Tuesday, October 07, 2008

'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's comments on Chapter 28)

Chapter 28 - Palace

Some goodly Shakespearean-like comedy, especially knowing Tuerqui’s previous plying of the flies - for example:

“My colleague and I,” Dashing Daniel said, rather overdoing the refinement, “are the Duke Daniel and Lord Smith, Marquis of the Great Smitherlands. We are western nobles – and the two boldest pollygoggers who ever ventured into Surrey – our exploits are legendary. We have here Princess Margaret, daughter of this august house, newly returned from captivity. Hurry, now – her highness grows cold and damp as you indulge us with your idle words.”
At the end of this speech, the mule brayed loudly as though to endorse the pollygogger’s claim. The guardsman shifted uncertainly, spraying rainwater almost like a shaking dog. His eyes were averted from me. Presumably, he felt that if I were Lady Margaret he should not gaze upon me clad in nothing more than slave harness.

This speaks, too, of increasing Shakespearean-like intrigue as Tuerqui is returned to her father with the repercussions of this pollygoggic ‘comedy’ still relevant. Her now returned status is also enticingly well-handled, i.e a mixture of mistressship and slavedom:

There was an audible gasp from the assembled slaves as I stood ready with the whip. Perhaps, focusing upon me more closely, they now recognised the fine workmanship of my slavewear. Possibly it was seeing me harnessed as a bondling, but overflowing with power. My feeling is that, paradoxically, the slavewear combined with my stance of authority made me seem doubly the mistress.

But now there is what seems to be a significant turning-point:

For the second time, glancing out at the parade ground, I saw the elfin girl. The rain was falling heavily with splashes like dancing fairies, their motion reflecting the girl’s. She was clearly very wet, short hair now plastered to her head, a close-fitting helmet. Almost immediately, she vanished into the shadows of a colonnade – again, I doubted the reality of the vision.

This is pre-figured in the author’s own comments on my Chapter 27 comments:
“I am delighted that you were especially struck by the passage about the elfin girl. This is the first introduction to someone who will become an important character. Revealing that much falls short, I think, of a spoiler – but I’d better not say more of her at this stage.”
I hesitate, too, to ‘spoil’. I only say this is Lisa-Louise – and I am struck dumb by the enormous power of her substantial (yet still incomplete) introduction in Chapter 28 and the mixed intrigue of emotions involved.

I think this should be ‘breach’:
this constituted a breech of military discipline

Too much dialogue in this chapter for my taste. But that is no criticism as many people enjoy dialogue. Still uncertain about some of the elided coarseness of some of the dialogue for some readers, however.

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!

You are quite correct about breech/breach – a typo or spelling mistake, which I have now corrected. Thanks for your eagle eye!

There is quite a lot of dialogue in this chapter, but – for the most part – I think it serves to advance the plot. Some of it is for comic effect, and some to provide colour, some to develop characters, but I don’t think there’s any talk for the sake of talk. I once had an ill-paid job ‘revising’ manuscripts. Doing that, I discovered that there is tendency amongst people who can’t write to insert meaningless dialogue (something that is extremely tedious to read). Here, by contrast, I think that some of the dialogue performs wonders of compression – as where it simultaneously advances the plot and reveals Lisa-Louise’s character.

The elisions and coarseness of some of the dialogue (really only where the guardsmen are involved) is another question. Its use, here, is in line with other parts of the book – making fun of authority figures. It may also serve to make the guards seem a little more human.

Having re-read the chapter this afternoon, I’m pleased by the way Lisa-Louise is introduced. It’s fair to say that from chapters 28 to 48 (a substantial chunk of the book) she is one of the more important characters.

Back in her father’s palace, Tuerqui is obliged to assume a combination of contradictory roles – contradictions to which there can be no resolution in that place. As this develops, we will meet aspects of Tuerqui of which there has (so far) been little hint. She is a complex character whom we are (I trust) about to come know a good deal better.

Shakespearian? But in a good way, I hope! Even the most elided dialogue is, I trust, not as difficult to follow as Shakespeare’s language often is.

Nemonymous said...

I agree your dialogue is constructive to the plot. It was just my personal taste about the amount of dialogue generally in this chapter.

Shakespearean in a good way! Like the comedy in 'The Tempest' or 'Henry V'.

Anonymous said...

You may be pleased that Chapter 29 starts with almost a page free of dialogue (just two brief speeches at the foot of the page). It has, indeed, several extended dialogue free passages.

I thought you meant Shakespearian in a good way. Some people might think that there is no such thing as Shakespearian in a bad way. Some such people are probably professors of English.