Though on a good night you could still hear the breathy whisper of ten thousand voices wash across the roofs of Montrouge like a kind of invisible firework, the arena by then was really little more than a great big outdoor circus, & all the old burnings and quarterings had given place to history pageants, drumming, amateur choirs, acrobatics, trapeze acts &c. The New Men liked exotic animals. They did not seem to execute their political opponents–or each other–in public, though some of the aerial acts looked like murder. Every night there was a big, stupid lizard or a megatherium brought in to blink harmlessly & even a bit sadly up at the crowd until they had convinced themselves of its rapacity. & there were more fireworks than ever: to a blast of maroons full of magnesium & a broad falling curtain of cerium rain, the clowns would erupt bounding & cartwheeling into the circular sandy space–jumping up, falling down, building unsteady pyramids, standing nine or ten on each other’s shoulders, active & erratic as grasshoppers in the sun, while the massed bands played the popular music of a decade or two ago. They fought, with rubber knives and whitewash. They wore huge shoes. Everyone loved them. [From "The Dancer from the Dance", 1983.]

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8 responses to “ceremonies

  1. TimCee

    I think you should get Danny Boyle to adapt this.

    I see Ray Winstone as Osgerby Practal and the young Charles Hawtrey or Benedict Cumberbatch playing Ignace Retz.

    (Is that the right story?)

  2. uzwi

    It’s the right story, TimCee. Maybe not quite the right director. Nice choice for Osgerby Practal; but who to play the dancer?

  3. thezaksmiththatpaints

    I’d draw every page of that. Make it 200 pages

  4. TimCee

    Meryl Streep as Mammy Vooley and Alejandro Jodorowsky to direct?
    The dancer eludes me…

  5. Evan

    I know a girl named Tess. Here’s my version, on 16mm, from long ago:


  6. Yes — and the corrective to spectacle, which for me was watching a too-brief pre-Olympic opener interview with Iain Sinclair protesting against the Olympics, talking about the erased working-class communities of East London. The interviewer looked nonplussed, the spokesman who had been one of those who ‘initiated’ Canary Wharf looked exasperated, and gangling reticent Sinclair just went on trying to say what nobody wanted to hear. Then we cut to the Red Arrows, of course.

  7. uzwi

    Hi Louisey. So true. I was rather surprised by the speed with which the UK left bought into this postmodernised style of Royal Variety Performance because it contained some pop music their generation could relate to. Reminded me of my parents gawping and dozing in front of Bruce Forsythe. When we got to the sentimental pantomime of the Health Service I realised that politics was over in this country, subsumed like everything else into fiction.

  8. “Empty Space” published. Empty seats appear. We get the picture.

    Then again, I realised we were waiting for the Barley Brothers when my neighbour came outdoors on Friday morning and started waving a hand-bell about. She gave me a frantic grin as I passed her on the way to work, but I hadn’t the heart to tell her the Co-Op already had the butchered megatherium cut price in the freezer section.