Beaumont(h) – Post 5/9

beaumont-05

Beaumont(h) Introduction

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]


 

[166] LAST RITES (1955)

Best of Beaumont; Perchance to Dream 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Father Courtney is summoned to his dying friend George Donovan’s house. Donovan wants to ask the Father a question – hypothetical, he claims: could a machine have a soul?

[167] Like “In His Image” (Post 3, note [116]) this one gives subtle nods to its futuristic setting:

Far above the fields, up near the clouds, a rocket launch moved swiftly, dragging its slow thunder behind it.

(p.219)

 

He went inside and pressed a yellow switch. The screen blurred, came into focus. The face of an old man appeared, filling the screen.

(p.220)

[168]

“Could you come right away?”

“Father Yoshida won’t be happy about it.”

“Please. Right away.”

Father Courtney felt his fingers draw into fists. “Why?” he asked, holding onto the conversational tone. “Is anything the matter?”

“Not really,” Donovan said. His smile was brief. “It’s just that I’m dying.”

(p.220 – 221)

[169] Vocabulary:

A freshet of autumn leaves burst against his leg.

(p.222)

noun – the flood of a river from heavy rain or melted snow.

a rush of fresh water flowing into the sea.

[170]

Donovan was talking now; the words lost – a hum of locusts in the room, a far-off murmuring; then, like a radio turned up: “Father, how long have we been friends, you and I?”

(p.223)

[171] Reference:

“ ‘…the gentleman lay graveward with his furies…’ Do you remember that, Father?”

“Yes,” the priest said. “Thomas, isn’t it?”

(p.224)

A line from the Dylan Thomas poem “Altarwise By Owl-Light” (full text here).

[172] Reference:

“Did Roentgen [sic] correlate a lot of embryonic data, Father, or did he come upon something brand new?”

(p.226)

Wilhelm Rontgen (1845 – 1923) was a German/Dutch mechanical engineer and physicist, who produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays.

[173] Reference:

“He makes quite a study of philosophy, and for a time he favors a somewhat peculiar combination of Russell and Schopenhauer – unbitter bitterness, you might say.”

(p.229)

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation, wherein he characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind, insatiable, and malignant metaphysical will. Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism.

[174] A similar plot to “Father, Dear Father” (Post 2, note [55]):

Father Courtney remembered the time they had argued furiously on what would happen if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather.

(p.230)

…so I have to assume this was also a story idea that Beaumont played with (did he ever write it?):

If a person died and remained dead for an hour and were then revived, would he be haunted by his own ghost?

(p.230)

[175] A LONG WAY FROM CAPRI (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature

1 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Jeannie tells Pete she can’t marry him: during the war, she accepted gifts for sex and, as a “whore,” she can’t possibly tarnish his good name.

Of its time, I suppose, but a depressingly ignorant non-story.

[176] A gripe (Beaumont is far from the only one guilty of it) – we have two characters: Jeannie, thirty-eight; and Pete, early forties. He is referred to as a “man,” she is a “girl.” Not a woman. Beaumont is aware enough to point out what he’s doing, but his justification falls short:

The girl – one thought of her like that, although she was not so much younger than her companion – shook her head.

(p.42)

So why not “woman”? What prevents her from being thought of as a woman? A 38-year-old man might be called boyish, but a narrative would never refer to him as a “boy.” Does Beaumont consider “woman” an insult? Would it make Jeannie less attractive?

It seems like a small thing but the implications build up when you keep calling adult women “girls”. Please, if you’re an author, pay attention to this in your own work.

[177] THE LOVE-MASTER (1956)

Best of Beaumont

1 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

A “love-master” advises a man on how to unfreeze his “frigid” wife with wild sex positions.

[178]

The thin, hatted man dusted the seat of a harp-back with a handkerchief of fine linen; and moved forward.

(p.220)

[179] Reference:

Salvadori went on to describe in minute detail Method #12 which he’d learned a half-century before in Bechuanaland.

(p.220)

The Bechuanaland Protectorate was a protectorate established in 1885 by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in southern Africa. It became the Republic of Botswana in 1966.

[180] Reference:

“Remember: ‘No tree so tall/it cannot fall.’ ”

(p.222)

I can’t find any reference to this as a poem/quote.

