Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Leslie McMurtry, "The Revolutionary"

(Pug Dog)
Kay Wyne

I've borrowed this image from the Kay Wyne Fine Art Blog, which features the art of Kay Wyne, so click on over to see what you like. I needed an image of a pug for today's blog entry, and this particular one looked crafty enough for my purposes.

Those purposes relate to a clever short story by Leslie McMurtry, "The Revolutionary," published in Carter Kaplan's Emanations: Second Sight, and the story begins like this:
You might conjecture that, having attained a mode of life which gave me comfort and security, I would have declared myself satisfied. There is no doubt that this should have been the case, but I was always a little excessive in my own ambitions. They might have even been said to have been above my station, but when your height is as little as mine, you'll find little that isn't above you.

For example, when young Fanny Price came to Mansfield -- I was not much older than her then. At my point of vantage it was not difficult to see how she trembled, from fear and shyness, not from pettishness; from long study attained by my often motionless state, I could see how environment and not nature had made her physically deficient from her cousins, who had grown up with the advantage of clear air and sunshine unmitigated by city smoke. All this was a matter of note to me but merely from a clinical vantage point, as I was then a voracious reader and sought to make my tedious idle time more usefully employed by reading.

This was the start of it, as will not surprise you. It was deemed not natural for a person such as myself to have access to Sir Thomas' vast library, which Lady Bertram herself disdained and was not available to others of my sex, though even before the advent of Fanny, Tom and Edmund Bertram made full use of it. I therefore did not advertise my literacy to a soul. It had been hard enough to come by in the first place -- there was no governess nor even a parson to impart the alphabet to me. It would have been absurd to set a hornbook before me, so I contented myself with silent, secret study. But as misery loves company, so too does erudition wish to make itself known. There was a time, not long before Fanny's arrival, when I did attempt to voice my astonishment and try to share the wisdom I was imbibing -- with everyone -- the lower servants, the coachman, the bailiff, and even Sir Thomas. But as I was in this period reckoned Very Bad, and likely to be removed forever from Lady Bertram's favor if I did not resume my proper place, I learned to hold my tongue. (pages 28-29)
That ought to be sufficient to testify to the quality of this story (though one appreciates it even more if one's read Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park) and thus also to the quality of this year's Emanations anthology.

I won't give away the dire secret of the character relating the story, but every reader should know to beware the unreliability of first-person narrators.

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At 6:36 AM, Blogger Le Mc said...

Cheers! I follow your blog and noted your name within "Emanations" but somehow missed that review. Glad you enjoyed it!

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, I did enjoy it. Very much. Perhaps it could be the first chapter of a pugnacious caninography . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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