Saturday, 17 May 2008

How to write a Homage

Literature is full of references to Working Ladies. And many Working Ladies are avid readers themselves. Dollymopp, Nia, and Various other Ladies have lists of books on their sites and often they refer to Lewd Ladies in Literature or Harlots in History. Recently there is also the class of Babes with a Blog that have ventured into books and sometimes even into TV series.

I never had the ambition to be an art critic. My taste is nowhere near that of the fashionable in-crowd, and I would not be good at rubbing shoulders with the self-important, narcistic egos that populate the art scene. They seem to be in permanent ecstacy towards the latest erratic oeuvre. I just read what suits my mood, and generally listen to upbeat music of 30 years old. I have nothing against drama-queens (male, female or whatever beer they are) but they are Not my cuppa.

An art critic....Nor was I any good at literature-classes in highschool. I always thought the "Search for Meaning" and the symbolism that some interpreters and reviewers attributed to books was grossly exagerrated. As I got my dose of high-rolling Art rammed down my throat I had some frank discussions with my teachers. I tended to make fun of what they called Art and I still cannot resist that urge to ridicule sometimes, hence this blog entry.

During later periods though, as I grew out of my "teenage rebellion" phase, some of that force-fed "knowledge" remained and there were a few books that stayed in my mind. One of those was "Lonely Road" by Nevil Shute and it came to my attention again when I did the item on "floozies in film" to point to Eleanor. The Author wrote this book, his 3rd published work, early on in his writing career. He was still only a part-time writer, and was focussed on his main profession: Engineering. Shute was working in the exciting new domain of aircraft construction, but possibly in a rather boring job of engineer/calculator.

Something in that particular book touched me way back then, and touches me still. I have recently re-read the early Shute novels and I still like them. But reading them with my newly aqcuired background of being a client gave me another slate on things. It is possibly that in his first book, "Mazaran", Shute projected his own desires onto his main character Philip Stenning. Stenning
is a bold character, a fighter pilot trained during WWI living a relaxed,
but rather wild life as a civilian pilot in the roaring twenties. We learn that Stenning regularly had wild nights in the company of "flossies" of whom he speaks very positively and with much respect. Shute may have tried some of that life but as an engineer, he would lack the audacity, the spending power, and the sheer raw attraction that a pilot and war hero could bring to the party. Shute sometimes sounds a bit envious of Stenning when he composes the narrative.

Enter Commander Stevenson, the main character of his third book, "Lonely Road". In Leeds (of all places!) Commander Stevenson meets a "professional dancing partner" by the name of Mollie Gordon. Mollie is a Delicious and Adorable Doddle. And despite their differences in background Stevenson and Mollie get along just Grand. At no moment is there any hint that Mollie ever did what "other girls who go out with gentlemen" seem to do. Stevenson and Mollie, despite a certain provider-client relationship, and in defiance of the espionage-intrigue around them, live a perfect pastoral romance. They fall hopelessly in Love. My theory is that Shute wrote this book as a homage, a tribute to a Lady with whom he had gotten a little too close. A hidden and hopeless romance? A Muse?

You can all think of this what you like: Projection? Fantasy? Joke ? But I suggest the romantic readers among you go see for yourself. I can go on about this for many more lines, with supporting clues and hints from the book, but why not go and read for yourself? It is a very moving story with several nice, unexpected twists to it. It will be particularly interesting to see what Ladies and Clients make of it. If any of you find the hidden and subtle references to "the bizz" and to a "relationship", make sure to report them. And you may even go on and read other books by Shute. Have fun in deciphering the puzzle!