Monday, April 28, 2014
alone, alone, alone!
For a few pages I am interested in Fabulatorius, then I'm not interested in him, and the electric current that runs through the book is my interest (which is the author's interest or focus) and not the interests of the characters, except as they propel the next what-next, which makes them actually vital, because they and the story are one, with a reduced intervention by anything masquerading as reality, so that a character who wants to fly to Venus will be able to fly there.
Desire is the propellent factor, and the later books are a literary embodiment or manifestation of desire, the characters wanting to do something and doing it, and the author wanting to veer off or forget that something ever happened, and veering and forgetting it, his author-desire mingling irretrievably with the desires of his own false-people.
What a contrast these late books make when you put them next to his realistic books, in which the characters often can't do what they like (unless they want to walk alone and think, which they do all the time), and in which they are not unoften locked up, or, tormented by inexpressible thoughts, commence to kill themselves. One of them jumps in a pond. Adrian in Rodmoor dements himself to death on a beach. “I must be alone, alone, alone!“ he shouts, leaping out of a boat and pelting across the sand. “As he crossed the dunes, at this savage pace, something seemed to break in his brain or in his heart.“ He shouts his son's name “in a shrill vibrating voice,“ tries to talk about his fiancé, gargles blood, and dies.
Desire in the realistic books comes with drag and friction but in the nonrealistic books it is frictionless. If you want to murder a shipload of vivisectionists then you will have been given the magic lethal dust that will allow you to do it. You found it in the cellar of Castle Cad. And the books with friction were published during his lifetime but the frictionless ones with dragons and gods were only published afterwards, by small presses in most cases, for an audience of Powys enthusiasts; unillustrated on the covers, they are treated like his detritus.
The action in the quiet-desire novels will take place in a single village or town or in parts of Wales whereas the action in the open-desire novellas will take place across galaxies and planets. Once the characters have been given infinite leeway they are not ashamed to use it. His people, who, in the earlier books, held those long trains of thought within themselves (all of this thought compacted within themselves but all of this thought directed outwards too, and noticing the world, and taking it in, admitting it as Porius admits the excremental heap) – they now prefer to speak their thoughts out loud, less likely to worry that people will not understand them, confident that they can talk and talk, now that their thoughts have become positions in the world, with one character putting a point forward and another disagreeing in what passes for Platonic debate though they are also free to chat and not consider themselves too tightly bound to the philosophical or sociological point.
They still think about the same range of topics though, they still fret over the same things, the difference in mobility doesn't make any difference to their concerns, they are still wondering about the existence of the self after death and the malfeasance of vivisectors, so say that the fictional body is freed but the brain is still tied to John Cowper Powys.