whale

MOBY DICK BY HERMAN MELVILLE

I’ve been obsessed with the sea for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I would regularly listen to the shipping forecast on the radio; and as a teenager I fell asleep most nights to the sound of rolling waves, courtesy of one of those soothing meditation-type cds that my mother had bought in a HMV sale. It is not, I think, difficult to understand my obsession, being, as I was, an especially unhappy young man who had frequent, intense fantasies about escaping my hometown, my life; and so the sea  – alien, distant, mysterious and suggestive of freedom – was always likely to seem attractive to me. In this way, you could call me Ismail too.

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

As I plucked Moby Dick from the bookshelf it immediately struck me as smaller than I thought it would be, than I remembered it as being. Perhaps it is the way that people speak, or write, about it, as though it is this mammoth thing, THE white whale of white whales, that convinces you, dupes you, into thinking that it is some wrist-wrecking 900 pager. I think that readers fear the thing, tremble before it, and so it swells in size and girth, becomes more imposing than it actually is, in the same way that people who are scared of house-spiders see them as bigger than they are in reality. Or maybe it is simply the case that your own perspective changes as you age and grow, so that what was big to me at 14, when I first read the book, is now – with In Search of Lost Time, The Tale of Genji etc under my belt – a trifling thing.

Despite the book’s reputation as being difficult and unwelcoming, the opening 150 or so pages are actually very easy to navigate, being conventionally plotted and, for the most part, light in tone. These pages focus on Ismail’s account of his and Queequeg’s friendship, and bring us to the point at which they board the Pequod. Moby Dick’s basic plot and central characters are so well-known that one cannot, therefore, approach the meeting of the two men in the same way as the original audience would; we will not be concerned about Ismail sharing a bed with Queequeg the cannibal and harpooneer, we do not see him as a danger or even as something alien, because he is so familiar to us. Yet, while some of the tension may have been sucked out of their initial encounter, the relationship remains one of the most interesting and surprising [not to mention homoerotic] in all literature.

“For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”

Even taking into account what we are likely to know in advance, there’s a great sense of Melville bucking your expectations. One must remember that although Queequeg isn’t perceived as a danger by us, both he and Ismail are seamen and would-be whalers [that so manly, often brutish occupation], and the book was written in the 1800’s, and so one would not expect these two men to bond so quickly and intensely, especially as they are not able to communicate properly. Consider how, even now, people are often wary of strangers, and even warier of those who look and sound so different to themselves. Yes, it is easy to make jokes about a couple of dudes sleeping together [and Melville does nothing to discourage these jokes – having Ismail wake up with Queequeg’s arm thrown over him], but there is something so refreshing, even touching, about the tenderness they show towards each other.

Ultimately, the story of Ismail and Queequeg’s friendship is one of tolerance and understanding; so much so, in fact, that it is a positive example to us all. Not only does Ismail not treat his bunkmate as a dangerous savage, as something frightening and other, but he takes an active interest in him, his culture and his religion. There is a scene in the novel when Queequeg is engaged in worship, which involves a little doll, Yojo, and some wood shavings. Many of us would do roll his eyes or mock, But Ismail actually participates in the ritual. There is something almost child-like about this complete acceptance of another person’s differences, and the eagerness to learn about the things that are important to someone else, rather than judging harshly out of ignorance.

While all may seem tranquil, good-natured, and easy-going, during the opening of the novel, there are hints throughout of something darker stealing up on Ismail’s [and the reader’s] shoulder. There is, first of all, the innkeeper, Peter Coffin, whose name, in the Dickensian tradition, is clearly significant; there is the Inn sign that resembles, we’re told, a gallows; there is the gloomy sermon about Jonah and the whale, and so on. Most telling, however, is the episode involving Elijah, a strange, unnerving little man who appears to delight in teasing Ismail about the danger, or certain disaster, involved in sailing on the Pequod. Elijah, as I am sure most of you know, is the name of a man who features in the Bible as a prophet; indeed, the title of the chapter is The Prophet, and so one is left in little doubt that Melville’s Elijah knows his onions, so to speak.

