Thomas Hardy’s Lady Penelope

by the Man of Family

“; and the fate of the fair woman seemed yet the harder in that it was her own stately mansion, left to her sole use by her first husband, which her second had entered into and was enjoying, his being but a mean and meagre erection.”

Lady Penelope, fair and pure, had a stillborn baby destined to have become a forebear of her namesake in an alternate world beyond this story’s “silent veil of the future” wherein it was born alive instead, but, in our real world, Lady Penelope became a fated puppet of her three husbands or, rather, of her own idle joke about marrying all of her then three suitors in turn! The first husband was a Drenkhard, the second a measly bloke who died, and the third, her favourite, fell foul of gossip about the way this fate had been planned or panned out by her! The fair and pure Lady thus got her undue dues. Whether they have been a Fortean chastisement or not for her idle joke.


My ongoing review of Thomas Hardy’s stories:

Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey

Who doesn’t think of bone-wielding monkey men when they hear the opening notes of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra?
— from internet


“Or maybe what I had seen was a long, strange, realistic dream.”

When this story — unforgettable beyond any risk of memory lapses that beset the women in it with whom the eponymous monkey falls in love — becomes as famous as this story is likely to do, most of its reading enthusiasts may well become hung up on the Bruckner references, his seventh symphony in particular being a nod toward the elderly monkey’s maximum limit of loving seven human women about whom it tells the narrator in the hot springs hotel. Or what about Bruckner’s Symphonies numbered 0 and 00 as symbols of loss of personal items as well as the women’s memory loss of their own names?…. Well, if these readers do concentrate on Bruckner, they must also remember that Richard Strauss is explicitly mentioned at least once in the text. As is a ‘coffee lounge’ where the narrator eventually meets perforce a woman who may have brought the total to eight, my own favourite Bruckner symphony.
A truly wonderful story to have a long hot soak in, one that actually somehow makes you disarmingly believe, with exquisite naivety, in the talking monkey already hiding within it. And as a result of its publication, it is possible that several more women, once they have read it, will understand why they lost, say, their driving licence on the same day that they forgot their own name. Haydn is likely to have enough numbered symphonies to cope, I trust.

From my review of First Person Singular here:


Singularity Pluralised


My review: