COLLECTED STORIES by Katherine Mansfield.

CONTINUED FROM: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/katherine-mansfield/

My review thoughts will be in the comment stream below.

(My previous reviews of older or classic books: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/reviews-of-older-books/)

57 responses to “*


    Mother and daughter Milly, with the father having died two years before, have two servants, Marie and Yvonne, and a companion Miss Anderson who, disappointingly, “had turned out to be a Roman Catholic. Half her time, more than half, was spent wearing out the knees of her skirts in cold churches”. Except this work is full of Mansfield’s ambiance of the warm French Riviera. These women are without the seasoning of change as provided by a man. Then, Mr Prodger, an American, arrives to visit the father whom he once knew but did not know had died, except the questions he asked when he was told about this, “You sure? You positive?”, seemed to make it appropriate — when Fate in the form of a message from the dead meant that he was invited, like a live lion into a female den, to a future lunch — that one of the women later designed flower displays with the names of various tombs, for that very lunch occasion! Do please imagine the eventual lunch’s interactive repercussions (“It was like (O ciel!)— it was like handing potatoes to a corpse.”) of all these characters. And their conversation. No social distancing despite his having had a heavy cold in Florence. Accoutrements like the hats that Mother thought about wearing, a jampot or a mushroom, and, later, roast lamb, a special Gorgonzola, ice cream as icebreaker, or Milly sucking a sugar cube as a disastrous faux pas even worse than someone once calling another male visitor Mr Sandiman, Mr Sandybags! O ciel! Another ice to break….during a conversation, all conversations needing to be nursed or rocked like a babe.

    “. . . Miss Anderson rustled, rustled about the house like a dead leaf.”


    “But he—hated cabins, hated to be inside anywhere more than was absolutely necessary.”

    This is a story of cabin fever and its dreams, a strikingly oblique prophecy – based on a cruise liner – of the marital conflicts of lockdown today, where fever leads to dreams or nightmares, and the consequent problems of one’s children or childlessness, whichever applies, as transposed to self and one’s partner as parent. Individuals as indivisible. But must now be read by all Coviduals. Six years of lockdown as in WWII?


    “It was rather like finding oneself in the playground of an extremely attractive girls’ school.”

    A painter artist with a one man show in Port Willin (note the name), an idyllic place full of young girls and tea shops where they all resort at certain times of day. One girl in particular, Daphne, instead of being chased, as the myth has it, by him, he expected her to chase after him. I guess, as sort of his wish to role play the sexual awakening of children? Even more important to him than painting. No wonder it somehow all went awry. Or was it her view of his pipe?


    “When she saw the dark, flat breast of the engine, so bare, so powerful, hurled as it were towards her, she felt a weakness—she could have sunk to the earth.”

    Ernestine with her “beautiful, youthful bosom buttoned…”, watches, from amid the Hotel’s vines, the train from Italy draw in and watched people alight who had not been there before and would not be there for long…
    Indeed, not long enough to leapfrog the story’s ending as ellipsis.
    A new indiscrete story of an 84 year old man who loved travelling across Europe pre-pandemic and hated home. With his two daughters who were old discreetly enough not to want to see themselves in mirrors! Or in stories?
    The hotel itself is a wonderfully depicted genius-loci.


    “Our porch black with mining engineers”

    Or is it as serene as it seems? An idyllic breakfast scene of a happy in-love couple (three years married) amid references to petunias and a silver pear on a silver teapot. I wonder if the mining was for silver? Or a mine’s overshadowing a letter one of them receives and does not show the other!

    “Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now.”
    — Douglas Adams


    “I’m not one of your actor Johnnies, or a chap in a book.”

    That’s why he is in denial about his wife, a wife who IS in this book by dint of being included in this his short monologue about being in denial whilst being in denial about being in denial. Starting that audit trail of denials was a bad idea, I guess. Any grudges about a coworker’s garden, notwithstanding.


    “He was tired. He’d been up half the night rubbing his wife’s chest—she had one of her mysterious pains—“

    No wonder, her husband Potts was relegated to the end of the garden to smoke his pipe. Actually, she often became delirious with this early form of Covid, I sense, until she invokes her ex boy friend’s name, this being a sign of remission. Potts is too much like his own dog as I gather from this hilarious patchwork of his life, his shoes’ tongues gone missing, like his dog he himself a watch dog not a fighting one.

    “…when he cried ‘for the wings, for the wings of a dove,’ the ladies in the congregation wanted to club together and buy him a pair.”


    “Foreign clocks never go. They are always stopped at twenty minutes to two. Twenty minutes to two! Such an unpleasant time, neither one thing nor the other.”

    Dreams, too, are foreign, neither here nor there, too, as stuck between waking and sleeping, and in these days of lucid, vivid, covid dreaming, I find myself, at my advanced age, like this lady, automatically waking up at 4.30 to check my bearings of the place where I fell asleep. In one’s dreams, it is like visiting foreigners in a foreign country, one step or notch between realities, neither one thing or another.
    SHE, though, has a waking base in a hotel, cared for by caring relatives, with her sometimes watching palm trees from her hotel window, amid the mirrors that triangulate her coordinates. She thinks the palms look like spiders …. or foreigners?


    Two men in a story that ends elliptically. Honestly can’t say whether it was intended to end elliptically or was passively unfinished. But if you want my honest opinion, I sense it was intended thus. Two men living together as housemates, differentiated by those two levels of certainty and uncertainty in the word ‘honestly.’
    One of them “had not really made up his mind. He had not really made up his mind on any subject whatsoever. Why! Because he could not. He was unlike other men. He was minus something—or was it plus?”

    [Cf “From the cosmic point of view, to have opinions or preferences at all is to be ill; for by harbouring them one dams up the flow of the ineluctable force which, like a river, bears us down to the ocean of everything’s unknowing. Reality is a running noose, one is brought up short with a jerk by death. It would have been wiser to co-operate with the inevitable and learn to profit by this unhappy state of things – by realising and accommodating death! But we don’t, we allow the ego to foul its own nest. Therefore we have insecurity, stress, the midnight-fruit of insomnia, with a whole culture crying itself to sleep. How to repair this state of affairs except through art, through gifts which render to us language manumitted by emotion, poetry twisted into the service of direct insight?”
    – from ‘The Avignon Quincunx’ by Lawrence Durrell (‘Constance’ 1982)]

    The other man Rupert sort of bullies the indecisive one called Archie. On bathroom etiquette and ornaments. And “Poor Archie hated scrambled eggs, but alas! he was practically certain that scrambled eggs were expected of him too.”
    And Archie’s father once made him “count the yachts racing in the harbour, divide them by four and multiply the result by three.”

    Archie ended up spending most of his time reading, as I do.


    “…the doll’s teapot wouldn’t pour out even after you’d poked a pin down the spout and blown into it.”

    Susannah is the youngest of the three daughters of the “high feather” father whose tirelessly hard work to earn money – and what the mother calls his vital days of rest – are only questioned by Susannah when faced with not going to the current Exhibition’s circus… Each half of this story is a separate triangulation of truth as the four quarters of the Alexandria Quartet are such triangulations, too. Perfect that Susannah didn’t really want to go to the circus at all!


    “People look small and shrunken as they flit by; they look scared as if they were trying to hide inside their coats from something big and brutal.”

    Worth reading this absurdist coupling of another two halves, gratuitously connected halves. One about a girl arriving for rehearsal with her instrument, where people were named after their instruments. And a game of cribbage where two of the people involved would likely ‘get the beetroot’ if they didn’t get to a rehearsal. The same rehearsal? The big and brutal connective freehold narrator gets the beetroot, too, for missing the end, as well as the train? O Henry comes to mind.


