The Most Frightened Eyes

Oh, Fay Wray, what big eyes you had! Here she is in 1933's The Vampire Bat, a cheap Dracula knock-off released a couple years after the Tod Browning film. Borrowing sets from James Whale movies and deploying some star quality with Wray, Lionel Atwill, and Melvyn Douglas, this film builds some atmosphere and has some nicely creepy shots but sabotages itself with a comedy subplot about a silly hypochondriac aunt.

In a small German town, there's a series of murders in which the victims are found with two puncture wounds and their bodies drained of blood. Melvyn Douglas as the local police inspector amusingly derides the very idea it could be a vampire.

Wray plays Douglas' fiancee, Ruth, who works as an assistant to Dr. Von Niemann (Atwill). She doesn't have much to do in the film beyond responding to her lover's flirtations until the end of the movie when she's kidnapped and starts showing those peepers.

It's not just that she has large eyes, it's that they don't usually look so large. They seem to triple in size when she's frightened which makes the whole situation weirder and more fascinating. Speaking of weird fascination, the film also has Dwight Frye in a role as a murder suspect.

Best known for playing Renfield in Browning's Dracula, he has the archetypical madman's face. I think his face is embedded in the subconscious of the world as the face of madness. He's nice and creepy in this movie, too, talking rapturously about how nice and soft bats are.

The Vampire Bat is available on Amazon Prime with an annoying watermark.

Twitter Sonnet #1406

A simple suit defined the furtive shape.
The glowing man awaits a rocket thought.
A magic wove the solid magnet cape.
Remembrance fills the shrinking metal pot.
The timer told its final temple dock.
Rerouted bins deployed the stuff to field.
A thousand feet dissolved a single sock.
Producing toes engaged a digit yield.
The frozen ant contained a bead of sweat.
Mistaken heads were placed above the knee.
And never digits 'tween the knobs shall meet.
As limbs were sprouting far as eye could see.
Reliant madness makes the cave at dusk.
The herring cape was now a woollen husk.
Blue Aside

The Right Outfit for Peace and War

Is Garek really a good tailor? Looking at his outfits in the first season Deep Space Nine episode, "Past Prologue", I'm not sure. The one he wears always looked sort of Mork & Mindy to me. The ones on the rack in his shop were pilfered from various episodes of The Next Generation and have that general quality of garish yet also dull that too often distinguished Next Generation wardrobe.

The episode is, of course, far more interesting for its conversation on terrorism. Deep Space Nine usually is and the older it gets, and the more disconnected it gets from contemporary culture, the better it is because any biases on the part of the writers become less and less relevant and the bare ideas show through. The episode centres on Kira's (Nana Visiter) moral dilemma as a former comrade returns to Bajoran space pursued by Cardassians, the former occupiers of Bajor.

What would seem to be cut and dried at another time--a Cardassian warship attacking a small Bajoran transport--is complicated by the pilot being linked to a terrorist organisation, still committing acts of violence long after the Cardassian withdrawal and the formal cessation of conflict. But the question over whether Bajor acquired independence is complicated by the Federation presence so this Bajoran terrorist group is still in operation. Tahna Los (Jeffrey Nordling), the terrorist in question, accuses Kira of being a mere politician now that she's trying to use official channels to get him exonerated, as though he's now rebelling against the very mechanisms of government rather than oppressive occupiers.

One of the high points of the episode is Kira's conversation with Odo (Rene Auberjonois) where she mentions nightmares about attacks she took part in as part of the Bajoran resistance. It's a brief moment but I thought about the maturity and emotional courage it must take for someone like Kira even to admit to herself that her actions were horrific. I felt this particularly watching the episode at a time when political factions in the west are routinely trying to impose definitions on groups trying to spread terror with violence, labouring to define them as not terrorist.

Andrew Robinson as Garek is always a delight. I love how everything he says sounds like it has a double meaning, even a simple hello--he behaves in a broadly suspicious way that is exactly how a spy shouldn't behave. Either he's deliberately flouting the suspicion everyone harbours for the only Cardassian on the station as a comment on life's irony, or it's a double blind and he really is a spy. Even the obvious truth may be a cunning ploy. Which to him, of course, may be an even more darkly amusing irony.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is available on NetFlix and Amazon Prime.
Dalek Doll

Bereft on Earth

How many of us have had that nightmare where you show up naked and invisible on an alien planet? That's just what happens to the poor extraterrestrial in 1953's Phantom from Space. An extremely low budget film consisting of little more than a few people talking interspersed with stock footage there's nonetheless something genuinely eerie and sad about it.

