Tuesday, October 21, 2008

'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's comments on Chapter 34)

Chapter 34 - Trial

Schoolroom genealogy followed by the *hilarious* tale of the Pollygoggers’ jury trial, muchly goodly narrated by the author and the author’s cohorts (Tuerqui, Jennifer Petrie...) – except they are not really cohorts but I feel competing narrators within the Collective Unconscious of the novel. Tuerqui’s bashful need to keep her skirt as low as possible (while being duplicitously enticing, too?) and her expressly saying that to escape punishment is ‘good’ (when she evidently enjoys punishment?) – coupled with her father’s use of the word ‘Pah’ and his rather more repressed view of what women can view etc... makes me ponder and ponder. There is more to this novel than meets the eye. Some exemplifying passages:

She flexed her cane meaningfully, but – to my surprise – didn’t use it. In fact, I survived the entire morning, and the schoolroom lunch, without punishment. It seemed too good to be true. Mary and Phoebe hadn’t been quite so lucky

(typo: full-stop after ‘lucky’ needed).

Perhaps, I dared hope, the Duck’s Ford ruby had finished with me. A worse possibility remained as a worry – that it had reached through the dream world to ensnare Tuerquelle or Lady Isobel. Was such a thing possible? Briefly, I wondered whether to ask Miss Miles – who seemed to know something of cursed stones – but decided not chance my luck by doing so.

“About half an hour – plenty long enough for them to prepare. Prepare their case – pah! Prepare for the slave trimmer’s knife, more like!”

Such thoughts brought me to my responsibility for the arrest, trial and punishment of Daniel and Carp-Eye. Thoroughly regretting the business now, it was far too late for me to prevent it. Lisa-Louise was right – my revenge was the work of a slave wrenched from her mistress’ authority and consequently gone mad. The dominance that the elfin girl had exerted upon me was to be thanked for the clarity with which I could now view matters.

A nice simile:

as soft as scrumper’s shit

And a premonition of ‘zero tolerance’:

...it seems to me that I have been too lax, far too lax. That being so, for today at least, I will not ignore the slightest error. Every mistake will mean a spanking or the cane...

Elfin Lisa-Louise remains inscrutable and seems to be role-playing role-playing...?

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.

The missing full stop has now been inserted, thanks for pointing out its absence. (If the Microsoft grammar check was any use, it would have underlined the mistake in green, but it didn't. Pah!)

"as soft as scrumper's shit" is not only a good simile in general, but has added force in its context. It occurs whilst Tuerqui's father is speaking of the trial -- and refers to nature's punishment for a misdeed. Very much crime and punishment!

There was a trial of the pollygoggers in the very earliest version of the book. But, in rewriting it, I ignored the early version of the trial entirely -- creating something new, and very much better.

It may be that the trial has some reference to that of the Knave of Hearts in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". It may be noted, for example, that Tuerqui's father has determined the sentence before the jury has even been summoned -- an echo of the King of Hearts calling for sentence first, verdict afterwards. Tuerqui, attending the trial as an adult woman dressed as a child, may recall Alice growing much larger during the trial of the Knave of Hearts. (The big little girl.)

This may not be the only point at which "Odalisque" echoes "Wonderland". I didn't think about it whilst writing the book, but (looking at it now) it occurs to me that Lisa-Louise's early appearances (appearing and vanishing, enigmatic utterance, etc.) recall the Cheshire Cat.

I don't know what Carrollians would make of it, but I think that "Wonderland" (my favourite book as a child) has left a significant mark on "Odalisque".

Nemonymous said...

Pah! I thought about 'Alice' when reading the Pollygoggers' trial but failed to remember to mention it!!

Anonymous said...

Tuerqui's difficulties with her hemline may suggest someone too big for her clothes -- also echoing Alice growing to full size in the courtroom.

A difference between the trials of the Knave of Hearts and of the pollygoggers is that Alice is empowered, Tuerqui (at this stage) remains disempowered.

"Who cares for you?" said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). "You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

Tuerqui will find that she has power, but has yet to discover it.