Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nothing Like The Sun: Pus and Decadence

The next post was meant to be a review of Anthony Burgess's Nothing Like the Sun, but really it is just an excuse to quote Anthony Burgess as he imitates Shakespeare. Here are some of the juicy bits, unspoiled by my ramblings:

Was it, he wondered then, to be the way of the adventurer, mythical raker of carbuncles and diamonds from beneath the spicetrees, but first and last the hold’s stink and the foul water after the weeviled biscuit, men rent and filthy and reechy like their shirts of the hogo of earwax, the hap of wrack and piracy or, at best, spewing among rude and rough rascals made roaring lustful with salt beef and, a mere week at sea, cursing and raging in their fights over the ravaging of the soft white body of a boy, a boy refined and gentled with snippets of Ovid and maxims out of Seneca. A dark excitement came that guilt once pounced on in a rearing wave to wash away. Yet the names fired: America, Selenetide, Zanzibar, Terra Florida, Canaria, Palme Forro…

Reechy! Hogo! Selenetide, Canaria! Mounched! (Mounched?) Frotting, spirochaete! Croshabell, oaklings, footsticks, cinques, moxibustion, dittany!

He sat at the table on a three-legged stool, moving a greasy wash-clout from it first; the cheesy smell of curds rose at him like a small grey spirit. She mounched away at nothing, bringing cards. He knew these cards, though not the manner of telling them. Cartomancy. He thrilled at the word. These were not for an innocent game of trump or ruff; they were antique pictures, of towers crumbling to brick in a lightening-flash; of pope and empress; the moon all blood; Adam and Eve; the rising of the dead, sleepy and naked, at doomsday’s trumpet.

Sail-trimmers at their work on the waist between poop and forecastle, where too were stowed pinnance and skiff. The gravel-ballast and cable tiers; the outboard-thrusting beakhead that cracked the seas as the ship plunged. The hold below the orlop where the rotten beer and crawling cheese were stored. Foresail and foretop sail on the foremast; square course and topsail on the mainmast; the mizen mast with its lanteen or mizen yard; the bonaventure mizen; drabler and bonnet. Calivers and arquebuses, the gunner with his linstock, the aft and forward slueing of the carriage, the quoin.

Drink, then. Down it among the titbrained molligolliards of country copulatives, of a beastly sort, all, their browned pickers a-clutch of their spilliwilly potkins, filthy from the handling of spade and harrow, cheesy from udder new-milked, slashed mouths agape at some merry tale from that rogue with rat-skins around his middle, coneyskin cap on’s sconce. Robustious rothers in rural rivo rhapsodic. Swill thou among them, O London Will-to-be, gentleman-in-waiting, scrike thine ale’s laughter with Hodge and Tom and Dick and Blakc Jack the outlander from Long Compton…Hast a privy for a god, then, with the shit in’t. Sayest? Not one fart do I give, nay, for all thy great tally. Wouldst test it, then? Thou wouldst not, for thou art but a hulking snivelling codardo. I have been in the wars and do speak the tongues of the Low Countries. Ik om England soldado. U gif me to trinken. Who saith a liar? I will make his gnashers be all bloody. I will give him a fair crack, aye. You are but country cledge, all, that have seen naught of this world, and this one here, who is but new-wiped, he is a dizard. Thou yearling, thou, had I my hanger I would deal thee a great flankard. But I have my nief and I will mash thy fleering bubbibubkin lips withal…

It was no wise congrued with her lying near-bare against him nor with that horrible steaming-out, some few minutes past, of a mouthful apter for a growling leching collier pumping his foul water into some giggling alley-mort up by the darkling wall of a stinking alehouse privy.