A group of expert men from the government start investigating reports of a strange man wearing what's described as a diving suit wandering the countryside. The Geiger counters tell them this fellow is radioactive.

Witnesses say that without his helmet he has no head. So, apparently panicked by being pursued, the creature removes his clothing, rendering himself totally invisible. He makes contact with the one beautiful woman among the group of investigators, Barbara (Noreen Nash), and tries to communicate with her by tapping some kind of code with scissors on the table.

She's surrounded by guys who are handsome and confident, it seems an awful imposition for the alien to think he's worth her time, yet circumstances have forced him to be naked, unintelligible, and alone with her. Not reading into this would require a herculean effort of will.

When we finally do see him, still naked, still trying to escape, still unintelligible, it's a really eerie shot and there's something genuinely disturbing about how helpless and weird he is.

Phantom from Space is available on Amazon Prime.
Dalek Doll

A Pocket for Doctor and Companion

I love the Third Doctor's velvet jackets so much, though I wish he wouldn't so often pair them with shirts that are just lighter shades of the same colour. This is from Carnival of Monsters, a 1973 Doctor Who serial, in which the Doctor and Jo find themselves shrunk and put in a sort of ant farm, to use the Doctor's analogy. It's a particularly fun story and I love the two alien carnies who keep the miniature menagerie.

Perhaps their fashion choices are less defensible than the Doctor's (Jon Pertwee) but I love the colourful antennae ball tiara worn by Shirna (Cheryl Hall). One of the advantages of her scenes being shot on sound stage is that you can hear the little balls clacking against each other while she lectures Vorg (Leslie Dwyer). I also like how genuine her reactions to Pertwee seem to be.

Directed by series producer Barry Letts, this serial also features a number of remarkably nice close-ups. I like this one of Jo Grant (Katy Manning).

She and the Doctor just happen to be wearing high black boots that prove perfectly sensible for the muddy puddles they encounter on an alien marsh.

Jo's colours are a little more nicely complimentary--surprising given she usually looks like a gender swapped Mick Ronson, which gets no complaints from me.

Carnival of Monsters features Ian Marter in a supporting role, the actor who would go on to play the Fourth Doctor's companion Harry Sullivan. He's a 1920s ship's officer in another pocket of the ant farm along with a sweet 1920s Major (Tenniel Evans) and his pretty daughter (Jenny McCracken). I love how quickly the Doctor slips into their uppercrust lingo but is utterly baffled by Vorg's use of Polari. The dandy Doctor indeed.

Twitter Sonnet #1405

A carpet question lingered past the wall.
The ancient phone was torn beside the sheet.
A second bet was placed to roll the ball.
Entire pants were caught beneath the seat.
A sudden sleep is all the water needs.
Above the mask surprise betrayed a list.
A wealthy world returns in form of beads.
The buttered tennis ball was widely missed.
A glitter shadow lodged below the eye.
The absent speaker plugged the music late.
A team of cherries filled the baking pie.
Enlisted crew should weighted the second rate.
A bigger puppet came of smaller hands.
The soldiers saw a glowing bunch of bands.
Book Hands

The Extra Room

I've continued reading M.R. James' ghost stories this past week. "Number 13", about a scholar named Anderson travelling in Denmark, is another nice example of how a characteristic layering of perspective helps give a sense of reality to the horror. The first person narrator is giving the story second hand, as it was told to him by Anderson, whose description of the strange occurrence is preceded by the process he went through in choosing his hotel room and then an account of why he was in a position to notice something so subtly strange.

He had nothing to tell me (I am giving the story as I heard it from him) about what passed at supper, and the evening, which was spent in unpacking and arranging his clothes, books, and papers, was not more eventful. Towards eleven o'clock he resolved to go to bed, but with him, as with a good many other people nowadays, an almost necessary preliminary to bed, if he meant to sleep, was the reading of a few pages of print, and he now remembered that the particular book which he had been reading in the train, and which alone would satisfy him at that present moment, was in the pocket of his greatcoat, then hanging on a peg outside the dining-room.

If there was nothing to say about supper, why tell us? The implication of the comment suggests the reader's or the speaker's interest in supper--it's a significant irrelevance at the same time that it starts to circle Anderson's objective: the time after supper, when he should be sleeping.

