Beaumont(h) – Post 2/9

beaumont-02

Beaumont(h) Introduction

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]


[34] THE DARK MUSIC (1956)

The Hunger

1 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Sexually repressed biology teacher Miss Maple has an affair with a mythical woodland being.

The story describes mental and physical rape in a borderline-fetishistic and non-creative way. The punchline is a joke, while the style leading up to it is straining to be literary. Just a weird mess.

[35] I don’t believe the reality of the main character, which starts the story off on a weak foundation.

The mouse-colored dress covered her like an embarrassed hand, concealing, not too successfully, the rounded hills of her breasts, keeping the secret of her slender waist and full hips, trailing down below the legs she hated because they were so smooth and white and shapely, down to the plain black leather shoes. Her face was pale and naked as a nun’s, but the lips were large and moist, and the cheekbones high, and it did not look very much like a nun’s face. Miss Maple fought her body and her face every morning, but she was not victorious. It spite of it all, and to her eternal dismay, she was an attractive woman.

(p.88)

Why would this woman be a biology teacher, other than irony? She hates any talk of sex or reproduction, but even if she managed to avoid speaking of human sex, her profession would require her to talk about other kinds of reproduction.

[36]

A rustle of leaves: tiny hands applauding.

(p.90)

[37]

When you think the worst of people, you’re seldom disappointed.

(p.94)

[38] References:

She read Richards’ Practical Criticism until nine o’clock.

(p.94)

Ivor Armstrong Richards (1893 – 1979) was an English educator, literary critic, and rhetorician whose work contributed to the foundations of the New Criticism. His book, Practical Criticism, was published in 1929.

[39] Last lines, which seem to belong to a totally different (and better) story:

Nobody ever did find out why she moved away from Sand Hill in such a hurry, or where she went, or what happened to her.

But then, nobody cared.

(p.100)

[40] A DEATH IN THE COUNTRY (also titled DEADLY WILL TO WIN) (1957)

Perchance to Dream 

2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

An aged race car driver squares off against a young one.

[41] THE DEVIL, YOU SAY? (1951)

The Twilight Zone Original Stories

1 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Danville’s local newspaper is doomed until diabolical Mr. Jones arrives to make good on a promise.

This appears to be Beaumont’s first published piece and it shows. It feels little like his other work or what he would become; functional but lifeless.

[42]

I wondered what earthly good a newspaper was to Danville. It was a town unusual only because of its concentrated monotony: nothing ever happened. Which is news just once, not once a day.

(p.359)

[43] Reference:

If every place in the world had been like Danville, old Heraclitus wouldn’t have been given a second thought.

(p.360)

Heraclitus of Ephesus (~535 – 475 B.C.) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He was called “The Obscure” and the “Weeping Philosopher.” Heraclitus was famous for his insistence on ever-present change as being the fundamental essence of the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

[44]

You don’t carry out flash decisions if you wait around to weigh their consequences. You’ve got to act. So that’s what I started to do.

(p.360)

[45] Reference:

Jones then dug me in the ribs with his cane and strode off whistling “There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”

(p.362)

“A Hot Time in the Old Town” is an American ragtime song, composed in 1896 by Theodore August Metz with lyrics by Joe Hayden.

[46]

Once inside, I closed the door and locked it. My nerves were on the way out.

“Mr. Lewis, why did you do that?” asked the blonde.

“Because I like to lock doors. I love to lock doors. They fascinate me.”

(p.373 – 374)

[47] Reference:

The devil, known as Mr. Jones, cut short his latest visit to Earth because of altercations in Gehenna.

(p.380)

Gehanna (from the Hebrew Gehinnom) is a small valley in Jerusalem and the Jewish and Christian analogue of hell. In the Hebrew Bible, Gehanna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. Thereafter it was deemed to be cursed.

[48] ELEGY (1953)

The Twilight Zone Original Stories

2 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Astronauts land on an uncharted asteroid which looks exactly like Earth.

[49] Vocabulary:

And upon a strange black altar, a tiny woman with silver hair and a long thyrsus in her right hand.

(p.151)

noun – (in ancient Greece and Rome) a staff or spear tipped with an ornament like a pine cone, carried by Dionysus and his followers. It is a symbol of prosperity, fertility, hedonism, and pleasure/enjoyment in general.

[50] THE END PRODUCT (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature 

2 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Mr. Zullock makes the terrible decision to fire his oldest employee.

I don’t understand the climax of this one. There is no explanation for Zullock’s complete mental breakdown. Has everyone in the office been turned into machines? Or is it just that Zullock believes everyone is a machine? It’s confusing and I can’t find enough clues to make any solid assumption at the end. All Beaumont tells us is that the office workers have become more productive (except MacElroy) and Zullock wanted to be an artist when he was a child.

[51] FAIR LADY (1957)

The Hunger 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

An elderly schoolteacher falls in love with her bus driver after a single exchange.

