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DEAR RAYMOND: THE STORY OF SPIRITUALITY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR – SOPHIE JACKSON

The Church of England lost touch with many (if it has ever been in touch) not least because evangelicals frowned upon prayers for the dead. Thus spiritualism and séances became popular. Spiritualists were universalists so appealed widely to those grieving. (Though one gets suspicious when the departed talk of enjoying a glass of scotch.) They were often discredited e.g. for the predatory homosexuality of Liberal Catholic Charles Leadbeater,

Roman Catholic chaplains, with their definite teaching on heaven, spoke to the me in a way that Anglicans, with all their qualifying sub clauses, couldn’t.

Raymond Lodge died in 1915.

Sir Oliver Lodge, Raymond’s father, set out on a controversial quest to discover the truth about life after death. He was a renowned physicist and member of the Fabian society and took a scientific approach to his journey into spirituality and published his work under a cloud of criticism.

He was closer to his younger son that to any of his other sons because he’d had more time for him. He’d been working long hours when the other children were born.

I’d heard old men, survivors of World WarOne, talk with fondness for Toc H. There is a detailed description of its work at Talbot Houe.

After a fairly accurate description of mainstream Christianity, the book wanders off into rambling accounts of Aleister Crowley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and  Dennis Whatley.

It then peters out into a series of superstitions such as The angel of Mons though it dpesn’t tell us its origin – “A Troop of Angels” was …..reprinted, most influentially in May 1915 in The All Saints (Clifton) Parish Magazine. But when Miss Marrable was sought out for more information, she said she’d been misquoted. None of the soldiers in her story were named, but some soldiers began coming forward saying things like they knew someone who met someone who heard the story from their very reliable friend.

I was vaguely aware of this book, having read comments beginning ‘Tell Mr. Raymond’ in other books – or was that to do with To Kill a Mockingbird? It turned out that the book was called Tell England’. (The name comes from an epitaph by Edmund Garrett that is inscribed on the grave of one of Edgar and Ray’s friends, and is presumably also inscribed on Edgar Doe’s, given that he asked Ray to do so: Tell England, ye who pass this monument,/We died for her, and here we rest content.) The ‘Raymond’ of the book is no relation to Raymond Lodge. Or could it have been Raymond or Life and Death by Oliver Lodge?

 Quotations:

Father and son also shared a dislike of social gatherings. Oliver had never been comfortable at parties, even as a child. So he understood when at one Christmas party round a friend’s house it was suddenly noticed little Raymond was gone. His father found him heading for the front door, determined to go home, sick and tired of the silly party. Oliver sympathised with him, having felt the same in his childhood and took Raymond home before returning to the party himself.

Some of her photographs look obvious frauds today. In a couple of pictures taken of herself and her daughter showing their spirit guides, the extras in the images look distinctly like illustrations cut from a magazine. There is no depth to the faces and the flowing cloth that is draped over them only highlights the flatness of the spirits. In Deane’s picture of her spirit guides, a pre-Raphaelite style girl superimposes herself completely over the medium, her long flowing tresses are not completely covered by reams of chiffon that are designed to sculpt her body shape. The outline of her hair is distinctly hard and solid, the sort of line caused by cutting out an image.

Even Warrick had to admit these photographs were suspicious, yet he still would not accept that Deane had committed a conscious act of fraud. Instead he believed the spirits were either creating the fakes themselves or inducing Deane to make them while in a trance state out of pure mischievousness.

As people found their faith in religion shattered, along with their faith in humankind, there was a growing trend for looking beyond the confines of earth and out further afield. While some in the 1920s were looking backwards, to simpler times and pagan beliefs that seemed more innocent and carefree than the current world they were living in, others were becoming convinced there was life on Mars. This was hardly surprising considering the curiosity shown to the planets beyond earth and the possibilities they held. Mars has always been the centre of attention when it comes to extra-terrestrial life. Visible from earth to the naked eye, until-the 1960s it was thought it could have the potential to support life, with what appeared to be oceans covering parts of its surface.