It becomes a "wrong geometry" kind of story, one in which the dimensions of Anderson's room change at a particular period during the night. It works so well because the feeling of disorientation upon awaking in the dark of a room is so familiar to virtually anyone reading. Published in a collection in 1904, it's easy to see the story's influence on H.P. Lovecraft and, of course, on Danielewski's House of Leaves.

In the hall, Anderson notices a room number 13 beside his own which he hadn't noticed before. When he brings it up to other people, he first finds an annoying shock in a series of his own misapprehensions and then slow confirmation of his senses being accurate after all.

Next morning he was woke by the stuepige with hot water, etc. He roused himself, and after thinking out the correct Danish words, said as distinctly as he could:

"You must not move my portmanteau. Where is it?"

As is not uncommon, the maid laughed, and went away without making any distinct answer.

Anderson, rather irritated, sat up in bed, intending to call her back, but he remained sitting up, staring straight in front of him. There was his portmanteau on its trestle, exactly where he had seen the porter put it when he first arrived. This was a rude shock for a man who prided himself on his accuracy of observation. How it could possibly have escaped him the night before he did not pretend to understand; at any rate, there it was now.

I also love how unremarkable Anderson deems any observations he makes regarding the occupant of 13 before he realises there's anything truly odd. This bit is pure poetry, and would probably have been much more effective before the existence of movies:

He went to the window—the right-hand window it was—and looked out on the quiet street. There was a tall building opposite, with large spaces of dead wall; no passers-by; a dark night; and very little to be seen of any kind.

The light was behind him, and he could see his own shadow clearly cast on the wall opposite. Also the shadow of the bearded man in Number 11 on the left, who passed to and fro in shirtsleeves once or twice, and was seen first brushing his hair, and later on in a nightgown. Also the shadow of the occupant of Number 13 on the right. This might be more interesting. Number 13 was, like himself, leaning on his elbows on the window-sill looking out into the street. He seemed to be a tall thin man—or was it by any chance a woman?—at least, it was someone who covered his or her head with some kind of drapery before going to bed, and, he thought, must be possessed of a red lamp-shade—and the lamp must be flickering very much. There was a distinct playing up and down of a dull red light on the opposite wall. He craned out a little to see if he could make any more of the figure, but beyond a fold of some light, perhaps white, material on the window-sill he could see nothing.

Now came a distant step in the street, and its approach seemed to recall Number 13 to a sense of his exposed position, for very swiftly and suddenly he swept aside from the window, and his red light went out. Anderson, who had been smoking a cigarette, laid the end of it on the window-sill and went to bed.

There's nothing so strange about a head drapery or red flame. Context is everything.

Here's the whole thing read by Michael Hordern:

Zetsubo Sensei

The Last Leaves

Autumn continues apace here in Kashihara but a few leaves are stubbornly hanging on.

These crows were busily ransacking some garbage before I walked up.

The rice harvest continues apace, too:

A couple days ago, I was in the old broadcasting club room at the school where I work. The teacher I was with didn't know how long it'd been since the room had been used.

The school is around 50 years old so it could be the room hasn't been used in quite a while.

Well, I guess it was recently enough for there to be CDs.

There are more and more spiders about getting bigger and bigger.

Twitter Sonnet #1404

Expressions faced a nose of smelly love.
According grace to capes, the ball began.
A gentle hand presents a golden dove.
A flipping film alights inside the can.
A purple pillow held a gummi ring.
The ticking finger fixed the broken clock.
Redundant tinkers bade the kettle sing.
A buoyant wind conducts the captive sock.
The certain end was only seen at night.
Some time had passed and blossoms full were liked.
Considered flowers fell behind the light.
A secret bat was waiting late to strike.
The laundry waits for years to wear itself.
The Christmas dreams for shoes to shod the elf.
La Bete et la Belle

Varied Eyes in the Jungle

If anyone questions the value of Walt Disney's contributions to the films animated by his studio, 1967's The Jungle Book is an edifying piece of work. The last Disney animated film to be produced during Walt's lifetime--he died during its production--this beautiful, captivating, and surprisingly sharp feature benefits from his personal involvement. The difference between this film and the previous two, particularly The Sword in the Stone, is the difference between a mosquito bite and Mount Everest. Keeping a tight focus on character, he quite deliberately diverged from Rudyard Kipling's brilliant collection of stories to tell another kind of story, a story about guiding a child through clashing influences of ideas, society, and environment. It's a story about helping a child navigate a world that's confusing enough for adults, let alone a boy raised by wolves.

