Saturday, 4 August 2012

Roderick's Story

Fiction ~ short story
First published in Hutchinson's Magazine, May 1923
Collected in Visible and Invisible, October 1923
5,690 words
(First read 04/08/2012) 

Lamb House, Rye, in EFB's day
I have only one good thing to say about Roderick's Story but I'll say all the others first.  In it EFB displays all his worst habits as a writer: the 'plot' is absurd, risible, ludicrous; the 'characters' are nothing more than pawns to be shunted this way and that, stricken with mysterious but oh so convenient diseases, and/or prematurely culled; the dénouement is signposted well in advance; the 'emotions', including a sizeable dollop of Victorian sentiment, are stereotyped, phoned in from Sentiments'Я'us; the whole is a clumsy, garbled mess.
I'll not trouble you with the storyline (you'd think I was making it up anyway) but here are one or two of Roderick's most salient features: (i) a minute description of Lamb House (not named thus or at all) in Rye (named Tilling) which belongs to Unknown and Featureless Narrator ~ more of him soon; (ii) a case of such extreme stiff-upper-lip that it's actually tipped over into insanity; (iii) a typical Bensonian love-hate triangle: a woman suffers nobly while her horrid husband lives and ~ for reasons known only to EFB ~ continues to suffer after his death; (iv) two handsome lads (18, 19) dying in the European War; (v) a certain amount of uncertain thinking re spiritism; (vi) some golf ~ as if we weren't already miserable enough!; and (vii) I repeat: a plot so preposterous that I can't think of adequate terms to describe it.
Anyway, the one good thing I mentioned earlier is this: Our Unknown Narrator has asked his pal Roderick to read and comment on some of his (U.N.'s) ghost stories for a forthcoming volume.  Quote Roddy:
"[...] you will make a book that not only is inartistic, all shadows and no light, but a false book.  [...] You play godfather to your stories, you see: you tell them in the first person, [...] and that, though it need not be supposed that those experiences were actually yours, yet gives a sort of guarantee that you believe the borderland of which you write to be entirely terrible." [etc.]
Now that I come to look at it again, Roderick's thought is about as clear as U.N.'s ~ or E F Benson's ~ thinking on spiritism and revenants, so even the thing I thought was good isn't.
It's available online here.

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