The Seary Line
I’m a lollygagger. I’ve intended to read Nicole Lundrigan’s earlier books but I’ve just never got around to them. As I’ve said, I’m a lollygagger.
Finally, after years of – well, lollygagging – I’ve read one of Ms. Lundrigan’s novels: ‘The Seary Line’.
I was fewer than 50 pages into the book when I realized thoughts of American novelist William Faulkner were dallying in my mind, along with the details of Ms. Lundrigan’s narration. Mostly they were images from his novels ‘As I Lay Dying’ and ‘The Sound and the Fury’, two gothic stories of theAmerican South.
Some of Ms. Lundrigan’s scenes and her depictions of desperate characters are on the verge of being grotesque. Picture the frantic wretchedness of Berta May as she scuttles into seclusion with Miriam Seary’s newborn daughter and attempts to suckle her at her own barren bosom.
Faulkner, my son, you’m only an amateur.
The Seary Line begins with Stella’s birth and writhes and coils through the years of her life for the next four decades or so. Born of a mother who isn’t ‘all there’, and a father with good reason to be afraid of his shadow, Stella suffers them ol’vicissitudes of fate for handy 40 years in the Newfoundland outport, whose very name suggests the weighty burdens of her life. She lives in Bended Knee.
I’m half afraid I’m giving you the impression this isn’t a good book. Far from it.
The Seary Line is a dandy read, sown with people and incidents as fecund as a freshly plowed field. But it’s like certain toothsome fare that, while filling a craving, has a sour aftertaste.
Like clotted cream, p’raps, or bleu cheese – that’s the kind with the marbleized bluish mould idden it?
Does that make any sense? Think of it in the light of a lover’s lips, like the ‘flaring mouth of a pitcher plant, sensual’. Those lips might be luscious and desirable but remember the pitcher plant is a carnivore dependent on entrapment for sustenance.
As well as Faulkner, I also thought repeatedly of Thomas Hardy – my favourite dead English novelist – while reading The Seary Line. It’s ancient history I know, but back in the days when university tuition was free – Free! Imagine! – this ignorant scribbler was introduced to the concept of Imminent Will and failed to make a smidgen of sense out of it. It had something to do with fate and the fact living things destroy life while struggling to survive.
See the idea illustrated in this sentence in which slugs – the bane of gardeners – are consuming cabbage plants: ‘Baby slugs were nibbling away, leaving telltale holes and tracks of slime’.
Idden that a marvelous line? I get all trembly reading bits like that, and Ms. Lundrigan’s novel has hundreds of other examples; it’s chocka-block, like beans in a can, or worms packed in a tobacco tin, with double-edged imagery.
One thing did jar on my ear. Ms. Lundrigan has her characters say “I’s,” as in, “I’s real sorry.” Other than in the folksong of fame, I’m not familiar with Newfoundlander’s actually saying “I’s.” Are you?
Forgive me, but that’s just me bemoaning, and it brings me to my favourite line in the whole book. It’s a profound line, a line to live by, a line Popeye the Sailor – a man so secure enough in his identity to self-assuredly say, “I yam what I yam” – would gladly accept as part of his philosophy.
At one point, Percy Abbott, Stella’s father – but not the father afraid of his shadow! – says this to his daughter: “Don’t bemoan who you is, Stella.”
So often we do, don’t we? Bemoan who we is. And we shouldn’t.
The Seary Line is Stella’s story although she is unaware she is of the Seary line, if that makes a grain of sense.
I say again, in case I’ve misrepresented this novel, I enjoyed the book. Truly, I did.
So much in fact I’m going to read Ms. Lundrigan’s other novels.
I am, unless I continue to lollygag.
After all, I yam what I yam and there’s no point bemoaning what I is.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunville.