“How world lay overlapped with world; visible each from the other and yet never to be one!” 

THE PARROT by Elizabeth Bowen


THE PARROT by Elizabeth Bowen

“…a very new-looking parrot, newer-looking even than the complete edition of Lord Lytton,…”

Lytton’s The House and the Brain? The Parrot — with its refrain of “Minnie” beyond mere mimic — being this House’s brain, parrot fashion, evidently House No. 16…

“past the Willesdens’, past No. 17’s, 18’s and 19’s, till it broadened out under the Lennicotts’ poplars… […] ‘I never knew there were so many people who didn’t live in London. Of course, one sees the houses, but it is difficult to realise, isn’t it, that they have insides and that they really mean anything!’”

This an Aickman-like study of social interactions in the suburbs where the Lennicotts, bookish, a discarded couple seeming strange and foreign with their impossible books against which grudges are fostered — whereby people, as often in Aickman, share a roof to meet new challenges and forget the small world below, that world with petty trolls. Pretty Polly, with masculine pronoun, who yearns for his Minnie, Polly as catalyst, bringing people together by escaping its cage, setting up the chase and prophesying as well as transcending today’s social-media grudges, and much more. Can one make up how a story can be so powerful?

The poignant story of Eleanor with pince-nez caged as the parrot owner’s ‘companion’, as she deals with the parrot’s escape, a shape wobbling like a pony in the sky and landing in the Lennicott’s garden and eventually bringing us to their roof of knowledge. 

Yes, the parrot’s house was No. 16! And Eleanor, now inside the Lennicotts’ house, further along, finds the necessary deliciously ‘wicked’ piano…
“…the great jutting triangle of the piano. She was still drawing shallow breaths and walking delicately, and had the sense of passing down a long low shining tunnel of wickedness,… […] She was here in those Lennicotts’ very house; its shadows and scents were surcharged for her, every contact was intolerably significant. […] Mr Lennicott’s dragons glowed; he might have stepped out of a cathedral window, and had indeed even that air of ornate asceticism. […]The room smelt of cigarettes and masculine unguents and had sloping ceilings. She remembered all those terrible books…”

Stair carpet of sinister sleekness, and a gutter to clamber along, so finely and ironically absurdist, like Aickman, this story…I am breathless with this reading escapade. And its potential Zeno’s Paradox of time…

“…a lost hour that had slipped through a crack in her life and vanished. […] …she did not want to go back to that house of shut-out sunshine and great furniture, where the parrot was carried royally from room to room on trays, and she was nothing.”

Never to be fearful of being ‘under compliment’ to anyone, like the parrot’s owner, who stayed in her own cage once our catalyst is re-caged. A sad case, a sad cage, a head with its housed brain. The Haunted and the Haunters. Today’s technologically linked poly-world and its peoples never to reach nirvana or gestalt…

“How world lay overlapped with world; visible each from the other and yet never to be one!”


All my reviews of Bowen stories: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/31260-2/

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