9 thoughts on “The Friendly Examiner, Episode 1 – Louis Marvick

  1. Just read the first 2 or 3 pages, and am delighted by its structured, civilised take on the Enlightenment, mentioning Voltaire, Talleyrand and Diderot, also assuming the book’s ‘modern reader’ is female, and I thought, before I read further, I would revisit my two real-time reviews of Denis Diderot (linked below) – one of my websites being headed RAMEAU’S NEPHEW, my favourite ever book!
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/rameaus-nephew-denis-diderot/
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/jacques-trhe-fatalist-denis-diderot/

  2. The next few pages continue my reading delight, up to the start of M. Diderot,’s instructiions to the protagonist young man, who has just been regaled with the “real intelligence” of a barmaid regarding the Golden Tooth (“built by Folly on a bubble of Error”).
    I must take breath so as to eke out and savour this Marvickulous text.

  3. Read up to “the meal of a gigantic blood-sucking spider” on page 25

    I feel as if I have been taken back interstitially — within the time-genius-loci of the type of words and syntax — towards when the young man like this Sperling as protagonist is instructed by Diderot to cleanse the world of false thoughts and superstitions for the sake of Diderot’s mighty Encyclopaedia of Enlightenment. Here, we are treated within tales within tales within such written Diderot instructions of a human body found in the waters of a sort of health spa, and the hole eaten into it by a sort of spider, or so I think. Is this proposed cause of death to be squashed or upheld, I wonder? And why are there more and more females as victims or as movers and shakers or as members of the reading audience in this method of narration? Or am I mistaken, and alone in asking this? Am I, indeed, alone as the sole male reader of this book?
    “‘Monsieur! Monsieur!’ A strong but feminine hand is jostling him.”
    …is where I shall restart this book next time. — If there is a next time.

  4. 8BD98C16-479C-44D3-A762-A6D3A8E6DBD6Read up to: “He is only twenty-three, but he feels sixty-two.”

    I am 71 and feel 23? Ah, the relativity of age and memory. I am now fully entranced by the style and substance of this narrative, absolutely sure to become one of my all time favourite literary forays. Sperling, the protagonist, after pondering the comparative status of the serving-wench who wakes him with such delicate fingers, has a frisson of misgiving about the mission that Diderot has set him regarding the neutralising of the blood-sucking spider, a spider that would otherwise bedevil sane ratiocination. This frisson brings back childhood memories to him of being locked in the cellar by his parents as a punishment for breaking an ornament…. Also loved how footnotes put some of the text in doubt! (But is the writer of these footnotes to the text a friendly examiner of it?) This is wonderful stuff.

  5. Read up to: “In estimating relative size, one may compare mountains to molehills, but not spiders to dogs.”

    Depends on the size of the mole, I say!
    A coach journey for Sperling to the spa town that has the supposed spider — among passengers who are mediocrities plus the most unprepossessing woman he has ever seen: a woman who is accompanying or accompanied on her lap by the Queen of Burgundy, she claims. This unprepossessing woman seems naturally to become central to the story so far, with imperfect things about her described perfectly. Also I noted, en passant, the similarity of the name Sperling with ‘spiderling’. I am a friendly examiner, myself, I hope, and I don’t think that connection was intended by the writer when using the word ‘spiderling’ nor is it likely to be significant..

  6. Now read up to:
    “The situation at Heilbrunn, then, is much as M. Diderot imagined it. The simple villagers, overawed for hundreds of years by canting priests, and daunted by their mumbo-jumbo, of which the recent Reform has not erased the memory, see angels and devils behind every natural event.”

    Sperling thus has arrived at the site of his Diderot mission, after the carriage journey, debating the relative terrors of a dog and a spider with a woman! A woman who seems to best him intellectually. But Sperling is supposed himself to have the mastery over superstition by means of his rationalism, yet he sees a vague haunting shape when later on horseback in the forest, just before arriving at Heilbrunn, and this male reader at least (this book’s would-be friendly examiner) just had a sympathetic frisson of unease alongside Sperling … and he now listens to (and I read about) the Heilbrunn villagers’ tales of the strange phenomenon that have beset them…

  7. Read up to: “He cannot remember when he last enjoyed so engaging a conversation with a woman, or with anyone;”

    The earlier philosopher woman is here in town also, with her version of bees in her bonnet, transposed to other hatchlings in her hair more suitable to this account, bees in the bonnet being something of which I have often accused my own daughter and wife over many years now gone! Meanwhile, Sperling’s verbal duel and clash of personalities with the local priest is something that should henceforth be iconised as one of those significant meetings of minds in all literature. Seriously.
    I have now given up eking out this utterly compelling text. And somehow, things are getting me so involved, I shall find it difficult to clamber out again… “…a moment of marked silence that breaks the expected rhythm of conversation and conveys that the questioner has laid himself open to unfriendly review.” My bold.

  8. “‘Your Honour won’t be requirin’ the sheep, after all?’ asks Hauke.”
    POSSIBLE SPOILERS
    Oh, after witnessing the likely deserved outcome of the pious priest’s party’s religious encounter with the denizen of Höhle or Hölle, Sperling, pedalling some sort of early seaside pedalo, ditches the sheep bait, for something or someone far more intelligent to accompany him, and thus meets kind with kind, literally and figuratively. And footnoted Reason meets head-on the ending’s thrilling Adventurous Fiction via its so-called Monster, to the expected satisfying of the Diderot mission. It seems apt that I mentioned Rameau’s Nephew as my favourite book, and judging by the lady’s uncle in The Friendly Examiner, Ep. 1, this has become another such favourite, one I shall call privately Rameau’s Niece! I am myself perhaps that very uncle in old age, once the ram pedalling the ‘eau’ with its ewe. A fitting ending with sunset kisses, almost. The only male reader of it? If so, not for long, as we all see the light together.

    This is an entertaining book that, if written ages ago, would now be great literature taught in schools and universities.

    [Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing is not wayward nor even preternatural, neither friendly nor unfriendly, this book having just taught me that this is so because such an activity is a form of Reason, in synergy with the unreasonable and/or reasonable fictions it addresses.]

    end

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