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The Rendezvous

Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 07:04:37 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

Discussion of "The Rendezvous" is now open. The collection of short stories most popular in the U.S. is "The Rendezvous and Other Short Stories." I don't know if that is because it was one of his favorites, or if the publisher favored that one, or if it was his most famous short story to date, or if the theme of "The Rendezvous" story embodied a unifying them for the collection, or . . .

- Susan

=====
"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified. " -
Patrick O'Brian


Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 09:55:36 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

In "The Rendezvous," the narrator says, " a train went by . . .it gave me a pleasant feeling of being both here and there - a feeling slightly marred however by a lingering impression of guilt that I did not choose to identify at that moment; the association of trains and morose delectation, no doubt.

Morose delectation came up in Master and Commander. This concept was discussed last year in gunroom: here's a post from ulc: (sorry about my formatting, I copied this from the archive):

http://www.jough.com/joyce/ulysses/ulysses3.htm

Shouldering their bags they trudged, the red Egyptians. His blued feet out of turnedup trousers slapped the clammy sand, a dull brick mufflerstrangling his unshaven neck. With woman steps she followed: the ruffian and his strolling mort. Spoils slung at her back. Loose sand and shellgrit crusted her bare feet. About her windraw face hair trailed. Behind her lord, his helpmate, bing awast to Romeville. When night hides her body's flaws calling under her brown shawl from an archway where dogs have mired. Her fancyman is treating two Royal Dublins in O'Loughlin's of Blackpitts. Buss her, wap in rogues' rum lingo, for, O, my dimber wapping dell! A shefiend's whiteness under her rancid rags. Fumbally's lane that night: the tanyard smells.

White thy fambles, red thy gan
And thy quarrons dainty is.
Couch a hogshead with me then.
In the darkmans clip and kiss.

Morose delectation Aquinas tunbelly calls this, frate porcospino. Unfallen Adam rode and not rutted. Call away let him: thy quarrons dainty is. Language no whit worse than his. Monkwords, marybeads jabber on their girdles: roguewords, tough nuggets patter in their pockets.

Passing now

2. Aquinas

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/207406.htm

74 The Subject of Sin

Whether the sin of morose delectation is in the reason?

Objection 1. It would seem that the sin of morose delectation is not in the reason. For delectation denotes a movement of the appetitive power, as stated above (31, 1). But the appetitive power is distinct from the reason, which is an apprehensive power. Therefore morose delectation is not in the reason.

Objection 2. Further, the object shows to which power an act belongs, since it is through the act that the power is directed to its object. Now a morose delectation is sometimes about sensible goods, and not about the goods of the reason. Therefore the sin of morose delectation is not in the reason.

Objection 3. Further, a thing is said to be morose [From the Latin 'mora'--delay] through taking a length of time. But length of time is no reason why an act should belong to a particular power. Therefore morose delectation does not belong to the reason.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 12) that "if the consent to a sensual delectation goes no further than the mere thought of the pleasure, I deem this to be like as though the woman alone had partaken of the forbidden fruit." Now "the woman" denotes the lower reason, as he himself explains (De Trin. xii, 12). Therefore the sin of morose delectation is in the reason.

I answer that, As stated (5), sin may be in the reason, not only in respect of reason's proper act, but sometimes in respect of its directing human actions. Now it is evident that reason directs not only external acts, but also internal passions. Consequently when the reason fails in directing the internal passions, sin is said to be in the reason, as also when it fails in directing external actions. Now it fails, in two ways, in directing internal passions: first, when it commands unlawful passions; for instance, when a man deliberately provokes himself to a movement of anger, or of lust: secondly, when it fails to check the unlawful movement of a passion; for instance, when a man, having deliberately considered that a rising movement of passion is inordinate, continues, notwithstanding, to dwell [immoratur] upon it, and fails to drive it away. And in this sense the sin of morose delectation is said to be in the reason.

Reply to Objection 1. Delectation is indeed in the appetitive power as its proximate principle; but it is in the reason as its first mover, in accordance with what has been stated above (1), viz. that actions which do not pass into external matter are subjected in their principles.

