Monday, August 10, 2009

Microbe Monday -- Pages from Cold Point

We're all very into books here, but Microbe Monday is more about the blurb. The article. The short story. The haiku.

So over the weekend, I'll seek out a new literary magazine or open a collection to a random poem or just pick a story I remember from my past and riff on it. Briefly! I don't expect this to turn into a meme, but feel free to gank my little graphic and do it yourself too!

Microbe Monday

My friend Ty lent me the complete stories of Paul Bowles like 6 months ago or more. Probably more. He read me one and then left the book behind, so every now and then I'll pick it up and read one at random. It isn't the type of collection I can sit and read all the way through because I usually like to sit in the feeling the stories leave behind.

I generally am unable to define what I'm left with, and sometimes I'm not even sure I grasped the major themes, but his atmospheric writing always leaves behind some kind of haunting impression. I approached "Pages from Cold Point" determined to write something about it, but nervous I'd be unable to translate my intuitive reaction into words.

"Pages from Cold Point" is from the perspective of a man who moves with his teenage son, Racky, to the far end of a Caribbean island to get away from "civilization," which is personified in the man's brother as ugly, decadent, and superficially moralistic. The full reason for this exile are never fully disclosed, but the rest of the story may arouse some suspicions.

The man loves his son quite a bit, praising his intelligent, yet carefree nature. It's a little creepy maybe how he goes on and on. He gives the kid a lot of freedom and even though he made the decision to live far from any of the major towns on the island, he lets his son travel to them as much as he wants so Racky doesn't feel suffocated.

But it turns out Racky is enjoying the fresh air a little too much when some of the townspeople start complaining to the man about Racky's tendency to, um.... seduce the impressionable local boys. Oops, ok, so the man is forced to come to terms with his son's real persona, and then Racky is effectively exiled again when he goes to live in Mexico. ¡OlĂ©!

People say there is an incestuous relationship implied between Racky and his father, and perhaps that is why they went to the island in the first place. I don't really see it. There's one part where the man contemplates his son's body when he sleeps naked on the bed, but I don't take that as enough evidence. Either way, though, there's definitely some degree of extrafilial admiration, though it seems somewhat one-sided.

This is only the fourth or fifth Bowles story I've read, so I'm hardly an expert, but this is probably my favorite one. The language is understated, suggesting rather than flat out telling, so I've probably got the whole thing wrong. I read a passage from a book mentioning something about Racky blackmailing his father, and evidently that went right over my head. So I'm going to read it again when I get home today.

Nevertheless, Bowles' suggestive style and the lurking themes of exile and solitude make this an intriguing and challenging story I very much recommend.

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