    “As a matter of fact it was Mrs. Williams’ Aunt Aggie’s happy release which had made their scheme possible. Happy release it was! After fifteen years in a wheel-chair passing in and out of the little house at Ealing she had, to use the nurse’s expression, ‘just glided away at the last.’ Glided away … it sounded as though Aunt Aggie had taken the wheel-chair with her. One saw her, in her absurd purple velvet, steering carefully among the stars and whimpering faintly, as was her terrestrial wont, when the wheel jolted over a particularly large one.”

    “I say, has it ever struck you that both our names begin with G?”

    They use the money of Aggie’s legacy to go on a trip to Switzerland, much to the disapproval of such a contravention of conventions from the neighbours in Wickenham, Surrey. Words such as “Hun”, “Boche” and “Bolshy”, notwithstanding.

    Note the name ‘Aggie’…

    “Two Gs. Gee-Gee. See?”


    “…Ah, if life must pass so quickly, why is the breath of these flowers so sweet?”

    I think this possibly the saddest story you will ever read. Of flowers, and piano playing by a 14 year old girl…
    This is essential impressionistic and impressionable WoMansfield – its imputed unfinishedness being its greatest strength…


    “I do so hate to be short of toast, don’t you?”

    An idyllic married breakfast with the servants sent for more toast. The husband then went out riding. The wife receives a phone call…
    I received a call, too, figuratively speaking, warning that the story’s title is a plot spoiler! So to ignore it.


    “There was a sickening smell of warm humanity—it seemed to be oozing out of everybody in the bus—and everybody had the same expression, sitting so still, staring in front of them.”

    And later her forehead was hot.
    Meanwhile, hatress Rosabel — having sold a wonderful black hat to a lady, bought for her by her beau — goes hungry because she has bought too many violets but then she dreams of being that lady for real, with all that lady’s finery in a boudoir … and Rosabel in that rôle is taken out by the handsome beau. Even gets married to him! In your dreams, I say!


    Kidnapped from “the House of Boxes.”
    A little white girl enticed by two fat coloured women, and shown a more natural semi-nude life where she becomes happy, sees the sea and its foam for the first time after watching men roll peaches or pears at her. Just need cream to go with them? Till snatched back by those in the House of Boxes.
    This is the most agratuitously, apolitically, acorrectly and adidactically amoral story you will ever read.


    “I saw them watch me with that delighted relish of the hot in the very much hotter.”

    On a hectically characterful and character full journey by train and ship to Bruges via Dover, the narrator of unknown gender is addressed towards the end as ‘Madame’, at which point she imagines the lady (who is addressing her) falling in love with her and leaving her her lace as a legacy. A story full of luggage and with little social distancing. And impressions of multitudinous porters and Sherpas. Other days, other ways.


    Truthful, because the narrator in the previous story, visiting Bruges, turns out to be Katherine herself! Hotel is full so such a Missiah needed to be put elsewhere I guess, and she is out in a room with paper thin walls whereby she can hear everything next door. And all the candles were handled like frying pans. Don’t ask! And later she did not seem to have any sympathy with the Suffrage movement because of an ex girl friend met by chance that evening in Bruges whose honeymoon husband had inculcated his bride thus. She as narrator had earlier declined a room where a man had stayed in it with an illness… but she herself later “coughed” anyway. The scene in the boat with a woman who fell in the water I will leave to your imagination.


    “It was for your sake I made the dresses; of course, you can’t understand that, but really, Henry.”

    A marital dispute about the seemingly expensive green material purchased and sewn by breadwinner Henry’s wife (and her old mother) into their two daughters’ run-ups. And the family doctor comes along quite fancying the older, but still underage, daughter & somehow gets her out of the scrape of tearing her dress and her hiding it in a satchel! The younger daughter who behaved better than her elder sister, I felt more sorry for! Another of Mansfield’s lightly impressionistic family slices of life, peppered with darker imputations.


