Thursday, January 02, 2014

Twophers: a Post of Surpassing Triviality

I'm sure that this makes no difference to anybody--and I'm sure any number of people have noticed it before--but I just picked up on a couple of amusing doubles in literature.

One, Borges and Bierce. You may remember the Borges story "The Secret Miracle," about the playwright who is granted the boon of imagining his play, complete down to the last detail, in the moments before the bullets from the firing squad crash into his brain. You are perhaps even more likely to remember Ambrose Bierce's "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and is it not the same plot--soldier at the point of execution escapes, flees home and is reunited with his loving family--but then he feels the pain in the back of his neck and we know that he has been hanged.

Oh, wait. I see that Wiki picks up the parallel here--along with others entirely unknown to me. Hah!  Or rather, O snap!  Not easy to be original in the world any more, even when sussing out parallels.  But my second pairing may be more obscure.  It starts, you can hardly be surprised, with Proust in The Guermantes Way.  The subject is Rachel "when of the Lord," the prostitute and Jew--twice an outcast--who becomes an actress, then a courtesan, then a great lady.  Of her appearance in the theatre, we learn: 

Rachel had one of those faces that distance—and not necessarily that between the auditorium and the stage, the world itself in this respect being merely a larger theater—throws into sharp outline, and which, seen close up, crumble to dust.  
Proust, Marcel (2005-05-31). The Guermantes Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 3 (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (Kindle Locations 2972-2974). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. 

Shrewd and subtle in its way, I suppose. But do you remember Raymond Chandler in The High Window:

 From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.
I rest my case.   Hard to believe that Chandler was a Proust fan, but you never know, or at any rate, I never know.  Maybe it was Marlowe.

No comments: