A Reading In Persona of Quentin S Crisp’s Blue on Blue

Blue on Blue starts off in the first person present and with a footnote on what the Alternative States of the American Fifties might be, a playful pretence at being academic that cannot be taken instructively of the fictional setup since too many undefined terms like ‘‘premises’ (using the word in its novelistic sense)’ which one’s mind viz mine skates off.

There is a rationale to this book, justifying its existence and the tenses used, not relying on the lazy reader’s acceptance of the lazy writer’s use of convention: it is a narrative being written by one Victor Winton as his testament for other inhabitants of ASAF primarily but also for any general reader since he’s about to be swept over a metaphoric cliff edge that may make what he writes applicable to all.

He is ‘a – largely unsuccessful – cartoonist.’  That ‘largely unsuccessful’ is an impute to him by his creator who has said as much of himself as a writer but I am not intending to peek behind that mask.

Victor rhapsodises about blue, into which the title phrase of the book is inserted, a tad disconnectedly – without any reference to Rhapsody in Blue or police killing police.   Victor’s visiting the municipal museum where he’s read a book that interested him in blueness.  If the author’s name doesn’t make you suspect it’s fictional, though real to Victor, I can assure you it is; I googled it, to check.  I thought this tricksy writer might actually be citing a real book the reader viz me might take to be part of the fiction.  It’s part of the fiction.  As part of Victor’s reality though I must ask where’s the author’s proof ‘we are on a collision course for catastrophe’ and ‘the self also implies a soul’.  Nor does ‘blue’ so much as get a skiting mention.

There is, however, a follow-up to Victor’s being a cartoonist with ‘the centre of erotic gravity on any comic book cover is the female figure,’ which if no more part of an inherent rationale than the phrase, blue on blue, yet does refer to the cover of this book, on which is a reproduction of an illustration of a doll-like female that a male reader might find erotic.  I like the arm that stretches to the spine and reaches into the back cover.

There is another aside, within dashes, about the tedium of being cooped up in an office, we may take as another imputation by writer to character, as is his eating lunch on a bench in a nearby park.

‘Ever’ would be better than ‘even’ in the phrase, ‘Even aware of my finite stock of allotted minutes.’

It was at this point in my reading I realised Victor was actually living in this entity and went back to the beginning where it states he’s a citizen of it and to the footnote which states it’s ‘an artificial history zone ‘reclaimed’ from sunken parallel time.’  How! and how is it so densely populated with pirouetting people?  Could so many have wanted to reject ontological time switches consigning the Fifties to the historical past?  How did they get there?  The denizens would know but Victor is also writing for the general reader viz me who does want to know how.  Whatever, it does seem an artificial construct where people playact their fantasies: a stalker stalks to enjoy being slapped by the stalkee.

The word ‘overture’ gets an airing, and the heading of this chapter is Overture, again not quite inherent to the rationale of the narrator’s writing this but near enough, as I broke off for tea and did not immediately resume.

What!  Victor’s definition of soul is a ‘relationship between and transcendence of muscle and philosophy.’  Not something in itself then but the going beyond the corporeal and onto reasoning to seek the truth of reality, the process not one of reasoning itself.  He then equates this process with daimon, not a daimon but daimon.  He has to mean spirit that he has no personal experience of since he accounts first person experience the highest level of fame, though fame surely depends on one person’s experience being valued by many others who would be experiencing at second hand.  If he had experience of spirit, Victor would be using the word ‘daimon’ properly, as indicative of a spirit, his.  His terminology is in its generality, however, consistent with his belief one accesses eternity, an infinite time, by artistic use of whatever in time symbolises to all its infinitude, and not through individualism.

He finds aquamarine erotic while conceding red is more commonly thought of as sexy.  Brothels are draped in its inciting irritation.  If one’s eyebrow is raised at the idea of erotic aquamarine, both eyes are on his analysis why, with its erroneous assumption the ‘be’ of ‘between’ derives from ‘be’ and not ‘by’.  There is more than the suggestion of a comic book about this narrative.  One can only exclaim at his rhetorical ‘who can deny that’ the cartoon Santa Claus, Disney’s cartoon Snow White ‘have penetrated the very depths of the human psyche?’  Psyche’s another word for soul! And we know how he’s defined that, without any depths at all.  That said, I have myself written a story of Snowhite and the Dwarves in which I myself take the rôle of Snow White and all the males I encounter are spiritually dwarves, but whether I was penetrated by Disney or the fairy tale had beforehand impressed my receptive unconscious is a moot point.  He may have a point.

His Overture ends with a footnote which suggests Victor is confused.  I’ll say.  The footnote is not then by Victor himself and is not attributed to an editor.  One has to assume it’s by the attributed author, a certain Quentin S Crisp, if that is indeed a real name – wasn’t there a prat called himself Quentin Crisp? – and not a pseudonym adopted by Victor to confer reality on his narrative with the pretence of being somebody else of an objective perspective.

I was beginning to question the sustaining interest of Victor’s narrating his observations in decorative language and what passed for thinking: where was the story? the dramatic tension? Wasn’t it just a tad solipsistic?  I am as solipsistic as the next man – more – but even I… when he has a girlfriend! on paper anyway, but there is no reason just because he’s projected his inner woman (or soul) out onto paper in a sketch that that’s the end of that, that there should be no actual female for him to take as a match.  No sooner thought than he’s led by the nose of rational purpose to the museum where he sees her.  She’s not quite a match but, hey! opportunities are not to be let slide by and he sidles up to her, whips out his sketch book – if he were a copywriter it’d be a serviceable poem kept for just such occasions since women are suckers for the artistic – and does intrigue her.  Old smoothie flatters her he’s drawn a goddess and – and this impresses me – improvises an envelope for her to carry it in.  Being pragmatic, as females are, she ascertains he has a job he immediately dogs off to have a coffee with her.

He feels the conversation has a will of its own but that’s as far as his apprehension goes of what’s behind it, except it’s the realisation of a dream.  I cannot say the conversation is erotically supercharged (or even charged) but a pickup’s a pickup.  She’s pert, vaguely reminiscent of a girl I’ve recently met myself.  Her dream is of trampolining.  At that I was overcome with tiredness and had a catnap.  I did not immediately resume reading.

Victor has the irritating tic of writing etc twice: ‘and so on, and so on’ but does also use it properly.  He finds Jenny’s trampolining ad infinitum as meaningless as I found his definition of soul.  His finding Jenny bouncing up and down on her trampoline inside his head made me laugh.  He paranoically thinks she’s fitting herself to his ideal woman and it won’t surprise me if that turns out to be the reality since for reality to fulfil the fantasy is every paranoid’s wish.

He’s a smooth operator, instigating a follow-up date, and getting out of being late for work with an excuse that made me laugh because so in accord with my own attitude to suicide jumpers.  He almost gets that his girlfriend is a projection onto a fitting person.  She’s actually had framed the sketch he made of her and put it up on her wall.  Framed!  That doesn’t accord with his idea of the relationship, nor mine.  Drawing pins?  That tacky stuff, blutac.  I’d probably put it up on a wall; I’d never frame it.  It’s the real live Jenny though who’s now matching his dream woman more than any sketch of the latter by him.

I’m afraid I’m not one of Victor’s few intelligent readers because I do need an explanation why being patronising is poignant to him though I think it’s patronising of him to show me up as common, a fact I have never denied.  I must’ve missed the poignant patronising bit.

He conveys the awkwardness of the relationship with a sentence, ‘Jenny would look to me as if to share her delight… and I would return her gaze in the hope of claiming her delighted attention… and because of this mismatch in expectations a tinge of puzzlement crept into her expression,’ without the necessity of our belief his interpretation is right, that Jenny’s wouldn’t be entirely different or that there’s an interpretation truer to fact than either he gives or she could give.

Webster’s silly faux rationalising of English doesn’t figure in the ASAF so the spelling’s British though films or pictures are called movies.  I can categorically state there is only one adjective ending in ic in English that takes ly to make an adverb, and that’s public.  I’ve been looking for another since the age of four and it isn’t balletic.  Victor’s solecism aside, he gives an interesting effect of the ASAF’s being taken from a parallel time in the fuzziness of its border where clocks do not work and spookiness transforms all.

