Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stonewells, Part 3

October 19, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

From the tone of your last letter I regretfully infer that your anticipation of my story has increased, rather than decreased, in utter contrast to the hopes I placed in delay. I am sorry for you that such is the case, for although not given either to sentimentality or to prolixity, I have to go through a deal of introductory information before I come to the heart of the eerie tale which I have begun in my two preceding letters. What I have already narrated has been in effect the title page, the dedication, and the table of contents; only the preface, or prooemium, remains before Chapter the First rears its terrific head above the waters of eldritch uncertainty and deadly earnest.

When Mr. Montgomery reached Stonewells on November 1, he gave orders for the installation of some of the more important furniture, and the serving of his next meal, which was to be a simple supper of whatever could be got ready without a good deal of fuss or trouble. He has always been a considerate man, as those who are both well-read and practical tend to be, and this quality of his manifested itself on this occasion no less than on any other. He himself, meanwhile, retired to the room which was to become his library, taking with him a first instalment of the vast collection which was to populate that well-proportioned and commodious room .

It was, rather, a suite of rooms, large ones to be sure, clearly connected as only an enfilade can be, and yet quite separate and distinct. Each chamber of the library was painted a different colour, and the diversity of decor was evident as one proceeded from room to room. The portion of the library in which Mr. Montgomery settled when he first arrived at Stonewells was the Blue Room, as it had been called for generations of our practical forebears; their considerate nature is also evident from the clarity inherent in this nomenclature.

He had considered bringing along with him and his books a folding stool, cushioned for his greater comfort, but he thought better of it, for he remembered hearing of a set of built-in benches that graced the Blue Room around the entirety of its circumference. It was, I assure you, a circular room, yet this was through no necessity of form or function, since it was unrelated to any of the several towers of Stonewells, some of which will figure prominently in other sections of my chilling narrative. The Abbot's Tower, or Turris Abbatis, in particular has an eldritch significance that could not be denied by Mr. Montgomery, and consequently cannot be omitted whenever opportunity arises in this my faithful retelling of his words, words that, I confess, haunt me wholly to this day.

I hope to be able to relate further testimony after a lesser lapse of time, since, although it makes my heart quake at the least premonition of having to tell this -- what can I call it but a story? -- I have fully and pertinaciously committed to a total and ample account of its many terrifying details, as well as its quite normal and homely ones, which are, unfortunately, few and far between, as such things tend to be in the ruins of Cistercian abbeys, or in the buildings that rise therefrom. I must admit that I can only endure so much of my narration before I must cease for the sake of my organism, since I feel a revolting wave of sickness at the very thought of the events; think what Mr. Montgomery went through in the actual experience. With this alone as excuse, I am and remain

Your obedient servant,

R. O. Fox

P. S. No matter how much you beseech me to do so in your next letter, I will not reply any the sooner; I hope you can appreciate the effect such an action would have on my health, in any way considered or defined.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

At Least It Rhymes With Something

My father tells a series of stories about a fictional family -- Mom and Dad (presumably so christened) and their three children: Timmy, Caroline, and Angela (their last name is never revealed). Many of the stories share common elements such as Angela getting lost, drawn-out and/or complicated adventures, and the one that is relevant to this post: the breakfast nook. Each story begins with the family beginning their day together by eating breakfast in this cozy roomlet.

So now you know what I think of when I hear tell of the Nook.

The Kindle Fire you have heard me speak of; concerning the Nook heretofore I have maintained silence. But no more. Please stop reading now if you do not wish to hear

The sound of the belch'd words of my voice loos'd to the eddies of 
the wind
concerning what may be to some (I know not) a Sensitive Subject. If, like Rodolfo you can truthfully say Non sono in vena, then I cannot guarantee you will not miss out on your first meeting with the Mimì you have sought for I know not how long.


What is the Nook? Is it a self-contained encapsulating Reading-space? Is it a New Book? (It wouldn't be the first instance of Word-smushing.) Is it a derivatively-titled product of Narnes and Boble? It could, for all I know, be any of these things. Or all of them. But at least it does not insult the medium it mimics by being named after that medium's worst enemy. Nook to me connotes "curling up with a good e-book" in a Small Space, which is all right, I admit. Much better than it could be, certainly.

However, a less constricting/claustrophobic name would be Liber. This name would be handy, because it can mean two different things: 1) book and 2) freedom. Everyone has really really really liked Freedom since  about the 18th century, and there has been a general preference for books since long before that. The two things have even at times been connected in various ways. Now comes the opportunity to really put this connection into noomenclatural practice. And it doesn't appear to restrict reading of Barnes and Noble e-books to confined (albeit cozy) spaces either.

I admit that Liber is also one of the names for the god Bacchus, or Dionysus. This may not be as welcome to certain segments of the terrestrial population. He has, in truth, also enjoyed a spike in his stats since, say, the time of Nietzsche, although he was not really ever out of vogue. I don't specifically approve of his name being applied to an e-reader, but as long as it is an unintended side effect, I think we can prudently call into play the principle of Double Effect. Don't you?

Note 1: Mom and Dad's next-door neighbors are named (in British accents) Mother and Father. The R's must be left off; no rhoticism for these folks. Their children's names are Bertha and Humbert, similarly R-less.

Note 2: Perhaps you have heard of the choral group Libera. I have often wondered about the grammar of their name. Is it an imperative? A singular adjective? A plural one? Who knows? (Perhaps it is a made up form, like J. K. Rowling's "Imperius.") Any guesses would be welcome.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stonewells, Part 2

September 12, ----
The Old House, Forehaven

My dear Mr. Hale,

I believe I have now recovered enough of my courage – though perhaps somewhat less of my sanity – to continue on with the tale which I so abruptly broke off in my last letter. I was about to tell you in as unalarming a way as possible of the arrival of my cousin, Mr. E. J. Montgomery, at Stonewells, and the successively more horrible and (dare I say it?) eldritch events and phenomena which inexorably followed.

