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Sunday, November 02, 2008
Odalisque by PF Jeffery (DFL Comments)

Chapter 14 – Brothel


An unashamedly coarse chapter both in deed and word. Our heroine settles into ‘The Laughing Phallus’ whorehouse under the brilliantly delineated larger-than-life Madame Scurf.  Seeing it from Tuerqui’s relatively unshockable viewpoint makes even the lily-livered reader strangely unshockable, too, while sympathising with Tuerqui’s stoicism and sad yearnings for her daughter.


Some choice snippets:


Cart ’ores sounded so much like cart horse that I was confused for a moment.  Our mistress chose to clarify her words with the cane.  A stinging stroke made contact with my thighs, and had me scrambling on to the vehicle with some alacrity.  Giggli followed me closely, clutching her bottom


“There’s another town ahead,” Wiggli broke in.

She was right – just ahead was a straggle of buildings, grey in the early evening, shadowed by cloudbanks.  Although never having seen the place before, somehow I knew that this was journey’s end – and the start of my whoredom.  It seemed that we all knew it – our conversation came to an abrupt halt.  In the sudden quiet, Madame Scurf was audible again.


She led us out of the toilet, through another door, and we were in the groping parlour.  It was a large, dimly-lit room with a bar to our left – shadowy figures sat at tables.  Tucking the whip and cane under her arm, Madame Scurf placed fingers in the corners of her mouth and produced a piercing whistle.  The room fell silent.


“New ’ores,” she announced to the room.  “They’re all virgins,” she winked, “but eager t’ get stuck in.  They’re ’alf in love with y’ already.”


[1][1] Nothing is known of Madame Scurf’s upbringing or lineage.  The name Scurf is extraordinary, and is otherwise unknown.  It is possible that it is a corruption of Scourge – in which case she could have been descended from Susanna Scourge who was prominent in Surrey politics a century earlier.  If so, her coarse accent may well have been affected.






but most of the others stuck with “yes, mistress.”

I know that is correct re the end of speech punctuation, but it looks a bit odd there. Perhaps this is preferable: but most of the others stuck with a “yes mistress”.



I don’t want to harp on old debates but the first one below seems more wrong than the others:-

All six of we slaves hurried through the red door

a couple of boys dressed similarly to we girls. 



One of the above snippets refers to Madame Scurf’s “coarse accent”.  If there is going to be a problem with some readers not becoming accustomed to the coarse elided dialogue (English rather than American-based coarseness??), the problem will perhaps come to a head in this chapter, which is full of it.  Also, Madame Scurf does not seem to be consistent varying between ‘brothel’ and ‘broffel’.





Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.


 On this site, if you want to leave comments all you need do is type 'nospam' in confirm box and your name.


The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html







Posted by: newdfl on 7/27/2008 7:03:34 AM , 9 comments

Submitted by Pet at 7/27/2008 4:25:17 PM

Thanks, Des. It's growing late as I write -- I'll consider your queries later, except for your last point:

"Also, Madame Scurf does not seem to be consistent varying between ‘brothel’ and ‘broffel’."

Madame Scurf's accent is apt to vary. As the footnote you quote points out, it may have been an affectation. It seems to me that there is good resaon to think that Madame Scurf was probably from a middle or upper class family. My guess is that she felt a coarse accent appropriate for a brothel keeper. Also, I suspect, she was the black sheep of her family and may have had several reasons to disguise her origins. (The adoption of her extraordinary name, surely not a genuine surname, may be one attempt to obscure her past.) Like several other important "Odalisque" characters, she remains an enigma. There is plenty for the reader to chew over in trying to make sense of her character. I feel that I know Tuerqui very well -- but do not believe that I know anything of Madame Scurf beyond what is revealed in "Odalisque". My guesses about her have no higher status than those of any careful reader.

Submitted by des at 7/27/2008 4:41:44 PM

Thanks. I accept that (for what it's worth!) :-)

I look forward to the rest of your counter-comments. Just a typo on my part; my suggested replacement above should read:
but most of the others stuck with a “yes, mistress”.

Submitted by Pet at 7/31/2008 8:09:59 AM

A look at the queries:

1. but most of the others stuck with “yes, mistress.”

The full paragraph reads:

Again she paused -- this time I varied my response with "of course, mistress" -- but most of the others stuck with “yes, mistress.”

It would seem to me a bit odd to retain the comma in "of course, mistress" while cutting that of “yes, mistress”. That is, at least, whilst retaining both as direct quotations in inverted commas. Maybe the comma of “yes, mistress” could go were this placed in italics rather than quotation marks.

2. All six of we slaves hurried through the red door

This is the same usage as the "we six" debated in the Chapter 15 comments. I'm currently minded to keep both instances of "we six" (but could be swayed by convincing argument). This is certainly different from previous instances of "we slaves".

3. a couple of boys dressed similarly to we girls.

This seems little different from the instances of "we slaves" already considered -- except that it relates to "girls", rather than "slaves". That said, the argument of being treated as subject, rather than object, is less convincing in the case of "girls" than it is with "slaves". It is clear that, in Surrey at least, girls are more highly valued than boys. Possibly, Tuerqui is here reflecting matters belonging more to her upbringing than to her current circumstances. From Chapter 28 onwards, it becomes clear that girls have a very low status in the Lundin from which she has come (and the same is probably true of the Essex of her childhood). Perhaps this needs to be read in the context of later chapters -- and maybe we could return to the issue in due course.

Submitted by des at 7/31/2008 8:29:04 AM

My query on the


was in you ending the sentence with a " when the speech is being used as a noun clause after 'with'.


But probably not worth pursuing. :-)

Submitted by Pet at 7/31/2008 8:47:22 AM

So you think italics would be better than quotation marks for the end of the paragraph?

Submitted by des at 7/31/2008 8:50:30 AM



instead of


Submitted by Pet at 7/31/2008 9:20:54 AM


Submitted by Pet at 7/31/2008 9:40:27 AM

I tried moving the "yes, mistress" full stop -- but it didn't look right. Now, I've placed "yes, mistress" in italics, rather than quotation marks. That looks better to my eye.

Submitted by des at 7/31/2008 9:45:41 AM

Good result.

Posted at 11:33 am by Weirdmonger


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