Protocols of Romance in Aickman

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LETTERS TO THE POSTMAN by Robert Aickman

“All the larks were holed that day. […] The larks were chiming to the pulses in his body; the waves whispering. […] The larks flew higher than ever. The waves lapped erotically.”

“They were in a region of unadopted roads, underdefined boundaries, random structures at uncoordinated angles.”

It is is usually down to any Aickman readers to help triangulate such regions of his work into a gestalt, I guess. Not least with this particular  story, where genders feint and prestidigitate across such underdefined boundaries — feints and prestidigitations between sister and brother, mother and son, man and woman, more specifically, here, a young postman and the peat-burning woman to whom he delivers letters and from whom he receives personal letters when they spring out of her literal letter “box”, a box where her letters are placed at the front door, these being missives about the husband who once turned up without her knowing who he was, just his name. There are mysterious protocols of ‘Your’ without an s and an x as a kiss, whether it be an initial as a name or the full name itself, at the end of the letters to each other. The woman seems to want to be rescued from this mysterious (uncouth?) husband and later to find a handsome Prince perhaps currently disguised as a dog. Equally, our callow GPO postman  (who happens to be the son of a GP) wants to find a woman to fulfil his even more mysterious  protocols of relationship and/or his physical expectations of romance. You see, he plants his face into his own mother’s bosom one day in the family kitchen and later allows his own sister to pull down her skirt in the expensive digs he hires  to house the woman to whom he delivers letters and from whom he receives letters. Except pulling down her skirt really means that his sister is pulling it down straight in a prudent spinsterish way while keeping it tightly belted at the waist! Ironically, when he later tells the woman whom he has rescued to take off her dress when alone with her in the digs, it is discovered that she is wearing more than one dress underneath. Every young man should take note, I guess. All of this taking place in an Aickman-like Holihaven seaside resort where the sea is so flat the tide never comes in, and the larks are now inaudible, I infer. All of it being an absurdist way to make some sense, some rhyme and reason, of the interaction between different genders in the days of yore when there was always a second delivery. A second meaning that creeps up on you like a letter dropping on the mat late in the afternoon, that you discover later and decide to leave ever unopened and unrequited. Meanwhile, in order to rescue you ‘little people’  from future temptation of coming in closer union with this story’s own delivery, below there is a harmless clue  as another quotation that I have endangered myself by digging it out  from the rest of it… The further need for any of you little people to triangulate coordinates from “deep beneath the praties” is thus obviated….

“Problems, if meant to be solved, solve themselves more effectively than we can solve them.”

All my reviews of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/

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