….. If Mars was not going to save the world at least films about space could be viewed as pure escapism, a modern retelling of the classic adventure story of a journey into the unknown. The pinnacle of this trend was the flawed masterpiece of German expressionist Fritz Lang, Metropolis (1927). The iconic image from the film is the feminine robot that can be seen on the movie posters. Creepy, yet attractive, the machine is meant to be a recreation of the character Joh’s dead wife. Conjuring up the notion of the dangers of wishing the dead back to life, Joh is consumed by his desire to reinvent his wife Hel, to the detriment of his workers. Metropolis is dominated by the skyscrapers where the elite live and work while the ordinary men toil in underground caverns, exposed to danger at every turn and driven to exhaustion.

In many ways Metropolis expresses the growing discontent in Germany towards the rich and influential minority who dominated the lives of the poor majority. A similar disaffection had occurred in England, though to a lesser extreme, when the ordinary soldier in the trenches realised how insignificant he was in the eyes of the commanding officers. In Britain this began the overhaul of the class system and the way the army was run.

Spiritualism featured in a number of silent films, sometimes being portrayed as genuine, at other times being lampooned.

Post-war filmmaking had two roles, first to produce movies that would provide escapism for the audience (this included retellings of classic stories and light-hearted comedies) and secondly trying to shock the audience and bring fresh ideas to the screen. In post-war Germany there was a move towards Expressionist film, which included the remaking of Dracula for the big screen as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922). Though based on the book (and suffering from copyright infringements) Nosferatu was lauded for its use of light and shadows and silhouettes to expand the media and induce terror in the audience.

Over the pages of this book it has, hopefully, been shown how the Great War was a catalyst; it broke down old beliefs and supplanted them with new ones, many of which in themselves were not set to last. It destroyed the long held bonds between the Church and politics. It opened the doors for freedom of religion, however bizarre that religion might be, and it altered the minds of many. The religious turmoil left behind by the conflict is often overlooked, or ignored, mainly because the human cost overshadows, quite rightly, any philosophical debate. But it was significant because it heralded our modern age when people can believe in the powers of crystals, white magic and fairies without being persecuted.

The war had an astonishing impact on the power of the Church, one that it may even be argued is only just being overcome, but it also marred and twisted the memories of those who had served. It has cast up false facts, perpetuated in history books, such as that Church of England chaplains never went into frontline trenches, a complete fallacy that can still be found in high‑quality history books. Religion, faith, belief, the Great War affected them all and without recognising that, we fail to recognise the fundamental way that war changed British society. No longer do men go into battle with the Church declaring it is their divine right to triumph, no longer is faith so blind to the sufferings of the enemy, no longer is God used (at least in the British military) as a tool for stirring up fighting spirit and finding recruits. The war changed us in many ways, not least in the way we think about religion and belief.

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Nosferatu

Spiritualism featured in a number of silent films, sometimes being portrayed as genuine, at other times being lampooned.

Post-war filmmaking had two roles, first to produce movies that would provide escapism for the audience (this included retellings of classic stories and light-hearted comedies) and secondly trying to shock the audience and bring fresh ideas to the screen. In post-war Germany there was a move towards Expressionist film, which included the remaking of Dracula for the big screen as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922). Though based on the book (and suffering from copyright infringements) Nosferatu was lauded for its use of light and shadows and silhouettes to expand the media and induce terror in the audience. DEAR RAYMOND: THE STORY OF SPIRITUALITY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR – SOPHIE JACKSON

In 1838, Thomas Hutter lives in the fictional German city of Wisborg. His employer, Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Count Orlok. Hutter entrusts his loving wife Ellen to his good friend Harding and Harding’s sister Annie, before embarking on his long journey. Nearing his destination in the Carpathian Mountains, Hutter stops at an inn for dinner. The locals become frightened by the mere mention of Orlok’s name and discourage him from travelling to his castle at night, warning of a werewolf on the prowl. The next morning, Hutter takes a coach to a high mountain pass, but the coachmen decline to take him any further than the bridge as nightfall is approaching. A black-swathed coach appears after Hutter crosses the bridge and the coachman gestures for him to climb aboard. Hutter is welcomed at a castle by Count Orlok. When Hutter is eating dinner and accidentally cuts his thumb, Orlok tries to suck the blood out, but his repulsed guest pulls his hand away.

