Tuesday, May 11, 2004

You shall have a geranium if you really must

Keep The Aspidistra Flying was one of my favourite books when I was a child. A passage which particularly interested me was the one where Orwell describes how his anti-hero Gordon Comstock reads The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and comes across "the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his aspidistra". Gordon thereafter sees the aspidistra as the symbol of British respectability - hence the title of the book.

Many readings of various editions of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists later, I knew that the starving carpenter Easton was in fact a painter, the plant in question is a geranium and that his stuff has mostly not been pawned but repossessed by furniture dealers J. Didlum, Quality Street, Mugsborough.

Furthermore, the geranium is mentioned because it's standing on a wooden box in the front window. Easton and his put-upon wife Ruth have covered the box with cloth to make it look like a table, hoping that this, and the curtains drawn around it, will prevent the neighbours from seeing that their real furniture has been repossessed.

So the geranium itself doesn't symbolise anything. It could have been a vase. And it certainly isn't an aspidistra. And the point of the passage for me is that, as Tressell points out, the neighbours are probably as badly off as the Eastons anyway.

Orwell may have subconsciously appreciated his mistake, becaue at the end of Keep The Aspidistra Flying, there's an argument between Gordon and his new wife which contains the phrase 'You shall have a geranium if you really must. But not an aspidistra.'

Richard Adams is nudging me. 'Of what value is the grain of sand at the heart of the pearl?' he mutters.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My current Buffython has brought me to Showtime. I realise now that I was unduly harsh in my assessment of series 7 last year. (I think it was coloured by my multiple media disappointments). Historically, it's been the non-arc Monster of the Week episodes that I prefer, and Help and Him can hold their heads up in the company of Lie To Me and Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. I particularly liked Him for its televisual grammar - the split-screening and Xander's explicit flashback to B,B&B. Joss Whedon says that he doesn't like to play tricks with form too often, so when it does turn up in Buffy, it's particularly enjoyable.

Selfless is more of a flawed gem. I didn't like the rewriting of Anya's back-story. To me, Anya was strangely literal (speaking with an unnatural evenness and choosing her words a shade too carefully) because she had forgotten what being human was like. The idea that she was like that to start with seemed unnecessary and a bit, well, literalistic.

I was more ambivalent about the revisiting of Once More, With Feeling in this episode. I would have told them 'You created a masterpiece in OMWF. Now walk away from it! It belongs to the ages!' On the other hand, that jump cut between Anya the bride-to-be and Anyanka with a sword through her chest was possibly worth it. Stark. Harsh. Wholly symbolic of the synthesis of the sublime and the ridiculous which makes Buffy worth watching.