Chapter 20 – Carting
I love the word ‘scallimandering’ (in the context of this chapter) – and I find its only google hit is the previous blog of the earlier version of this novel.
This chapter tells of further trials and tribulations of Tuerqui as Sam’s cart ‘’orsey’. And Sam’s dysfunctional family!
The dangerous physics of cart pulling and the various surfaces it crosses as the slaves pull it are excellently handled.
Tuerqui’s forlorn attempts to glimpse her lost daughter Tuerquelle while a cart-horse are poignant.
The sense of the cycle of the seasons is artfully done.
They even return (unrecognised?) to the Laughing Phallus to deliver things there, which gives a sense of interconnecting unity to the plot.
Some choice snippets from many:
A dream from my first night as a cart slave remains with me. Sam had taken a large spade and was shovelling brass door knockers from the cart. Tuerquelle looking, perhaps, as she had in her second year, polished the knockers as they reached the ground. Her fingers moved with lightning speed, but she could not shine every one of them. Eventually, she vanished – as though drowning – under the mounting tide of brasswork.
I wonder if Tuerquelle was using a bunny-cloth to polish in the dream?
The carter liked to pretend that we were horses – costly beasts quite beyond his means. He sometimes rewarded us with sugar when we produced realistic neighing sounds. Anything that resembled human speech provoked furious applications of his whip.
I think Tuerqui hints she lost the use of speech because of the above.
The following passage is emblematic of the novel’s ethos:
We cart slaves were free to pleasure one another, should we feel so inclined. Although I was usually too tired to respond properly to my fellows’ occasional advances, there was comfort in the closeness of a companion’s body – and luxury in a gentle touch. As the nights grew colder, one another’s body warmth became increasingly necessary and – eventually – we snuggled together in groups of six, usually preserving the distinction between the right and left-hand shafts. There was little sexual in this, in spite of intermittently straying fingers.
A scatalogical passage artfully followed by a striking vision of a more resplendent carriage than Sam’s Cart: leads eventually to reunion by Tuerqui with a past character (not to give the plot away). Please excuse the longer than normal quotation below but it is well worth quoting and savouring:
Sam was scarcely inside when the stink cart rumbled into the square. The lavatory man connected his hoses to the inlet and outlet valves, before fixing the other end of the inlet hose to the cistern on the convenience roof. We smiled knowingly and watched the entrance – the carter was about to be drenched and, forbidden to speak, we could utter no warning. Sam soon emerged, dripping and furious, his breeches still about his upper thighs.
In the excitement, I almost missed seeing the carriage. The well oiled axle made hardly a sound, there was no obvious reason for me to move my head. Indeed, I was almost certainly the only slave to turn from Sam and the lavatory man. Perhaps I was prompted by the goddess.
The carriage was worth more than a cursory glance. Occasionally I had seen such vehicles, but not often. It was lightly and gracefully built – royal blue and gleaming silver– rolling silently on its two well-oiled wheels. The vehicle’s beauty brought a lump to my throat.
Lovely as the coach was, it couldn’t compare with the twelve perfectly matched slaves at the traces. They were tall and slim, platinum blonde hair falling almost to the waist. Stepping high, their knees rose to navel level on each precisely synchronised pace. Their faces were masks of arrogance – proud of their slavery, they would surely have sneered at a princess.
The fittings were worthy of the slaves. Their tall royal blue plumes were set in headpieces of what was certainly real silver. The harnesses were fitted with the same metal. The leatherwork matched the plumes – no detail was less than splendid.
Looking at the right hand shaft to more closely gauge the other slaves’ mood
I don’t usually worry prescriptively about split infinitives, but I do think above would be better as ‘more closely to gauge’.
Not only don’t I know what cargoes we hauled, but feel that
Would ‘not only am I unaware of what cargoes...’ be better?
Sarah was more practical – when she saw duty neglected her inevitable answer was the whip.
This only made sense to me when I inserted a comma after ‘neglected’.
without having to wait for the world come.
Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.
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The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html
Posted by: newdfl on 8/16/2008 9:17:12 AM , 1 comments
Thank you for that.
You may be surprised to hear that not only have I corrected the typo, but have implemented what you suggest on all of the queries (without quibble). I must have scurried over the text too quickly in all the re-writings and polishings of this chapter. (Perhaps too anxious to move on to Chapter 21?)
The strangest slip is the split infinitive. Generally, I am less tolerant of split infinitives than you are. Yet this one slipped through. Not any more, though! Thanks for pointing it out.
"Scallimandering" is a good word. One doesn't need a dictionary to know what it means.
I added a lot to this chapter in its final revision -- including delivering to the Laughing Phallus, Tuerqui's forlorn attempts to glimpse her daughter, and the door knocker dream that you quote.
Another addition at the final revision stage was passing by The Scree (and Rabbit Wood). This, like delivering to the Laughing Phallus, was intended to give a sense of interconnecting unity to the plot (as you remark). In the words of Goldfrapp's song "Monster Love":
Everything comes around
Bringing us back again
Here is where we start
And where we end
I, too, especially like the passage to which you devote a longer than usual quotation. It contains so much precise detail -- and juxtoposes the base and the sublime. It is, in some wise, the epitome of the book as a whole.