In Youth Is Pleasure—Just prior to the beginning of WWII, Orvil Pym, a fifteen-year-old British boy, departs his hated public school for a summer vacation with his father and two older brothers at a remote hotel. Orvil is timid, yet adventurous; he’s not close to his family, but he has a comfort level while around them. He misses his deceased mother, who he had not treated all that well, and no one in the family may discuss her while the father is present. The reader is privy to all that occurs to Orvil, by virtue of an intrusive, all-knowing narrator—we share his fears and marvel at the unreal visions he imposes on those around him. He’s a dreamer longing for his own solitary adult life while dreading the experience necessary to get him there. So intense is his self-torture, that readers cannot help but rally to him as his story unfolds. Readers may wonder as they proceed through this novella how such a gently told tale would appeal to William S. Burroughs, who wrote the introduction, but at the very end of the story—the Whoa! or the Wow! moment—one can’t help but think, ‘there it is.’ Beautifully told, gentle, optimistic. Orvil’s (and the author’s) eye for detail is stunning, some say Proustian, a victory for readers as interested in the telling as the tale.
At the end of the meal, Orvil followed the others into the court. Already, squeaks and tunings could be heard coming from the distant ballroom. Orvil had the whimsy fancy that the instruments were whining and complaining to the musicians, trying to escape their duty, like boys who think that a master has set them too much ‘preparation.’Orvil (‘Vil to his brothers, Microbe to his father) is Welch’s instrument—finally tuned, stretched to the snapping point, endearing, caught in the longing for protection and independence, forever safe in the memory of the reader. A cozy comforter for the Anglophile who enjoys reading with a dictionary at hand.
I Left My Grandfather’s House— Can an artist be forgiven for being thoroughly unlikeable? Should he/she be? In 1933, a young art student, Denton Welch, departs his grandfather’s home with the intention of doing a walking tour from Henfield, Sussex to Devonshire and back. Helluva hike. As he wends his way cross-country, he encounters numerous people for whom he recounts varying degrees of dislike and numerous ruins which he does like and would make habitable for himself. His rather constant droning on the faults of those he encounters becomes almost unbearable. Fellow travelers disappoint the artist-to-be, the staffs of the various hostels fare no better, and even the relatives he visits briefly are portrayed as unfortunate, if not merely silly or mean-spirited. A rather depressing journey. But… there’s an ending, an ending in which readers might feel something for the narrator that hadn’t been foreshadowed…an aspect, a side to which, redemption is possible. A gentle surprise, perhaps, only available to a character of an artistic bent…someone for whom a consideration must be given. Perhaps, an artist you’d rather know of than know. But, then, isn’t that often the case with artists?
I have found that the one thing that enrages me is to overhear what I have been meant to overhear.This isn’t one for everyone; it is one for me.