the door in the wall
“The door in the wall was an icon beloved by late Victorian and Edwardian alike. The symbol of lost opportunity, or of opportunities not fully taken. If you pass through the door, the story goes, you cannot be anything less than changed. If you don’t pass through it, you still cannot be anything less than changed. Choice, here, offers a fifth major compass point, an unnamed direction or plane. It’s the plane of nostalgia, and of nostalgia’s inverse, a kind of weightless but abiding regret.” From “Self Storage”, You Should Come With Me Now.
Photograph: “Dilapidated doorway” by Paul Dobraszczyk, from his fascinating collection at Rag-picking History.
Suzanne Vega: Crack in the Wall
I’m always interested in the area of contention between author and reader this kind of story seems to stealthily describe–the struggle for control of the door. In “Self Storage”, the ironic metafictional tone is used to strip the fantasy out of the encounter with the trompe l’oeil door (insisting that it’s the structures themselves which are interesting, not the fantasy-content with which any given author fills them); point up the producer/user struggle over access; and to game frame story technique–frame stories, clearly, having in themselves the structure of a door or a window.
Occurs to me I was steeped in this as a kid & trying to solve it long before I encountered the Wells story…
Comment from a reddit discussion about under-read fantasy books: “Viriconium. Such a weird friggin’ book. But the stories still haunt me. I don’t know why.”