Reply to Objection 2. Reason has its proper elicited act about its proper object; but it exercises the direction of all the objects of those lower powers that can be directed by the reason: and accordingly delectation about sensible objects comes also under the direction of reason.

Reply to Objection 3. Delectation is said to be morose not from a delay of time, but because the reason in deliberating dwells [immoratur] thereon, and fails to drive it away, "deliberately holding and turning over what should have been cast aside as soon as it touched the mind," as Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 12).

Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province.
Copyright 1947 Benzinger Brothers Inc., Hypertext Version Copyright 1995, 1996 New Advent Inc.


Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 15:36:09 EST
From: Charles Munoz

In a message dated 4/1/0 2:29:35 PM, susanwenger@YAHOO.COM writes:

Delectation is said to be morose not from a delay of time, but because the reason in deliberating dwells [immoratur] thereon, and fails to drive it away, "deliberately holding and turning over what should have been cast aside as soon as it touched the mind," as Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 12).

I find that the saints are verbose
When they see "delectation, morose."
But Joyce gives a nifty narration
In presenting "morose delectation."

HCE


Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 14:08:15 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

The obvious question that springs to mind is, a rendezvous with whom?

The story opens with him all hellfire to make this rendezvous - running, running, running to catch the train. I love the technique of adding the umbrella image to enhance the reader's sense of urgency - we DO register impressions quickly when we're in a sense of crisis, and rationalize the mind's instant answer afterward, at our leisure - how wonderful that O'Brian can capture such a perception into his story. But he's not in such a great hurry after all - he gets off the train before reaching his stop, so he can walk alongside the river. He didn't phone when he had the chance; yet he's going to phone from the next town. Is he? Is there really a woman in a Cossack hat, I wonder? Is it all a dream? Running to catch a train, missing a connection, wandering the river, being afraid of the young men he sees - is he dreaming it all, including the woman in the Cossack hat?

Is it a rendezvous with destiny? We are in such a hurry to grow up when we are young, but there's time to wander along a riverbank; we want to reach our destination, but tomorrow will be time enough?

I'll be back in a few minutes with another post about this O'Brian short story. The theme is too different to include in this post.

- Susan


Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2000 14:20:28 -0800
From: Susan Wenger

In addition to his other interests, Patrick O'Brian loved art. I think the short story "The Rendezvous" is as close as one can come to creating a landscape, a work of (painted) art with words.

There's the beautiful image of the inside-out umbrella , completely described, metal ribs sticking through the respectable bright cloth, laying deliberately in that position, parallel with the street, parallel with the shining, wet-running street, well away from the tumultuous gutter. Still-Life With Umbrella.

The exact description of the river: the broad Seine, painted by O'Brian as meticulously as it was painted by so many thousands of painters before him.

In case the reader doesn't catch his drift, he references Seurat, Claude Lorraine - he WANTS you thinking art paintings as you read his descriptions.

Then there's the landscape of the bend in the Seine, with the Dutch barges in the middle, their flags, the long low vessel, the wooden house. But you can do other things with a scene when writing that you can't do when painting - you can give us the magpie, cackling as it went. A painter can give you the magpie somewhere in the picture without detracting from the picture - a writer has time to draw in the cackle as well.

Now the fields, divided by post and wire; leys; stubble, dungheaps.

Another turn: meadows with lapwings calling over them, the tall dipping gallows of fish-traps, lateen masts, and so forth. A series of pictures; a series of paintings in a gallery.

The word-painter can add another element that the paint-painter doesn't have: smells. The sickly willows, the rank yellow weed called Stinking Willy. The bare earth with a sulphurous efflorescence, the foul shrubs.

Does anyone agree? Disagree? I can SEE the whole of the region through O'Brian's series of paintings. It doesn't matter if the man makes his rendezvous or not - it's the journey that is important, the passing through these landscapes so beautifully described.

- Susan


Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 13:36:03 -0700
From: Matt Cranor

It's easy to see why this story was chosen for the centerpiece of the anthology. Whereas we have been looking at sketches and doodles and experiments in the previous stories, here is a full canvas.

(Later, to Susan: Yes, it's definitely a painting, isn't it?)

