15 thoughts on “Reflections in a Golden Eye — Carson McCullers


    “For the formation of an idea involves the fusion of two or more known facts. And this the Captain had not the courage to do.”

    An amazing, deadpan, disarming, breathlessly episodic chapter and told like a machine gun, about the contrastively slow fuses of variable sexuality in Private Williams, Captain Penderton who once put a kitten in a postbox, and his wife Leonora Penderton with her shag dance, and, of curse her stable of horses — and the mis-clearing by Private Williams of some trees for the Captain’s barbecue grill, plus all their ominous backstories, separately and together.
    I am utterly something-or-other already by this book.

    “She could not have multiplied twelve by thirteen under threat of the rack.”

    And someone “sat with one elbow on the table and was altogether very much at home.” A Major’s elbow at the Captain’s dinner party, a Major with whom Leonora was arguably having an ‘affair’…?

    “Captain Penderton sat very straight with his elbows held close to his sides.”

    Meanwhile Private Williams is a voyeur outside looking in… while we learn even more (see quotation below) about his backstory in addition to — once upon a time, when serving drinks — spilling one on the Captain’s trousers…
    “From his father, who ran a one-mule farm and preached on Sunday at a Holiness church, he had learned that women carried in them a deadly and catching disease which made men blind, crippled, and doomed to hell. In the army he also heard much talk of this bad sickness and was even himself examined once a month by the doctor to see if he had touched a woman.”

  2. TWO

    “…for far down in his mind there had begun a dark, slow germination.”

    The Lady calls her horse Firebird, with which she has mock mutual rebellions…
    This is possibly the strangest, most disarming work of fiction I have ever read….and I feel, with a frisson, like a voyeur reading it, just as Private Williams spends hours, outside in the darkness, looking in at The Lady (Leonora), her husband Captain Flap-Fanny (he of the jouncing flabby buttocks when riding his horse) and the Buffalo (the Major), all nicknames given by other soldiers to the three horse-riding characters upon whom the Private spies in their more private moments to the backdrop of his own private backstory’s four seemingly gratuitous acts, when the ‘trance’ overcame him, i.e. buying Ruby Jewel the cow, lingeringly swallowing the frothy milk, and his sudden wild call to God when in his family church, and committing an undefined ‘crime’, and, finally, as fourth gratuitous act, in joining the army…

    Concerning the Major’s wife’s own past gratuitous (?) act, I have read, so far in this chapter, up to…
    “….she had cut off the tender nipples of her breasts with the garden shears.”

    • The oddness digs in, and my obsession with this work grows as other dimensions develop of and between the four characters, Leonora and the Captain her husband, the Major and his wife Alison and the latter’s knitting of sweaters, and looking at such a cross-triangulated and hopefully secrecy-maintained rhombus of whom are the reader and the Private as voyeurs. And a character is so far a shadowy fifth to be observed, Alison’s friend the Lieutenant whose underwear she sews…

      Now read up to in Two — “there would come the lost sound of some naked melody from a string trio or quartet,…”

    • I cannot quite believe what I am reading here — in a good but startling way. A shadowy sixth now in a new idiosyncratic ballet of gestalt sexuality, Anacleto, the Filipino servant to Alison, and his relationship with her, vicariously bearing down with her when she was in that long drawn out eleven month childbirth, and childdeath, a baby whose “index and third fingers were grown together”, and Anacleto also making a face for her when she swallowed horrible medicine. A sinuous relationship that angered the Major, a mollycoddling of her by the Filipino when urging her buy a dress because her “green frock is bien usée at the elbows and ready for the Salvation Army.” Anacleto’s facility with French outdoing the Major’s loopy loony version of it. Alison and Anacleto in synergy within my favourite “opening bar of the Franck A Major Sonata.”

      I have now read up to: “Anacleto finished with an odd little pose, his elbow held in one hand and his fist to his chin with an expression of wry puzzlement.”

    • Miraculously, my mention of ‘machine gun’ — as a personal simile above to describe tantamount to this novel’s use of bullet points in its disarming deployment of its slowed down list of ominous or insidious human peccadilloes and emotions and backstory events as its plot — is now echoed by an actual mention in the text of a ‘machine gun’ that could not be found in a car when it was searched. So it seems appropriate to issue my own further bullet points as I now read through to the end of Chapter Two…

