NEGOTIUM PERAMBULANS by E.F. Benson
“There’s much in common between a cat and a fuschia-bush if you look at them closely enough. Everything came out of the slime of the pit, and it’s all going back there.”
A warning to all of us who dabble in stories like this by the story itself as if to absolve the author of guilt in writing it at all! The author represented by its artist painter in it who lives within an isolated fishing village called Polearn with its steep, often undared entrance ‘road’, a white posting and letter delivery exchange box, and a dependence on a distant ‘fish train’ whereto the boats delivered its fish produce. The narrator, a ‘natural celibate’, now successful in the world, revisits Polearn and stays with his aunt (cf Withers in Seaton’s Aunt reviewed yesterday in this book series) and he relives his childhood there: a childhood that subsumes him as this story written by an otherwise cheerful, sociable author will subsume its reader, as it were, with the horrific legend depicted by the church’s altar panel, including its irresistible references, only some of which dare I give you, viz. the doctrine of guardian angels in a fearful sermon, the pestilence that walks through in our darkness today, the ‘dull book’ of life compared to this book, a fresh corpse drained to skin and bone, “powers and presences”, and ungraspable material in hands otherwise sunk in ‘thick mud’: a resistance of movement the subsuming within which I thought I had escaped by finishing my previously real-time reviewed Aickman Fontana book yesterday! There seems to be no end to such grasp of gestalt… there’s nothing no paler than a memory of Polearn that still never pales.