Monday, March 9, 2015

Ye Zanies of Sorrow

Writing has been difficult this year, & one way of trying to keep myself busy has been going over older stories and doing a very slight re-polish; when Paula Guran re-worked my story for her anthology, THE COLOSSAL BOOK OF CTHULHU, she deleted many instances of my use of the word "that", thus cluing me in to ye fact that I used it where it need not appear.  So I've been going over my old texts and removing excess wordage.  Looking for my story, "The Zanies of Sorrow," I found that I had entirely lost ye doc, and so I decided to retype ye entire tale.  I had always considered it one of my best, really original stories; but going over the text I found myself displeased with portion of it, and with one section where I now felt I could have improved considerably.  The section takes place about mid-way into ye tale, as the narrator and his new friend pass by a secluded cemetery and decide to enter onto its grounds.  In my original version, I had no supernatural effect occur among ye tombs; the importance of the scene came in this exchange:

"You have such an odd expression on your face, Albert," Lucretia said, laughing lightly.  "Does this place unnerve you?"

"On the contrary.  I feel almost audaciously at peace.  As a child I often spent many joyous afternoons haunting an overgrown and abandoned graveyard that was situated high on a hill--Graham Hill, as I recall its name.  The place was overrun with with sticker bushes and shrubbery and bending trees.  Neighborhood hoodlums had violated many of the markers.  But I loved it there, among the happy dead."

"The dead are happy?"

"Of course they are; they're dead, you see."  We laughed together.

"But what of the spirit?"

"I never think of that.  I abhor the notion of eternity.  You and I are material things, chemical components.  We end as dust and ash.  That, at least, is my fervent prayer.  To go on, as spirit or any other thing!  God, what could be more damnable than eternal life?"

I saw her momentarily stiffen.

In this rewrite, I have added just a wee bit of supernatural event, which serves as a prelude to a similar even, on a grander scale, at the conclusion of the tale.

"Have you been in there?  It's a calm and pleasing place.  You're not morbid about graveyards, are you?"

"Not at all," I reassured her.  Coming to its entrance, we strolled into the cemetery.  There was a slight breeze, and I watched the subtle sway of the laburnum, with their poisonous yellow flowers.  I took in the plumes of white and pale pink lilac.  At one corner of the old stone wall stood a gigantic willow tree, its long pale vines drooping to the ground.  With a burst of boyish glee, I rushed to the willow and wrapped some vines around my hands as I frolicked on the sod.  "I dance with the dead, and evoke their shades from their immemorial pits of blackness.  Rise, neglected souls, and join me in my gambol."

Lucretia laughed and clapped in time to the movement of my feet.  I watched, as she lifted her hands above her head and formed her fingers queerly.  A cloud must have swallowed sunlight, for the place darkened and the air grew cool.  I noticed some few peculiar spots of shadow that formed on the ground just beyond her, and I ceased my movement as those patches of gloom seemed to writhe and swirl and rise.  I had seen something like this before, the little whirlwinds of dust and debris that formulate at times--dust devils, I think they're called.  These were very small, and yet something in the way they formed themselves unnerved me.  I watched, and a kind of worry engulfed me as one of the minute whirlwinds took on a quasi-human form.  Lucretia turned to smile at me; but when she noticed the expression on my face she lowered her hands and stomped one foot onto the ground.  Swiftly, the tiny whirlwinds broke apart and faded as the sun regained its splendor. 

"That was a merry little performance," she told me as she walked to where I stood.

I shrugged "I sometimes play the fool.  But I do love graveyards, to dwell among the happy dead."

"The dead are happy?"

"Of course they are--they're dead, you see."  We laughed together.

A vast improvement, I think.  The story was inspired by the Oscar Wilde quote, above.  It is from the letter he wrote in prison to his lover, Alfred Douglas.  The letter in its publish'd form is known as "De Profundis."  I came across that line about "the zanies of sorrow" and knew I had to use it as the title for a story.

The cemetery on Graham Hill, now called Comet Lodge Cemetery (established 1895) has now been cleaned up and beautified.  As a teenager, I used to dress up as Count Pugsly and have my buddy photograph me among the weed-choked tombstones.  A happy youthful time.

1 comment:

  1. The new passage is evocative indeed - it shows Lucretia playing with the dead - this is a True Necromance... I know what you mean about stripping out unnecessary wordage that creeps into prose. This is why I love verse and why it is so hard - the choice of words is so specific. When reading prose I go for the essence of the images the author is creating. Sometimes one has to work at re-creating the scene in the mind. I enjoy it most when there is a musicality and a flow to the words, which yours have. One is transported to the world of your image-ination where we dance with deadly nightshade and twisted ivy round the houses of the dead. There is beauty in revisiting past works as you, the characters therein and us indeed have grown older and added more experiences to our lives, with which we are able to enhance, clarify, colour and improve. ... Count Pugsly looks vaguely animalistic, lurking in the grass there - reminds me of the pictures of Sasquatch in the wilderness... keep well. G ;-)=