The Seary Line

The Southern Gazette - - EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT -

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.

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