Monday, September 29, 2008

'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL comments on chapter 26)

Chapter 26 – Pollygoggers

Just a reminder from a footnote in the previous chapter:

Pollygoggers stole slaves, who had formerly been rich or prominent as persons – to sell to their families, friends or enemies. (The name derives from polly – see chapter 11, note 1 and goggle meaning to look. A pollygogger was thus one who looked for pollies.) The pollygoggers’ business was often accomplished through an intermediary known as a head broker. Rich or prominent people would approach head brokers to secure the release of enslaved persons.

Our heroine snatched by the Pollygoggers to a Narrow Boat on the canal, we meet Dashin’ Daniel:

One end of the trellis arch was almost filled by a person’s back, clothed in a leather jerkin dyed bright pink. Perched above the vivid garment was an emerald green broad brimmed hat, decorated with a large purple feather. Beyond the figure swayed the rear end of a piebald ox – I was in an ox cart, the trellis work a frame designed to support an awning. When the driver turned to speak, a deep voice and a stubbly chin demonstrated that he was not a woman.

and we also meet Carp-eye and Juicelle. Mixed emotions and inferred mixed motives etc and further angst for Tuerqui. All tantalisingly yet clearly conveyed... a mark of this novel: complexity and clarity in symbiosis.

I also liked these two footnotes:

Heckpit was the abode of the wicked after death.

Breaking a mirror was said to bring seven years bad luck. The belief seems to relate to the idea that mirror reflections are spirits forced to mimic the actions of the population of the non-mirror world. Breaking the mirror released the spirits who then vented their spite on whoever had released them. After seven years, they would be sucked into another mirror.

But should it not be “seven years’ bad luck’” and ‘on whomever’ or ‘on whomsoever’?

And we possibly need a semi-colon or dash below rather than a comma:
Anything other was inconceivable, she radiated a degree of authority that no trained slave could defy.

I also liked passages below:

It’s munch as they pull for them on the towpath

However miserable I might be, I was also hungry and thirsty. The bread was freshly baked and thickly buttered, the cheese mild but with a sharp under taste. The salad was crisp and fresh, the pickle suitably spicy. Even the bitty ale was refreshing – neither too acrid nor too gassy.

The boat moved with surprisingly little effort – much more easily than Sam’s cart had done. It was easier, too, than my recollection of bow hauling Cap’n Gentle’s boats. There, probably, my perceptions were at fault – in those days I’d been unused to work. A memory returned to me, from years before, of Sir Thomas Shrew saying, in his pompous way – “Less power is required to move a body through an aqueous environment than over a dry one.”

And a wonderful chapter ending:

Pink from the sunset glowed increasingly faint on the bases of clouds. The planking of the hold felt rough under my back. A vixen cried, and disturbed ducks quacked their outrage on the water. Spiciness from the suppertime pickle lingered on my tongue.

Interesting look at discernible / discernable here:

I prefer 'discernible'.
'discernable' is used twice in this chapter.


Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.

The links to all Chapter comments by me are here:


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that. Having considered them, I have now made all but one of the suggested changes.

“Whoever” now reads “whomsoever”. It’s a rather splendid word, which I am pleased to incorporate into a footnote. It’s perhaps not a word Tuerqui would have used (the rather more plain “whomever” would surely have been her preferred option) but seems calculated to please Jennifer Petrie.

“Anything other was inconceivable, she radiated a degree of authority that no trained slave could defy.”

now reads:

“Anything other was inconceivable – she radiated a degree of authority that no trained slave could defy.”

“Discernable” has been amended to “discernible”. After looking at your link, and consulting Chambers Dictionary, I think that “discernable” may be a spelling mistake that has wormed its way into the not always reliable Microsoft spell check dictionary.

The change I have not made is to alter “seven years” to “seven years’ bad luck”. In the first place, “seven years” seems to me quite adequate to express the idea. Moreover, I fancy that, on occasion, the death of the mirror breaker might bring the bad luck to a premature conclusion. In such circumstances, I imagine, the spirits from the broken mirror would continue to inhabit the non-mirror world for their full seven years before being sucked back into another mirror. Of course, there might still be seven years of bad luck if (a) the mirror-world spirits vent their spite on someone else for the remainder of the period – or (b) they were able to follow the mirror breaker into the world to come. These, I feel, are speculations that go beyond the remit of an “Odalisque” footnote – and we are safer to stick with “seven years”, without setting any necessary extension to the bad luck within that time frame.

Nemonymous said...

Thanks, Pet, although I don't understand your last point. I was merely suggesting the alteration of

"seven years bad luck"

in your original text to:

"seven years' bad luck"

Anonymous said...

Oh – I see. I thought you had in mind changing “After seven years, they would be sucked into another mirror.” to “After seven years’ bad luck, they would be sucked into another mirror.”

I can see an argument in favour of an apostrophe at the end of “years” – I’ll think about it…

Anonymous said...

A possibly interesting point arising in the chapter ending that you quote is that Tuerqui is evidently able to distinguish between the cries of vixens and dog-foxes. This is one of a number of points at which she demonstrates a knowledge of the natural world. (Although I feel pretty sure that she distinguishes between the calls of different birds more frequently than she does mammals.) This seems to me to relate to the picture of her childhood conjured in the first chapter – a rather lonely girl, raised a rural area. In the first paragraph of Chapter 1 she refers to the calls of birds the names of which she did not yet know.