Hutter wakes up to a deserted castle the morning after and notices fresh punctures on his neck which, in a letter he sends by courier on horseback to be delivered to his devoted wife, he attributes to mosquitoes. That night, Orlok signs the documents to purchase the house across from Hutter’s own home in Wisborg and notices a photo of Hutter’s wife remarking that she has a lovely neck. Reading a book about vampires that he took from the local inn, Hutter starts to suspect that Orlok is Nosferatu, the “Bird of Death.” He cowers in his room as midnight approaches, but there is no way to bar the door. The door opens by itself and Orlok enters, his true nature finally revealed, and Hutter hides under the bedcovers and falls unconscious. At the same time this is happening, his wife awakens from her sleep and in a trance walks towards the balcony and onto the railing. Alarmed, Harding shouts Ellen’s name and she faints while he asks for a doctor. After the doctor arrives, she shouts Hutter’s name remaining in the trance and apparently able to see Orlok in his castle threatening her unconscious husband. The doctor believes this trance-like state is due to “blood congestion”. The next day, Hutter explores the castle. In its crypt, he finds the coffin in which Orlok is resting dormant. Hutter becomes horrified and dashes back to his room. Hours later from the window, he sees Orlok piling up coffins on a coach and climbing into the last one before the coach departs. Hutter escapes the castle through the window, but is knocked unconscious by the fall and awakens in a hospital.

When he is sufficiently recovered, he hurries home. Meanwhile, the coffins are shipped down river on a raft. They are transferred to a schooner, but not before one is opened by the crew, revealing a multitude of rats. The sailors on the ship get sick one by one; soon all but the captain and first mate are dead. Suspecting the truth, the first mate goes below to destroy the coffins. However, Orlok awakens and the horrified sailor jumps into the sea. Unaware of his danger, the captain becomes Orlok’s latest victim when he ties himself to the wheel. When the ship arrives in Wisborg, Orlok leaves unobserved, carrying one of his coffins, and moves into the house he purchased. The next morning, when the ship is inspected, the captain is found dead. After examining the logbook, the doctors assume they are dealing with the plague. The town is stricken with panic, and people are warned to stay inside.

There are many deaths in the town, which are blamed on the plague. Knock, who had been committed to a psychiatric ward, escapes after murdering the warden. The townspeople give chase, but he eludes them by climbing a roof, then using a scarecrow. Meanwhile, Orlok stares from his window at the sleeping Ellen. Against her husband’s wishes, Ellen had read the book he found. The book claims that the way to defeat a vampire is for a woman who is pure in heart to distract the vampire with her beauty all through the night. She opens her window to invite him in, but faints. (In a deleted scene, the actress who played the hero’s sister, Ruth Landshoff, was featured in this scene, where she was running along a beach fleeing from the vampire.That scene is not in any version or restoration of the film, nor in the original script). When Hutter revives her, she sends him to fetch Professor Bulwer. After he leaves, Orlok comes in. He becomes so engrossed drinking her blood that he forgets about the coming day. When a rooster crows, Orlok vanishes in a puff of smoke as he tries to flee. Ellen lives just long enough to be embraced by her grief-stricken husband. The last scene shows Count Orlok’s ruined castle in the Carpathian Mountains, symbolizing the end of his reign of terror.

Critic Roger Ebert added Nosferatu to his list of The Great Movies, writing:

Here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in clichés, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films. The film is in awe of its material. It seems to really believe in vampires. … Is Murnau’s “Nosferatu” scary in the modern sense? Not for me. I admire it more for its artistry and ideas, its atmosphere and images, than for its ability to manipulate my emotions like a skillful modern horror film. It knows none of the later tricks of the trade, like sudden threats that pop in from the side of the screen. But “Nosferatu” remains effective: It doesn’t scare us, but it haunts us.[

(Dracu was the Romanian name for devil or trouble.)

[as Hutter is on his way to Knock’s real estate office] Prof. Bulwer: Not so hasty, young friend! No one can escape his destiny.

Book: Of Vampires: Wherefrom there is no salvation except that a woman without sin should cause the vampire to forget the first cock crow. Of her own free will she should give him her blood.