Here we find the one- or two-sentence wonders, like this:

"First I had to follow the Seine round a noble bend that curved back on itself in a more than S, and this took me upwards of an hour: an S that the train annihilated by drawing a dollar stroke across it at eighty miles an hour. Dutch barges in the middle, with their flags; a very long low vessel with its body awash and a ridiculous wooden house perched up on one end - French; another Belgian, riding high with its screw churning white; yet not a sound did I hear until the very tail of the S, when a magpie flew from a bush on the left and trailed far out over the river, cackling as it went."

On the title: sly misdirection, which it became one of his favorite little games.

Above all, here he has found the tone and rhythm to cast the true storyteller's spell, that sublime sensation of a waking dream in the reader. (This, it seems to me now, is what is he has been working at in many of the other stories.)

And the Rendezvous is sooooo dreamlike, isn't it? Missing the train (oh, familiar nightmare); the oddly silent, uninhabited agri-industrial landscape, the smouldering earth; a single swan swimming in foam, a great heron suddenly looming; sunlight and moonlight (and even starlight) glancing off puddles and gunbarrels and a stranger's teeth. Bedazzlement ain't innit.

I notice he is working again (as in the beach story and others) around that quintessential dream emotion: fear, turning to dread, and further into panic. I can't help thinking that the author endured an uncomfortable familiarity with the night terrors. I am convinced that in many of these stories, we are seeing scenes from O'Brian's most private world, his dream life.

Matt Cranor
44* 3' 36" N, 123* 9' W


Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 16:24:46 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

I do believe you are right about the dreams. What is the misdirection of the title? I missed that.

Oh, what a beautiful jewel of a story this one was!

- Susan

=====

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified. " -
Patrick O'Brian


Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 16:25:46 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

--- Matt Cranor wrote:

It's easy to see why this story was chosen for the centerpiece of the anthology.

Oh! I wonder if the picture on the cover of the collection is the picture of The Rendezvous story?

- Susan

=====

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified. " -
Patrick O'Brian


Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 20:48:20 -0400
From: Don Seltzer

A few observations.

There were several nautical analogies used in this one. The image of tacking with the umbrella in contrary winds, grasping it by the mast. Also likening the fishing traps to archaic lateen masts.

I believe that this story was written almost twenty years after the previous ones.

I had a much different image of the narrator in this story. To me, he is a city dweller, used to rushing for trains, travelling between countries, busy schedules, only observing the countryside from moving trains and airplanes. When he does get off the train to observe the countryside close up, it is nothing like the unspoiled character of Wales or the Spanish border of previous tales. Everywhere there is the intrusion of industrialization, such as the barges on the river, the foaming polluted waters, the smoldering field, the man-made ditches, or even the railroad tracks slicing across the curves of the river. The comparison to a dollar sign perhaps has a deeper symbolism.

Unlike Matt, I did not find it dream-like, but rather thought it to be the most factual story we have encountered so far, quite possibly something that happened to POB very much as related. It is strange to think that such a situation and fear could occur in a rural setting. It is more what I would associate happening in an urban environment.

Susan has written of POB holding back on details so that the reader must use their imagination and get involved. I think that works very well with the mysterious woman he was supposed to meet in Austerlitz station; it does have me imagining several possibilities. I do wish, however, that we had more clues as to why he got off the train, and what his intentions were. The practical side of me is too bothered by what did he do about his luggage. Was he intending to catch another train from Rouen, etc.

To what does the title refer? The original planned meeting in Paris, or maybe the unexpected rendezvous with the gang by the river? I don't think that POB put too much weight on the choice of titles for his stories.

Susan, what is the cover illustration of your book? Mine just has a photo of POB.

Don Seltzer


Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 04:58:27 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

Thank you for the nautical links - I'd missed that.

Situation/fear can happen anywhere you are out of your element. I'm from New York (Brooklyn) - when I'm in a rural setting, I hear noises (perhaps they are cows, or other wild beasts), I see stuff overhead I didn't see in the city when I was growing up, (stars?); but everything seems strange, scary.