It's interesting Disney chose to produce two movies back to back about a boy pupil. Movies centred on a child protagonist were hardly new for Disney--their best two animated films, Pinocchio and Dumbo, were both about boys finding their way in life. Peter Pan was also, to some extent, about a boy learning about life and Alice in Wonderland attempted the same for a girl, though it lacked the fidelity to character necessary to make this kind of story effective, a problem repeated with Sword in the Stone.

The Jungle Book doesn't have this problem. Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman), although he bears no resemblance to the character in Kipling's books, is solidly established as an innocent and curious child. He also has an internal conflict in that he's trying to find a world and people to belong to. Yet, as clearly and charmingly rendered as he is, the movie is much more about his parental figures, Baloo the Bear (Phil Harris) and Bagheera the black panther (Sebastian Cabot). Although Disney's films had often featured children, it was really with Sleeping Beauty that they became more about the parents--the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Pongo and Perdita in 101 Dalmatians, and Merlin in The Sword in the Stone.

Perhaps this was because Disney and his filmmakers were at places in their lives where it just became more interesting to think about the experience of parenting, perhaps their ability to identify with children had weakened and certainly Bambi was their last truly interesting child character. It's worth thinking about the period in the late 1960s when The Jungle Book was made and the myriad destabilising issues current in the culture. Radical change was in the air and conflicting influences and ideas on how to approach governing an every day life were topics of fierce debate and anger. It fits with the clashing influences Mowgli is presented with and for the first time in the series of movies about parents we see rival parents--Baloo meets Mowgli for the first time as a child in the film instead of being present, as he was in the book, at the point when the infant Mowgli was accepted by the wolves. He and Bagheera are in philosophical conflict for much of the film over how to raise and instruct Mowgli. Tellingly, the only piece of dialogue, as far as I can tell, retained from Kipling is when Bagheera argues with Baloo's choice to hit Mowgli as part of his instruction.

Oddly, just as in the stories, the wolves who accept Mowgli among their cubs have very little to do with his education. This adds another layer of instability--his birth parents are, in the Disney film, never seen; his wolf parents are rarely seen; and he spends most of his time with a panther who, in the Disney film, has no particular obligation to him. In Kipling's book, Bagheera trades a dead cow for the infant's life so he formally enters a bargain. Disney removes any sort of contract or ritual of connexion.

When the pack decides Mowgli must return to the human world, he meets more influences on the way, including the python, Kaa (Sterling Holloway), and Louie (Louie Prima), ape king of the monkeys who seem to be caricatures of '60s counterculture.

Kipling's descriptions of the arrogant and feckless monkeys was one of my favourite parts of the book and the disdain Bagheera and Baloo feel for them helps establish a sense of the jungle society:

“Listen, man-cub,” said the Bear, and his voice rumbled like thunder on a hot night. “I have taught thee all the Law of the Jungle for all the peoples of the jungle—except the Monkey-Folk who live in the trees. They have no law. They are outcasts. They have no speech of their own, but use the stolen words which they overhear when they listen, and peep, and wait up above in the branches. Their way is not our way. They are without leaders. They have no remembrance. They boast and chatter and pretend that they are a great people about to do great affairs in the jungle, but the falling of a nut turns their minds to laughter and all is forgotten. We of the jungle have no dealings with them. We do not drink where the monkeys drink; we do not go where the monkeys go; we do not hunt where they hunt; we do not die where they die. Hast thou ever heard me speak of the Bandar-log till today?”

Reading this, I can't help thinking, "How did Kipling know about Twitter?" Disney takes these characters and gives them the mannerisms and hairstyles of '60s, rebellious youth. But it's not an outright satire--although we're clearly meant to see their advocacy of irresponsibility as bad, the musical talents of King Louie, with his fascinating song about wanting to be human, are admired by Baloo who can't resist joining their dancing, using Beat slang as he does so: "I'm gone, man, solid gone!" Baloo, with his "Bare Necessities" lifestyle, is quite Kerouacian, perhaps to be taken as the truly Beat while the monkeys are only Beatniks. I doubt Disney had it in mind but it makes me think of the contempt an aged Kerouac felt for the hippies in the late 1960s.

Baloo was voiced by comedian Phil Harris who improvised much of his own dialogue, a technique that can backfire but which works very well in this case to make Baloo one of Disney's most memorably earthy characters, particularly since the improvisations do little to break the integrity of the world in which he dwells. There's very little postmodernism in evidence aside from the lamentable, continued use of the xerox process, but at least the beautiful background paintings look finished.

