Monday, August 11, 2008

I've Seen The Movie If That's Any Help....................Pt2

Continuing on from the weekends book list............ The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain - Twain isn't really my bag, but this story intrigued me. Believe it or not, it was seeing a spooky kids animation, which contained a sort of ultra condensed synopsis of the story, that made me investigate this odd piece. One of it's problems is that the posthumously released novella, The Mysterious Stranger, A Romance, is something of a literary 'cut 'n' shut', combining two very different drafts that Twain was working on, as well as a bit of bridging and some wholly unnecessary character/plot revision by Twain's biographer Albert Bigalow Paine. Allegedly, it was a desire not to offend the religious sensibilities of the time that was responsible for this vandalism. Essentially, what was released was not a Twain novel, but a 'beyond the grave' collaboration between Twain and Albert Bigalow Paine. It's a tale of cruelty, superstition, stupidity, venality and mankinds "damnable moral sense". A sinless nephew of Satan appears to a group of boys in a remote Austrian village in the middle ages. He is befriended by the boys, and enters the village with them as nothing more than a new playmate. In short order, his influence grows and he proceeds to demonstrate his supernatural powers, at first secretly and seemingly to the betterment of certain people in the village, but as he comes under further scrutiny, his actions begin to arouse the attentions of the religious authorities. In all, his presence brings havoc to the village, upsetting the order of things and putting into effect events that lead to terror, death and misery, though it's possible to argue that in each instance, 'Young Satan' has acted with mercy and 'in the interests' of the villagers he comes into contact with. I'd say that the released text is probably just about worth finding, if only for it's 'conclusiveness', but if you want the juicy stuff, then have a look out for the Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts. This volume presents the three working drafts that Twain had laboured over in the years up to his death. In chronological order; The Chronicle of Young Satan, Schoolhouse Hill, and No44, The Mysterious Stranger. If any of the drafts are complete, it's the third one, No44. It's somewhat phantasmagorical and very much worth reading, but it lacks the clear, withering satire and narrative drive of the 1st draft, which formed about 85% of the 'Romance' version that was published in 1916. It also has one of the most stunning endings ever written, almost too good to be left hanging in space, unsure of what draft it's meant to be a conclusion to................. Perfume by Patrick Suskind - If the Mysterious Stranger needed excessive explanation, this one needs only the bare minimum. Grenouille is an oddity and an outcast. He has the ability to define scents from each other, even at distance, but has himself no odour. He isn't so much born as deposited under a fish gutting table, in an 18th century Parisian street. Grenouille plies his trade as a perfumiers apprentice, but trouble is never far away from him and neither is murder as he becomes obsessed with possessing and extracting the true essence of scent, killing a number of young women in an attempt to do so. This is a storming read, a funny, tragic and murderous rampage across pre-revolutionary France, from Paris, through the mountains of the Massif Central, into the rural villages of Auvergne and back to the filth ridden streets of his birthplace.
I shall pick out a couple more later this week, then leave it at that. Dammit, these little reviews are a pig to write..........

3 comments:

dearieme said...

Not your bag? But he wrote two of the three Great American Novels.

iLL Man said...

Only 3? I was always under the impression that 'The Great American Novel' was something of an abstract concept anyway.

Forgive my inarticulacy here, what I meant was that his work has never really appealed to me before. The Mysterious Stranger is a brilliant piece of work, so yes, I should maybe pick up on the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer novels, or more to the point his other less well known stuff. I'm a lazy sod though............

dearieme said...

3: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Wizard of Oz.