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The something darker that is being hinted at is, of course, Ahab, who makes his first appearance nearly two hundred pages into the book. This delay may be frustrating for impatient folk who want to get straight to the money shot, but keeping Ahab up his sleeve for so long is, I feel, one of Melville’s most successful moves, for, by the time he does show up, the boat is on the water, and so there is, for the crew, no backing out. This suggestion that the crew are essentially trapped on a ship with a madman, that they have, in a sense, been duped into becoming part of a madman’s dire crusade, gives the book a claustrophobic, tense atmosphere that is more usually found in straight horror narratives [something like The Shining, for example, trades upon a similar idea]. This is not to say that everyone is frantic and wringing their hands, but it is certainly the case that they all signed up under false pretences and are wary of Ahab.

As for the man himself, there has been so much spoken and written about the peg-legged captain that it seems almost pointless to rake over all that again, but one simply cannot ignore him. There is much in literature, as in life, that fails to live up to expectations, but Ahab isn’t one of them; he is everything that you want him to be: larger-than-life, enigmatic, tyrannical and unpredictable. Early in the novel, before he walks [or limps] onstage himself, he is described as a ‘ungodly, godlike man’ and I think that this is especially apt. One way to view Ahab’s obsession with the whale is as a manifestation of a god-complex, as a man trying to reign supreme over the natural world. I’ve long been interested in the psychology of men [it is usually, but not always men] who seek to conquer nature, by climbing large mountains or hunting tigers and so on. To my mind, what these people are trying to do is prove that they are better than, that they can bring to heel, the natural world, as though it has a consciousness that can acknowledge the defeat. It is, I believe, born out of a feeling of insignificance, or smallness. They look at this extraordinary, powerful force, and feel dwarfed by it, feel inferior at the side of it.

“He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”

On one occasion, Ahab speaks of the whale as a kind of wall, through which he must break, the meaning of which isn’t clear to me, but it does indicate that he doesn’t want to kill the creature purely out of revenge for having lost his leg to it. Many of his speeches are rants or strange quasi- mystical, philosophical soliloquies; at other times it is as though he were trying to inspire an army before entering into battle, and certainly one can see many parallels between the attitudes and action in the novel and war. Starbuck is the one character on board who openly, consistently, doubts his chief; indeed, he considers his monomania, vis-vis the beast, as a kind of dereliction of duty and his desire to avenge himself against it as ‘blasphemy.’ This blasphemy comment is interesting, because it seems to suggest, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, that there is a religious element to the chase, that Starbuck sees, as I myself do, Ahab as attempting to play God, or simply that by demonising the whale, by giving it conscious malice, he is putting it on the same level as a human being. As for the whale itself, I have heard, or read, it being described as a stand-in for many things, God being amongst them, but it is worth pointing out that Ismail cautions against allegory; the whale is, he writes, simply a whale. However, the Jeroboam’s Story chapter, featuring the prophet Gabriel, gives weight to the God theory. When the Jeroboam spies the white whale, Gabriel warns his shipmates not to go after it, believing it to be ‘the Shaker God incarnated,’ and then, when they come into contact with the Pequod, predicts that Ahab will die if he too attempts to kill it.

[P] MOVES AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. HE LIGHTS A CIGARETTE AND STANDS WITH HIS BACK AGAINST A WALL

[Quietly, to himself] “Yea, tis true, tis true that ye sail upon tranquil waters for a time, but there be choppier seas to navigate. Look, look towards the middle distance: ahoy there, Cetology chapter! Aye, the sun doth go down, mates. Be not lulled unto sleep by that darkness, for ye will find thy craft capsiz’d while ye slumber. Do ye want to know about whales, say? Ask thyself: how much do ye want to know? Ye will know more’n ye ever thought ye’d need to know, before ye come into port. One on, one off! Aye, the narrative be reg’larly interrupted by chapters dedicat’d to the history of whaling, the nature and biology of whales…hold fast, mates, if ye be of little patience! Inexcusable? Unreadable? Aye, so some say. Yet, tis a book about whaling and whales, is it not? Pray, ask thyself: what was but Melville’s aim? I wager t’was not to bore thee. ‘Haps he thought ye whale-folk? Nay. Why, then? To instruct, to inform? Tis possible; no doubt he thought ye could profit by some background knowledge. But did ever an author care so much about his reader’s minds as to sabotage his own narrative? More likely he had a keener purpose in sight. Be it tempo, mates? A way of drawing out the tension? Or ‘haps tis contrast? Squalls and storms, madness and obsession, follow’d by stillness and calm, rationality and learning? Taking turns! Could be, could be…”

