[LMB] BD - A Civil Campaign XIII (trust and integrity)

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Sat Sep 25 20:45:17 BST 2010

Lois graciously said:

> In case you were wondering, pretty much all the literary
> cross-connections you identified were indeed intended by me, including
> Donna/Dono vs. many Shakespeare plots.  Left for those to get them who
> would, but an optional under-layer for those disinclined for such.  But
> it's lonely when one is the only person laughing at one's own jokes, so
> I have appreciated this aspect of the discussion.

 *** [Preens. Unisex cheerleaders come on, swathed in tixie-dust, calling on
us all to give it up big for I*N*T*E*R*T*E*X*T*U*A*L*I*T*Y*, ra-ra.]

> The butter bugs, and the bug butter, are also a fertility symbol, I
> might point out.   In Kareen's first encounter with them, I was thinking
> of the psychological interpretation of the fairy tale about the princess
> who loses her golden ball down a well, and who, having given her word,
> has to put up thereafter with the frog who rescues it.   (Talk about
> heteronormative, heh.)  And therefore the bug butter battle at the end
> isn't only a salute to the glorious movie pie fights of yore (such as
> the one at the end of, iirc,  a road race movie starring, among other,
> Jack Lemon, the title of which has slipped away -- might actually have
> been _The Great Race_, come to think.)  It's pretty much left to work
> for the reader unconsciously, for good reasons.
 *** Now butterbugs as fertility symbol had _not_ occurred to me, perhaps
because the infinite Zap is holding down that job, perhaps because of their,
ahem, transcendence into Glorious Buggery. But Mark as the Frog Prince is an
entirely delightful thought - or perhaps a little like Mr Toad in his
driving gear.

I _had_ thought about the pie-fight, but cinematic reference would be
another ball-game (a fun one, perhaps ... I imagine the 1995 BBC *Pride and
Prejudice* may have played in a little, too). But I confess the sentence
that really nails me is not the fight itself but the authority entrance^
that ends it - "Framed in the doorway, a large party of persons paused in
astonishment." You must have been smiling when that one scrolled onto the
screen; one could go a whole writing life and never manage to earn it so

^ authority entrance: in drama, one arresting the action; in Jacobethan
plays typically made neither right nor left, but through the central,
double-width discovery-space.

> That's always taking a chance, of course.  I had one early reviewer,
> brain marinated in feminist ideologies, who had a whole shtick in which
> she interpreted the butter bugs as a symbol of the female abject, tidily
> tucking them into her Theory That Was Hers. (*)  I had to point out to
> her that an ugly alien creature that, when petted, barfs a dubious thick
> white liquid into one's hand, but at the same time, if one can get past
> the biological squick factor, promises a greatly enhanced future life,
> is not a symbol of *female* anything.  Everyone reads through their own
> filters, it seems.
Oh yes - I am sadly familiar with this species of literary critic, which
comes in all genders and flavours, and unlike dinosaurs tends to be very
thick everywhere. Your put-down is wonderful, and I have much pleasure
imagining the marinated one's face when you said it - though in reality,
alas, it probably bounced off, if not as from Byerly. I'm also reminded of
Mr Mybug in *Cold Comfort Farm*, so urgently finding symbolic phalloi among
the Sussex flora while he pursues Branwell Bronte - and more pertinently of
the discussion of sound and unsound scholarship in *Gaudy Night*, where
someone's unwillingness to give up a pet theory is at the root of the
criminality involved.

> Note, please, I did not start with these notions, and then think up
> things to demonstrate them, in some linear and logical fashion (logic is
> much too thin and weak and one-dimensional a thing to support a novel,
> whose cross-connections need to work globally); I wrote the scenes as I
> saw them in my head, and then contemplated them for a while, and then
> said to myself, "Aha.  So that's what I was doing, there.  Cool."  And
> moved along, as one does.
*** As my Da used to say, diplomats say less than they know, scientists what
they know, and artists more than they know. Osmosis is also a wonderful
thing, very good for backbrains.

> The Donna/Dono plot did not arrive for me, by the way, till the book was
> well underway.  I was very puzzled what to do with Ivan,
*** You and Alys both. <g>

> and evolved
> plot after plot for him, none of which felt right (including one in
> which he and By inadvertently combined to murder one of the opposition
> and bury the body in the garden under the upcoming pavement, eventually
> rejected for comic-tone violations).
*** Oooh. But a short where the body has died naturally and must be
concealed ... you did a semi-tragedic offstage version in *CoC* with Roya
Orico and Royina Sara, and there the quite different mumble mumble in
*Cryoburn* ... but Ivan (and urbane By, by all that's unholy) saddled with a
dead bore become a dead Vor ought to fall under the 'what's the worst thing
that can happen to him now?' rule, sometime [fic prompt: Ivan's nightmare in
which he must conceal Falco's body or inherit the Countship ... ]. Or it
could be Hamletical - But if indeed you find him not within this month, you
shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby. (4.3.34-6). Fun fun
fun, and corpses are always excellent props.

> But I had leafed through a book at
> my friend Elise's of remarkable photos of f-to-m transsexuals, with
> their stories, and it somehow supplied the trigger.  Dono himself did
> the rest, as soon as he arrived so blazingly onstage.
*** Yes, I can imagine that. Energies R Us, with attitude.

> There was an early scene from Pym's viewpoint, and another from
> Gregor's, which I cut early.  Each of them started to generate plots
> that wrapped around the concerns of those characters, Pym's suggesting
> something to do with the social lives of all the Count's Armsmen in the
> capital, Gregor's having to do with disinterring old political secrets,
> neither of which sat comfortably -- in retrospect, I realized, because
> they did not support the book's growing theme.
*** I can see how that could be. But I don't suppose those scenes still
exist somewhere, do they? Like the unpublished *but posted* preface to
*Diplomatic Immunity*? I imagine we could all communally cope with AU
fragments at this distance ... [endeavours to look soulful and deserving]
... pretty please?

> Ta, L.

> (*) - Monty Python reference, yes.

*** All book discussions are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the
middle, and ...

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)
General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

Ralph Thompson, View from Mount Diablo: An Annotated Edition

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