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Metropolis

As people found their faith in religion shattered, along with their faith in humankind, there was a growing trend for looking beyond the confines of earth and out further afield. While some in the 1920s were looking backwards, to simpler times and pagan beliefs that seemed more innocent and carefree

than the current world they were living in, others were becoming convinced there was life on Mars. This was hardly surprising considering the curiosity shown to the planets beyond earth and the possibilities they held. Mars has always been the centre of attention when it comes to extra-terrestrial life. Visible from earth to the naked eye, until-the 1960s it was thought it could have the potential to support life, with what appeared to be oceans covering parts of its surface.

….. If Mars was not going to save the world at least films about space could be viewed as pure escapism, a modern retelling of the classic adventure story of a journey into the unknown. The pinnacle of this trend was the flawed masterpiece of German expressionist Fritz Lang, Metropolis (1927). The iconic image from the film is the feminine robot that can be seen on the movie posters. Creepy, yet attractive, the machine is meant to be a recreation of the character Joh’s dead wife. Conjuring up the notion of the dangers of wishing the dead back to life, Joh is consumed by his desire to reinvent his wife Hel, to the detriment of his workers. Metropolis is dominated by the skyscrapers where the elite live and work while the ordinary men toil in underground caverns, exposed to danger at every turn and driven to exhaustion.

In many ways Metropolis expresses the growing discontent in Germany towards the rich and influential minority who dominated the lives of the poor majority. A similar disaffection had occurred in England, though to a lesser extreme, when the ordinary soldier in the trenches realised how insignificant he was in the eyes of the commanding officers. In Britain this began the overhaul of the class system and the way the army was run. DEAR RAYMOND: THE STORY OF SPIRITUALITY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR – SOPHIE JACKSON

In the futuristic year of 2026, in the city of Metropolis, wealthy industrialists reign from high-rise tower complexes, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the underground machines that power the city. Joh Fredersen is the city’s master. His son Freder idles away his time in a pleasure garden, but is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers’ children to witness the lifestyle of the rich. Maria and the children are ushered away, but Freder, fascinated, goes to the machine rooms to find her. Witnessing the explosion of a huge machine that kills and injures several workers, he hurries to tell Fredersen about the accident. Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, brings to Fredersen secret maps found on the dead workers. Freder secretly rebels against Fredersen by deciding to help the workers, after seeing his father’s cold indifference towards the harsh conditions they face.

Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor Rotwang to learn their meaning. Rotwang had been in love with a woman named Hel, who left him to marry Fredersen and later died giving birth to Freder. Rotwang shows Fredersen a robot he has built to “resurrect” Hel. The maps show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis, and the two men go to investigate. They eavesdrop on a gathering of workers, including Freder. Maria addresses them, prophesying the arrival of a mediator who can bring the working and ruling classes together. Freder believes that he could fill the role and declares his love for Maria. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria’s likeness to the robot so that it can ruin her reputation among the workers, unaware that Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and bring down Metropolis. Rotwang kidnaps Maria, transfers her likeness to the robot and sends her to Fredersen. Freder finds the two embracing and, believing it is the real Maria, falls into a prolonged delirium. Intercut with his hallucinations, the false Maria unleashes chaos throughout Metropolis, driving men to murder and stirring dissent amongst the workers.

Freder recovers and returns to the catacombs. Finding the false Maria urging the workers to rise up and destroy the machines, Freder accuses her of not being the real Maria. The workers follow the false Maria from their city to the machine rooms, leaving their children behind. They destroy the Heart Machine, which causes the workers’ city below to flood. The real Maria, having escaped from Rotwang’s house, rescues the children with the help of Freder. Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their children in the flooded city. Believing their children to be dead, the hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake. A horrified Freder watches, not understanding the deception until the fire reveals her to be a robot. Rotwang chases the real Maria to the roof of the cathedral, pursued by Freder, and the two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street. Rotwang falls to his death. Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.

The film drew heavily on biblical sources for several of its key set-pieces. During her first talk to the workers, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. Additionally, a delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon.

The name of the Yoshiwara club alludes to the famous red-light district of Tokyo.

Much of the plot line of Metropolis stems from the First World War and the culture of the Weimar Republic in Germany. Lang explores the themes of industrialization and mass production in his film; two developments that played a large role in the war. Other post-World War I themes that Lang includes in Metropolis include the Weimar view of American modernity, fascism, and communism.

