view from the narrow
window was dreary lonely
From Chapter 1, Page 1 of The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham (1904-1966) (published by William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1929).
How you start writing a novel when in your first line, you admit the view was dreary and inexpressibly lonely is beyond my poor power to add or detract.
I have to admire any author who describes a scene with the word ‘inexpressibly’ and then goes on to describe it.
I love and enjoy the writing of the 1930s.
That those writers thought, wrote and inexpressibly expressed themselves like this, leaves me grasping for the now non existent thesaurus.
I came across the writing of Margery Allingham in a search for something to read.
What you say?
Nothing to read?
Let me explain.
Something happened to writing or maybe editing or something over the years.
The influence of TV.
The rise of the word processor.
I miss the lack of narrative.
Watch TV and the narrative is visual but all over the place.
A segment opens with a plane landing or a car driving down a road and words appear on the screen like ‘London’ or ‘Monday 3AM’ or the ever popular ‘3 Days Later. (the first three years of Sponge Bob are the best)’
Without these ‘establishing’ shots, the viewer has NO CLUE as to where they are.
It seems this has become the style in modern American fiction.
Thinking of Tom Clancy here of course but without his section headings, you would never know where you were.
You go from section heading to section heading, sometimes paragraphs at a time are broken up.
I also blame the word processor for some of this as it is so easy to save any short burst of prose and then hammer it by shear force of will somewhere, anywhere, into the narrative and then add the section heading to help the reader understand why this ugly plank is sticking up in the floor.
Read Gone with the Wind (Very Very politically incorrect but for this argument) and NOT ONCE is the setting set by anything but the narrative.
If you know the history of the WRITING of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell dumped two suitcases of manila envelopes filled with stories and an editor, a very capable editor, transformed Ms. Mitchell’s pages into one long story.
If you get a chance, watch the little watched movie, GENIUS.
Its a great period piece about the author, Thomas Wolfe and his editor, Max Perkins and how the book, Look Homeward Angel was created.
ANYWAY, I guess what I am saying is, they don’t write ’em like this anymore.
And I know there are those who will say, THANK GOODNESS.
I do like reading writing as much for HOW it is written as for what is written.
I have three or four devices FILLED with the latest fiction.
For me, I can click on a book, read or start reading the first pages and say outloud, ‘NOPE.’
And that’s that for that one.
Sometimes I will have hope and push on through the first pages.
But folks, I know when reading becomes a salmon swimming upstream.
Sometimes no problem.
Sometimes the current the other way is swift.
Sometimes there is dam (what did the salmon say when it hit a concrete wall? DAMN!)
AND SOMETIMES THE RIVER IS BLOCKED BY NIAGRA FALLS.
My point is that I feel I give these authors a fair chance, but I can tell, fairly quickly, when its a no go.
So I search for something to read.
This search led me to the website, https://www.fadedpage.com.
A Canadian website where books, whose CANADIAN copyright has expired, have been scanned and put online for download for FREE!
Got to love those Canadians.
Browsing through this website, I came across the writing of Margery Allingham and the Albert Campion Mystery series.
Ms. Allingham starts the first book with :
The view from the narrow window was dreary and inexpressibly lonely.
Miles of neglected park-land stretched in an unbroken plain to the horizon and the sea beyond. On all sides it was the same.
The grey-green stretches were hayed once a year, perhaps, but otherwise uncropped save by the herd of heavy-shouldered black cattle who wandered about them, their huge forms immense and grotesque in the fast-thickening twilight.
In the centre of this desolation, standing in a thousand acres of its own land, was the mansion, Black Dudley; a great grey building, bare and ugly as a fortress. No creepers hid its nakedness, and the long narrow windows were dark-curtained and uninviting.
The man in the old-fashioned bedroom turned away from the window and went on with his dressing.
‘Gloomy old place,’ he remarked to his reflection in the mirror. ‘Thank God it’s not mine.’
For me, reading this is like watching a skilled piano player.
Fingers on keys, almost effortlessly calling notes out of the piano.
Fingers on keys almost effortlessly calling words out of typewriter.
The notes, the words flow easily.
Worth the time spent reading.
I wish I could do this with words but I can’t.
But I can read the words.
So I am.
Search over for now.