The animation, despite suffering from the xerox process, is phenomenal, particularly when it comes to the animals. The time the artists spent studying the movements of beasts clearly shows, one of my favourite examples being Kaa the python.

When he slinks away after being pushed off a tree his coils remain partly rigid and you can sense accurate python anatomy under the scales.

In the book, Kaa is an uneasy and frightening ally of Baloo and Bagheera when they rescue Mowgli from the monkeys. In Disney's film, he's a minor villain and a bit silly. One wonders if there was any moral lesson intended when Mowgli risks falling prey to the snake's hypnotic powers. Could he be meant to represent hallucinogenic drugs? Maybe, but there's little to make that specific connexion. As a villain, he's more amusing than threatening.

Much, much more effective is Shere Khan, voiced by George Sanders. The choices Sanders makes with his lines are so brilliantly sinister, dripping with sadistic pleasure--they give me chills.

Again, a change was made by Disney to reflect contemporary issues. Shere Khan's reason for wanting to kill Mowgli in the book is because the infant was part of a group of humans he'd killed and he considered Mowgli his prey by right. In Disney's film, he hates all humans, apparently making him a racist.

Some of Bagheera and Baloo's dialogue has a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner vibe, especially when Bagheera asks Baloo, "You wouldn't marry a panther, would you?" as part of an argument about whether creatures should stay with their own kind. But the awkwardness of this analogy makes it well that Disney didn't push it too far.

The Jungle Book had been adapted to film before in 1942 by Alexander Korda, as a live action film starring Sabu. There could be no actor more perfectly suited for the role of Mowgli than Sabu. At 18, he had the visibly muscular physique to support Kipling's description of Mowgli's extraordinary strength, he had experience handling animals, and he had genuine swashbuckler charm, as did the character in the book. When Mowgli receives a wound, Kipling describes him as laughing:

Mowgli laughed a little short ugly laugh, for a stone had hit him in the mouth. “Run back, Messua. This is one of the foolish tales they tell under the big tree at dusk . . ."

A far cry from Disney's skinny little Mowgli is this virile child of the jungle. Unfortunately, the Sabu film has little else to recommend it and is otherwise far less faithful to the book than Disney's version. Disney's film is, at its heart, a very different story to Kipling's but it also happens to be a great one and a fitting swan song from Walt Disney.

The Jungle Book is available on Disney+.
Oh Christ

Inviting the Vampire Who was Already There

Sometimes seeing the undead makes you go crazy, sometimes going crazy makes you see the undead, and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which. 1971 brought another story of this kind called Let's Scare Jessica to Death, a film that was consciously influenced by The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting--the film version of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. With an oddly tranquil score and lovely, autumnal New England locations, it's a pleasant ride with more of an undertone of melancholy than paranoia.

A group of three friends who own a hearse with the word "love" discreetly painted on the driver's side door come to a small town where they've purchased an old farm house. Critical reactions quoted on Wikipedia, and even a quote from the director, say the film was commenting on the death of hippie culture. This certainly seems a potent symbol for it.

The three friends include husband and wife, Duncan (Barton Heyman) and Jessica (Zohra Lampert), and their friend, Woody (Kevin O'Connor). When they find a young woman named Emily (Mariclare Costello) squatting in the house, they decide to let her stay and the four of them become an improbably 1970s looking group, even for the '70s.

Jessica's history of mental problems and hallucinations is hinted at and her vulnerability is emphasised by the disturbing skinniness of actress Zohra Lampert. She seems like she might literally fall apart at any moment and the film's high contrast lighting emphasises every crevice on her body, making her seem bonier still.

Yet I wouldn't be so sure she's crazy when it looks like the town's residents, and her friends, become victims of a vampire. There's an old photograph in a bizarre frame that returns to the attic after Duncan sells it to a local antique dealer. The woman in the photograph looks precisely like Emily, something only Jessica seems to notice.

The title of the film suggests a plot where people are deliberately trying to drive Jessica out of her wits, like so many gaslight films before this one, but the film actually goes somewhere more ambiguous. It's a nice, mellow piece of horror.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death is available on The Criterion Channel.

The Usefulness of Perpetual Conflict

One of the more memorable Clone Wars arcs, and a good one for the Halloween season, is the three part story about Asajj Ventress in season three. Beginning with "Night Sisters" and concluding with "Witches of the Mist", the story written by Katie Lucas uses the character of Ventress to discuss what would seem to be the obviously counterproductive practices and beliefs of the Sith.

