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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery (First Entr'acte)

First Entr'acte


 Although that is the name of this section, there is much meaty plot-moving, a bombardment of incidents and names, evocatively conveyed through passages of honed prose and dialogue. After a tearful farewell to Modesty, I could actually sense with many senses the sea trip, the sea battle, the sea-sickness, the subsequent ceremony.  I wallowed in the emerging Imperial politics, the description of the Empress who takes more than just a simple fancy to our fiscal inspector heroine.  I trust some of these machinations will become clearer, particularly the 'gynogenesis' procedure and how the Empress' daughter is here being set up as a  major player in this magnum opus of great literature later?  I'm confused, but nicely confused. Jane is, too, because she seems to be already known by the Empress and somehow full of some unknown destiny.


The Sapphic urges continue to be majored upon, even to the extent of priming Jane for the Empress with a sweaty game of tennis. 


I am now going to surrender the desire to quote passages that please me (both prose and dialogue) because there are far too many.  You must do yourself a favour and read everything for yourself.  I shall occasionally pick out a passage here or there that I think conveys something special I've spotted, for example the generality derived from this passage:


"Whilst parting from my lover would certainly return to haunt me; that was yesterday's and tomorrow's affair.  My shipboard sense of belittlement had fallen to third place in the ranking of my immediate concerns."


seems to convey some core of ethos important to 'immediate concerns', and anything else being someone else's business?  Not hedonism alone, but a thrusting living of life for the moment.  The politics, for example, swirling around do just that – swirl around immediate concerns.  The reader need not trouble his or her 'pretty head' further?



"Never throw into the wind."

Should that be 'throw up'?



there seems more than one variant spelling of this word in this section, i.e. also without the 'o'.


Captain Muriel Young:

Does she have a Pussy Cat Willum? (joke).



The essentral matriarch code: essential?




Links to all my JANE chapter comments:




Posted at 09:52 am by Weirdmonger

PF Jeffery
August 20, 2009   06:25 PM PDT
(NB: In what follows, the reader will find a brief quotation from a draft chapter from “The Warriors of Love” Volume 2, and (at the end) a longer one from a draft for “The Warriors of Love” Volume 5. Both Volume 2 and Volume 5 cover parts of the action that was formerly the novel “Odalisque”. But the reader will look in vain for either quotation in “Odalisque”. Both quotations are comprised of new material from the revision and expansion of the former “Odalisque”. Consider the quotes previews, perhaps, but they are not spoilers.)

That said… Thank you for those comments!

Yes, the entr’acte moves the plot along (and physically moves Jane along). Most of “Jane” is located in three places (with six chapters devoted to each). The two “entr’actes” shift Jane on to the next location. It’s fair to say that this first journey is more eventful than that of the second entr’acte. Well – best not to get ahead of myself and start talking about that!

I hope that gynogenesis will become clearer. It is mentioned again, later in Jane, and will also figure in later “Warriors of Love” novels. Chronologically, the first mention will be in “The Warriors of Love” Volume 2 Chapter 4 with this:

“In Surrey, Margaret, very clever women are working on a thing they call gynogenesis – something to allow two women to make baby.”

(This is draft text, possibly subject to change.)

That (Volume 2 Chapter 4) is set about twenty years before the action of “Jane”. In the planned Volume 3 (“Daisy”) the narrator, Daisy Diamond, will be a product of the gynogenesis process. (“Daisy” is to be set about twenty years after “Jane”… “The Warriors of Love” should cover more than seventy years in total.)

Berenice’s daughter should become important in some later volumes of “The Warriors of Love”. Volumes 6, 9, 10 and 12 are likely to be set during her reign as Empress. She should also be an adult (although not yet Empress) in volumes 3, 4 and 7. In how many of these volumes she will figure as a significant character is a matter yet to be determined – certainly some of them, and possibly all.

I don’t think that, in “The Warriors of Love” it is (or will be) necessary for readers to bother their pretty heads over much beyond the three narrators’ immediate concerns. The politics do much to shape the world in which the characters live, and shape their lives. Many details will be available, but the reader does not necessarily need constantly to bear them in mind. Some readers, I hope, will delight in the minutiae and mechanics of the world of “The Warriors of Love”, others will prefer to live in the moment. The series is designed to work either way. My hope is that, however it is read, the details of its world will give the text a richness that all readers can enjoy.

I think (although, in the context, it concerns throwing up) “Never throw into the wind” is a general piece of nautical wisdom. It applies as much to throwing a bucket of slops over the side as it does to throwing the contents of one’s stomach.

The ‘manoeuvre’ comment worried me, and I made a careful check on it. I find that the versions with and without an ‘o’ are slightly different words (manoeuvre. manoeuvring, manoeuvred manoeuvrable, maneuverable, maneuvering). I’m a bit puzzled. As far as I can see, there should either be an ‘o’ after the ‘n’, or an ‘e’ after the ‘v’ (but not both). Are these two equally acceptable alternatives? If so, maybe I should have used just one or the other. I suspect that, in reality, I accepted whatever the spell check suggested in each context. The word seems to me a bizarre sequence of letters such as I would seldom (if ever) get right on a first attempt.

I have a vague memory of Pussycat Willum – children’s television from the first half of the 1960s. But I don’t recall the name Muriel Young from that context. Still, the names ‘Muriel’ and ‘Young’ fit together well enough for them to have repeatedly occurred in combination.

Here, I will note that I’ve made some effort to achieve a certain euphony with combinations of first and last names. I didn’t have the luxury of carefully considering each for as many months as (I hope) parents do, but neither did I insert the names without due consideration.

Finally, “essentral” is correct. The essentral matriarchs are the traditional middle class of Surrey. Their values are a major factor in Surrey’s having survived and prospered, in spite of being surrounded by enemies. A number of important “Warriors of Love” characters are from essentral matriarch stock, including Empress Berenice, Lady Isobel and Jane herself. However, much these characters have adopted new values proper to the imperial age, those of the essentral matriarchs continue to inform their outlook.

The word “essentral” is fully explained in this passage of dialogue (from a draft for “Warriors of Love” Volume 5 Chapter 17):

“In her trade, she’d either be that, or one of the common folk. No essentral matriarch would run a whorehouse.”

“Sorry, mistress, but if it doesn’t make me sound too much like Tuerquelle, what’s an essential matriarch?”

“Tuerqui, the fact that you’ve said it wrongly makes you sound even more like Tuerquelle,” she said, laughing. “It’s essentral not essential. And the essentral matriarchs are Surrey’s traditional middle class. I suppose the term means that they’re both central to and the essence of Surrey society.”

“It’s strange that I haven’t come across the word before, mistress, if they’re the essence of Surrey society. I’ve lived in this country for a long time, now.”

“Not so very strange, Tuerqui. The essentral matriarchs don’t have much to do with slaves. Their values include simplicity and self-reliance. My mother never had a slave in the house.”

“You’re an essentral matriarch, mistress?”

“I come from essentral matriarch stock, Tuerqui, which is not quite the same thing. Your father’s slavers took me from that world and – one way or another – slavery has been my business ever since. And, anyway, the world is changing.”

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