Everlasting Jubilee himself was, before these events, what one might call a practical man, and he often described himself as a realist. That was, as I say, before the events. Afterwards, he has sometimes confided to me in our numerous and chilling fireside talks sentiments to the following effect: “Remigius, I know now what's real and what isn't. And before” he thus always pronounces the word with dire significance and import “before...I didn't.” There is no need to inquire or to describe what he meant by these sinister and obviously deeply meaningful words, which I have dutifully italicised.

The account of the happening of Stonewells I now present to you comes from the lips of none other than Mr. Montgomery himself, and is thus to be taken as nothing less than the very truth of the thing.

He arrived at Stonewells last November 1st with a small group of servants and a much larger one of books. In his younger days, he had been a voracious reader, laying hold with gusto of any quality printed material he could find. Sometimes he also read mediocre works, but these were in the minority and can be safely termed an exception. Nevertheless, in the past few years, when he had been deeply embroiled in practical affairs and had turned his attention solely to business, finance, and profit, he had neglected this study of his youth, but he was now about to renew it again, and he was filled with eager anticipation.

The night before had, of course, been Hallowe'en, and you may be curious whether any strange happenings had been bruited about the surrounding countryside. The fact is that they had not; at any rate, not any more than is normal for that frightening date. The usual reports of the birth of hideously deformed offspring of various species and inhuman rituals in a nearby grove of ancient oaks were duly given and duly – and dismissively – received, but nothing extremely weird or eldritch was mentioned. So Everlasting Jubilee doubted he had anything much to worry about. He was – need I state it explicitly? – wrong.

The hour grows late, and my cryptographical work beckons. I am sorry I must leave you again at such a point in the tale, but I shall continue at my first convenient opportunity. I know you are as eager to hear the sickening tale as I am not to recount it.

R. O. Fox

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

They're Back

(The Somewhat Traditional Architect is drinking copious amounts of coffee and drafting something very like the Round Temple in the Forum Boarium, when up comes the Liturgical Consultant and with an exaggerated gesture taps him on the shoulder. This causes the STA's covered coffee mug to be in remote material danger of spilling, and he unnecessarily devotes his entire life-force to the safety of his drawing, despite the considerable distance between the mug and the paper. Having seen to it that his project receive nothing of detriment, he faces the LC, who appears likely to want a hug. However, the STA denies him that, and begins a conversation instead.)

STA: Hello, there. How's the church going without any architectural guidance whatsoever?
LC: Oh, pretty well, actually. I've brought along my preliminary plans.

(The STA looks at them. They do not resemble plans. They contain far too many smiley faces, for one thing. Also, the concept of scale is lacking.)

STA: This looks like a good start. I see you've decided on Modern then.
LC: No, no, this is Early Christian. Notice that the community space...

(At first the STA is nonplussed. Then he says:)

STA:: Oh, the nave.
LC: Yes, the community space. Notice that it's welcoming and comfortable like you said.
STA: Did I? Well. It's practically a square, though, you see.
LC: I was under the impression the Early Christian equivalent of a basilica was rectangular.

(The STA ignores the LC's mistaken perception of an anachronism.)
STA: The terms square and rectangular are not interchangeable. Vitruvius gives pretty specific proportions in Book V.
LC: Well, it seems more gathering-spacey.
STA: Yes, I suppose in a way it does. At least more circular. And at least more spacey. But this isn't a basilica.
LC: No? Why not?
STA: There are no columns. There are merely these obnoxious beams that look like something out of a Star Wars film.
LC: So? At least they don't break up the community and block the view of...oh never mind, it's not supposed to be a viewing sort of thing anyway.
STA: I notice you put the choir pretty much on the apsidal wall, and...what is this? a drum set? That's one pretty big drum set. Usually the ambo is there, and the drum set, if there is one, is somewhat closer to the choir and...well, considerably smaller, you see.

(The LC appears confused for a moment, as he had not intended the drum set to appear larger than normal. At least, not much larger.)
LC: I read a reactionary book from sometime before the Church...I mean before the Council...that they used to call the part of the church where the altar was the choir. I thought I might make a little accommodation to that set of viewpoints. Of course this was back when there actually were separate parts of the church for the oppressed and the oppressors...I think they called them laity and clergy, or something like that.
STA: Something very like that. That was, however, a hold-over from even earlier times when the clergy actually sang in a choir near the altar during Mass. I think a better model for you, if you like a central choir is a schola cantorum type of thing.
LC: OK.. What's that? I'm open to dialogue.
STA: It's an enclosure where the...
LC: Just stop right there. I will not have an enclosure in my church! I will not have an enclosure; I will not have a boundary; I will not have an ascent or a descent or change in any kind of level! It will flow, I tell you!
STA: Let's leave that to the baptistery.
LC: I will not have any separate space for ANYTHING! Everything and everyone must be together! Except the children during the Liturgy of the Word! You know what? I've had it. I'm going to go back and work on my church by myself!

(He storms off to read a book on swimming pool design as an aid in creating a fluid environment. The STA realizes it is time for lunch, and then orders a burger that he notices resembles the Round Temple in the Forum Boarium. He lets out a satisfied sigh, and wonders if the LC will ever learn that architecture is everywhere and cannot be escaped. Then he thinks: Maybe that's just because I'm an architect.)