Yes, I'm exaggerating, but not a lot. I think also of Disney movies - when the little girl is cast into the forest, even though she's always lived at the edge of the forest and all the animals know and love her, little birdies singing at her feet, she now finds every tree seems twisted to snatch at her, previously friendly owls have huge startling eyes, etc. The narrator of this story got off the train at the wrong stop, stepped into a different world, and things aren't as they seemed a page earlier.


Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 10:38:41 -0700
From: Matt Cranor

I do believe you are right about the dreams. What is the misdirection of the title? I missed that.

Oh, just that the opening may make you think we are getting a story about an (ill-fated?) meeting with a lover (perhaps); and it turns out to be about a different encounter altogether.

Bruce wrote: "Unlike Matt, I did not find it dream-like, but rather thought it to be the most factual story we have encountered so far, quite possibly something that happened to POB very much as related. "

Yes, I had this impression, too, despite my earlier comment. There's something very convincing about all the vivid visual descriptions, and one can't help wondering if there really is exactly such a place on the Seine between Paris and Rouen. Nevertheless, other elements of the story make it seem quite surreal to me. The narrator is full of purpose at first, really desperate to make the rendezvous, and then seems to lose all interest. He does take the next train in the same direction (a local) which seems the reasonable course, but then he decides to get off in the middle of nowhere to splash around in a curious landscape he has often seen from the train, and never a thought is given again to the missed meeting or the mysterious woman until the very last sentence. There's something very 'Alice in Wonderland' about the rest of it, and if I had the book here I might go on with some supporting evidence, but I don't, so you're all spared that.

Like Bruce's, my edition has a portrait of POB on the cover; what's on yours, Susan?

Finally, can anybody relate what Dean King has to say, if anything, about the origins of these stories?

Matt Cranor
44* 3' 36" N, 123* 9' W


Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 11:41:15 -0700
From: Matt Cranor

Bruce wrote: "Unlike Matt, I did not find it dream-like....

Oops! Don Seltzer actually wrote the comments I responded to; can't explain why I thought it was Bruce Trinque.

Sorry, gents.

Matt Cranor
44* 3' 36" N, 123* 9' W


Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 16:08:00 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

The paperback edition of "The Rendezvous and Other Stories" , W.W. Norton & Company, 1994 has a picture of what Stephen would call "a wee little boat." There's porbably a gig in the foreground, blue sky and water in the background; all as seen through a doorway or alleyway. The credit says:

Cover: Pierre onnard: Saint Tropez. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Nice painting. I think again that it fits the story "The Rendezvous" very nicely.

- Susan

=====

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified. " -
Patrick O'Brian


Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 21:48:17 -0700
From: Marshall Rafferty

Another thing about this particular cover is how it popped into my minde when I saw Jim Klein's photographs of Patrick and Mary's gravestone in Collioure at:

http://www.paterson.com/pob/POBs_Collioure/

The colors of the stone are the colors of the painting.

Marshall Rafferty


Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 06:03:26 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

Did I miss the "B" in Bonnard? Sorry - it's the painter Pierre Bonnard whose painting graces the cover of the paperback "The Rendezvous."


Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 23:38:03 EDT
From: Charles Munoz

It seems to me that the best way to find one's way into The Rendezvous is to follow the narrator through the "burning fields" on page 109.

Near Naples is a place of volcanic activity, known as the Burning Fields. You can still go there. You'll see Lake Avernus. You'll be near the sybil's grotto. And perhaps you'll be able to find the desolate entrance to the gloomy Underworld; follow Aeneas where "facilis decensus Avernus..." it's easy to go downward.

Maybe you'll agree that this story is an example of the "hero's journey"--the trip to hell, the triumph over, (or escape from) the spirits of the underworld, the return to the surface: it's a myth which, to my mind, is the most important myth of all. And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the hero is wounded and must be healed before he can fully escape.

Let's examine (no--not examine--merely mention) a few points that indicate the deep meaning this symbolism had for POB.

First...what is that umbrella taking up such an important part of the story right in the beginning? "A smallish umbrella...You could tell at first glance that it was malformed in some way...the metal ribs sticking through the...cloth...its defeated owner....no hope." [An utterly tragic little thing.]

