abyss, miasma, weather –
Frederick Fairlie indulges himself in abyssal pleasures. Rooms darkened with tissue coccoon his sensorium. Sunk there with his relics, he loses the ability to tell tears from “secretions.” Narration’s compulsive drive toward its Secret – the End – meanwhile, gets caught in the muck of his morbidly introspective style — its annoyances, amusements, and the “irrelevance” it projects onto speaking figures, especially those who look “unfinished” to its coldly objectifying gaze. All of the latter come with excuses: not only the parasitic chain of “noises” — creaking — breaking in on or masking the plot’s movement, but also “Louis’s accent,” the convolutions and interruptions of the makeshift dictatorial apparatus, set in motion by an as-yet-unexplained third person.
Maybe this voice’s stylistic overwork — its overwroughtness — gives figuration to the problematic where voices both leach off and assemble the “mysterious arrangement” hanging over them — the problematic of style as such, in this novel at least.
How? It projects its own “infinite fuss” onto a reproductive periphery that then seems to intrude upon his solitude with “marital hailstorms” — it identifies the main plot line, oriented around marriage, with the West Indies, as an outside whose weather breaks in on aestheticized solitude. It finds itself both searching for foreignness or irrelevance — noise, parasitism — in the speech of those it would find inferior and blaming the English language itself for being too “clumsy” to “let [him] speak.” Is this what a loss of “national composure” looks like, or is it “national composure” itself? By projecting its own failings onto interlocutors and language alike, Fairlie’s voice means to absolve itself of responsibility — to crawl back into a cocoon of sensation.
Count Fosco fascinates others with his eye’s “glitter.” Whereas Fairlie gives vents his perversions into jokes and perceptual failures (a kind of class-based refinement of negative hallucination )(“amusing perversity”), Fosco’s float nearer the surface. At the same time, their very transparency begs the question of what scheme forms the machinery beneath his civilities. He’s almost a pervert the way Catherine Trammel is, except she says what she’s done without confessing and he leaves some things off scene. Obscenity still leaks through here though. The fat body, orifices left open to the animals it disciplines, generates spectacles of “sentiment,” of tact, of interest, but also of repulsive attraction.