A story built around an amusing misunderstanding: Elouise believes the driver calls her “fair lady” instead of the command he more likely gives: “Fare, lady.” (p.49)

[52] FALLEN STAR (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A magazine writer is sent out to interview aging actress Ruby Nelson.

The story feels like a writing experiment that never goes anywhere. It’s unfinished, which is too bad because the set-up is good.

[53]

I wasn’t frightened because of any feeling of superiority; it was simply that I was frightened. Most fiction authors are that way.

(p.165)

[54]

In Southern California, all women are beautiful – from a distance.

(p.166)

[55] FATHER, DEAR FATHER (also titled OH FATHER OF MINE) (1956)

Best of Beaumont; Perchance to Dream 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Mr. Pollet builds a Time Machine to answer one question: What will happen if he goes back in time and kills his own father?

A tongue-in-cheek story that, even if you see the end coming, is swift enough to be an enjoyable ride.

[56] Beaumont gives a refreshingly brief description of time travel:

There was a whirring of gears. Things fizzed. The machine bucked, smoked, clanged, whistled. Mr. Pollet felt dizzy. Blackness reached for him. He fought it.

Things settled down again.

He stepped out of the cylinder.

(p.74 – 75)

[57] I love this cheeky dismissal of the usual Bradbury-esque (and later, Serling) sentimentality for childhood:

The landscape was immediately familiar to him: it was, without doubt, the Ohio Valley region, the playground of his youth. But Mr. Pollet’s mission wasn’t to be delayed by sentiment.

(p.75)

[58]

Having been hatched a scrawny, prune-wrinkled, four-pound mummy, Mr. Pollet had never enjoyed an abundance of stamina. He slowed to a walk.

(p.75)

[59] Delightful finish:

Mr. Pollet dropped the crowbar. He looked at the wreckage of the machine he would never be able to rebuild.

“Well, I’m a son of a bitch,” he said.

And, in a matter of speaking, so he was.

(p.78)

[60] FREE DIRT (1955)

Best of Beaumont; Perchance to Dream; The Hunger

4 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Mr. Aorta will take anything listed for free, including graveyard dirt. (Nothing wrong with food grown from graveyard dirt, right?)

This one hums. Beaumont’s enjoying himself and takes the reader along for the ride. All the elements of a good short story are in place and he knows it. The ending’s a bit odd, but the journey is great.

[61] Another good opener:

No fowl had ever looked so posthumous. Its bones lay stacked to one side of the plate like kindling: white, dry, and naked in the soft light of the restaurant. Bones only, with every shard and filament of meat stripped methodically off. Otherwise, the plate was a vast glistening plain.

(p.187)

[62]

Mr. Aorta, not a small man, permitted a mild belch, folded the newspaper he had found on the chair, inspected his vest for food leavings, and then made his way briskly to the cashier.

(p.187)

[63] Reference:

Whistling The Seven Joys of Mary.

(p.187)

The Seven Joys of the Virgin (or of Mary) is a popular devotion to events of the life of the Virgin Mary. The seven joys are usually listed as (1) The Annunciation (2) The Nativity of Jesus (3) The Adoration of the Magi (4) The Resurrection of Christ (5) The Ascension of Christ to Heaven (6) The Pentecost (7) The Coronation of the Virgin in Heaven.

The Seven Joys of Mary” is a traditional carol about Mary’s happiness at moments in the life of Jesus, probably inspired by the trope of the Seven Joys of the Virgin in the devotional literature and art of Medieval Europe. It has become associated with Christmas in the modern era. There are English and American versions.

[64] I have no idea what this sentence means and the words are too generic to do a search. If anyone could help me figure this out, I’d be delighted:

The electric’s ancient list did not jar his warm feelings of serenity.

(p.188)

[65] Vocabulary:

A dreary round of mortuaries, columbariums, crematories, and the like.

(p.189)

A columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of cinerary urns. The term comes from the Latin columba (dove) and originally referred to compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons called a dovecote.

[66]

The blistered hummocks, peaked with crosses, slabs, and stones, loomed gray and sad in the gloaming: withal, a place purely delightful to describe, and a pity it cannot be – for how it looked there that evening has little to do with the fat man and what was to become of him.

Important only that it was a place full of dead people on their backs under ground, moldering and moldered.

(p.190)

[67]

He hurried to Lilyvale and there received a singular disappointment: Not many people had died lately. There was scant little dirt to be had: hardly one truckful.

Ah well, he thought, things are bound to pick up over the holidays; and he took home what there was.

(p.193)

[68] Reference:

His two greatest passions had been fulfilled; life’s meaning acted out symbolically, like a condensed Everyman.

(p.195)

The Somonyng of Everyman (The Summoning of Everyman), usually referred to simply as Everyman, is a late 15th-century morality play. It uses allegorical characters to examine the question of Christian salvation and what Man must do to attain it.