For those not familiar with Moby Dick, one of the most surprising elements is how experimental or idiosyncratic it is. Certainly, when I read it the first time I was not expecting Shakespearean soliloquies or chapters in the form of a play. Nor was I expecting quite so much of the book to be dedicated to short essays on the history and nature of whaling and whales. During this reread, I found myself in two minds about what some readers call the boring chapters. For the most part, I like the asides, the tangents, the almost encyclopedic approach; but I also think some of it could have been embedded in the narrative/story, that there are certain things that we should have seen the Pequod’s crew themselves doing or saying, rather than cutting away to a chapter that is entirely disconnected from the main storyline. Moreover, I think there are too many of these chapters in the middle section of the book. As I said, I mostly enjoyed them, but they do break up the story too frequently and, more significantly, for too long. For too long you are taken away from the Pequod, and so one is likely to forget what is happening on board. I’m also of the opinion that character development suffers due to Melville’s or Ismail’s preoccupation with understanding whales from every conceivable angle [it is interesting, as an aside, that one could call both Ismail and Ahab obsessed – one with knowledge or enlightenment and the other with destruction]; for example, early in the book one really feels as though you are getting to know Ismail and Queequeg, and one is given tantalising glimpses of Starbuck and Stubb’s characters, but this is almost entirely dropped when I would have liked it to be explored in more detail. Of course, the author could have done both, but he didn’t and one feels as though he chose one approach over the other.

All this is not to say that I don’t think these chapters serve a purpose. One can justify them in many ways: as a way of drawing out the tension of the chase, as a way of giving greater depth to the main storyline, etc. Ismail frequently explains a certain aspect of whaling and then says that this new knowledge will help one to understand something later in the book. In any case, no quibble or criticism I could make ought to be considered a serious one. Moby Dick belongs in the pantheon of the world’s greatest, most important, most profound, and most enjoyable, books. Really, no review can do justice to Melville’s extraordinary, immortal work. Everyone should read it at least once, even if, like a friend of mine, you have, to quote, ‘no fucking interest in fucking whales.’ Ah, see, it’s not really about whales. It is, as with all essential books, about you; it is about life.

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

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THE MELANCHOLY OF RESISTANCE BY LASZLO KRASZNAHORKAI

PART 1: https://booksyo.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/war-and-war-by-laszlo-krasznahorkai/

I no longer want to be a police officer, said the police officer as he left the station, the police officer who had been, in effect, thrown out of the station by his boss, because he couldn’t take his eyes from the message, was somehow hypnotised by it, would have happily carried on looking at it for hours or days or weeks or years or even for the rest of his life, which is probably why his boss, perhaps sensing that something was wrong, that something ‘out of the ordinary’ was happening, had slammed the laptop shut and told his subordinate to leave, had even contemplated the possibility of having him forcibly removed, because the expression on the police officer’s face when the message was taken away, that ‘truly important message’ that the still missing [P] had passed to the fisherman, that ‘strange image,’ was genuinely alarming, was a look somehow both malevolent and yet vacant, and that look, the boss said later to his wife, had given him ‘the creeps,’ and, in all fairness, it would have, at one time, given the police officer the creeps too, had he been able to see his own face, or if the look had been on someone else’s face, but his own face, or the face of anyone else, was of no concern to him whatsoever now, would never be of concern to him again, because, if he was forced to sum up his current mood, which he would, in truth, have found very difficult, it was that nothing mattered anymore, that all was lost, that we, by which he would mean the human race, were one step away from oblivion, absolute chaos, and this mood, this idea, had somehow been implanted into him by the message, the message that he was still able to summon up in his mind, was at that precise moment in time summoning up in his mind, and as a result of being so taken up with this message the police officer did not notice that, despite it only being 4pm, the city had been thrown into total, obliterating, darkness, which, had he been capable of expecting anything where the sky was concerned, would have been contrary to his expectations, because it ought not to have been so dark so early, [in fact the sky had ‘never been that dark before,’ according to an old woman at her window], which could perhaps be explained by the absence of stars, for there were no stars in the sky, and, what’s more, the darkness wasn’t even relieved by streetlights as, almost as though they had been caught unawares, they remained off, which was possibly a good thing, because it meant that the police officer could not see the suddenly, inexplicably, rising waters of the River Don, nor the rising water in the sewers and drains, all of which had begun to break and overflow, leaving everything – the pavements, roads, and grass etc – under a ankle-deep layer of dirty water and sludgy excrement, a potentially hazardous, certainly unhealthy, situation, if you were out in the street and walking through it, but there appeared to be no one in the streets at all, no one except the police officer, who was still thinking about [P]’s message, although this thought was now supplemented by thoughts relating to [P]’s diary, which the police officer still had in his possession, this diary that was now most important to him, a diary that he now believed was crucial, and the key to finding [P], that crazy kid who the police officer was intent on locating, for reasons that he could not yet comprehend, but which had nothing to do with any kind of formal investigation.

