Category Archives: Literature

Excerpt from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo ~~Chimes~~

And if you wish to receive of the ancient city an impression with which the modern one can no longer furnish you, climb—on the morning of some grand festival, beneath the rising sun of Easter or of Pentecost—climb upon some elevated point, whence you command the entire capital; and be present at the wakening of the chimes. Behold, at a signal given from heaven, for it is the sun which gives it, all those churches quiver simultaneously. First come scattered strokes, running from one church to another, as when musicians give warning that they are about to begin. Then, all at once, behold!—for it seems at times, as though the ear also possessed a sight of its own,—behold, rising from each bell tower, something like a column of sound, a cloud of harmony. First, the vibration of each bell mounts straight upwards, pure and, so to speak, isolated from the others, into the splendid morning sky; then, little by little, as they swell they melt together, mingle, are lost in each other, and amalgamate in a magnificent concert. It is no longer anything but a mass of sonorous vibrations incessantly sent forth from the numerous belfries; floats, undulates, bounds, whirls over the city, and prolongs far beyond the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations.

Nevertheless, this sea of harmony is not a chaos; great and profound as it is, it has not lost its transparency; you behold the windings of each group of notes which escapes from the belfries. You can follow the dialogue, by turns grave and shrill, of the treble and the bass; you can see the octaves leap from one tower to another; you watch them spring forth, winged, light, and whistling, from the silver bell, to fall, broken and limping from the bell of wood; you admire in their midst the rich gamut which incessantly ascends and re-ascends the seven bells of Saint-Eustache; you see light and rapid notes running across it, executing three or four luminous zigzags, and vanishing like flashes of lightning. Yonder is the Abbey of Saint-Martin, a shrill, cracked singer; here the gruff and gloomy voice of the Bastille; at the other end, the great tower of the Louvre, with its bass. The royal chime of the palace scatters on all sides, and without relaxation, resplendent trills, upon which fall, at regular intervals, the heavy strokes from the belfry of Notre-Dame, which makes them sparkle like the anvil under the hammer. At intervals you behold the passage of sounds of all forms which come from the triple peal of Saint-Germaine des Prés. Then, again, from time to time, this mass of sublime noises opens and gives passage to the beats of the Ave Maria, which bursts forth and sparkles like an aigrette of stars. Below, in the very depths of the concert, you confusedly distinguish the interior chanting of the churches, which exhales through the vibrating pores of their vaulted roofs.

Assuredly, this is an opera which it is worth the trouble of listening to. Ordinarily, the noise which escapes from Paris by day is the city speaking; by night, it is the city breathing; in this case, it is the city singing. Lend an ear, then, to this concert of bell towers; spread over all the murmur of half a million men, the eternal plaint of the river, the infinite breathings of the wind, the grave and distant quartette of the four forests arranged upon the hills, on the horizon, like immense stacks of organ pipes; extinguish, as in a half shade, all that is too hoarse and too shrill about the central chime, and say whether you know anything in the world more rich and joyful, more golden, more dazzling, than this tumult of bells and chimes;—than this furnace of music,—than these ten thousand brazen voices chanting simultaneously in the flutes of stone, three hundred feet high,—than this city which is no longer anything but an orchestra,—than this symphony which produces the noise of a tempest.

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“The Fourth Hand” by John Irving “Vito”

‘Thank you, Angie.’ He kissed her goodbye. She tasted so good, he almost didn’t go. What was wrong with sexual anarchy, anyway?
The phone rang as he was leaving. He heard Vito’s voice on the answering machine. ‘Hey listen up, Mista One Hand . . . Mista No Prick,’ Vittorio was saying. There was a mechanical whirring, a terrifying sound.
‘It’s just a stupid blenda. Go on – don’t miss your plane!’ Angie told him. Wallingford was closing the door as she was picking up the phone.
‘Hey, Vito,’ he heard Angie say. ‘Listen up, limp dick.’ Patrick paused on the landing by the stairs; there was a brief but pointed silence. ‘That’s the sound your prick would make in the blenda, Vito – no sound, ‘cause ya got nothin’ there!’
Wallingford’s nearest neighbour was on the landing – a sleepless-looking man from the adjacent apartment, getting ready to walk his dog. Even the dog looked sleepless as it waited, shivering slightly, at the top of the stairs.
‘I’m going to Wisconsin,’ Patrick said hopefully.
The man, who had a silver-gray goatee, looked dazed with general indifference and self-loathing.
‘Why don’tcha get a fuckin’ magnifyin’ glass so ya can beat off? Angie was screaming. The dog pricked up its ears. ‘Ya know whatcha do with a prick as small as yours, Vito?’ Wallingford and his neighbour just stared at the dog. ‘Ya go to a pet shop. Ya buy a mouse. Ya beg it for a blow job.’
The dog, with grave solemnity, seemed to be considering all this. It was some kind of miniature schnauzer with a silver-gray beard, like its master’s.
‘Have a safe trip,’ Wallingford’s neighbour told him.
‘Thank you,’ Patrick said.