Maria: HEAD and HANDS need a mediator. THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

Maria: Today I will tell you the legend of THE TOWER OF BABEL… “Come, let us build us a tower whose top may reach unto the stars! And the top of the tower we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man!” But the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel could not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages. But the hands that built the Tower of Babel knew nothing of the dream of the brain that had conceived it. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. One man’s hymns of praise became other men’s curses. People spoke the same language, but could not understand each other…

 

The Machine Man: [disguised as Maria] Women and men, let no one miss today – ! Death to the machines – !

I BEFORE E (EXCEPT AFTER C): OLD-SCHOOL WAYS TO REMEMBER STUFF – JUDY PARKINSON

The only mnemonics that I remember from school were the ones concerning triangles and slide rules.  Maybe rote learning was out of fashion then.

 

This book has loads that I’ve never heard of before.

 

 

Quotations:

 

CORRect your CORResponDENce in the DEN.

 

DIARRHOEA

If you need to know how to spell this — here goes!
Dash In A Real Rush, Hurry Or Else Accident!

 

HAEMORRHAGE

Help! Accident, EMergency — Often Ruins Routine Hospital Appointment.

 

JEWELLERY

It’s easy to forget the third E, but always remember
a JewELLER makes JewELLERy.

Just to confuse, Americans use jewelry and jeweler, which are spelled as they sound, but break the above rule.

 

License or Licence?
Practise or Practice?

A handy way to remember when to use an ‘s’ and when to use a ‘c’ is illustrated perfectly in this pithy rhyme:

S is the verb and C is the noun,

That’s the rule that runs the town.

The DVLA is licensed to issue driving licences. A doctor practises medicine at his practice.

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God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis by Thomas Hickman

A body part that can “be seen as something the Creator doodled in an idle moment,” as Tom Hickman puts it.

Penises are manifest in skyscrapers, depicted in art and loom large in literature. They pop up on the walls of schoolyards across the world, and on the walls of temples both modern and ancient. The Greeks and Japanese rendered them on statues that stood at street corners. Hindus worship the lingam in temples across the land. Even the cross on which Jesus was hung is considered by some to be a representation of male genitalia.

Yet the penis has also been shamed into hiding through the ages. One night in 415BC, Athens’s street-corner statues were dismembered en masse. Stone penises were still causing anxiety in the late 20th century, when the Victoria and Albert Museum in London pulled out of storage a stone figleaf in case a member of the royal family wanted to see its 18-foot (5.5-metre) replica of Michelangelo’s “David”. Nothing, save the vagina, which is neither as easy nor as childishly satisfying to scrawl on a wall, manages to be so sacred and so profane at once. This paradox makes it an object of fascination. Tom Hickman, a Sussex-based writer and journalist, tells the story of its ups and downs with enthusiasm and a mostly straight face in “God’s Doodle”, a biography of what the dust jacket calls man’s “most precious ornament”.

Mr Hickman examines his subject from various angles: its physical attributes, its role in society, its vulnerabilities and the “violent mechanics” of its fundamental purpose. Referring to sources that range from parliamentary records to Howard Stern, Mr Hickman goes, like so many men have gone before, where the penis takes him, and in the process answers a number of questions. Did Shylock want to castrate Antonio in “The Merchant of Venice”? Possibly. Is ingesting semen harmful? Quite the opposite. Mr Hickman claims it could protect against breast cancer. (In fact, an urban myth.) Where does Viagra get its name? Through the fusion of “virility” and “Niagara”, as in the falls.

Divided into four broad subject areas, Hickman surveys penis size (“Few males when grown to man’s estate free themselves entirely from some preoccupation with penis size”); phallic culture (“genital oath-taking” in ancient Greece and Rome); fear of castration (15th-century treatments for gonorrhea ranged “from washing the genitals in vinegar to plunging the penis into a freshly killed chicken”); and the biology and physics of penile activity (the hypothalamus causes men to sexually scrutinize all women they see). Along the way, Hickman provides a brief history of sexual lingo, including the early Anglo-Saxon sard and the 16th-century shag (“Shakespeare favoured the variant shog”), and offers praise for the sexual prowess of 17th-century castrati (“losing testicles does not mean losing the ability to get erections and even to ejaculate”).

Some of the book is funny. Other bits make you want to cross your legs.

However, religion is heavily invested – amulets, creation myths and Shiva’s lingam. Then there is man’s (sic) dominion).