      The Major’s reading of a serious ‘recondite’ book before going to bed, a book for which he uses a matchstick as bookmark. Then reading in bed a ‘pulp magazine’ called ‘Scientification’ that includes a story about “a wild, interplanetary superwar.”
      The prospect of Alison and Anacleto running away together to work on a prawn boat. And the suspicion that these two plus the Lieutenant once formed a ménage à trois?
      Alison seeing the Private as a Gauguin primitive.
      Apparently the garden shears that Alison used to amputate her nipples were rusty.
      The Captain is prone to thieving things (once witnessed by Alison pocketing a silver dessert spoon) — and his “irritations, disappointments, and fears of life, restless as spermatozoids,…”
      And the Captain takes the drug Seconal — “This quantity of the drug gave him a unique and voluptuous sensation; it was as though a great dark bird alighted on his chest, looked at him once with fierce, golden eyes, and stealthily enfolded him in his dark wings.”
      “She [Leonora] was turned over on her side and he gave her a sharp little kick on the buttocks. She grumbled something about the stuffing for a turkey, but did not awake.”
      Leonora once had a Sapphic affair with a girl called Bootsie.
      Later — “she was now eating the turkey she had prepared in her dream.”
      The Private often sneaks into the house to watch Leonora sleeping thus raw naked.
      The Private at another time — “…still naked, he stood on the rock and slipped upon the horse’s bare back. His horse was an ordinary army plug which, with anyone but Private Williams, could sustain only two gaits – a clumsy trot and a rocking-horse gallop. But with the soldier a marvellous change came over the animal; he cantered or single-footed with proud, stiff elegance. The soldier’s body was of a pale golden brown and he held himself erect. Without his clothes he was so slim that the pure, curved lines of his ribs could be seen. As he cantered about in the sunlight, there was a sensual, savage smile on his lips that would have surprised his barrack mates. After such outings he came back weary to the stables and spoke to no one.”

      Bullets, perhaps, sometimes never reach their target by dint of such wondrous McCullers prose and the spiritual resistance of some aesthetic Zeno’s Paradox?

    • I loved the scene with the horse. It felt like he broke into another world. There’s a follow up scene with the colonel (? Husband who did the horrifying thing with the kitten, anyway) on a horse that…well. Less said the better really.

  3. Pingback: “A Wild, Interplanetary Superwar” | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  4. From Leonora’s Bootsie to the Major’s boots….


    I am going to eke out and savour the rest of this strangeness-crammed book, so eked out it will never end, much like Zeno’s Paradox?

    Flour and water rubbed into the boots by Anacleto, until Alison tells him to polish them, so that her husband can meet his 600 men,

    Anacleto “took out a little crystal cigarette lighter which she had had made from an old-fashioned vinaigrette. This trinket so fascinated him that she had given it to him years ago.”
    We hear of Anacleto’s backstory with Alison and how he became her houseboy, but she is worried what the Major will do with him, when she is dead.
    Anacleto also picks up an invisible speck between thumb and finger and carefully places it in a waste basket.

    Anacleto always uses a disarmingly oblique Prelude to start conversations.
    And, therefore, I have so far, in Three, read only up to the following…

    “‘Madame Alison,’ he said, ‘do you yourself really believe that Mr Sergei Rachmaninoff knows that a chair is something to be sat on and that a clock shows one the time? And if I should take off my shoe and hold it up to his face and say, “What is this, Mr Sergei Rachmaninoff?” then he would answer, like anyone else, “Why, Anacleto, that is a shoe.” I myself find it hard to realize.’”

    • “‘Do you think if I beat your pillows you would be more comfortable?’ Anacleto asked.”

      The story of Anacleto, when in company with Alison, ordering, in French, simple vegetable fare at a restaurant makes me wonder why, like the white-coated waiters themselves, more of us readers — eager for such literary tidbits to pick over with wonder — don’t crowd round to consider this ‘phenomenon’!

      Read up to: “‘Suppose we have some music,’ she said. ‘Let’s hear the Brahms G Minor Quartet.’’’

    • “Like all very stupid people she had a predilection for the gruesome, which she could indulge in or throw off at will. Her repertoire of tragedies was limited for the most part to violent sporting accidents.”

      It seemed highly synchronous and synergous to read this conversation involving Leonora telling hunting anecdotes to Alison a few minutes after my reading and reviewing by chance this story by T.H. White HERE.

    • “The Captain gave Firebird his head just long enough for the joy of freedom to be aroused and then checked him without warning. This sort of behaviour was not new to the Captain. Often in his life he had exacted many strange and secret little penances on himself which he would have found difficult to explain to others.”

      Exchanged saddles, helped by the Private onto this, Leonora’s steed, and the Private later appeared naked to the spent Captain, an almost sexual antipathy as well as attraction, and, earlier, the Captain’s battle of wills with Firebird and a sudden vision of his backstory with five old-maid aunts (!) and a surge of mystic epiphany, a mad mayhem of a synergistic horseride involving anger and blood and sadism and masochism and cruelty, even toward a rough blending of bodies, I infer, a mad mayhem indeed similar to that in the T.H. White story’s horse hunt over many miles fortuitously connected above, whereby what was there hunted turned out be a werewolf, and not a were-horse as here?

  5. Pingback: D. H. LAWRENCE: The Prussian Officer | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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