Saturday, March 24, 2012

I woke up at five o'clock to a banshee: a fisher cat was shrieking under my bedroom window. The banshee comparison is not an idle one. This animal sounds like it's either killing babies or is itself a baby being killed, and it screamed on in this blood-curdling way for about 15 minutes before it decided to wander back into the woods.

Fishers are mean and nasty, famous consumers of housecats and Yorkshire terriers. I am hoping I won't go outside this morning and find half a dachsund or anything.

Meanwhile, I have a literary discovery. I know for a fact that Barbara Pym the novelist was familiar with Ivy Compton-Burnett the novelist because somewhere--I can't remember in which book--she mentions her offhand as the sort of uppity writer one of her characters might read. But yesterday I determined that Barbara herself had not only been reading Ivy but experimenting with the Ivy touch. Here is a line of dialogue from Pym's "No Fond Return of Love." It seems, and is, a minor remark by a minor character, and Pym goes no further than this with it. But it is composed in exactly the sort of weird, foreboding, and blackly melodramatic/surreal/hilarious style that thickens Compton-Burnett's plots.

"Deep apricot tart," said Miss Lord, suiting her tone to the words.

I suppose it's possible that I'm the only person awake on a Saturday morning who thinks this is a funny sentence, but really, what tone suits "deep apricot tart"? Once again, a sentence like this makes me think that Pym could have been more than a mediocre writer, and once again, I imagine writing "The Case of the Minor Lady Novelists," an essay I have been planning for about a decade.

[P.S. Tom says it was a fox, not a fisher.]


Ruth said...

Oh please do write that book. I love Barbara Pym for just such sentences. I imagine each word ennunciated with ever so tiny nods and direct eye contact.

Hope you have a whole dachsund. "Property Protected (?) by Fisher!!"

My land is protected by a bobcat!

Maureen said...

I admit not knowing what a fisher cat is, so I looked it up. Apparently, it eats porcupine and has the remarkable ability to rotate its back feet 180 degress. I hope never to run across one.

Dawn Potter said...

Eats porcupines? Yikes.

Ruth said...

Well, fishers are not cats, though, I suspect they got that name because they tend to eat housecats