A book, repeated the landlord, as the detective, who had been tasked with finding both missing people, by which we mean [P] and the police officer originally in charge of the case, for the police officer had now also disappeared, shone a torch in his face, which wasn’t some kind of interrogation technique, but was necessary due to what the local people were calling ‘the blackout,’ the blackout being the total, obliterating, inexplicable darkness that had descended on the city, a blackout that could not be alleviated with street-lighting because electricity had gone out too, perhaps due to the flood, and so the local population had taken to carrying torches, the prices of torches as a result going ‘through the roof,’ and it was one such torch that was shining in the face of the landlord, [P]’s landlord that is, who had been, the detective thought, the last person to speak to the missing police officer, the police officer who, according to the landlord, had called on him and demanded to be let into [P]’s apartment, because he needed to search the apartment again for clues, a request that struck the landlord as strange, certainly, but not the sign of a crazy man, no, he didn’t start to think the police officer was crazy until they were inside the apartment and he began to tear it apart, an act that, make no mistake, he would be seeking damages for, and the point of this search, this tearing apart of the flat, was, it turned out, a book, a Hungarian book, written by someone called Laszlo Krasznahorkai, a name he remembered because the crazy police officer kept shouting it at him, the landlord that is, as though he expected him to know the book and to know precisely where it was, if it was even there at all, which, fortunately, it was, fortunately because he ‘probably would’ve torn down the whole apartment block’ if he had not been able to find it, and you’re sure the name of this book, asked the detective, is The Melancholy of Resistance? and the landlord nodded, for he would probably never forget the title, it being part of an experience that was perhaps the most terrifying of his life, the police officer acting, in the landlord’s words ‘like a savage animal,’ one that had been shot with a tranquilliser dart that had not taken effect, but only served to ‘piss the beast off even more’ and so, yes, he was absolutely sure that the title of the book that he had been looking for, and which he eventually found in the rubble of the apartment, was The Melancholy of Resistance, and was written by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, and, no, he had no idea at all what the significance or importance of this book was, only that the police officer thought it was absolutely imperative that he read it, and in particular that he should be able to read [P]’s copy, because, the police officer had shouted, [P] was the only one who could help him, and that he was ‘sorry, very sorry,’ for having to behave in this manner, for destroying the apartment in this way, but that, unfortunately, was the way the world was going, that it was hurtling towards total destruction, so this destroying of the apartment was merely a taster of what was to come, what was, he sniggered, ‘already here,’ and what most frightened the landlord about all this was that when the police officer turned the book over and, shining his flashlight on it, read the blurb on the back, slowly and reverently, as though reciting a prayer or passage from a holy book, that, total destruction, or apocalypse, or something very similar, was the subject of the book, and, well, look outside why don’t you, does that not look like an apocalypse to you?

