks together.”
    The idyllic quincunx thrown to the wind of recrimination, and innocence waylaid. The various characterisations amass, miscegenations to the skin, and a whiskery catfish is used like a morning star.
    All amid the rumoured machinations of Verena and Ritz. Confusion is the only clarity, because if life is clear it is not life at all?
  8. \”…a painted clown, flopping, powdered, elegantly angular.”
    “The field of grass was without voice, no pheasant rustle, furtive flurry; the pointed leaves were sharp and blood-red as the aftermath arrows of a massacre:”
    …and that speaks of the aftermath beyond the diaspora of the quincunx, but the quincunx’s central dot remains Collin as he travels incognito in Riley’s car to visit the delightful bakery of Mr and Mrs C.C. County.
  9. \”catching his death.”
    “…well, maybe, I deserved a gingerbread man.”
    …as Judge Cool once deserved a drumstick?
    Collin, after tearful catharsis in front of the Countys, brazens it out in town, glimpses Catherine’s goldfish bowl in her jail window, listens secondhand to a camp barber’s account of Verena’s monetary shafting by an absconded Ritz…
    And much more swirling around the race consciousness of those days, those people. The text flows through you like syrup, peppered with various necessary angsts that strangely help that flowing.
  10. \”I do believe you’re sitting on my father.”
    “She saw everything first, and it was her one real vanity to prefer that she, rather than you, point out certain discoveries: a birdtrack bracelet, an eave of icicles — she was always calling come see the cat-shaped cloud, the ship in the stars, the face of frost.”
    Me, too, like that description of Dolly. So, come see two quotes above that should be famous quotes from all great literature.
    And we meet one of the great scenes of literature featuring Sister Ida and her fifteen children – and her God’s washing-line.
    Come, see.
  11. \”…newspaper picture puzzles; find five boys and an owl in this drawing of a tree.”
    “The overloaded tree house gave an evil creak; from my vantage point, its tenants seemed a single creature, a many-legged, many-eyed spider upon whose head Dolly’s hat sat perched like a velvet crown.”
    This is delightfully like the Famous Five or Swallows and Amazons with postcocious adults acting as the children, while first listening to Sister Ida’s entrancingly brave narration of her equally brave backstory — followed by their defence of the tree house against invaders…
    The highlight of this section was one of Ida’s little girls who had a secret name she wanted to keep secret. I hope it is not a spoiler to divulge that her name turned out to be Texaco Gasoline…
  12. \”the woods we left to winter.”
    “The rain had thickened, fish could have swum through the air; like a deepening scale of piano notes, it struck its blackest chord, and drummed into a downpour that, though it threatened, did not reach us: drippings leaked through the leaves, but the tree-house stayed a dry seed in a soaking plant.”
    The invasion finishes with two dying falls, except they are only dying ones in the musical sense. Riley’s been potshotted from the tree, and taken away for medical care, and Dolly decides a deadly decision between Verena and Judge Cool. All swaddled in the most capacious capotements of rich text,
  13. \”We listened.”
    image“Houses at night announce catastrophe by their sudden pitiable radiance.”
    Aftermath, denouement, musical coda, call it what I might, this last section is a poignant profit and loss of life’s relentless spirit of clinging on to the grassy earth, all fingers and toes, like a headstone without stone, a harp without strings.
    From ‘walking pneumonia’ to their painting a ‘skeleton suit’ for Collin, we are left with a warm feeling in the heart and the sound of blades strumming and a real harp with earth’s real strings… A green guitar again?
    “I’ve read that past and future are a spiral, one coil containing the next and predicting its theme. Perhaps this is so; but my life has seemed to me more a series of closed circles, rings that do not evolve with the freedom of a spiral: for me to get from one to the other has meant a leap, not a glide. What weakens me is the lull between, the wait before I know where to jump.”