CONSEQUENCES by Willa Cather (1873-1947) 


“‘I suppose,’ he said slowly, ‘that every suicide is logical and reasonable, if one knew all the facts.’”

There is, in this work, much discussion, with named examples, about the nature of suicide and what causes it and what methods people tend to use to avoid it….in the context of what this work says of “what Dr. Johnson said, that the most discouraging thing about life is the number of fads and hobbies and fake religions it takes to put people through a few years of it.”

Meanwhile, this compelling story is quite a discovery for me, and probably for anyone interested in fiction by Robert Aickman or Thomas Ligottii — and general ghost stories, too. And it surely must have been an influence upon — as well as somehow already a certain part of — the fiction gestalt that I particularly need by instinct to weave together, with this Cather not having yet started haunting me, weaving into me, until today! A definite glimpse of a new truth…. A new disarming strangeness that will linger forever in my mind.

A middle-aged lawyer called Eastman lives in the same New York apartment block as a young man called Cavenaugh, the latter being someone chasing the shop girls amid a thriving New York Society, in fact, on the face of it a “Gay boy, gay dog”. One day in a November rainstorm he gives Eastman a lift home, and this involves Eastman’s very first glimpse, in a car they passed, of what or who turns out to haunt Cavenaugh as represented by the most striking elbow-trigger that I have encountered so far in literature…

“‘Could you see whether there was a passenger?’ Cavenaugh asked.
‘Why, yes. A man, I think. I saw his elbow on the apron. No driver ever behaves like that unless he has a passenger.’”

Later Eastman again half-glimpses this ‘haunt’, this time climbing down fire escapes from Cavenaugh’s window as if not wanting to meet Eastman. And when Cavenaugh starts to tell Eastman of how this ‘haunt’ or even ‘delusion’, as a sort of old man, started to pursue him, we are involved in impressions of something hopping or closing up its body like a clothes horse, and much else. I cannot do justice to what transpires and whether I am in fact deluded myself that Eastman is deployed here by a knowingly unreliable author as an even more unreliable point of view within the story, and that Eastman is the ‘haunt’ himself? Or, as we were led to believe throughout, Eastman’s company was fostered by Cavenaugh? But nothing can yet explain why the ‘haunt’, upon its recurring visitations to Cavenaugh, always turned to the wall the hung framed photo of the latter’s twin brother who had died when he was 16?

“The young man sipped his soda and shook his head as he replied:
‘Oh, I couldn’t get a chop, either. I know only flashy people, of course.’ He looked up at his host with such a grave and candid expression that Eastman decided there couldn’t be anything very crooked about the fellow. His smooth cheeks were positively cherubic.
‘Well, what’s the matter with them? Aren’t they flashing tonight?’
‘Only the very new ones seem to flash on New Year’s eve. The older ones fade away. Maybe they are hunting a chop, too.’”

PS: Startling that CATHER is close to the customary acronym of CATHR for Ligotti’s Conspiracy Against The Human Race !!


The full ‘That Glimpse of Truth’ context of this review:

One thought on “CONSEQUENCES by Willa Cather (1873-1947) 

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

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