He’s taking a step back from Jenny in order to do his comic book and prefers reflecting on her, par for the artistic course, expending love of her on other than her.  She does seem flatter, two-dimensional or simply receding, but does have a long monologue about a horse conjured up again by the place they’re visiting.  There’s no indication given how Victor was able to remember her speech verbatim.  It sounded to him as if she’s regurgitating what she’s been spoonfed.  He’s having her endorse his idea of his dreaming, an effect of his own unconscious I should imagine and of the spooky place they live in, so I’m not sure to what extent one should take his word they’re her exact words.  He steps over the line anyway so far as she’s concerned. She’s not about to do what’s forbidden.  I’d been wondering if they’d had sex yet, if they had but it’d been elided in his account.  Apparently not.  According to him, once he’d stepped back from over the line, she was a willing participant in an action he initiated but from which she retracted.  I had to laugh at his knowing ‘things had gone wrong’.   It’s an act of commitment she has to consider before taking it further.  He can hardly object to her reflecting on him when he does so much on her.  One impetuous act on his part after she’s refused to join him in his decision prior to it is hardly the basis for a longstanding relationship especially after his taking so long to get round to it and he has been showing more interest in his comic book than her.  A girl has to consider such things.  Is the lack of attention worth his clever genes?  Will he make a good father?  Does he have diabetically bad breath his best friend hasn’t told him about if he had a best friend or even a friend?  Is that something she’d wish on any child by him?  Is it even livable with?  Is he?  He is of course unaware of any of what might be coursing through her brain as she beats the retreat and pulls up the drawbridge after.  It could all be a tactic on her part to lead him on, though maybe she’s flogging a dead horse there, or it could be a pre-emptive rejection.  I’ll have to read on to find out.

Though he found hand-holding a problem and decoupled himself, using the love for his art, he naturally seeks to blame her.  It’s always the woman what’s to blame, isn’t it!  He is very interesting about it, if of course not realising his own motivation.  I don’t know how young he is but I can sympathise with his situation, having experienced something not dissimilar.  He has the sense of the sanity of realised destiny, as one has when one’s unconscious is taking over and making associations.  He’s met up with Jenny and it may well be fated, depending how peripatetic his unconscious will or hers is though there’s little indication of that.  He’s deluding himself.  She makes a sarcastic comment on where he’s heading he misreads to accord with his delusion.  Jenny shortly sets him straight with a marvellously gratuitous ‘dear John’ letter to which his response is, predictably, anger, pathetically picking on her self-deprecatory ‘plain ol’ Jenny’ for apostrophising a d when obviously it’d be an e in any America.

‘On’ would be better in the sentence, ‘concentration broke in a tiny mistake that spoiled everything.’

He’s in a right state, interesting to read about though.  I’ve had a similar experience to his under hash, possibly also LSD, but he’s under the influence of self-thwarted love alone.  I do take issue with his belief ‘consciousness continues …while individual consciousness passes.’  There’s no grounds for thinking that, which is simply wishful thinking from overstressing the importance of consciousness and its ignorance, as exhibited by Victor’s, of anything of greater importance than itself, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

He realises what he projected onto Jenny was part of him and goes into a comically erotic or erotically comic delirium, not without ambition, ‘I had to redesign the vagina,‘ that made me laugh out loud, and which he does diagrammatically, logically, feeling his way, making slippery progress, and finally hypnagogically falling into a lucid dream, communicating as if telepathically with himself, his feminine persona, and, as he ultimately thinks, pathetically – certainly narcissistically – but artistically?  The dream should be an orgasmically verbal culmination and isn’t but Victor may be being regarded by the purported writer ironically, in which case his writing bathetically would be to be writing artistically, anticlimactically rather than climactically.   I trust I myself am not criticising too pedantically.

Well, there’s a turn-up for the book!  The coda’s written by someone else, Victor’s publisher.  I sniggered at ‘sometimes I got the feeling that somewhere one or another of his stories just didn’t make sense,’ and laughed prolongedly at ‘who dematerialised one afternoon in April and never materialised,’  and again at ‘the machine dropped the balls and lost everything that Victor ever was.’  The coda makes some attempt to tie up the loose end of Jenny and the horse, suggesting another reason why that affair didn’t go too well but I’m stupid, as the writer has implied: I can’t reconcile the dates given, the publisher’s writing before Victor’s dematerialisation.  You’ll do better – and can explain it to me, patronisingly.

And here’s yet another writer! writing about the cover, which is not by Victor but by somebody else that Google does authenticate.  I told you this was a tricksy writer.   It is, however, in its clunky congestion a most excellent impersonation by whoever the actual writer is of somebody other.


About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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