[69]

Mr. Aorta, who had never up to this point found occasion to scream, screamed. It was quite successful, despite the fact that no one heard it. (…)

After a while Mr. Aorta’s screams took on a muffled quality.

For a very good reason.

(p.196)

[70] A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature 

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Widower Mr. Reynolds and his secretary cross paths with a drunk acquaintance while out on a date.

Little more than a scene but there’s a solid emotional resonance in this one.

[71] Reference:

“I’ll take a Silver Fizz,” Ruth said.

“What in the name of digestion is a Silver Fizz?”

“Who knows?”

(p.119)

A Silver Fizz is made with gin, lemon juice, sugar and egg white. (Thanks, Esquire.)

[72]

Sure, he’s loaded. But he knows what he’s doing. And I know what he’s doing. And it doesn’t help.

(p.122)

[73] FRITZCHEN (1953)

Best of Beaumont; Perchance to Dream 

2 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A pet-store owner brings a bizarre creature to his shop. The animal is hungry, but not for the food set out for it.

Inconsistent and flawed on a fundamental level; simple actions are confusing and some paragraphs have to be read several times to make sense.

[74] Some of Beaumont’s great openings fail to match the mood and themes of the story that follows. It’s like the two pieces were constructed at completely different times. The opening of “Fritzchen” is sentimental and honest; the rest of the story is a schlock-fest.

It had once been a place for dreaming. For lying on your back in the warm sand and listening to the silence and making faraway things seem real. The finest place in all the world, for all the reasons that ever were.

(p.61)

[75]

Sol didn’t care for animals. He was old; his mind had fallen into a ravine; it paced the ravine; turned and paced, like a contented baboon. He was old.

(p.64)

[76] I love this use of “conch”. Beaumont will repeat it in “The New Sound” (Post 6, note [263]).

His nose had snapped upward and he held a conched hand behind his ear.

(p.64)

[77]

Mr. Peldro inspected Bess and was horrified to discover the bird’s condition. She lay inundated in an odd miasmic jelly which had hardened and was now spongy to the touch. It covered her completely. What was more, extended prodding revealed that something had happened to Bess’s insides.

They were gone.

(p.67)

[78]

Moonlight comes fast to small towns near rivers.

(p.67)

[79] Has the old classic italicized dread-comics ending. Compare this with its opening to see how far off the initial track we’ve come [74]:

They were the cries of a lost infant for its mother.

(p.71)

[80] HAIR OF THE DOG (1954)

Best of Beaumont

2.5 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Death-fearing Mr. Gissing can be immortal as long as he pulls out a single hair from his head each month. Gissing has it made until he begins balding.

The title spoils the punchline. Otherwise, this is a breezy skip-in-the-step story with Beaumont’s engine happily chugging away.

[81] Translate:

Ave atque vale,” old boy.

(p.152)

Latin: Hail and farewell

These words end Catullus’ elegiac poem to his dead brother (Catullus was all over The Magus (Post 2, note [47]; Post 6, note [285]; Post 7, note [338]). The phrase is among Catullus’ most famous. An alternative modern translation might be, “I salute you… and goodbye.”

[82] This sounds incredibly like a Douglas Adams line:

Up until now, Lorenzo Gissing had thought about death, when he thought about it at all, which was practically never, as one of those things one didn’t think about.

(p.152)

[83] Reference:

The man was dressed in execrable taste: jaunty bowler, plus fours, a dun jacket of reprehensible fit.

(p.154)

noun – (dated) – baggy knickers reaching below the knee, worn especially by men for playing golf.

They gained their name because they extend four inches below the knee (and thus four inches longer than traditional knickerbockers).

[84] Translate:

Sic transit gloria mundi.”

(p.156)

Latin: thus passes the glory of the world

It has been interpreted as “Worldly things are fleeting.” The phrase was used in the ritual of papal coronation ceremonies between 1409 and 1963.

Beaumont also uses it in the story “The Murderers” (Post 6, note [212]).

[85] Vocabulary:

“Stony.”

“Oh no!”

“Yes. Not a sou.”

(p.157)

noun – (historical) – a former French coin of low value.

(informal) – a very small amount of money.

[86] References:

Asmodeus, Pres.

ETERNAL LIFE INS. CO

Gehanna

(p.159)

Asmodeus or Ashmedai is a king of demons mostly known from the deuterocanonical (secondary canon) Book of Tobin (Book of Tobias), in which he is the primary antagonist. He was supposed by some Renaissance Christians to be the King of the Nine Hells. He is also referred to as one of the seven princes of Hell, representing the deadly sin of lust.

Asmodeus is also referenced in “The Howling Man,” (Post 3, note [99]).

For Gehanna, see “The Devil, You Say?” (note [41]).


Post 3/9

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