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“Being Invisible” by Thomas Berger ~~Disappearing~~

How could India-Indian fakirs walk on red-hot rocks? By telling themselves they can. I wish I were invisible, said one Wagner to the other in the looking glass, who was not exactly himself, for the parting of the hair was on the wrong side, as was the scar on the knee, the arched eyebrow, and the longer half of the scrotum. His real feet were quite different from the other, but that fact was not evident at the moment, for his right foot, the left one in the mirror, could not be seen. He was standing on air on that side, his leg ending at the ankle . . . no, at about mid-shank . . . but soon the entire calf was gone, as was most of the other leg, which suddenly had caught up and passed its twin.
Wagner was inexorably disappearing before his own eyes. However, as soon as he recognized that fact and reacted to it with an access of emotion in which fear was predominant, the process was promptly arrested and he stayed visible from waist to head. As yet he had looked at himself only in the mirror: it might well be (and he was praying for that state of affairs) that what he saw, or rather did not see, was some trick of or flaw in the silvered glass: this effect was surely of the fun-house kind, though how and why the mirror had been altered was inexplicable.
He bent now and stared at his actual feet, that is, where they had been, where indeed they certainly must still be planted, else he would not be standing. Despite that truth of physical law, when he could not see his feet or legs he immediately lost his balance and fell to the bedroom floor.
He lay there for a while, breathing as though he had been doing heavy labour, then, ingeniously, this half a man pulled himself by clawed hands and digging elbows near enough to the bedroom door to swing it open to the point at which the mirror went back into its own dark corner against the wall.
With his reflection no longer before him, Wagner had no trouble in rising to his feet. Yet he would not look down for a while. First he went to the liquor cabinet, in the living room, and took a draught of the only bottle left therein: a half pint of kirsch, which Babe had purchased as long as nine or ten months before in response to a newspaper food-page suggestion as to how to transform a mélange of frozen fruit into a grand luxe dessert. Kirsch taken neat was sufficiently revolting to make him fell less unworldly. He drank some more, grimaced not as violently as the first time, for his tolerance was already building, found the courage to look towards the floor, and saw both his old familiar feet. Even the persistent corn on the left little toe was now a friend.

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Excerpt from “The Cake And The Rain” by Jimmy Webb ~~Elvis~~

Jimmy Webb was attending an opening night party in Las Vegas for Nancy Sinatra, coinciding with closing night for Elvis Presley in August 1969.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I laughed and wheeled around to devote my attention to the gold veins in the black mirror behind the bar. “These Boots Are Made for Walking” was just short of deafening on the sound system as I felt rather than sensed, a person immediately to my right.
A familiar baritone bourbon voice reverberated in my ear: “Jimma!”
The guy had bent over and put his elbow right down on the bar to talk to me. I eased my head around cautiously, not sure who had managed to move in so close.
“Jimma!” he said again, and I found myself nose-to-nose and eyebrow-to-eyebrow with Elvis Presley.
“Hey!” I shouted involuntarily, as all my ass-kissing solenoids kicked in at the same time. I skewed the barstool around to face him. He was wearing dark glasses, a white shirt open at the throat, jeans, and a black velvet jacket.
“Don’ geddup, Jimma,” Elvis said. “I jus wonna talk to ya fo a minute.”
I mumbled something about that being an honour and asked him if he wanted a beer.
“Nah, I don’ drink.” He laughed and I laughed, too, as if I knew the joke but I fuckin’ didn’t.
“Jimma, I jus wanna ask you how many French horns you use in your orchester.” I didn’t think of myself as someone who “had an orchestra” like Harry James or Nelson Riddle, but so earnest was his expression and tone of voice that I let that slide.
“Well, I tell you, Elvis,” I said, “when I first started out I used three because there’s basically three notes in a chord.
He snorted. “Yeh, I know that!” His lip really did curve up on one side, like a friendly snarl.
“Well,” I continued, “when I started writing more complicated chords I found out three French horns just didn’t always get a full rich sound.”
Now, I was talking to the guy about something I cared about. He thought about it as I studied his reflection in the bar mirror.
“Okay, Jimma, that seems about right to me, too.”
So the big E lies in his giant white bed and thinks about orchestration? Mind-blowing.
“You know,” I added, as I nodded toward Mr. Sinatra across the room, “Nelson Riddle uses four French horns.”
Elvis slipped off the black glasses and reached over to shake my hand.
“Hey, Jimma, thank ya vermuch. Just wait’ll yuh hear ma new orchester.”
He smiled and I said, “Hey, anytime!”
And then like a wraith, he was gone. I mean gone. I did a 360-degree scan of the gigantic lobby and there was no sign of him. All my life I’ve felt a moment passed, a chance to say: “I mean anytime, or anything! Any of those monsters you’re wrestling with, ‘cause I have monsters in my closet, too! I like you. I would like to tell you every goddamn thing I know about music! I think I could turn you on to stuff. . . .” But he was gone, and like Melville’s Moby-Dick I would only see him again once more.

