So, There’s a Mountain, and it’s Magic… No, Stuck

Hello. How are you?

Not so great.

Is that the case?

It’s so.

I’m sorry for your troubles. What is wrong?

I’m bored, and making rent’s a pain.

Common afflictions. Anything else?

There’s a girl, and you know how it is…

I do.

Can’t tell whether whether I ought make a big move or not. I mean she’s terrific and all, I’d say we get on in and out of bed, but circumstances aren’t really right, and anyway, she’s hell hard to read. And nowadays, it’s not even like I trust myself, given…

I’m a little bored.

I’m sorry.

There is no need for an apology. Self-indulgence afflicts the best of us. Shall we play a game? It may ease your mind of its cares for a short time.

Worth a go. What you got?

Let me think…

She is great – smart, funny, pretty as anything – but I act like a…

A-ha! I have it!

Let’s hear it.

I am going to name novels that you read ten to fifteen years ago, and have not looked at since. You must give me a summary of them.

How’s that a game?

I agree that it has neither distinct goals nor a competitive element. Think of it as a distraction rather than a true game.

Okay, let’s play.

First. Tess of the Durbervilles.

There’s a peasanty girl called Tess Darbyfield, and she’s very hot…

Are you thinking of the picture of Natassia Kinski that was on the cover of the edition that you had?


That is allowed. Go on.

She gets picked up, possibly in a cart by one of two men. There are two men in the novel, one of whom is called Angel Something, and the other is Alec Durbeyville. I think Angel is a vicar, or a parson. He’s a good guy. Maybe. Alec is an aristo, and takes Tess up. She maybe…

Would you be kind enough to do me a favour?


Excise your maybes. They’re redundant in this exercise.

I see. I’ll try. To continue: she goes to his house and meets his mother. She finds that they’re probably distantly related, which gives her father the idea that he’s an aristocrat. That has a bad end. Some cows eat some garlic and that makes the milk and the butter bad. I think Tess makes butter. Is she a dairymaid?

You’ve read the novel, not me.

She’s a dairymaid. Then there’s the middle section of the novel, and she’s torn between the two men. A barn burns. Though that might be The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, which is by Meredith. Please don’t ask me about that. There’s definitely fire, though. They go somewhere, a seaside resort beginning with ‘B’, and there’s a letter which she slips under one of the men’s door, only it goes under the carpet inside, so he doesn’t get it. Then someone dies, and you see the blood through the ceiling of the room below. Or it stains a mattress. Definitely blood. Tess is dead. The end.

An excellent summary. Just what I was hoping for.

I enjoyed that! Again, again!

Very well. Let us hear a summary of Money, by Martin Amis

But I know that backwards! I read it two or three times!

We’ll see

So, there’s a man called John Self. I think. He goes to America, because he’s looking for funding for a film. He plays chess with Martin Amis in a pub. It starts off with him looking at some porn? I think he wonders if the male protagonist has to live on yoghurt and milk to produce so much…

I understand

So, he’s got a nice flat and girlfriend and car, but he loses it all, and the guy he’s depending on in America, who’s really mysterious, well it’s all some kind of set-up. Does he get beaten up in a pub with a sock full of either oranges or pool balls? He definitely tries to rape his girlfriend, and there’s a scene where he’s on the red-eye, because he’s going back and forth to America a lot. Does Self have a wig? Is it his father who’s set all this up? I’m having a little trouble keeping it apart from London Fields in my head.

You know this novel backwards, remember

This is a little embarrassing.

I find it interesting. You seem to remeber broad outlines and very specific details. You barely speak in terms of characters. I have no way of knowing whether this is unique to you, or the usual way of recalling literature. How about Mary Barton?

Oh no. Isn’t the first part just a sequence of industrial accidents? People lose arms and everything’s miserable. There’s an autodidact, though, who’s pretty cool. I’d say there’s a romance between a factory owner type….

No educated guesses at the plot. Nostromo?

It’s set in South America. Some people take a boat out on the dark sea, and there’s some gold. That’s it.

The Moonstone?

There’s a diamond that’s stolen from somewhere in India. it has a flaw that can be seen to represent the missing centre of the multi-voiced narrative – and, as the Moonstone is object of financial and sacred desire, the flaw also represents the instability of these…

I sense that you’ve looked at this work academically. That makes your response tiresome, and may be cheating. Shall we try Emma?

I know Clueless too well to make that one fair.

Of course. We seem to have come to fallow ground. It may be best if I leave, and think of fresh victims for this game. I have decided to call our diversion ‘An Idiot Remembers’. I hope this does not offend you.

Not at all!

One more thing. It strikes me that your agitation over this potential belle lodges in your head more than your heart. You do not have the demeanour of a man languishing in love’s thrall. She causes you no true pain, and you should be wary of acting in remembered passionate ways when the truest feelings are absent. Harm will come on both sides, and tears may fall because of your mind’s desire for romantic diversion.

With ya! Laters!

Until the next time, friend.