Telling Stories: Studies in honour of Ulrich Broich on the occasion of his 60th birthday
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This bipartite approach is helpful in distinguishing the different techniques Caryl Phillips deploys to musicalize his prose, even if it needs to be pointed out that these two aspects are not mutually exclusive, and often co-exist, sometimes even overlapping. I am referring here to the average reader, who does not have a particular knowledge of music.
Wolf asserts that the integra- tion and cooperation of these different types of musical influence enhance the power of literature. One can say, then, that explicit references to music create an atmosphere in which the reader is more attuned to the potential for language to embody music itself.
The text explores a series of themes including loneliness, poverty, madness, and, most importantly, orphans and outcasts haunted by their past. Phillips imagines Heathcliff as Mr. The reader follows Monica through her descent into isolation when she loses her two sons, Ben and Tommy. In what follows, I will concentrate my exploration of thematic musicalization on the sections from the novel devoted to Monica and her sons, since they contain a plethora of musical references but also use music as an element of interaction between the cha- racters.
However, I am not arguing that music is only thematically present in this novel. The very beginning of The Lost Child contains some formal features of a musical novel. Notably in the first few pages there are some sonorous effects and numerous repeti- tions with variation. The formal imitation of music is much less present and striking than in other Phillipsian novels, which is why I have chosen to only deal with the thematic aspect of The Lost Child.
However, naming chapter-titles after songs is not the only kind of thematization that occurs in The Lost Child. At this stage in the narrative Monica is left alone with her two sons. Music in general seems to irritate her, perhaps because music is the first means by which Monica met her husband Julius, at a Christ- mas dance 25 and because a musical background is also present when Monica first realizes that their marriage has no future. Music becomes a source of tension between Monica and her spouse: Phillips represents Monica and Julius arguing about jazz. It has a theoretical intent.
Perhaps he had forgotten, but once upon a time she had been regarded as musically proficient. If music causes tension and arguments between Monica and her husband, it also represents a bone of contention with her son. We have got a telly, you know. For instance, when Ben is fostered by the Gilpins, he wishes his foster mother would ask him to turn the record player down, as his mother used to, as a sign of attention and a confirmation that he matters: Mrs.
Too much shouting, she said, which made me play it even louder in the hope that she might ask me to take it off.
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But she never did ask me to take it off, and eventually I realized that she never would, and so I started to play it quietly. Tell me something, why are your lips so fat? Does music enable Ben to survive the hardships of his life? Does he find refuge in listening to it? Firstly, the narrative is also structured around different stories: that of Eva, a Jew who survived the Holocaust; her uncle Stephan, 4. However, in The Nature of Blood musical descriptions only appear towards the end of the novel when another dance, which enables two individuals to meet, takes place.
Music is here merely a background for the social activity and opportunity for encounters that dance provides. Once more, the music stopped and partners were hastily exchanged, and he watched as, again, this woman was ignored. He steered her backwards and into the cluster of dancing couples,5 in the hope that they might attract less attention if they could edge their way towards the middle of the floor. However, her dancing seduced his attention with its grace and surety of step, and he soon forgot his cowardly plan.
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As above, music songs and dance are associated. In other words, on the level of music too Malka is confined to the role that Israeli society wants her to perform. This Holy Land did not deceive us. Even if the two stories are set decades apart, dance is presented as a way to ease loneliness and to socialise. Dance also enables mixed couples to meet and start a relationship; one can think of the examples of Julius and Monica The Lost Child , Joyce and Travis Crossing the River , although this is not really the case in The Nature of Blood.
O strong man, O strong arm, O valiant soldier, O weak man. However, Hol- derness strongly disagrees with such a comparison. Phillips introduces in this passage a series of interesting formal features: wordplay and slashes which evoke poetry or lyrics and emphasize rhythm. Phillips resorts to a creative language to ce- lebrate the power of sensation. In regards to the verse layout, Julie Sanders claims that it recalls both jazz lyrics and Shakespearian verse, as well as the rhythms of contemporary rap Thus he connects his own literary endeavour with the oeuvre of his musical contemporaries, gesturing outwards to the larger black creative landscape I have selected the most representative passage of The Nature of Blood which resorts to these techniques, without however containing thematic allusions to music or dance.
Not this food. I wanted to eat the food that my wife would cook for me when I came home from university at the end of the day. Before Palestine. Before America. Fruit on the trees. An army.
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Beautiful women. A new country to build. After two months in Cyprus, I was leaving at dawn. To go home.
To go where? Away to the south. Away to the east.
How much should I tell this boy? Truly I felt ashamed, for I had not described my country. I had described the country that might be his. The country that might belong to his children. My country? I want to eat now, but not in Cyprus. And not in the new country. How could I explain? Imagine any day of my old life. Walking on stone.
Solid and secure. But now I walk on boards. Will they snap beneath my feet? A new world of boards. No stone. Nearly eleven years in Palestine. Two whole months in Cyprus. The Nature of Blood 9, 10, 11, my emphases 9 As suggested above, this passage exemplifies the different techniques that Petermann identifies as representative of music in literary texts: it contains sonorous effects, a structural pattern which imitates jazz and repeated lexical items. This quotation shows how Phillips emphasizes sonority thanks to sonic effects established through poetic techniques based on repetition such as chiasmus, wordplay as briefly discussed above , numerous reiterations of phrases or words.
To the reiteration of a phrase with variation Phillips adds a series of repeated words such as food, country, walk, world, old, new, which are not striking in themselves as they seem to belong to basic vocabulary, but which were highlighted by Sanders as refrains pervading the different sections of the novel Bolded text indicates repetition of clauses or sentences and underlined text indicates repetition of a single word.
Moreover, by using the same lexical items several times, Phillips establishes parallels between the different sections through the outlining of similarities between the experiences of cha- racters living centuries apart. This creates a sonic pattern that generates a supplementary layer of meaning, reminding us of what Eliot claimed for his own poetry. His situation has been reversed in the same way as the letters themselves have been inverted. The passage of The Nature of Blood I have just discussed is highly significant, since Stephan is questioning the new country he is going to build.
There are other very musical passages in The Nature of Blood that meaningfully concur with traumatic events, including the moment when Eva arrives at the concen- This is also the way he uses music in the next novel that I propose to examine, Dancing in the Dark. Music is an obvious theme in the narrative; lyrics are interspersed throughout the novel and there are numerous scenes from musical performances. It is thus the section where the upsetting of expectations occurs that Bolded text indicates rhyme.
Underlined text indicates the expected pattern and bolded text indicates rhyme. In an interview, Phillips has discussed the similarities in the ways black performers of different eras — vaudevillians and minstrel comedians like Williams, soul performers like Marvin Gaye and contemporary hip-hop stars — have packaged particular images of black manhood for white consumption. Brooke n. And so he made the people of Detroit laugh.
No longer Egbert Austin Williams. He kept telling himself, I am no longer Egbert Austin Williams. As I apply the cork to my face, as I smear the black into my already sable skin, as I put on my lips, I am leaving behind Egbert Austin Williams. The first time he looked at himself in the mirror the predicament was clear, but just who was this new man and what was his name?
In Detroit in Underlined text indicates a set of repetitions with variation and bolded text indicates another set of repetition with variation. Because as James A.
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As suggested in the lines by T. Through an anaphora, Phillips outlines when and where Bert begins to perform in blackface and, through his reflection in the mirror, how he feels about it. Accordingly, the readers, like the protagonist, cannot help remembering how everything started and how Bert was ashamed of having to put cork on his face. As I have attempted to demonstrate, musicality is inflected in different ways in the three Phillipsian novels I have just analysed.
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