Spry Old Character — Elizabeth Taylor

‘…blind man’s buff’, an old buffer with ’blind man’s vertigo’…


“‘You all got white dresses on?’

The girls’ choir that came to the Home for the Blind, virgins all, no doubt. This is a most darkly brilliant story that will ever haunt me now that I have been privileged to read of its fair’s roundabouts and haunted house. But fundamentally it will haunt me about the old sprynonymous character called Harry who plays on his perhaps concocted clumsiness in rolling cigarettes, though he is clumsy and cuts his finger amid the withies and osiers of basket-making — Harry as a man blinded by a horse’s kick in the head three years before, a man who still fancies gambling at race meetings, and still fancies the fair sex as well as the fair, as he wanders more and more on his own from the Blind Home where he fights at the bit to escape the Matron and a co-patient called Miss Arbuthnot (blinded by her own needlework?) — and to escape his own all-round horse-blinkers, I guess. He follows the brick wall outside till befriended by bus people who take him eventually to the fair and the coconut shy where he ends up blindly throwing at the canvas backing to win coconuts (nuts as hairy as his own, because blind men still have urges?) for the woman he’s with, or thinks he’s with. The Haunted House is just how I remember it in my own boyhood when I squeezed my eyes shut in fright feeling things brush past my face. But above all, I relished, in this story, Harry’s stalking of himself, as his own ‘shadowy third’, a stalking of his own younger sighted self, when he entered, as a boy accompanied by another boy, a dark shed of carousel roundabout horses where their manufacture was almost or actually prehensile … “Now, outside the scene, as if a third person, he walked behind the boys along the path;…”
A new vicarious vision!
And then, there is, of course, the ‘elbow’ that poignantly triggers the final coconut shy …
“With ostentatious care, Vi guided him through the crowds, her arm in his, so closely that he could feel her bosom against his elbow.”
And earlier, this pang of prose …
“He missed his sight when he needed to feel pain. Blood, crawling between his thumb and fingers, put him into a panic and he imagined the bone laid bare, and his head swam. Pain, coming through slowly, reassured him more than Matron could.”

“Morale was very high, as it so often is in a community where tragedy is present.”


Full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/27/complete-short-stories-elizabeth-taylor/

PS: Cross-referenced with a Raymond Carver story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/04/27/the-penguin-book-of-the-modern-american-short-story/#comment-24836

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