[181] THE MAGIC MAN (1960)

Perchance to Dream 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Magic Man Dr. Silk arrives in Two Forks, Kansas for his yearly show. Wanting to repay the town’s love, he answers their eternal question: How do you do it?

A sentimental, Bradbury-like piece.

[182]

There was only the night wind sliding and sighing across the tabled land, and the wolves – always the wolves – screaming loneliness at the skies: otherwise, silence, as immense as the end of things.

(p.199)

[183] Vocabulary:

A SOOTHING REMEDY FOR HEADACHE, STOMACH CRAMPS, QUINSY, DIZZINESS & OTHER AILMENTS.

(p.201)

Peritonsillar abscess (PTA), also known as a quinsy, is a recognized complication of tonsillitis.

[184] MISS GENTILBELLE (1957)

The Hunger 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Robert’s sadistic and insane mother, Miss Gentilbelle, raises him in isolation as a girl.

A story which works once; re-reading it reveals incongruities/questions that weaken the foundation. How does Robert know his name is Robert if Miss Gentilbelle calls him Roberta and Drake calls him Bobbie? Why does Robert think of his mother as “Miss Gentilbelle” when she never insists on being addressed that way? How is Miss Gentilbelle raising Robert in such isolation? How/why would Drake put up with her insanity for so long if it’s so easy for him to leave? Why does Drake return alone, at night, to taunt Miss Gentilbelle, instead of returning with backup? Gentibelle seems elderly, while Drake is young, but it’s implied that these are Robert’s birth parents – how did that come to be?

It would have been interesting (and made sense) to reveal that Robert had been kidnapped in his youth or was Gentilbelle’s grandson. (Maybe Robert’s birth mother was Gentibelle’s daughter and Gentilbelle decided to raise Robert as a replacement daughter.) Something. The story’s strange dream-logic doesn’t stand up. But maybe that’s the point. And maybe that’s all right.

[185] Opening:

Robert settled on his favorite branch of the old elm and watched Miss Gentilbelle. The night was very black, but he was not afraid, although he was young enough to be afraid. And he was old enough to hate, but he didn’t hate. He merely watched.

(p.5)

[186]

Her eyes were expressionless, without color, like clots of mucus.

(p.6)

[187]

“There are few things that can ever be mended. None of the really worthwhile things can be.”

(p.7)

[188] More bird violence (see “Fritzchen”, Post 2, note [77])

The parakeet screamed for a considerable time before Miss Gentilbelle pressed the life from it. When it was silent, at last, the white fingers that clutched it were stained with a dark, thin fluid.

(p.8)

[189] Beaumont affects an old-timey style but doesn’t feel completely in control of it:

From a broken slat in his own shutter, moonlight shredded in upon the room, making of everything dark shadows.

(p.9)

Why not “making dark shadows of everything”?

[190]

It was so quiet, so quiet that he could hear the frogs and the crickets outside; and the moths, bumping and thrashing against the walls, the windows.

(p.10)

[191]

“It’s good,” the man said. “Ask your questions. But don’t ask them of me.”

(p.12)

[192] Reference:

“Immediately following your criticism on the Buxtehude you will go to bed.”

(p.12)

Dieterich Buxtehude (~1637 – 1707) was a Danish-German organist and composer of the Baroque period. His organ works represent a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and in church services. His style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach.

[193] This might be a possible explanation for how Robert knows his name is Robert:

“Bobbie, you’re not old enough yet to know everything about your mother. She wasn’t always like she is now. And I wasn’t, either. Something just happened and… well, I’ll tell you about it later so you’ll understand.”

(p.16)

Perhaps he remembers a time before Miss Gentilbelle was “like she is now.”

[194] THE MONSTER SHOW (1956)

Perchance to Dream 

1 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A countdown to the biggest television event in history.

Or, a satire of the future of TV in irritating hep-cat style.

[195] A sample of how this goes:

“B.P., flap this. Everything is scatty-boo, A through Z. We absoltively and posilutely cannot miss.”

(p.161)

[196] MOON IN GEMINI (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Pregnant Jodi goes into the city to meet with her husband and get away from her oppressive mother-in-law.