Two paras later: "There is something odious, almost unclean, in picking at oneself, slapping labels on emotions and behavious--peering through your own keyhole and perhaps at the same time putting on a show for the voyeur." [A theme repeated almost to the end of his life.]

"The cast-iron alibi, even to one's own court of conscience (but I ran...)

He misses the train. "O familiar nightmare...apocalyptic candles in the gloom..."

Abandoning the rendezvous with the woman (he has missed his train and will not get together with her again) he jumps into a compartment "smelling of dust." and "It was while I was sitting in the carriage that I worked out this piece about the umbrella, its significance...and its obvious connection with missing trains..." and soon he swings down from the train though it is nowhere near his destination. As he stands outside the train, he sees written on the carriage, "the single word PURGE." [A little obvious perhaps? His journey from now on will purge his failure to properly connect with the woman.]

There are three other graffitti mentioned on the train: consider the first of them in all of its sorrowful senses: "Couple criminel, vomi par la cite, faiseurs des orphelins."

On page 108, across the river, he sees chemical factories--"vast inhuman enterprises." [The gates of hell: why not?] "How different this will be, I said with a little skip, when I come to the burning fields." Soon..."Another mile, with an easy path under my feet..." [That's where we came in--facilis decensus Avernus...]

A train goes past in the other direction. He's unwilling to analyze his lingering feeling of guilt..."morose delectation"...Now there's no road.

The sole of his shoe gapes open--the wound, as seems appropriate, has appeared.

And now "there were figures in the landscape." They seem to be thieves; soon they seem to be following him, then chasing him. Demons? Furies? Or merely French thugs?

And on to the end, when he asks the oddest question of a new vision...a "youth bolt upright by the mast of a fish-trap. The moon was shining full upon him. Was he dim-sighted, half-witted, a nyctalope, to suppose himself invisible?...the moon shining blue upon his teeth--a black hole of a mouth and then those teeth. In that light his face seemed drained, eyeless, and sweating cold..." [Symbols aren't simple--you can read what you like into this strange figure: the Egyptian Eater of the Dead? Some private figure of Judgement or Forgiveness? Or simply a young man?]

The odd question, twice repeated: the odd answer, twice given. "Have you a piece of string?...Have you a piece of string? [To heal my wound?] "Yes," says the apparition, "a whole ball of string. A whole ball of string. Twine."

The narrator seems to feel that he's reached redemption. His wound healed, he can go on to the next town, an ordinary "place where lettuces are grown. I shall telephone from there."

Charlezzzz, thinking this one of the most tragic stories imaginable


Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 16:03:23 +0100
From: Martin Watts

Charlezzzz wrote:

The sole of his shoe gapes open--the wound, as seems appropriate, has appeared.

And literally he has saved his sole (soul)! I had read this story only a few weeks ago and not appreciated this. I am sure it must be an intentional POB pun.

I can't find my copy of "The Chian Wine" but I was able to borrow "The Collected Short Stories" (HB, POB holding falcon on cover) from the library at the weekend and hope to be able to contribute to these discussions. Often my reading of these stories seems to be rather superficial so I'd like to stretch myself further with them.

Martin Watts
50 45' N 1 55' W.
The Borough and County of the Town of Poole


Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 20:13:38 -0700
From: Marshall Rafferty

On Thu, 6 Apr 2000 23:38:03 EDT, Charlezzzz wrote:

Maybe you'll agree that this story is an example of the "hero's journey"--the trip to hell, the triumph over, (or escape from) the spirits of the underworld, the return to the surface: it's a myth which, to my mind, is the most important myth of all. And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the hero is wounded and must be healed before he can fully escape.

This is just part of Charlezzzz' analysis which has left me humbled. Well, I said some time ago that I had a pretty superficial mind, and I was *not* being modest.

About all I can really add is my sense that the narrator did *not* want to make his rendezvous. He was ambivalent (is everything about POB ambivalent?) about the woman, he missed his train, he didn't phone or telegraph. He had a hell of a lot of guilt to expiate.

