All posts by Frances

Malgudi Days

‘He had earned he reputation of having aged in the Intermediate Class. He entered the Intermediate Class in Albert Mission College as a youngster, with faint down on his upper lip. Now he was still there; his figure had grown brawny and athletic, and his chin had become tanned and leathery. Some people even said that you could see grey hairs on his head.’

R.K. Narayan,  ‘Iswaran’, in ‘Malgudi Days’ Penguin Book, New York 1984), 53

Their Eyes Were Watching God

‘…it was one of those statements that everybody says but nobody actually believes like “God is everywhere.” It was just a handle to wind up the tongue with.’

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel. New York: First Perennial Library edition, 1990

Note: loosing faith in those around us, realizing everyone says things they don’t mean.


‘Go and get me two pieces of coal from the kitchen.’ The boy stood wonder-struck. That a Hindu should entrust him with the job of fetching glowing charcoal in the chilm which he was going to put on his hookah and smoke!

Note: A child so willing to please.

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1940,  106.

As I lay dying

“Go wash them hands,” I say. But couldn’t no woman strove harder than Addie to make them right, man and  boy: I’ll say that for her.

“It was full of blood and guts as a hog,” he says. But I just cant seem to get no heart into anything, with this here weather sapping me, too. “Pa,” he says, “is ma sick some more?”

“Go wash them hands,” I say. But I just cant seem to get no heart into it.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. (38)

Use of repetition, a father unwilling to answer his son’s question and dismissing him.

Indian Camp

“Ought to have a look at the proud father. They’re usually the worst suffers in these little affairs.” the doctor said. “I must say he took it all pretty quietly.”

He pulled back the blanket from the Indian’s head. His hand came away wet. He mounted on the edge of the lower bunk with the lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets. (Hemingway), 18

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: First Scribner ebook edition 2002.

Notes: May be the only case in history when the father suffered more in the “little affair” of childbirth. Especially after being in labor for three days.



Whose Body? Inappropriate use of words


“Yes, my lord.”

“Her Grace tells me that a respectable Battersea architect has discovered a dead man in his bath.”

“Indeed, my lord? That’s very gratifying.”

“Very, Bunter. Your choice of words is unerring. I wish Eton and Balliol had done as much for me…”

– gratifying, the use of this word in place of something more appropriately sympathetic insinuates the event to be fortuitous.


Melanctha always made herself escape but often it was an effort. She did not know what it was that she so badly wanted, but with all her courage Melanctha here was a coward, and so she could not learn to understand.

Melanctha and some man would stand in the evening and walk together. Sometimes Melanctha would be with another girl and then it was much easier to stay or to escape, for then they could make way for themselves together, and be throwing words and laughter at each other, could keep a man from getting too strong in his attention.

But when Melanctha was alone, and she was so, very often, she would sometimes come very near to making a long step in the road that leads to wisdom. Some men would learn a good deal about her in the talk, never altogether truly, for Melanctha all her life did not know how to tell a story wholly. She always, and yet not with intention, managed to leave out big pieces which make a story very different, for when it came to what had happened and what she had said and what it was that she had really done, Melanctha never could remember right.

Gertrude Stein, “Melanctha” in Three Lives Stories of  The Good Anna, Melanctha and The Gentle Lena, (A Public Domain Book, for Kindle), location 988

The Beast in the Jungle

“Afraid?” He thought, as she repeated the word, that his question had made her, a little, change colour; so that, lest he should have touched on a truth, he explained very kindly, “You remember that that was what you asked me long ago-that first day at Weatherend.”

“Oh yes, and you told me you didn’t know-that I was to see for myself. We’ve said little about it since, even in so long a time.”

“Precisely,” Marcher interposed-“quite as if it were too delicate a matter for us to make free with. Quite as if we might find, on pressure, that I am afraid. For then,” he said, “we shouldn’t, should we? quite know what to do.”

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”, in Major Stories and Essays (First Library of America College Edition, Fall 1999), 463


The Art of Fiction

The novel and the romance, the novel of incident and that of character-these clumsy separations appear to me to have been made by critics and readers for their own convenience, and to help them out of some of their occasional queer predicaments, but to have little reality or interest for the producer, from whose point of view it is of course that we are attempting to consider the art of fiction.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”, in Major Stories and Essays (First Library of America College Edition, Fall 1999), 583