    A wildly mad version of O Henry’s Wilder West here in the New Zealand of yore. With mucho elided dialogue, two men and a woman on horses arrive moseying at this store in the middle of nowhere where a woman and her ‘kid’, a girl who does diseased drawings, and has concupiscence leanings but complains being put in a room with two men, as much as the woman, her mother, yearns, too, for ‘company’, as it were, with her husband often abandoning her here, as now, to go ‘shearing’ as he says. There is a prehensile ominous sense around them of doom and thunder as if the universe is playing with them all.


    “The mad wind smelled of tar and ropes and slime and salt.”

    This character, escaped from the the jail on the hill, becomes part and parcel of that mad wind as if such an inchoate force is harnessed as a retrocausal vehicle of sporadic surge for all the bad things he has done. Making them good. Doing the same bad things again to a cat or a little girl or his wife as a means to UNdo them. Only literature can manage that, I guess. Literature is essentially amoral. It can make him do all those bad things again, given its whim.


    “Mother, I wish you would teach this child not to appear on the brink of suicide. . . .”

    I cannot ignore the potentially meaningful coincidence that I happened to watch the Greek film, ‘Miss Violence’ (2013), yesterday, thus pointing me to perhaps the only possible interpretation of this story. How her father treats his young daughter and what one can extrapolate beyond the events at its end…
    In fact, the tone of some other Mansfield stories I have read would not exclude such an interpretation’s likelihood.

  23. MILLIE

    “I wunner why we never had no kids. . . .”

    Simpaïve and inflex, Millie’s feelings range wide … and her husband Sid and someone called Willie Cox, and a young wastrel she adopts, for a few moments taking the side of this dotty wastrel (though the book calls him half dotty), yes, the one who murdered Mr Williamson. Till others in her life sway her in the polar opposite direction. She is a fleeting soul, more half dotty than dotty, who sees frightening things at home swell and lurch sometimes like dreams, and is one of Mansfield’s wonderful “muddle” of impressions, including, somehow, a garden party at far-off Windsor Castle!


    “I smiled, wondering why pears should follow chestnuts.”

    And why other “appearances” – important to our narrator – such as gooseberry jam as apricot jam or industrious mat making meaning a quiet hotel to rent a room at…
    A hilarious, yet quietly painterly and Proustian, story of this woman who wants a quiet place to stay and how appearances, like all great literature, are never quite what they seem!

    “: the walls were white, decorated with pictures of pale ladies drifting down cypress avenues to forsaken temples, and moons rising over boundless oceans.”

  25. VIOLET
    “I met a young virgin
    Who sadly did moan . . .”

    “I thought how true it was that the world was a delightful place if it were not for the people,…”

    The narrator from the Pension of the previous story – Katherine herself? Dreaming of meeting another Katherine writer, one called Tynan. Meeting, too, an old friend named Violet Burton and gossiping in the impressionistic streets, but with the serious point of whether pinnacles follow depths, or vice versa, peaks and vales, veils and piques… until VB tells of being kissed (pinnacle) and then hearing the man is already engaged (depth)! Or have I got that all wrong? Alas, the loneliness of a real-time reviewer.

    “What peculiar pleasure it is to wander through a strange city and amuse oneself as a child does, playing a solitary game!”


    “I don’t care,” she said, in her hideous German voice. “I shouldn’t lower myself by paying any attention to a couple of street women. If my husband knew he’d never get over it. Dreadfully particular he is. We’ve been married six years. We come from Pfalzburg. It’s a nice town. Four children I have living, and it was really to get over the shock of the fifth that we came here. The fifth,” she whispered, padding after me, “was born, a fine healthy child, and it never breathed! Well, after nine months, a woman can’t help being disappointed, can she?”

    This is an amazing statement, is it not? Also an amazing scene as the narrative woman enters a lift with a liftman sneezing upon her, and finally reaching the steam room, and nude women together, some laughing uncontrolledly and offering mandarins to eat, and some scorning each other’s bodies and relative modesties and assumed social mores. I felt the steam actually coming off the letters making up the words, and the mutual sights of each other!

    “Things always come better from a man, don’t they?”