[197] Co-written with J.E. Tomerlin. Who is/was he?

I can find only two references to Tomerlin: a listing of him on Amazon in Science Fantasy magazine (February 1957) and in the book Strange Highways: Reading Science Fantasy, 1950 – 1967.

[198]

Jim, I’ll tell you the truth. I came to have lunch with you because your mother is driving me crazy. Now don’t look so alarmed. I hate her. But no more than she hates me (…) Your darling mother would hate anybody you married (…) You marry somebody, she loses you. Of course it’s foolish, but that’s the way mothers are, that’s their nature. All mothers are insane.

(p.61)

The irony of Jodi being so disdainful of her mother-in-law while pregnant with her own first son is not overtly called out, but it’s a nice touch.

[199]

Grown men shouldn’t have mothers, Jodi thought.

(p.62)

[200] Fact check (what is this figure at the present?):

Millions of women had [babies], every day. What was it – two hundred every minute, everywhere in the world?

(p.64)

According to Scientific American, approximately 150 babies are born around the world every minute.

[201]

The [elevator] car moved up with a sudden sickening lurch. It was so crowded. Lots of people. Lots of – sharp elbows, carefully avoiding her. How many people? Twelve? That made twenty-four elbows. She was in a car with twenty-four elbows!

(p.65)

[202]

The baby! Oh, she thought, she should have left it at home, with Mother Hilton. Why should it terrify her so when she didn’t even know its name – not really. It – not a boy, not a girl, not even a human being yet. A formless blob of softness that she had with her, something that would probably scare her to death if she’d meet [sic?] it in a dark alley some night… And yet, she shielded that part of her that carried this strange thing, and was quite prepared to fight with her life for its safety.

(p.66)

[203]

They were going to kill her. The thought arrived fully dressed.

(p.66)

[204] MOTHER’S DAY (1958)

Best of Beaumont

1 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

Gavin McCreigh avoids exile by agreeing to be the first human to marry a Martian. After consummating the marriage, Gavin learns how Martians give birth.

[205]

“I only thank the Lord my dear sweet mother – bless her bones – was spared the shame,” he murmured. “It would have killed her dead.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

“I will, by God!” he said, and began to talk.

(p.66)

[206] Reference:

All right, by Neddie Jingo.

(p.72)

According to Oxford Dictionaries, “by jingo!” is a (dated) exclamation of surprise. It comes from a popular song adopted by those supporting the sending of a British fleet into Turkish waters to resist Russia in 1878. The chorus ran: “We don’t want to fight, yet by jingo!”

“Neddie Jingo” is a user name on at least one blog, but I can’t find the origins of the phrase.

[207] Vocabulary:

I have just given birth to a bairn.”

(p.73)

noun – (Scottish; Northern English) – a child.

[208] MR. UNDERHILL (unpublished until 2000 collection)

A Touch of the Creature 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A stuffy office worker’s created alter-ego appears in the flesh to take his job.

The narrator of this one feels very much like Clegg from John Fowles’ The Collector: a man who mis-reads social cues, is ignorant of anyone else’s intelligence, over-confident of his own, and just generally oblivious to what most would understand as insults.

[209] What is this rhyme?

“Little bird with a yellow bill, perched upon my windowsill, cocked his shiny eye and said, ‘Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepy head?’ ”

(p.134)

The version I was taught growing up:

A yellow bird

With a yellow bill

Was sitting on

My windowsill

I lured him in

With crumbs of bread

And then I smashed

His little* head

(*or “fucking,” depending on how salty you feel)

The version I know seems closer to its use as an Army cadence. As far as origins go, I have no idea. The chant is usually called “Yellow Bird” and things get worse for many more animals in the full version.

[210]

Things like that all the time, that I didn’t understand, I mean.

(p.136)

[211] Vocabulary:

All my personal belongings were missing. My brass cuspidor, the THINK sign I kept under glass, the pictures of my wife who died a long time ago and of the horses (I’ve always loved horses – and never been on top of one, the funny part of it). All gone. Even my special letter-opener that a sailor gave me one night and said he had found it on the corpse of a dead enemy soldier at Okinawa.

(p.136)

noun – (United States) – a spittoon.


 

Post 6/9

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