He wanted to know if I had read the book, said the English Literature professor of the local university, who, apparently, the police officer had briefly kidnapped, and who had turned up at the police station to report the crime, quite independently of the ongoing investigation into [P]’s and the police officer’s disappearance, not at all being in a position to make the connection, and not being in possession of any of the facts concerning the current case, his sense of events being no more complicated than that this blackout, and the subsequent strange, and dangerous, atmosphere sweeping the city had resulted in a crazy bibliophile kidnapping him and interrogating him as to the merits of a relatively obscure Hungarian author and his book The Melancholy of Resistance, which, the professor was pleased to report, he had read, for he felt sure that if he hadn’t read it the madman might have killed him, ‘all on account of a book, if you can believe that,’ a book that the madman was very insistent on discussing, especially in relation to another Krasznahorkai novel called War & War, which, by all accounts, the police officer had disliked initially but which had subsequently grown in stature in his mind, aided by some message he had been exposed to, and it was the style, first of all, that he wanted to discuss, and how the sentences in Melancholy were shorter than those in War & War, less complex, and probably not as beautiful, but, and he was most insistent on this but, it was, the style that is, more uniquely his own in this novel, less blatant in its debt to Thomas Bernhard, who he had never read by the way, and this Krasznahorkai style was most obviously manifested in the way that he embedded conversation within the text by placing spoken phrases in commas, a technique that the police officer thought was much more successful and interesting than italicising these phrases as he tended to do in the novel War & War, especially as it was often cliched phrases that were put in commas, which struck him as a nice way of highlighting the abundant use of cliched phrases by ordinary people, without it feeling as though the author was a bad and lazy writer who was reliant on these phrases because he lacked the talent to transcend them, and of course there was still very few paragraph breaks, if any, and very few chapters, and the sentences were still long by ‘normal standards,’ and while the well-known Krasznahorkai themes were ‘present and correct,’ he preferred the way that they were presented in Melancholy, he preferred Melancholy‘s wrapping paper, found the story more inventive, featuring, as it did, a whole town falling apart, literally and morally, coinciding with the arrival of a strange circus and their main attraction, and while War & War was also about disorder, was also apocalyptic, by focussing mostly on one man it was possible to see this man as crazy, to dismiss his ideas as those of a lone madman, and so, while the characterisation was perhaps stronger in War & War due to this more narrow focus, Melancholy was the better book, and besides characterisation wasn’t his strong suit anyway, ‘not even in War & War,’ shouted the police officer, but that it was ideas and scenes where Krasznahorkai excelled, and that these ideas and these scenes spoke to him ‘in a deep way,’ because he, the police officer, firmly believed that the whole world was going down the toilet, that he had been unable to see it, until he had received a message that is, and that now his eyes were open, that it wasn’t that God did not exist, but that He had turned his back, hence the blackout, which was the shadow of God’s back, and that he now saw that people were like actors on a stage in an empty theatre gesturing ridiculously, pompously, self-importantly, to no one, to no audience, and that at last someone, having lost patience with this poor performance, was tearing down the theatre itself, and he wanted to draw his attention, the professor’s, he said, to the passage where Eszter explains that while he always thought music was our one shot at perfection he had now realised that it was nothing more than a way of deluding ourselves into thinking the world was better than it is, that music is a way of covering up our faults, is an act of misdirection, diverting our attention away from the truth, and, almost crying now, the police officer that is, he went on to tell him about the scene where Valuska explains the movement of the planets – the earth and moon etc – to a bunch of drunks in a pub, getting them to act out that movement, each patron a planet, and how this was both funny and touching, and how that is an extremely difficult thing to pull off.