And this was a surprise: 1 Chron 29: 24 And all the sons likewise of David submitted themselves unto Solomon — Hebrew, gave, or put the hand under Solomon, that is, owned him for their king, and themselves for his subjects, and bound themselves by oath to be true to him, which they possibly did, according to the ancient ceremonial (submitted themselves—Hebrew, “put their hands under Solomon,” according to the custom still practised in the East of putting a hand under the king’s extended hand and kissing the back of it –  doesn’t hack it; Genesis 24:2 does: One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh.)

Kinsey found the average fellow is 6.2 inches, Masters and Johnson measured them slightly smaller again, and modern men, according to a 2002 Durex survey, are suspiciously better endowed than all generations before them. Hickman explains this mystery as “lies, damned lies, and self-measurements.”

But like anything, it’s all relative. The human penis, Hickman explains, “is four times bigger than biologically necessary.” Twice as large as chimpanzees, with whom we share 98 per cent of our DNA, possibly evolved to satisfy the human female’s preference for face-to-face sex and other creative sexual positions. But maybe not, Hickman adds, as the humbly endowed bonobo does it swinging from trees.

There are no pictures(!)

Quotations:

“long, short, thin, stumpy, straight, bulbous … swerved left or right or up or down, circumcised or not, smooth or as wrinkled as a Shar-Pei pup,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a penis will do some of his thinking with it,”

Sophocles said that to have a penis is to be “chained to a madman;”

Leonardo da Vinci noted that “it remains obstinate and follows its own course.”

Playwright Joe Orton: “A man is nothing more than a life support for his penis.”

Salvador Dali, cursed with something “small, pitiful and soft.”

Woody Allen disagreed with Freud by insisting men too – especially the famously neurotic director himself – suffer from penis envy. Enrique Iglesias half-joked he wanted to launch a line of extra-small condoms

Enjoying the opposite problem, however, is crooner Frank Sinatra – so large, allegedly, that he required custom-made underpants – and comedian Milton Berle. “What a shame,” Betty Grable purred, “it’s never the handsome ones.”

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Good Inter Faith Relations: The Next Generation

Sport is one way into it. Also youth councils. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has some excellent resources.

Brian Gates, as chair of the RE Council, talks about the role of schools and SACREs (SACREs’ legal constitution discriminates against non-Christian faiths – but there has never been a problem with voting for a new agreed syllabus since the voting groups were set up in 1944).

Someone suggested that pupils should not be asked to evaluate heir own faith – but whither education, being taught to think for yourself, if that is the case?

It’s online here

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Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

DWE 2Thomas McNulty, aged barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine in Ireland, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas goes on to fight in the Indian Wars—against the Sioux and the Yurok—and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships themselves, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.

What Tom has observed among the Sioux is that men can choose to dress as squaws at home but, in battle, still be warriors. This thought becomes his guide. He feels at home in a dress but, as a soldier, follows orders even when they are treacherous, learning that there are good men and bad on any side.

Tom, John and Winona survive battlefields and atrocities, trek across America’s great plains into the agonised, villainous aftermath of the war between the states. Barry makes us understand how. Grief may freeze the heart, the body be tested to extremes, but where there’s life there’s hope, and love is what makes life worth living, a sentiment that, we are told in other reviews, links Barry’s novels across all their times and places.

There are vast open spaces and extreme weather

The world is seemingly indifferent yet the love for each other gives it some meaning.

Because we were nothing ourselves, to begin with” – is later amplified by the nightmarish tale he hears from a fellow Irishman whose passage to the New World ends with corpses floating in the bilges, immured and abandoned. “That’s why no one will talk,” reflects Thomas, feeling that what has happened is simply not accounted as a subject. “That’s because we were thought worthless. Nothing people. I guess that’s what it was. That thinking just burns through your brain for a while. Nothing but scum.”

They appear merely as two teenage soldier boys until this sentence is casually dropped in: And then we quietly fucked and then we slept.

The image of a country populated by spectral figures, devastated by conflicts that leave men “making the noises of ill-butchered cattle”, their limbs hanging by a thread, their bodies emaciated and withered, is in sharp contrast with the landscape that inspires awe in both Thomas and Barry, and which seems to demand an equal grandeur in the observer: “A vicious ruined class of man could cry at such scenes because it seems to tell him that his life is not approved.”

