Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book of the Week

Ten years ago a dear friend loaned me one of the best books I've ever read, Leonora Carrington's The Hearing Trumpet, and just this last weekend I stumbled upon a paperback copy of it after spending the intervening decade trying to track one down. Happy day!

Two old ladies at the end of the world. That's what the book is about, and Marian and Carmella are a pair, let me tell you. One is bald, but I won't tell you which. Marian provides narration and is the one in need of the eponymous lobe funnel. After reading a single page of dialogue between these nonagenarians, it is impossible to put this fantastic book down until the end.

Here is but a sample:
"There are times," said Carmella, "when I am clairvoyante. When I saw that trumpet in the flea market I said to myself 'that is just the right thing for Marian.' I had to buy it at once, I had a premonition. This is terrible news. (Marian is being put away in a home by her children.) I must try and think of some plan."

"What do you feel about the Well of Light Brotherhood?" I asked. "It frightens me."

"The Well of Light Brotherhood," said Carmella, "is obviously something extremely sinister. Not I suppose a company for grinding old ladies into breakfast but something morally sinister. It all sounds terrible. I must think of something to save you from the jaws of the Well of Light." This seemed to amuse her for no reason at all and she chuckled although I could see she was quite upset.

"They will not allow me to take the cats you think?"

"No cats," said Carmella. "Institutions, in fact, are not allowed to like anything. They don't have time."

"What shall I do?" I said. "It seems a pity to commit suicide when I have lived for ninety-two years and really haven't understood anything."

"You might escape to Lapland," said Carmella. "We could knit a tent here so you wouldn't have to buy one when you arrived."

"I have no money, I could never get to Lapland without money."

"Money is a great nuisance," said Carmella. "If I had any I would give you some and we would take a holiday on the Riviera on the way to Lapland. We could even gamble a little."

Even Carmella had no practical advice.

And so on, yet sadly not forever. This little book does what it came to do, no more no less, and leaves the reader with a feeling of deep satisfaction at its conclusion -along with the wish that, like all literature, it didn't have to end.

In the past I've noted a distaste for author photographs, they tend to spoil things for me. However, with Leonora Carrington an exception must be made. Look at her here, eyebrows and all, with surrealists Max Ernst and Paul Eluard -what a babe!


Ian Wolcott said...

Love it. How can you never have mentioned this book to me? Damn you to hell, or the Well of Light (whichever comes first).

Ian Wolcott said...

She is apparently still alive.

wngl said...

Mr Wolcott, I think a pilgrimage is in order! If I neglected mentioning this fine book to you previously, it is a crime for which I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive. I remain your humble servant.

Lin said...

I love a book that you do not want to end. I've got a few of those myself. It's like the characters live on long after you've turned the last page.