Monday, November 03, 2008

'Odalisque' by PF Jeffery (DFL's comments on Chapter 38)

Chapter 38 - Solstice

In many ways, the perfect chapter. It begins:

The Barque of the Year was in its final stages of preparation. Garlands of holly – bright red berries against glossy dark green – almost obliterated the gunwale, whilst still more were hammered into place. A fiddler, muffled in what appeared to be half a dozen cloaks, played ‘The Old Year is A-Falling’, the melody curiously distinct above the hammering. Snow fell in flakes soft as goose down, spiralling to the damp pavement – and showing no sign of settling.

Perfect, in the sense that it is not only the Solstice festival (with the happy traditions, I guess, of our own world’s Christmas) – with presents, dressing-up etc – but with destinies fulfilled and future destinies budding towards a future fulfilment – with Fluff a major character in this (who I sense has matured even as the novel itself progressed almost like a literary destiny with any narrators just keeping an eye on the craft’s tiller) – Fluff almost a counterpart of Tuerqui herself, except softer because she hasn’t had to experience what Tuerqui has experienced. Tuerqui is often soft and gauche, like Fluff, but more edgy and feisty.

The synchronised shards of random truth and fiction. Or the random shards of synchronised truth and fiction?

Even the typos and queries kept away in this perfect chapter!

Two lovely passages (among many):

Lisa-Louise had commanded me sufficiently to save my sanity – but, alas, she had no choice but to leave me half princess, half slave. It had been inevitably so with the daily demands placed upon me. The Solstice, by contrast, was a day out from the ordinary world. It was a time for joy in harness mates, delight in shared servitude.

There was silence. In the quiet, I felt the power of the goddess coursing through me. No longer was I Tuerqui, the slave – nor Princess Margaret of the Blood Victoria. Instead, in that moment, I was the avatar of the goddess, her living embodiment.

Following this perfection, I wonder what impends? :- o

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...

Perhaps 'random' is the wrong word above - more an authorial instinct that can seem random but isn't?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that.

Truth to tell, I was a bit nervous as to what you might make of Chapter 38, because I love it so much.

Something you fail to mention (and there's maybe no reason why you should have mentioned it) is that Ch 38 is the first chapter to have no footnotes. In her epilogue, Jennifer Petrie remarks: "Two chapters seemed to me too beautiful to be marred by my explanations." Ch 38 is the earlier of these two.

Everything you say of Fluff is true. Your saying that she is almost a counterpoint to Tuerqui came as a revelation to me, I hadn't previously thought of her in that way, but you are obviously right. It seems strange that Fluff did not appear in the earlier versions of the book. This now, indeed, strikes as unexpected as the fact that the Mad Hatter was a late addition to "Alice". (Not that Fluff is mad, of course -- far from it.) But I originally introduced Fluff merely to open the door for Tuerqui and Lisa-Louise, and to take their wet cloaks (on their first visit to Bob Bosset's quarters). Without any conscious intention from me, Fluff refused to be anything but a major character. There is, I think, more than one chapter in which Fluff is the star.

As to what impends -- it is scarcely a spoiler to reveal that there will be some much less perfect days. A glance at the chapter titles will show that Chapter 41 is entitled "Grim". Yet the reader may be pleased to know that, however grim things may become, there is still another chapter remaining which Jennifer Petrie considered too beautiful to mar with her footnotes.

Even if there were no more perfect moments to come, perhaps one perfect day would be enough. A moment to treasure on the rocky road ahead. A road that will eventually lead Tuerqui whither?

Nemonymous said...

Sorry, I did actually notice there were no footnotes wuite consciously and wondered whether I should mention this fact. I now can't think why I didn't!

Anonymous said...

I don't really think there was any strong reason for you to mention the absence of footnotes.

It may be the sort of thing that only seems significant with the benefit of hindsight -- once you notice which two chapters have no footnotes.