The descriptions are very visual- you can almost imagine it as a film.

The language is beautiful.

The book is full of questions about identity. The Indians who fight like savages one day leave food for starving soldiers the next. The kindly major leads a vicious assault on an Indian village out of revenge.

The war is reminiscent of the Old Testament command to out everything under the ban – everyone and every crop to be destroyed.

One of our members said: Having childhood memories of playing cowboys and Indians I’ve now come to see how the conquest of the American west with the dispossession of the native peoples was a crime. So I couldn’t get into the book despite its acclaim in many reviews as a good gay book read.

Another got fed up with the violence and nearly gave up three times but accepted that the violence wasn’t gratuitous.

Barry lives in County Wicklow with his wife, Alison, and their three children, Coral, Merlin and Toby. Barry has stated that Toby coming out as gay was important to the writing of Barry’s book Days Without End, and that Toby’s experiences informed the gay relationship in that book

McNulty is gay – not that the word would have meant anything in 19th-century America. That, says Barry, is one reason why the book is short: his narrator did not have the words or the notions to make it longer. McNulty falls in love with a young American man, cross-dresses and marries him. They adopt an orphaned Native American girl and build an unlikely family in Tennessee – a paradise created after the hell McNulty and his lover experience when they join the army.

Days Without End is dedicated to Barry’s son Toby – and McNulty’s sexuality is also a tribute to the teenager. “Three years ago, when he was 16 and I was doing the reading for this book, Toby was very unhappy, and when a young man is unhappy we must take note. I was desperately trying to find out what was wrong, but you can’t ask him directly. You have to be a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes of his unhappiness.”

At the time of the 2015 referendum in Ireland on same-sex marriage, Barry wrote an open letter – with his son’s permission – in support of a yes vote. “I felt I had to do something,” he says, “so I wrote to the Irish Times, which is the default action of the middle-aged Irish Catholic. I showed the letter to Toby and he just wept, which is unusual because he is a very mensch-like person.”

Later Toby was threatened on a train after kissing his boyfriend goodbye on the platform. “He was very frightened by that and it led to more unhappiness, so I thought we’re on a bit of a war footing here.” Toby discussed drag with Barry and how gay men from tough backgrounds sometimes used it as a form of empowerment. Those ideas seeped into the book, though not, Barry is at pains to point out, as a manifesto.

The character of McNulty grew out of a reference his grandfather Jack O’Hara made to a great uncle who emigrated to America to escape the famine. O’Hara, who fell out with the author over the literary airing of family secrets, is himself the mainspring of another Barry work, The Temporary Gentleman.

Barry has described his childhood as a “singular mess”. He says he and his three siblings were farmed out to relatives, which is how Barry heard the stories about the first world war, the Easter Rising and the civil war in Ireland that he has used to such effect in his novels. This obsessive winnowing of family secrets suggests a search for certainty after a childhood that had little.

DWE Quotations:

I am thinking of the days without end of my life…’

 “It was a mad world but a lucky one too, now and then”

We were two wood-shavings of humanity in a rough world

“The whole town was perishing like stray cats.”

“We were nothing. No one wanted us. Canada was a-feared of us. We were a plague. We were only rats of people. Hunger takes away what you are.”

“time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending.

We washed our shirts and trews and when we went out to get them off the bushes, they were as stiff as corpses in the cold. Some poor cows froze where they were standing like they had peered into the face of old Medusa. Men lost the wages of three years hence at cards. They bet their boots and then pled for the pity of the winner. The piss froze as it left our peckers and woe betide the man with an obstruction or hesita­tion to their shit, because soon they had a brown icicle on their arse. The whiskey continued its work of eating our livers. It was as good a life as most of us had ever knowed.

When all the bodies were in, we covered over the pits with the soil we had left, like we were putting pastry tops on two enormous pies.

John Cole’s long face, long stride. The moonlight not able to flatter him because he was ready beautiful.

we respectfully drop the men into their holes and then we cover them up with a bedding of earth and every man in due course has a mound of the same earth over him like eiderdowns in a fancy hotel.

“Hunger is a sort of fire, a furnace. I loved my father when I was a human person formerly. Then he died and I was hungry and then the ship. Then nothing. Then America. Then John Cole. John Cole was my love, all my love.”

