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Monday, 6 August 2012

Night Thoughts (Alfred Hayes: An Innocent in the Land of Eros)

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File:PlanNine 10.jpg

Tor Johnson in the film Plan 9 from Outer Space, directed by Ed Wood, Jr. (1959): original image by One Salient Oversight, 4 December 2005; later version by Ibaranoff24, 29 May 2005



At this moment, the town was full of people lying in bed thinking with an intense, an inexhaustible, an almost raging passion of becoming famous if they weren't already famous, and even more famous if they were; or of becoming wealthy if they weren't already wealthy, or wealthier if they were; or powerful if they weren't powerful now, and more powerful if they already were.
 
There were times when the intensity with which they wanted these things impressed me. There was even, at times, a certain legitimacy to these desires. But it seemed to me, or at least it had seemed to me in the few years I had been coming and going from this town, that there was something finally ludicrous, finally unimpressive about even the people who had all the things so coveted by all the people who did not have them. It was difficult to say why...

My hostility, if there was still hostility in me toward the rich, now seemed to flow from another source: a feeling, not quite identifiable, that there was something sinister about the way these people lived.

But then, how could this life possibly be sinister? What harm could there be in a Braque bought in an art shop in Paris and now featured over the low couch against the pale wall? What danger could accrue from the immense albums of records stored in the living room or the den with the brick fireplace and the spotless desk? Why should it strike me darkly that a huge refrigerator, with Coca-Cola perpetually on ice, and grapes kept perfectly cold by a servant, stood on the patio beside the thirty-foot pool?

Why did I persist in reacting so oddly to all their comforts, their acquisitions, their rarities, their cool, large and enviable homes? The fault, most likely, was in myself; they weren't, perhaps, so sinister at all. It was only a kind of a voracity which struck me so, an insatiety that gave off, perhaps, a slight aura of the sinister. Well, I wasn't going to be eaten too. My head, on a platter at La Rue's; my kidneys, in a pie, at Chasen's.

Besides, I had an idea they'd find me indigestible: at least, so I hoped. But one had to be careful. One had to be exceedingly careful.

 


File:Tor Johnson.jpg

Tor Johnson portraying dead Inspector Clay raised again by an alien race to fulfill their evil plans of conquering the Earth in the film Plan 9 from Outer Space, directed by Ed Wood, Jr. (1959): original image by Carolaman, 25 June 2005; later version by Ibaranoff24, 29 May 2005


My actual arms were about her. Why not here, now, at this instant, no more propitious, no more sincere, no more eternal, than any other providential instant? To say: to say, at last, somewhere, "I love you." To think (even for this small, this false instant) that it had been said.

And she didn't contradict, or question the words.

They hovered between us, and dissolved, like a secret. I had a sense as of some weight being lifted. As though a series of doors, one after another, slowly opened. It was I, now, who reached across whatever divided us, and began in the darkness, my hand a conclusion to something, to unbutton her white silk blouse.



File:PlanNine 04.jpg

Tom Mason (as Ghoul Man) and Mona McKinnon in the film Plan 9 from Outer Space, directed by Ed Wood, Jr. (1959): original image by One Salient Oversight, 4 December 2005; later version by Ibaranoff24, 29 May 2005



Meanwhile, outside, in the absurdly semitropical night, the geraniums grew. Snails, with their tiny horns, inched down the concrete driveway. Banana trees flourished at the edge of parking lots, and there were lovebirds, paired, in those garages renovated into bachelor quarters in the small canyons where, even now, bobcats came down to feed, and raccoons investigated the garbage pails.




File:PlanNine 05.jpg

Tor Johnson in the film Plan 9 from Outer Space, directed by Ed Wood, Jr. (1959): original image by One Salient Oversight, 4 December 2005; later version by Ibaranoff24, 29 May 2005


Alfred Hayes: from My Face for the World to See (1958)

8 comments:

TC said...

For more about this terrific (and terrifically overlooked) writer, see this thoughtful piece by Paul Bailey from the Guardian (2005):


Chronicles of dust and sin

TC said...

Not to spoil the ending by giving away the plot... but there isn't any, really.

And that's the beauty of the land of Eros.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Love this so much. I'm there. Coca-Cola no, no, no. Please don't touch me. Are you in my toothpaste? Eating garlic sounds risky. It might make my meat too tasty.

Wooden Boy said...

The blouse unbuttoned, set aside all that flora and fauna smearing the surfaces of the human world, puts me in mind of Bunuel.

All those suggestions of cannibalism too.

The dark gleam of that conspicuous consumption, how it unnerves us, worries at us, calls us to performance where we make use of our "actual arms"; this is the spell that has us all charmed now.

This is astonishing, frank and critically honed writing.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

"To say: to say, at last, somewhere, 'I love you.' To think (even for this small, this false instant) that it had been said."

("And that's the beauty of the land of Eros.")

8.6

light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, shape of pine branch in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

this history of writing, by
means of writing hand

articulated, under the sign
of it, without saying

grey white of fog against top of ridge,
circular green pine on tip of sandspit

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Thank you for this introduction to Alfred Hayes, whose work I never knew existed in time and space (zombie that I am) until Plan 9 from TC’s Inner Space sent it rocketing my way. BTW, did you know that Eros spelled backwards is Sore?

TC said...

"My actual arms were about her."

That slayed me. The narrator is surprised by himself. Those arms should not be doing that, really.

The tonal nuance in this prose is elegant and exacting. Of those who wrote about the ghosts of defeated ambitions populating the career graveyards of the sordid backstreets beyond the studio lots, Nat West, Horace McCoy and Gavin Lambert have stood out for me, but I think perhaps Hayes might be even better.

larry white said...

"Of those who wrote about the ghosts of defeated ambitions populating the career graveyards of the sordid backstreets beyond the studio lots" -- for a slightly older perspective, I find the "classical novels" (the only ones I've read) of Mary Butts unputdownable. I've added Hayes to my must-read list.