Saturday, April 23, 2011

3/10 - Loitering With Intent

As whatever illness befell me last Friday has returned with a vengeance, necessitating frequent naps, it may be wise to forego the results of my revisiting old threads and just have a brief wander. Had I been well, I might have expanded upon my repertoire of guests. Or I might have taken an ambitious stab at something Murdoch. But I shall stick with *Loitering With Intent* today.

L1: This may be the most difficult letter to put into LWI terms. Sir Eric Findlay's "autobiography" has an affair inserted into it - with the narrator, Fleur Talbot, as Fleur learns towards the end of the book, but that was just spite. Dottie Carpenter, wife of Fleur's lover Leslie, threatens to become pregnant to show her disapproval of Leslie's affair with Grey Mauser. Or there is the slightest hint about a mysterious origin attaching to Sir Quentin Oliver, Fleur's employer and antagonist. Sadly, though, that comes only from remarks dropped by Lady Edwina, Sir Quentin's nonogenarian mother of variable continence and reliability of memory. The situation particularly mismatches L1, though, as Lady Edwina provides home truths during much of the book to break up the careful picture being presented by Sir Quentin.

But the real L1 has the feel of a situation well suited to the questions that might face Sir Quentin or Fleur as they struggle for the heart and soul of his little Autobiographical Association. There are so many different ways the chapter of the extramarital sibling could develop. We already have it that the half-sister came from an affair and was supported financially but not personally acknowledged. But the autobiography can go in so many different ways. Was OW1 trying to get F1 to leave his wife? Did he string her along? Did M1 insist that the child be supported in silence under threat of catastrophe? Or was either F1 or OW1 the motivator behind keeping HS1 away from her siblings or stepmother? There are so many possibilities. Who would tell or even still recalls without an internal rewrite the truth? Perhaps the answer all lies in who has charge of the Autobiographical Association.

Given that the product of the affair is now an adult, I'm inclined to guess that none of the principal adults at the time will give a full, frank and accurate account now, for one reason or another. LW1 herself is so scattered that I don't really much care what she does. Her question comes right at the end with only the least bit to do with any of the blather that preceded it. LW1 is probably more or less on the right track in not getting sucked into being a messenger. Meet with the half-sister, decide on her character, yadda yadda yadda; happily, there are all sorts and variations of aunts the siblings can be to suit the deserts and merits of whomever they determine worthy of the greatest consideration in the case. But I do have one concrete piece of advice to offer her regarding the disclosure to F1. There are surely agencies established for just this sort of situation. One pays a modest fee and the information in question is passed discreetly to the party concerned with likely as few ramifications as possible. It may be more common for this sort of disclosure to concern exposure to social diseases, but this would seem to be just the thing to cater to LW1's concern about a letter distressing her mother.

Moral: "We decided to leave Edwina's story as it was, all charming and insubstantial..."

L2: Now here we have a brilliant parallel to LWI. One of Fleur's earliest opinions of the various members of the Autobiographical Association is that one of the six, Lady Bernice ("Bucks") Gilbert, can actually string sentences together and is not the illiterate mess of an author that the other five quickly prove themselves to be. This factlet doesn't really get developed to much of an extent, as the autobiographies are last mentioned in specific terms when, with the exception of Maisie Young, who is still producing pointless pages about the Cosmos, Sir Quentin has his followers all drafting their first amourous adventures - Mrs Wilks having her blouse torn by a Cossack soldier in St Petersburg, Father Edward Delaney having impure thoughts while hearing confessions, la Baronne Clotilde du Loire caught in bed with her music master in the charming chateau near Dijon, Sir Eric Findlay thinking about an actress who'd visited his family during whatever he unspecifically did at prep school with another boy, and Lady Bernice's lesbian affair with the hockey captain at school, to which descriptions of sunsets in the Cotswolds gave atmosphere.

The domineering Bucks gives a cocktail party. Fleur is a little surprised at the pressing nature of Bucks' invitation to her, only to discover after her arrival that she is expected to work, Bucks' little maid only having two hands. Fleur is about to rebel, but then happily an old friend Wally McConnaughey turns up. Fleur and Wally do a little listless work, then stand about talking and eating, ignoring Bucks' increasingly angry glances at things to which she thinks Fleur ought to be attending. Fleur and Wally duck out early, I believe just after Sir Quentin arrives, and begin a light romance that survives a disastrous weekend getaway once petrol goes off the ration but merely limps along a while longer, Wally eventually marrying an English Rose to Fleur's apparent unconcern.

As for the actual L2 and the Prudecutor's reply, she rather startled me. This is the most Upstairs, Downstairs reply I have ever seen the Prudecutor give. Of course, as far as it goes, the lawyers are really at work themselves during the party, and there are those who may reasonably find themselves satisfied with the Prudecutorial line of thought. But I find it difficult to comprehend the firm's line of thinking. Perhaps they are attempting to appear frugal by ostentatiously having the lesser staff save them some portion of the expence of hired help. Or perhaps the firm is being deliberately kyriarchal out of a sense that this sort of conduct will appeal to its desired client base. Personally, given how often clents interact with supporting staff instead of attorneys, the amount of time and effort staff often or usually contribute, and the difficulties that can be caused by the tiniest of clerical errors, I'd go out of my way to avoid giving clients the impression that any of the firm's employees have any motivation to tinkle in the beer.

I can only advise LW2 to have a little viewing festival of assorted period dramas. If LW2 emerges identifying and sympathizing with Emily Watson's Elsie in *Gosford Park*, then the party might promise to be of some interest, even if LW2's destiny might not be to remain long at the firm.

Moral: "'Sir Quentin would expect you to help.' But I was tired of these people with their Sir Quentin and all the twanging of harps round his throne."


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