Marshall


Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 04:57:27 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

Charlezzzz' wonderful exegesis of "The Rendezvous" got me thinking about the entire O'Brian series along similar lines.

Rev. Martin is not a well-drawn character, considering how much space he takes up. He appears in 10 (?) books, and yet we do not know him well, he's rather one-dimensional. What is the function of this character?

Jack Aubrey enjoys having Stephen Maturin along on voyages. Jack would be quite lonely without Stephen, someone to talk to, someone to talk TO, not so much with. Stephen is his sounding board, his touchstone. Jack often ponders on the loneliness of command - without his particular friend, there's nobody else he can confide his fears, longings, passions, emotions.

But who can Stephen confide in the same way? Not Jack Aubrey, man of action. For one, Jack doesn't have time to listen to Stephen's meanderings. There are always immediate demands on his attention. He and Stephen are so unalike in temperament, he would not understand Stephen's inner thoughts. Stephen, being philosophe, being trained or self-trained in observation and listening skills, can understand Jack - not the other way around. There are things Stephen can speak to no man about.

I find in the short stories that Patrick O'Brian thinks a great deal about religious questions and issues. This is not something Jack and Stephen can talk about - if there is a single facet of deceit in their relationship, it is religion - Stephen never freely admits his religious beliefs to Jack. In fact, he denies most of his beliefs, knowing that his Papist views would be anathema to the RN captain. It's not so much that he lies to his Captain, he simply recognizes that there are some things there's no point discussing with Captain John Bull.

Stephen's friendship with Mr. Martin is fairly one-sided. He tolerates Martin's ramblings and narrow-mindedness, because Martin is the willing ear that Stephen can pour his own musings into. Stephen is questing about religious matters, trying to find truths, reflecting his author's quests. Martin is the receptacle. As such, he doesn't need to be developed as a character. He just needs to be there. Not so much tabula rasa, but necessarily a very unimportant character who serves as O'Brian's/Maturin's audience for thoughts.

On political matters, O'Brian is extraordinarily even-handed - he presents both sides of every issue fairly, without giving the reader an inescapable conclusion as to right and wrong. On religion, he doesn't solve any problems either, but opens a great many questions for the readers' consideration. Most religious questions do NOT have two sides for discussion of the issue - you believe or you don't, it's enough to raise the question, and it would be unnecessary to spell out the opposing side. In most cases, the "other side" of the question is simply to not think about it.

O'Brian's religious/philosophical musings are much more obvious in the short stories than they are in the novels. I suppose a short story is a better vehicle for exploring such issues than a novel, or at least O'Brian must have thought so.


Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 11:32:26 EDT
From: David Scott Goldblatt

In a message dated 4/11/2000 4:57:42 AM Pacific Daylight Time, susanwenger@YAHOO.COM writes:

But who can Stephen confide in the same way?

His diary.

David


Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 11:47:19 EDT
From: Charles Munoz

In a message dated 4/11/0 6:57:42 AM, susanwenger@YAHOO.COM writes:

Martin is the receptacle. As such, he doesn't need to be developed as a character. He just needs to be there. Not so much tabula rasa, but necessarily a very unimportant character who serves as O'Brian's/Maturin's audience for thoughts.

An interesting thought. He's something of a mirror for Maturin. It's hardly accidental (very little is accidental in a well-written novel) that they have the same consonants in their names; in fact, they are separated only by a single letter. Martin even has his own running joke: his beloved animals bite him.

Charlezzzz


Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 11:47:24 EDT
From: Charles Munoz

In a message dated 4/10/0 10:14:05 PM, mrafferty@USWEST.NET writes:

About all I can really add is my sense that the narrator did *not* want to make his rendezvous. He was ambivalent (is everything about POB ambivalent?) about the woman, he missed his train, he didn't phone or telegraph. He had a hell of a lot of guilt to expiate.

Now it's my turn for humblenosity. Because Marshall has put his finger down on the "sin" wch the character is expiating in his struggle through the underworld. And it strikes me that Jonah has exactly that sin--a failure to make a rendezvous wch God has set for him--wch sends him "underground" into the belly of the beast. Aren't there echoes of this now and then in the canon? Jonah? Whales?

