2017-03-23

sovay: (Rotwang)
Last night I dreamed that I dropped by the library to return a book and found [livejournal.com profile] ashlyme and their presumably fictitious writing group hanging out around a table near the science fiction section; I talked plot with people, read some scenes of stories (the young man with Gullah heritage was writing a kind of supernatural mystery inspired by the life of his grandmother the root doctor, please tell me this exists somewhere), and then left the library to meet up with my parents for dinner, at which point I discovered that I had lost an entire day. Twenty-four hours to the minute had passed between my entering and leaving the library. My internal clock thought about an hour, two hours tops. Nothing worse seemed to have happened to me than lost time, but no one remembered seeing me or the writing group, even when I could point to the very table which was now empty of writers, laptops, backpacks, and sodas, but otherwise unremarkable-looking. The only evidence of my presence was the no longer overdue book, which could have been dropped through the return slot after hours. I had neither eaten nor drunk anything during my time in the library and I remember very seriously establishing this fact with my parents, because it seemed likely to be the only reason that I had been able to leave. "Were they in a circle?" [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel asked after I related the dream to him. "It was a round table," I had to agree. Congratulations, Ashlyme! My brain interprets your mere presence as shorthand for Faerie.

Some things—

1. I am reading William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley (1946). I didn't realize until I saw the dedication "To Joy Davidman" that I knew him by reputation—and not as a writer—the part of Davidman's story that she left behind when she moved to England to live near C.S. Lewis in 1953. In which case he really was as much of a personal disaster area as the foreword by Nick Tosches suggests, but he could write. The epigraphs are taken from Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) and Petronius' Satyricon. The table of contents is a Tarot reading, each chapter a card of the Major Arcana introducing a particular character or signaling a significant event: "The Fool who walks in motley, with his eyes closed, over a precipice at the end of the world . . . The High Priestess. Queen of borrowed light who guards a shrine between the pillars Night and Day . . . The World. Within a circling garland a girl dances; the beasts of the Apocalypse look on." Tosches credits Gresham with introducing a number of carny terms into popular culture, including "geek," "cold reading," and "spook racket." I want to get my OED out of storage and double-check all of these assertions, but it is true that the novel's initial setting of a traveling ten-in-one show feels like a worthy successor to Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) and forerunner of Theodore Sturgeon's The Dreaming Jewels (1950), evocative, sympathetic, and unsentimental in its details of carny life. It gets all the slang right that I can see: talker, spiel, gaffed, "Hey, Rube!" I'm aware the whole thing will eventually turn to horror—the 1947 film adaptation starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell is supposed to rank among the sleaziest and bleakest of the first-generation noirs—but at the moment we are still getting passages like this:

Evansburg, Morristown, Linklater, Cooley Mills, Ocheketawney, Bale City, Boeotia, Sanders Falls, Newbridge.

Coming: Ackerman-Zorbaugh Monster Shows. Auspices Tall Cedars of Zion, Caldwell Community Chest, Pioneer Daughters of Clay County, Kallakie Volunteer Fire Department, Loyal Order of Bison.

Dust when it was dry. Mud when it was rainy. Swearing, steaming, sweating, scheming, bribing, bellowing, cheating, the carny went its way. It came like a pillar of fire by night, bringing excitement and new things into the drowsy towns—lights and noise and the chance to win an Indian blanket, to ride on the ferris wheel, to see the wild man who fondles those rep-tiles as a mother would fondle her babes. Then it vanished in the night, leaving the trodden grass of the field and the debris of popcorn boxes and rusting tin ice-cream spoons to show where it had been.


Among its descendants, then, perhaps include also Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).

2. Somehow despite falling in love (like most of the internet) with Miike Snow and Ninian Doff's "Genghis Khan" (2016) last spring, I had failed to realize that the same cast and crew had reunited later in the year for a second video: "My Trigger." Like its predecessor, it has a terrific poster. I am very fond of its disclaimer.

3. Please enjoy Emily Sernaker's "Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is Alive!" I had no idea that was true and this poem was a nice way to find out.
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