    “I am sure he wrote it when he was half-awake some time, for it’s got a smile of a dream on it.”


    As city folks walk as though with real bodies under their clothes, and “stiff blood” (later “wild blood”), we learn of Henry and the eponymous poem that he reads at a station book stall, this love of books causing him abruptly to change carriages on the train and meet a young girl called Edna with the strange but beautiful hair he immediately wants to touch. She claims she is over 16 and he claims he is 18. But I sense she exaggerates in one direction, and he in the other. A sense of forbidden touch that lasts for most of this book’s social distancing of such supposed illicit love. The dream becomes one of Picnic at Hanging Rock, I feel, and a vision of their life together in an idyllic abode halted by the story’s ending, as all stories are halted by their endings. A story that can “steam open an elephant’s ear of an envelope.” The childish secret exposed. But did you know a cottage can stand on tiptoe?

    “If I start flying suddenly, you’ll promise to catch hold of my feet, won’t you? Otherwise I’ll never come down.”


    An indiscreet journey for the reader, too, as it is delightfully, if sometimes anxiously, Mansfieldesque until we reach some nonsense at the end about a parrot and whiskey.

    It starts unedifyingly, too…
    “; the tall black trees on the far side, grouped together like negroes conversing. Sinister, very, I thought, as I buttoned my age-old Burberry.”
    Of its time, perhaps. This English woman seems to be on an anxious journey amid strict rules, as if concerning the rules we have today about travelling during Covid lockdown. Then it was war in France, and her confusion as to the names of the aunt and uncle to whom she journeys. Years pass as she sits in an empty café. Not forgetting the lady with a sea-gull on her head. And places with letters like X, Y and Z as their names. (“What is the name of the station where I have to change? Perhaps I shall never know.”) At least she got further than Mr Ramsay’s Q!

    Here, equally gratuitous, is my old review of THE WAVES: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/the-waves-virginia-woolf/


    “Nobody wants to buy. You must walk in the middle of the road, for there is no room on the pavement.”

    This extraordinary downbeat (extraordinary for Mansifeid) seems exactly how I imagine those of you starting to emerge from lockdown today (in our real-time) must appear to others and feel like to yourselves!

    “At the doorway there stands a lean man in a pair of burst carpet slippers.”


    “; her boots are faintly steaming in the fender.”

    A monologue of a near-elderly or middle-aged or simply-young-but-old-for-her-age lady with stage directions, snubbed by a man’s letter written to her about the socks she had given him. She muses on her life, now averse to wind and rain which she wasn’t when she was younger. Another downbeat work. Is Katherine herself having a mid-life crisis? Possibly too late to ask. Too late at night.


    “ . . . !”

    In this gratuitous play, this type of ellipsis is all ‘FRIEND’ has to say to the other “LADY” on this bus journey; even the bus “CONDUCTOR” has some real words to say, insisting on the right fares being paid, but LADY gabbles much, about wartime strictures, about this and that.
    It is amazingly counterintuitive how Mansfield and Jean Ray HERE are kindred spirited writers.


    “SHE. Please don’t! I hate being kissed in trains.”

    A playlet and a monologue, as a woman leaves her uncaring husband — who at breakfast was at (tantamount to) a Zoom conference with the Meat Export Company instead of paying attention to her. He thinks she is going to the dentist. But she is really running away with a lover until she sees him wearing a ludicrously unsuitable black cap…
    There is no doubt a moral to all this, but currently I have not found it!


    “Father! They’re not sparrows. They’re little boys.”

    A family breakfast, Mr B & Mrs B — and their son Little B, a wishful Little-Ender with his boiled egg. Rationing with food coupons has just ended and they discuss jugged hare versus a good old sirloin. And date pie. Little B thinks the sparrows outside are like little boys, Little B eventually among them, until they all fly away…
    I defy you to work out the moral of this oblique Swiftian fable!
    Suburban fairies, not birds at all — my own modest proposal.


