Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

If like me, you consider the recent Fantastic Women issue of Tin House the greatest single issue of a literary magazine ever, you'd likely enjoy this reissued novel from a master surrealist painter and writer. I admit I purchased the novel because I momentarily confused Leonora Carrington with Dora Carrington, the painter affiliated with the whole Strachey/Woolf crowd. Instead L. Carrington turned out to also be a painter but affiliated with the whole Ernst/Dali crowd. I also admit I purchased the novel years ago, put it in the laundry basket (it's a nice wicker basket and it's full of books to be laundered, I mean, read) and forgot about it until I was recently perusing the 1001 Paintings to See Before You Die (I'm a sucker for a life list) and came across the wonderful "Baby Giant" by L. Carrington and thought, isn't that on the cover of that book I bought and then buried in the laundry basket... and finally, here we are: I am entranced.

The novel follows a ninety-two year old woman who is dispatched to a nursing home that turns out to be a very peculiar place. The tone is Jane-Bowles-strange and the narrator is a Character with a Capital C and very very funny things happen. Including an interlude in which the narrator reads a book by a winking nun who describes further very funny and very strange happenings (let's just say the Holy Grail is involved).

Capital C Characters are often defined more by their unique thoughts than their unique behaviors, as evidenced by this: "I never eat meat as I think it is wrong to deprive animals of their life when they are so difficult to chew anyway." The not eating meat describes the character, but the reason why defines her.

And should you need further inducement to read, I give you this: "The rest of that ill-omened night was spent burying the Prince in the kitchen garden."

And this: "'A report from Mother Maria Guillerma informed me of the following extravagant occurrence of which she was eyewitness through the ample keyhole of Dona Rosalinda's apartments. The keyholes later on became obscurum per obscurius after two nuns were blinded in one eye by a silver needle poked through the opening by the ever-perspicacious Abbess."

And this: "...then I would join my lifelong dream of going to Lapland to be drawn in a vehicle by dogs, woolly dogs."


Anonymous said...

Have you seen this?

Ayse Papatya Bucak said...

I have (for those of you wary of unidentified links it's a YouTube video of a Miranda July performance thing (the script of which is in the Fantastic Women issue). I think maybe I saw the video first on the Clear Cut Press DVD that's part of Core Sample. It's not my favorite July piece but in general I love her whole shtick, which seems to express how weird and loveable the world can be even in all its darkness. And I love her website, Learning to Love You More, with its homework assignments (i.e. draw the last scene of "Cathedral"--which by the way I discovered isn't such a great assignment to try in class since students are creeped out by touching each other's hands, which maybe is a reason to do it anyway...)

Ayse Papatya Bucak said...

Correction: I saw the July video on the first Wholphin dvd.