“Her mouth, without teeth, was a grey cavern. Except for the breathing, she might have been dead.”

“…the beautiful, shocking air of the night.”

“…a smell of stuffiness seemed to drift out through the letter slot in the door.”

“…the dark and eyeless cliffs of the houses.”

If all that — together with the soaping of armpits, the shunting of goods trains, the flowing past of streets like black rivers, the opening out of a future by a young man’s torch and more — represents the beginning of the story, the rest of it must be you and me on this lonely planet ever-beginning, never ending.
Here represented by young Marian (earlier “her fingers in her ears as she read”, later “ her fingers stuck in her ears, or going about with a blank immunity”) and a young man called Ronny, she a lodger, he the landlord’s son, as she reads a book by Mary Elizabeth Braddon in the near darkness and he thinks of his Grandmother’s empty cavern of a mouth in the next room and his own mother easing her into death, while his beery father leers at the ill-fastened blouse of Marian…

Meantime, at the point of death, these young people, almost ‘children’, are sent off to fetch the lady layer-out of corpses, whose letter-slot holds a certain stuffiness, as their romantic future, we assume, opens up with the same torch as earlier dispersed the blackness of the streets. Beautiful fiction for its own sake, as our own shocking, ill-fastened future today closes in?


Full context of this review:


  1. Earlier this same day I read and reviewed a story by Chekhov that was also overtly a beginning of a story:

    In the Chekhov : “And it seemed as though in a little while the solution would be found, and then a new and splendid life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that they had still a long, long road before them, and that the most complicated and difficult part of it was only just beginning.”

  2. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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