    [[ She brought a carnation to the French class, a deep, deep red one, that looked as though it had been dipped in wine and left in the dark to dry.
    Shall we ask old Hugo-Wugo to shout us a thrippenny vanilla on the way home!!!” and passed it across to Connie Baker, who turned absolutely purple and nearly burst out crying. All of them lolled and gaped, staring at the round clock, which seemed to have grown paler, too; the hands scarcely crawled.
    The great difficulty was, of course, if you felt at all feeble, not to get the most awful fit of the giggles. Not because it was funny, really, but because it made you feel uncomfortable, queer, silly, and somehow ashamed for old Hugo-Wugo.
    Katie did not know enough French to understand, but Eve sat listening, her eyebrows raised, her eyes half veiled, and a smile that was like the shadow of her cruel little laugh, like the wing shadows of that cruel little laugh fluttering over her lips.
    Hoo-hor-her! Hoo-hor-her! came from the pump. Now he dashed the water over the horse’s legs and then swooped down and began brushing.
    And “Keep it, dearest,” said Eve. “Souvenir tendre,” and she popped the carnation down the front of Katie’s blouse. ]]

    This is pure golden Mansfield, the painterly crepitating impressionisms of lol as laughter for the first time in literary history. Plus dark emotions starting off as Sapphic flirtations…

    Very apt that I started my review yesterday of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway…having it away with dolls. https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/06/10/mrs-dalloway-virginia-woolf/

    • And after writing above I find this passage in my next due reading of Mrs Dalloway today!
      “But she’s not married; she’s young; quite young, thought Peter, the red carnation he had seen her wear as she came across Trafalgar Square burning again in his eyes and making her lips red.“

    • “They lolled in their chairs, they flung themselves back and laughed so hard that they shook; and they began to hiccup at nearly the same time.”
      Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain

  35. E9BE6A9E-C9DE-4D67-A7A4-BB5907FBABA1


    “…caught up with a yellow ribbon and she wore two dresses—her this week’s underneath and her last week’s on top.”

    You don’t need real sticks to light a fire with? These are arguably not real people, but Borrowers, or simply self-borrowers from fiction … zip zip zip, no see-saw, no poppies, not even a book to read this story in, just a wonderful dog having kittens. Not just miniature people but small enough to dabble like ducks or even small enough to be drownable in bird-flew muck.
    My favourite Mansfield so far.


    “Wine would do her no harm.”

    Synchronously, I wish someone would say that to me today of all days!
    A story of a woman and her Roy worried about her heart, and he orders the attendance of a discreet doctor who would not tell others, one who turns out to be a toad of a man, and I do not trust this doctor when he tells them what they want to hear. Loved the description of her redressing after the examination, though. Full of many impressions that surround this event with the safest flowers of the Mansfield. The woman seems to be the only one without a berth of roots in her own woman’s field.


    “; the wind ran in the street like a thin dog; the houses opposite looked as though they had been cut out with a pair of ugly steel scissors and pasted on to the grey paper sky. There was not a soul to be seen.”

    Not a soul to be seen, and the funeral hearse later turns up at the wrong house, mistaking crescent for street. The woman in the wrong house methodically knits, plain and then purl, garments for mission parcels and also gets exasperated at her servant’s slowness buying a chicken. The hearse will come back one day, I guess. No longer the wrong house, the sounds of the hearse horses sounding like clocks ticking by or chickens clucking….or knitting needles…
    “Clickety-clock-clock. Cluk! Cluk!”


    An astonishing story about whipping as suitable corporal punishment of children, and I was uncertain, till the story’s cheap ending, what its moral point of view would turn out to be. Little Dicky, by the way, broke a plate and then became a bit harem scarem.

  39. POISON

    “There are times when a cigarette is just the very one thing that will carry you over the moment.”