Charlezzzz


Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2000 05:28:14 +1000
From: Peter Mackay

Stephen's friendship with Mr. Martin is fairly one-sided. He tolerates Martin's ramblings and narrow-mindedness, because Martin is the willing ear that Stephen can pour his own musings into. Stephen is questing about religious matters, trying to find truths, reflecting his author's quests. Martin is the receptacle. As such, he doesn't need to be developed as a character. He just needs to be there. Not so much tabula rasa, but necessarily a very unimportant character who serves as O'Brian's/Maturin's audience for thoughts.

He provides a bit of comic relief now and then. Pleasant as it is to have Stephen as the bumbling fool, it does rather detract from his gravity.

Martin has just given Stephen a draft of his earnest and pedestrian proposal in the maintop, where the two are observing birds as the ship plows towards the Horn. Stephen's comments cause a degree of tension between them. This is something more than Martin being a foil for Stephen's wit, I feel.

I have the Honour to be Mate your Obedient servant

Peter Mackay

35 17' 30" S, 149 9' 59" E

peter.mackay@ems-solutions.com.au
peter.mackay@bigpond.com


Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 22:57:10 EDT
From: Rowen84@AOL.COM

In a message dated 4/11/00 6:57:42 AM, susanwenger@YAHOO.COM wrote:

O'Brian's religious/philosophical musings are much more obvious in the short stories than they are in the novels. I suppose a short story is a better vehicle for exploring such issues than a novel, or at least O'Brian must have thought so.

It might not have been the "what" POB was writing as much as the "when". Those short stories were written when he was a fairly young man, still exploring those themes with an intensity and a "literary" style which required some obliqueness and overwriting. I'm firmly convinced that O'Brian was a very conscious, 'professional' writer, who deliberately wrote for critical appraisal as well as for himself. Some people buy red sports cars at that age; O'Brian wrote stories. As he learned later, a direct 'genre' presentation of themes doesn't easily get the attention or appreciation of critics, but the short stories did.

By the time he wrote the A-M books he was more mature, more confirmed in his place in life, and had the skill to explore important or difficult questions without requiring the reader to negotiate a literary maze. (Not that working out a puzzle isn't engaging; it just isn't "reading".) He also had different questions to explore because he was older.

Rowen


Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 05:10:28 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

Very nice point. I don't know that religion is a young man's game, and we don't know when the short stories were written, either - but Rowen's analysis makes a lot of sense to me. I still think that some of the stories are the author's "doodlings." I think maybe he'd wake up from a particularly strong dream, and turn it into a short story as a way to deal with it in his mind. I agree with the professionalism of his writing, too. I don't know that he consciously sought critical acclaim for each story, but I think he wrote the best stories he could, crafted them more painstakingly than is apparent, and was quite proud of them (justifiably).

When I read a whole book of short stories by the same author, I can usually tell, after a few, how the next one is going to end when I see the beginning. Not so with O'Brian. After reading everything he's written AND all the preceding short stories, I still come to the next story and am unable to guess where it will go. Yet, when I finish a story, I can see how he led up to it, the foreshadowings I'd overlooked, the clues. I sometimes feel I can get into an author's head and think like him, but I haven't been able to do that with O'Brian.

- Susan


Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 18:37:37 -0700
From: Susan Wenger

"The Rendezvous" ends with the question, "what is the name of the next village? Bougival."

I chuckle at the possibility - do you suppose O'Brian mean this to sound like boogyville, as the place the boogyman comes from?

- Susan

=====

"Who wishes to be a meagre sailorman if he can be a learned and enter the government service? Why, in time you might be an official and never do anything for remainder of earthly existence. You could grow long fingernails, and become obese and dignified. " -
Patrick O'Brian


Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 23:55:16 -0400
From: u1c04803

There's a well known picture by Renoir, Danse a Bougival, which depicts a couple arm in arm, dancing. If the Rendezvous is kept, perhaps that's how POB envisages the couple will be. For surely the Rendezvous is about keeping one with a woman--or not.