The prequels and certainly Disney's sequel trilogy spend plenty of time talking about drawbacks in the Jedi philosophy. But what about the Sith? How can their devotion to hate, and above all their practice of murder between masters and apprentices, really be sustainable?

The story begins with Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie) ordering his apprentice, Dooku (Corey Burton), to execute his own apprentice, Asajj Ventress (Nike Futterman). Not because Ventress had shown any sign of insubordination or incompetence. It just felt like the right time to Sidious. Naturally, Dooku is resistant to the idea of turning such a valuable ally into a dangerous foe.

They really should've updated the count's cgi model by this point. As the show started leaning towards more and more realistic character designs, his big Easter Island statue head looked more and more out of place.

After leaving her for dead in the middle of a battle with the Republic on the pretext that she'd lost the battle, events go pretty much as Dooku feared with Ventress turning into a bitter enemy and forcing him to find a new apprentice, Savage Opress (Clancy Brown), who turns out to secretly be Ventress' own servant planted to assassinate him. In a telling bit of dialogue after Ventress has ordered Opress to kill his own brother, she tells him that one must never sympathise with one's enemies. This is a good thematic follow-up to the excellent political episode preceding this trilogy, "Heroes on Both Sides", in which Padme reaches out in secret to a senator on the Separatist side.

And it's all a good lead up to her line in Revenge of the Sith: "Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?" and Anakin's immediate, disgusted reaction. Notice that she didn't say they were on the wrong side, she only asked him if he considered it, she's asking specifically about his comprehension of his own principles and it frightens him. Under Palpatine, the Republic is in a state where its devoted servants only see the enemy as thoroughly evil.

We know what Palpatine manages to accomplish by sewing seeds of chaos and hatred--he inspires a strong desire for stability at any cost. Ultimately, the actions of the Ventress three parter contribute to this overall goal. Keeping his servants busy with their internal drama prevents them from starting to look at the bigger picture. Allowing them to fight amongst themselves also helps to prevent any from becoming too powerful to threaten him.

The episodes also have great visual design and some pretty good sabre fights.

Clone Wars is available on Disney+.
Book Hands

The Dangers Waiting in a Scrapbook

It's amazing how successfully disturbing a very simple description can be when placed in the right context. M.R. James' 1895 short story, "Canon Alberic's Scrapbook" is a good example. The flavour of the first person narrative is amiable and a little stuffy, being the account of another scholar's encounter with the supernatural following his perusal of a cathedral library.

The first hint of genuine weirdness comes in a description of a strange painting of King Solomon on his throne, confronting a strange creature hunkered over a dead soldier:

At first you saw only a mass of coarse, matted black hair; presently it was seen that this covered a body of fearful thinness, almost a skeleton, but with the muscles standing out like wires. The hands were of a dusky pallor, covered, like the body, with long, coarse hairs, and hideously taloned. The eyes, touched in with a burning yellow, had intensely black pupils, and were fixed upon the throned King with a look of beast-like hate. Imagine one of the awful bird-catching spiders of South America translated into human form, and endowed with intelligence just less than human, and you will have some faint conception of the terror inspired by the appalling effigy. One remark is universally made by those to whom I have shown the picture: "It was drawn from the life."

The layer of narrative, the first person narrator over the scholar protagonist, Dennistoun, creates a dizzy height of uncertain impression. Dennistoun encounters a Sacristan who ends up selling him a fateful book--Dennistoun's description of the man's apparent anxiety reveals Dennistoun's own hang-ups:

The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a termagant wife.

There's a kind of cross hatch of impression that reveals something else, like a shape revealed after being stencilled by habitual psychological preoccupation. It helps create a sense of authenticity of the truly strange, too, when the phenomena are so clearly outside the limits of the viewer's normal imagination.

There's a nice recording of Michael Hodern reading the story on YouTube:

Twitter Sonnet #1403

The rusty hands of metal kids were thin.
No looking leads the walking drop of rain.
A final wash revealed the stainless men.
In harvest totes we kept the weirdest grain.
The place for fire runs along the tree.
In broken clocks the second heart was beat.
Another seed has grown for plants to see.
And something pushed its way above the peat.
Informal books disturb the candy corn.
As nothing hands the mote of sweet about.
As nothing weakly cut was truly shorn.
The buggy map described a jitter route.
Advents in rock reflect a pebble sky.
With metal crust construct electric pie.