    I shall write this, as ever, before reading any other reviews or analyses of this story. A woman (no wedding ring? and had two ex husbands?) being loved by the narrator as if by a new husband. A theme of accretive poison, not a single fell swoop of poison, and the woman in this idyllic place, in this idyllic prose, is the inverse poisoner, a retrocausal healing from this story’s final word: ‘queer’ in italics, describing a drink. C9F9B52D-81C4-4655-903E-1EB25CF3873D
    A drink – with poison? – that, if tasting queer, would have stopped someone drinking any more? This edition of the book’s text’s “The creek of the gate […] drew us apart” somehow seems SICnificant in a Sapphic context, too.


    “‘This morning I took a half bath. Then this afternoon I must take a knee bath and an arm bath,’ volunteered the Herr Rat;”

    A feisty conversation in Germany over breakfast menus if not breakfast itself by Herr Rat and an Englishwoman (a Suffragette?) accentuating the difference between them regarding food, especially different meats, and political or territorial differences, too. I had such meaty and fishy breakfast menus itemised in my own stories once upon a time!


    “Now in England, in your ‘boarding-‘ouse,’ one does not find the First Class, as in Germany.”

    In the same German Pension as the previous story (and tge same Pension in all the remaining stories to be reviewed below?), communal meal-times of social distancing by the ‘First Class’ as represented by the Baron, and snobbishly regarded by the “sense of plebeian contamination” around him, except that contamination was not exactly due to Covid 19 but to a lamp-post! Until our presumably lady narrator shares an umbrella with him…


    “Coffee and rolls took on the nature of an orgy.”

    There continues to be a German snobbishness in this Pension, looking down at the narrator who is a self-declared Englishwoman, and UP at the Baroness’s sister who arrives with the Baroness’s dumb daughter, the latter due to stay at the Pension. Only the Germans have romance, I guess. And a young German poet in love with titles such as Baroness as well as with a female face, a poet who over-eggs his verse as well as his neck-tie with spilt coffee! The narrator in a pink scarf writes a pastiche of his verse, before we as reader learn about the final twist of a plot reveal. Any nasal catarrh and the yellow mackintosh, notwithstanding.


    “I assure you the sides of my stomach are flapping together.”

    The goodly Frau – seemingly taken with other women’ bosoms, bodices or busts – arrives at the German Pension where our English narrator chills out regarding gender expectations and issues fake news to the Fraud as to her ‘sea captain’ husband currently voyaging away. And we meet Herr Rat again, and hear, inter alia, the Frau’s tall stories about lack of serviettes and free love elsewhere. This story did not squeeze my hand, but I at least squeezed the narrator’s.


    “She has not been out of the house for weeks past, and the day had so flurried her that she felt muddled and stupid—“

    We all know that feeling now, or at least I do. Here to a distanced wedding where the newly weds already have a child, one attending the wedding. Our Frau, with her own five children at home, (there were five daughters in the previous story, although I don’t think this current one is a Pension story?) seems bullied by her own husband and embarrassed by the wedding present he had given the newly weds…. we are all bullied today by circumstances and any lax or amoral endings to things….


    “, ‘England is merely an island of beef flesh swimming in a warm gulf sea of gravy.’”

    Back to the Pension, the Professor flirts with our English narrator, with eating cherries and talk of his trombone. He really fancies an actress called Sonia, though, at a Pension concert party. But then he needs another lady to loosen Sonia’s Sapphic stays during her faint and his counter-feint!



    “No wonder the baby doesn’t come! All her swelling’s got into her legs.”

    An engaging story of Sabina who is a very naïve girl working in this shop/café. Accosted by a young man…and she suddenly learns, as if by the instinct of hearing someone else’s scream, to what a simple kiss could lead!

    “Birth—what was it? wondered Sabina. Death—such a simple thing.”



    This is a communally sociable gossipy bath enclosure for women, the men’s one next door, and our English narrator talks of her gamp, and how she is not ashamed of her legs – or pinions, and one cannot help but think that she is thinking, too, of another woman’s young daughters who are given too short sailor suits to wear and they sit ungainly: uncaring what they might reveal. Her bad, her luʃt.



