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Quiet desperation

August 26, 2008

Here’s Kennedy working with second person, a little third (what do you call this sort of narrator anyway?), the narrator’s voice, a bit of distance, a sympathetic onlooker watching Day closely.  Alfie’s voice, talking to himself is in italics.  It’s a bit cinematic; the camera shows Day in middle distance, then pulling in to extreme closeup, then a shot of his breakfast.  Initially, the second person in both voices is a bit jarring, but the reader gets used to it, figures out the scheme and adapts.  Kennedy’s closely packed voice shifting, outside and inside, night and day, a kind of dualism, just as her shifting of time from the “present” of the movie set in 1949, back to the bombing raids of the war, demand attention:

“Without the books, you might not have been so thoroughly ashamed. Or disappointed. Your shame might have been unavoidable, very probably it was, but not your disappointment.

Oh, give it a rest, though, can’t you?  All of that was years ago and you could have had it worse.

And you were warned—by someone who was taught in schools—Ivor Sands told you and his whole life is books—go scraping about in your past and you’ll get hurt, you’ll remember and hurt. But you wouldn’t be told.

Alfred rubbed his fingers through his scalp.

Won’t need a punch in the head at this rate—doing it very effectively from within.

He lowered his eyelids, turned his face to the heat and stared at the muffled light, the blood sun.

Time to get yourself in order, Day. No more self-indulgence. Think of your egg—your nice half chooky egg.  That shouldn’t be neglected.

He looked down at it, peeled away the shell, his mouth suddenly overinterested, wet.”

With the self-disgusted internal debate, I can’t help but think of Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, the moody 1965 film of John LeCarre’s cold war classic in all its black and white, quiet English desperation.

A cold park bench in London

A cold park bench in London

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