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Excerpt from “With The Beatles” by Alistair Taylor ~~Airport Fan~~

On the 22nd February 1964, the Beatles returned from their first tour to America, arriving at Heathrow airport to be met by a press conference, and several thousand fans.
Alistair Taylor, Manager Brian Epstein’s assistant, was tasked with arranging their ‘escape’ from the airport and their fans.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
John, Cynthia and I dived into the back of the faithful old Austin Princess. John was shaking with fear as we slammed the doors behind us and he yelled, ‘For fuck’s sake, get us out of here. Let’s drive.’ The driver sped out of Heathrow as fast as he could and we gradually started to relax. We had been told to drive along the perimeter road alongside the runway and we were followed by a frantic horde of fans. Some were running and we soon lost them but others were on motorcycles and scooters. We seemed to have the biggest tail of any of the Beatle cars, probably because the Austin Princess was pretty famous by then.
‘Put your foot down and lose them,’ I yelled at the driver. Well, I always did enjoy Z-Cars. And we accelerated away from most of them. We started to relax, but after a few minutes the driver said, ‘There is a motorcyclist following us. He has been behind us from the airport.’ We looked back to see this sinister lone figure all in black leathers, carefully keeping a safe distance behind. I didn’t like the look of this guy at all and I ordered our driver to shake him off. The Princess launched into a sequence of dramatic manoeuvres which succeeded only in making us all feel sick. The motorcycle was powerful and it was still on our tail.
I was concerned and even more worried when John said ‘Oh fuck it. Stop the car and let’s see what the guy wants.’ I was still trying to work out if I had the authority to countermand John’s order when the car drew to a halt, and he opened the door.
‘Come on, mate,’ he said. ‘Why are you following us? Hop in the car, and let’s have a chat.’
The stranger took off his helmet, put his bike on its stand and stepped into the car. He had a look of amazement on his face as if he was stepping into a flying saucer. He was a bit scared but he wasn’t going to miss this for the world. John pulled down the occasional seat which faced the back seats and asked him to sit down. Then they had a conversation that ranged across the Beatles, the tour, the bike, and a host of other things for several minutes. John signed his autograph and the stranger shook hands, his day made, and drove off on his bike.
John was jet-lagged from the flight, pissed off from the press conference and still shocked from the scare at the airport but he still had the ability to sit and be charming to a mysterious motorcyclist. I was horrified at the risk he had taken but John Lennon was his own man and I think he admired the bottle of the guy on the motorbike and felt he had earned himself a special one-to-one chat. For me, it was a nightmare. I was supposed to protect the guy, which is hard when he invites complete strangers into the car.

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The Good Deed – a short short story

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28 February 2019 · 7:02 pm

Excerpt from “Ringo” by Michael Seth Starr ~~Soup~~

Michael Seth Starr (no relation) recounts a tale from Rick Siggelkow, the American producer of ‘Shining Time Station’ in which Ringo played Mr Conductor, a show derived from Thomas the Tank Engine.

 

Siggelkow got so blotto one night while drinking with Ringo and several others at the Russian Tea Room that he stood up and promptly fell back on the table behind him.

“And seated at that table was David Rockefeller. And I looked up, and there he was, looking down at me. And I looked up and I said, ‘Oh shit, I just spilled soup all over this guy.’

And Ringo turned around and came over and David Rockefeller looked up and said ‘Ringo Starr.’ And it was like all was forgiven.

It was like, yeah, I spilled soup on Rockefeller’s lap, but Ringo trumped all that.”

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