Saturday, November 01, 2008

'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's comments on Chapter 37)

Chapter 37 – Training

Although this chapter (and a number of immediately previous chapters) appears to be part of a single long period of the novel (judging by the space taken to tell it), it is in fact a relatively short period in real time compared to the hurly burly of years represented by earlier chapters in the first half of the novel. However, this current period is no stodgy oasis, if one fully appreciates that it is a new hurly burly told mainly by dialogue and incident and crafted narrations of narrations, a kaleidoscope of costumes (armour, dance etc), weapons (morning star, spanking hand, anachronous machine gun etc), the wonderfully conveyed subtle relationships (eg Tuerqui / Fluff / Bob Bosset (Bobbikins)), the emotions/ snookums / whore training, the festivals (Solstice, New Year), the plain role-playing, the role-playing of role-playing (!), the jealousies of attention (eg Modesty Clay), the dance of history, provenance, tradition, alternate world, war - as well as the dance of body movement and sex. A hurly burly, true, but a narrative that is well-aimed straight down a fast tube ... towards the breathless reader.

This reminds me of the morning star’s symbol as Tuerqui’s double-edged narration itself:

That day, Bob Bosset introduced us to the morning star. The spiked ball on the end of the chain weighed a great deal more than I expected, and proved difficult to control. Had it not been for the coordinated dance moves, I felt sure that I’d have injured myself with it. As it was, none of us hurt ourselves, but neither did we make much progress toward becoming mistress of the weapon.

Two other passages from the rich choice of exemplary passages:

Imagining myself riding into Surrey clad in padded leather and light steel cuirass, it seemed real for the first time. With little effort, I could visualise arriving at the University of Pain clad as a warrior. What would Tuerquelle make of me, or Lady Isobel? Smiling, I pictured my daughter’s eyes – round with wonder.

After changing, we set off for Eric Marsh’s armoury – an ill assorted group. Tipsi, Diqui and Barguin were in coarse shirts, leather jerkins and tightly fitted breeches – they looked like pantomime ruffians[1].
[1] Pantomime ruffians – the pantomime was a humorous stage play. One characteristic was that the parts of ugly women were played by men, and young men by attractive girls. Tipsi, Barguin and Diqui looked like attractive girls playing the part of young male ruffians.


Didn’t really follow the sense here:

It seemed to me better for their relationship if each believed her or himself the first to whom I’d spoken.


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

The links to all Chapter comments by me are here:


Nemonymous said...

I now understand that sentence I queried above. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that.

The sentence, the sense of which you don't really follow, is the start of a paragraph. The following three sentences serve to clarify Tuerqui's meaning. Essentially, Tuerqui is concerned to promote harmony between Bob and Fluff. She thinks that if Fuff thinks she'd already spoken to Bob -- or Bob thought she'd spoken to Fluff first -- that could lead to disharmony between them.

Tuerqui's motives may be complex, here:

1. She prefers not to have sex with Bob, although she seems fairly philosophical about this, and is looking for an alternative way to pay him.
2. She likes Fluff, and doesn't wish to hurt her.
3. She likes Bob, too, and wishes to do right by him.
4. She wishes to promote harmony between Fluff and Bob, for its own sake.
5. She wishes to promote harmony between Fluff and Bob, as a means of promoting the arms training.
6. She wishes (as a matter of religious/moral priciple) to give good value in exchange for the arms training.
7. She realises the need to promote her friendships (in general) as a means towards returning to Surrey.
8. She wishes to promote the friendships (in general) for their own sake.

It may be possible to tease out more strands in Tuerqui's motivation. All of these are simultaneously both discrete and intertwined. Tuerqui herself seems to give only slight thought to her motivations, but some of them come into focus from time to time.

Anonymous said...

You're entirely correct in saying that, although the chapters at this point form a large chunk of the book, they cover quite a short time span. In this regard, this portion contrasts strongly with some sections at which the time zips by (Chapter 12 is a good example). There are reasons why Tuerqui would go into a lot of detail on the period of her return to her father's palace -- reasons to do with the person to whom she is narrating this, and the circumstances under which she sets it all down.

There are also good reasons for me, as author, to devote a lot of space to this period. These are dramatic months in Tuerqui's life, and are also rich in material that relates to the underlying ideas of the book. The palace months merit a lot of space both in terms of action and ideas.

It is curious how well both the internal logic of the book, and the needs of the text as an artifical narration, tend toward the same treatment of time (speeding up, slowing down). I think the processes may be more organic than this comment (a reflection after the event) may imply. Giving the matter more consideration, the book is, after all, less artificial than I might sometimes think. And we should not wholly overlook the consequences of my own relationship with the goddess.

To what extent is the book shaped by me, by Tuerqui and the other characters, by Tuerqui's goddess, by my goddess? The question is imponderable -- but is worth mooting.

Nemonymous said...

Worth mooting indeed.

Nemonymous said...

PFJ "To what extent is the book shaped by me, by Tuerqui and the other characters, by Tuerqui's goddess, by my goddess? The question is imponderable -- but is worth mooting."

It has occurred to me that this sort of pheonomenon is central to my preoccupations - generally since the early seventies (The Intentional Fallacy) and, more seriously, since 2001 (Nemonymity as philosophised in different ways and in different places).

Anonymous said...

I suppose that it is. I think that I'm at least a little surprised to find these preoccupations reflected in "Odalisque". At risk of being overly intentional, I didn't consciously plan to work with them. Doing so seems to have arisen organically from the work itself.