You can rise up out of your saddle and sort of look down on yourself riding, it’s as if the stern and relentless monotony makes you die, come back to life, and die again.

“Oftentimes in America you could go stark mad from the ugliness of things. But now in the far distance we see a land begin to be suggested as if maybe a man was out there painting it with a huge brush.”

We would gladly put our hands over our ears but our muskets are raised and trained along the line of the wig­wams. We are watching for the rat-run of the survivors. There is a stretch of time as long as creation and I can hear the whizzing of the shell, a spinning piercing sound, and then it makes its familiar thud-thud and pulls at the belly of heaven and spreads its mayhem around it, the sides of wigwams torn off like faces, the violent wind of the blast toppling others flat, revealing people in various poses of surprise and horror.

Then they are pulling knives from their waists and hollering and -there is a sort of mad joyous desper­ation in it that kindles a crazy fire in the heart. We are not lovers rushing to embrace but there is a sense of terri­fying union none the less, as if courage yearns to join with courage. I cannot say otherwise. No fighter on earth as brave as a Sioux brave. They have their squaws and kindred sheltered and now at the last desperate moment they must risk all to defend them. But the shells have done terrible damage in the camp. Now I can see plain the broken bodies and the blood and the horrible butch­er shop of carnage that those bursting metal flowers have manufactured. Young girls are strewn about like the vic­tims of a terminous dance. It is as if we have stopped the human clock of the village, that’s what I were thinking.

“We worked back and forth through the milling bodies and tried to kill everything that moved in the murk,” he says. “Two, three, four fell to my thrusts, and I was astonished not to be fired on, astonished at the speed and the horror of the task, and the exhilaration of it, my heart now not racing but burning in my breast like a huge coal. I stabbed and I stabbed.”

“South don’t got uniforms, grits, or oftentimes shoes. Half of these fierce-looking bastards in bare feet. Could be denizens of a Sligo slum-house. God damn it, probably are, some of them.”

“John Cole says he loves me more than any man since the apes roamed.”

There’s a half-blind preacher in a temple called Bar-tram House and I don my best dress and me and John Cole go there and we tie the knot. Rev. Hindle he says the lovely words and John Cole kiss the bride and then it’s done and who to know. Maybe you could read it in their holy book, John Cole and Thomasina McNulty wed this day of our Lord Dec. 7th 1866. In the euphoria of war’s end we reckon a craziness is desired. God don’t mind we know because that day of deep winter is clement, clear and bright. Then as if a token of God’s favour we get a letter from Lige Magan. We been sending missives back and forth while we putting meat back on-our bones. He’s struggling with his farm. The men that his pa freed been killed by militia long since but two. His whole country ruined by war and like a waste of ghosts. The coming year lies heavy on his mind and how he to burn the land alone in January? Been set in grass six years and now it ripe for baccy. If we not otherwise engaged could we come and help him in his hour of need? He says all his cold district is a swamp of mistrust and he trusts me and John. Going to be hard years but maybe we could fed there were something to win. He got no kin but us.

“Don’t tell me a Irish is an example of civilised humanity. He may be an angel in the clothes of a devil or a devil in the clothes of an angel but either way you’re talking to two when you talk to one Irishman.”

Kill them all. Leave nothing alive. Everything was killed. Nothing left to tell the tale. Four hundred and seventy. And when the men were done killing they started to cut. They cut out the cunts of the women and stretched them on their hats. They took the little ball sacks of the boys to be dried into baccy pouches.

Let’s say my ward, my care, the product of some strange instinct deep within that does rob from injustice a shard of love. The palms of her hands like two maps of home, the lines leading homeward like old trails. Her beautiful soft hands with tapering fingers. Her touches like true words. A daughter not a daughter but who I mother best I can.

“a whole corpse gathered up into one tight fist of fear and fright.”

“no one wants to do it and everyone does it.”

“no such item as a virtuous people”

“Everything gets shot at in America, and everything good too.”

“a little kingdom…pitched up against the darkness”

“God in his farmer’s apron, scattering the great seeds of yellow brightness.”

“Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever…”

riding like ghosts through the spectral lands.”

“In the euphoria of war’s end we reckon a craziness is desired.”

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