Lois


Note: The next 5 messages were originally not posted to Gunroom, but were private correspondance between Lois and Charlezzzz. They are used here with permission of both correspondents.
[Introduction to the private correspondance by Lois]

I thought that story might be about POB, and his moving on from one marriage to another, from one cold woman, to the right woman. The deliberately missed Rendezvous is with someone female in a possibly mangy Cossack hat-he moved on to someone with a genuine Russian connection. The graffiti on the train seems to underscore his and his new woman's actions and their effect: "Couple criminel, vomi par la cite, faiseurs d'orphelins; Je t'aime, Nicole".

Because of his bad deed, he has to traverse that labyrinthine path, but he does succeed in his own way.

But it all happens backwards, because he doesn't meet the one who could show him the way before, but is going to her afterwards.

I read all this after the list discussion, and passed. Missed that Rendezvous, so to speak.

Anyway, here's the old correspondence:


In a message dated 4/7/0 1:38:55 PM, u1c04803@mail.wvnet.edu writes:

Now, do you want to do the nautical references?

Is river stuff nautical? Or riverine? Or is the Seine the Styx; and is Charon then nautical? I'm getting in over my head.

Charlezzzz


Glub Glub

Was thinking more of the extent to which he uses nautical terms in his descriptions. In the first paragraph, the umbrella one, eg, he talks about tacking, grasping the mast, the current, etc.

Lois


In a message dated 4/6/0 11:22:58 PM, u1c04803@mail.wvnet.edu writes:

Theseus? Ariadne?

Doubt it. Twine to tie up his wound, to forgive him for leaving that poor broken umbrella in the rain. Forgiveness: Jesus. A strange, tormented Jesus.

Charlezzzz


Guess I should actually read the story. Now if I could find that book.... Will look.

Lois

OK, Charlezzzz. Now I have found and read the story.

Twine to bind up the split flapping shoe makes sense at the mundane level, and, enlarging, for other hidden and visible wounds.

But so does the labyrinth and monster theory work, I'd submit. That marshy reedy place crossed with canals and ponds where he wanders lost without direction, the evil youths, the monstrous creature at the end. Holding the ball of twine which is emblematic of the directional salvation he's been missing, as well as your "wound balm" mention.

He, having turned the myth on its head. Because he missed/rejected the Rendez-vous and the woman who would have given him his twine/directional signals at the outset. If he'd done it right. And so he had to flounder around lost, travel the distance bewildered, instead of steady and directed, as would have been the case if he'd done it right.

Now, if I could find my book of myths, there might be a better case to be made.

Always nice to be prepared at the outset but, like the man of the Rendez-vous, some of us get ready along the way.

Lois


In a message dated 4/7/0 12:24:06 PM, u1c04803@mail.wvnet.edu writes:

But so does the labyrinth and monster theory work, I'd submit. That marshy reedy place crossed with canals and ponds where he wanders lost without direction, the evil youths, the monstrous creature at the end. Holding the ball of twine which is emblamatic of the directional salvation he's been missing, as well as your wound balm mention.

He, having turned the myth on its head. Because he missed/rejected the Rendez-vous and the woman who would have given him his twine/directional signals at the outset. If he'd done it right. And so he had to flounder around lost, travel the distance bewildered, instead of steady and directed, as would have been the case if he'd done it right.

True! I missed that aspect, wch is *also* there. I took the foundering and the getting lost as an aspect of his not crossing the Styx. (The money, twice mentioned, is never used--never paid to Charon.)

I think we can have it both ways--both aspects are there, enriching the mythic journey. (And just before he meets the twine-bearer at the end of the labyrinth ((at the end! not the beginning)) doesn't he hear a bullock--wch wd point to some sort of redemptive minatour?)

(I hate the personal gossip angle of analysis, but...) If the woman is his first wife, with whom he cannot communicate, and if the umbrella is a symbol of his poor spina-bifida'd child as well as of his broken marriage, then the first woman cdn't guide him in any case. I took the story as his working out of his misery in a symbolic mode. The story is complex, mythic in the best sense, built on the journey of his own life.

The graffito PURGE can also point to purgatory. And through it.

Charlezzzz


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