    Giving this boot a birthday?
    No, this story is about a BIRTH day. The man – so scornful of his servant girl – is worried about his wife Anna who is about to give birth and how she is worried about him, an accumulation of worry causing its infection of worry in herself. He is asked by his mother to go for the doctor for Anna…a doctor who feels he has the right to poke fun at everyone. And towards the end — an end that I will get you to read for yourself (the birth being a boy or girl or nothing, as allotted gambling chances as you lay the table) — the church bells ring out “as though all the churches in the town had been suddenly transplanted into their street.” The delightful infection of Katherine’s Impressionisms transplanted like Spanish Flu?


    “. . . . Perhaps it had been dreaming of a little white road with black trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere.”

    Some of these stories have shawls in them, usually the dark ones. This is possibly the darkest, most haunting of Katherine’s stories, here, the Child woken abruptly from its dream, HER dream, to tend to her siblings as babies, like an unpaid nurse maid. To bear beatings, too. And someone, as in the previous story, mixing spit with boots and bootlaces. Except she isn’t a child, I guess, neither is she a sibling, I further guess, as we follow her slavish silhouette, and the circumstances of the family she serves as foundling or changeling, or lostling. Till she returns to her dream. A bruised sky bulging heavily over a dull land, a land just left or revisited? Katherine’s once delightfully crepitating Impressionisms made infectious again?

    “I once heard of a baby that died, and they found all its teeth in its stomach.”


    “It is a very strange thing, but whenever I am in the company of newly engaged couples I blossom. Newly engaged couples, mothers with first babies and normal deathbeds have precisely the same effect on me.”

    This is another Pension story, and glad to link up with our narrator again, who half is advanced herself, as she almost BECOMES the Advanced Lady as a fiction writer herself, anti-social, but now sociable on this walk with other residents of the Pension, almost a Socratic dialogue of naive self with advanced self, an idyllic walk in the woods, and the group all go back after the walk by horse carriage, and reminds me in that way of my own A DEAD MONUMENT TO ONCE ANCIENT HOPE story, as if I have become in the loop of the Socratic Dialogue, together with the voices off of our co-walkers. I even touch her hand at the end. A loop of truth. Even a hoop! (Also, there is, advancedly, an implicit reference to bulimia, a more modern condition, and to an advert in a magazine for enlarging one’s breasts into “Beautiful Breasts.”)


    “When she was alone her poverty was like a huge dream-mountain on which her feet were fast rooted—aching with the ache of the size of the thing—but if it came to definite action, with no time for imaginings, her dream-mountain dwindled into a beastly ‘hold-your-nose’ affair, to be passed as quickly as possible, with anger and a strong sense of superiority.”

    Viola has more sorrow than bringing out your violins to scrape a self-pitying tune. Yet, when chased by her landlady for rent, she is feisty enough to play a different tune, to rôle-play charades with her boy friend, after his pretending he is a stranger accosting her for a kiss in her room, after his idly standing on the stairs outside her room for an hour or so. The truth is not knowing, perhaps, whether it is a dream or a reality game. A mountain of mistakes dispersed with a flick of the pen. But whose pen? They are both writers of fiction, you see. Just like Katherine herself. From the truth to the fake, then swinging back again, in perpetuo. Except we have one more story to read…


    “I want to carry you away to a cave and love you until I kill you——“

    Like taking this wonderful book into Plato’s cave whereby the shadows flicker as their own charade of variegated love with crepitating impressions of place and time, shadows as created by a star-shaped fire.
    This ‘Blaze’ being the coda to the whole book, and particularly to the immediately previous rôle-play story above, as two men knowingly negotiate the slip and slide of snow toward moments that will enhance their S-M pleasure with the same woman, one his wife, the other his mistress. The woman’s final submission as a child. An ironic bathos, a meaningful ‘dying fall’. As with the last movement of the feisty Pathétique Symphony, the ultimate nut cracker.

    “—I knowing too—I keeping up the farce—do you suppose that now you have finally lighted your bonfire…”


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