I know where to find them, said the detective to his boss, who, like the very best detectives, was prone to these intuitions, although his boss was sceptical to say the least, believing that the two crazy kids, a strange description considering the missing police officer was 35, had both ‘done themselves in,’ probably by jumping in the River Don, which by now was like a seething brown monster snatching away anything within striking distance, and that it didn’t really matter anyway, as it seemed the whole world, the city itself, the earth, was intent on doing itself in, and was ‘going to take us all with it whether we liked it or not,’ and so the detective, who wasn’t quite so pessimistic – who saw in the state of the city nothing more sinister than civil disorder, a situation that could be rectified, by extreme force if necessary, not the first signs of an apocalypse – mumbled an insult under his breath and prepared to leave the station, which was a brave thing to do, what with the blackout still ‘in full swing’ and the flooding getting worse by the day, and the large intimidating crowds of people reported to be blocking the streets, most of whom had, in the initial stages of the unrest, actually tried to stay indoors, but had been forced out into the open by the flooding of their homes and/or the now rampant burglary, looting and arson of their properties and possessions, who, once the acrid air had hit their nostrils, once confronted by the overwhelming, some would say liberating, sight of the criminal minority in action, had been absorbed into it, and had taken up the looting and arson etc of which they had themselves been victim, so now almost the whole city was outdoors, and it was this situation that the detective was about to step into, all for the sake of finding two missing people, despite it being the case that far more than two people had gone missing recently, and an even larger number were dead, but it was perhaps the case that in times of chaos one had to hold onto something, one had to maintain some order in your life, even if that is an entirely pointless and absurd police investigation, to get you through the day, to keep you from submitting to ‘the call of the wild,’ like seemingly everyone else in the city had done, those crowds that the detective was about to come into contact with as he passed through the door of the police station, the crowds that, to his immense surprise, almost as though they were ‘taking a breather,’ or had run out of mischief to cause, or were waiting for something important, were at that precise moment strangely subdued, with most people standing around, their hands in their pockets, around the large bonfires they had built, staring, the detective now noticed, intently at the sky, and so, the apparent calm being enough to convince him that he wasn’t in immediate danger, the detective approached one of the bystanders and asked him what everyone was doing, to which the man replied that they were ‘looking for the stars,’ even though there hadn’t been a single star in the sky for weeks, as though these people had been conditioned to expect them, and therefore still sought that illumination in the sky, the endeavour almost becoming a new form of worship, as for hundreds of years people had sought answers in the sky, and now they were seeking comfort in it, a comfort that was not forthcoming.          

You’ll never believe what I witnessed here, said the detective to the looter, who had been ‘just passing’ when he spied the open door and opportunistically ‘decided to investigate,’ the detective who, thought the looter, spoke unnaturally loudly, as though the two men, those ‘crazy kids,’ were still alive to hear him, which was ‘certainly not the case,’ here being the Crucible Theatre by the way, which is where the detective’s intuition had told him the men would be, and he was right of course, as they were there, he could vouch for that, and, although it may be hard to believe, one of the men was still alive when he entered the theatre and made his way towards the front of the main stage, because there on the stage he found the police officer, yes, quite alive at that time, and standing and singing, not well, quite badly in fact, but singing nonetheless, and at first he couldn’t place the song, it being an old one, one that he hadn’t heard many times before, but had certainly heard a couple of times at least, the line of the song he recognised being ‘And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills till the landslide brought me down’ and so the detective stopped for a while and listened, as he tried to retrieve the name of the song from his memory, and the police officer continued to sing, [‘Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above?’], seemingly oblivious to anything else, even though the detective was standing in plain sight and so, despite the semi-darkness, a darkness alleviated somewhat by some lit candles positioned around the edge of the stage, must have been spotted, if not also heard as he had made his way to the front, therefore one must assume that the police officer was choosing to ignore him, had gone blind, or was even crazier than the detective had imagined he would be, a theory given more credence by the body, the naked body, that was sitting in a chair next to the standing, and still singing, police officer, this body that was slumped over a guitar, despite the obviously careful placement, a body that was, the detective now saw, the body of the missing [P], no longer missing but very clearly dead, and naked, a nakedness the detective felt sure could be explained by the suit of clothes the police officer was wearing, which was a too-small tuxedo, the shirt front spattered here and there with blood, and he couldn’t suppress the almost amusing thought that the duo looked like some kind of grotesque version of Simon & Garfunkel, but, and this was the problem, the detective wasn’t sure, now that he was once again outside, if he had actually seen any of this, or whether it is merely what he wished he had seen, there in the Crucible Theatre, because it would justify everything, a scene so macabre, so gruesome, so thoroughly absurd, that the only legitimate response one could have in the face of it was insanity, a worthy insanity, and not this, this quite ordinary madness that he saw all around him.

EXTRACT FROM [P]’s DIARY:

I remember kites that would not fly, fish that would not bite.
I remember licking a blade of grass and showing my friends the bloody paper-cut.
I remember standing by the open window of the top-floor flat I lived in as a child,
My arm outstretched, dangling a chewed-on pencil over the abyss,
And how that was the scariest thing I have ever done.
I knew nothing then.
I knew everything.