Friday, September 22, 2006

Perils of Amanda, the hyper writer.

I’ve read about Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), yes. I have not read a single one of her three novels, Irene Iddesleigh, Delina Delaney and Helen Huddleston, though. Her first novel was dubbed by the humourist Barry Pain "the book of the century". For his pains, he got the sobriquet, "clay crab of corruption" from the mistress of aliteration. It’s an irony of sorts that Pain has long been forgotten while Ros is still remembered. She’s even going to be celebrated in her native land, Ireland. Come 26 September, fans will read from Irene Iddesleigh in a Belfast pub. The one who manages to read the longest without laughing will win a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel, a return ticket to Ros’ hometown Larne and a copy of the writer’s ‘how-to’ handbook. Just to give you an idea of the daunting challenge, here’s an excerpt from Irene Iddesleigh: “The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.” Or, this bit from Delina Delaney: “Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?” And, this gem from her poem, ‘Visiting Westminster Abbey’ (from Fumes of Formation – her other book of poetry being Poems of Puncture):

“Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.”

Aldous Huxley insightfully explained the Ros phenomenon as follows: "In Mrs. Ros we see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented...”. He contnues: “This is how she tells us that Delina earned money by doing needlework: ‘She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness’.” Nick Page (In Search of the World's Worst Writer) tells us: "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment'." Have alook at three woodcuts from Irene Iddesleigh here:

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