. . .


Spectators huddle closely ("otherwise you won't see anything but a blur") around a rickety flickering contraption tended by a woman with an odd accent. We bob and weave so's not to miss a single tawdry apparition, strain our ears to catch the wavering, trite, obscure, and thrilling message. The images shimmer like silver, or silverfish.

Effects were made the old-fashioned way: directly in the camera and shaken back out. The exaggerated planes of depth simulate, remarkably closely, late 19th century accounts and photographs of spiritualist triumphs: things appear at you -- ridiculously clunky handmades and hand-me-downs, what thrills in their appearance is precisely their undeniably transient appearance. (Yes, that's probably why polarized 3-D's used mostly for sex, but the match to spiritualism's even more uncanny.)

"Its light roupagem allowed that the beautiful azeitonada color of its neck, the shoulders, the arms and the ankles was seen very well. The long black and wavy hair went down for the shoulders until below of the chest and were tied by a species of teeny turban. Its feições were small, correct and gracious; the eyes were black, great and livings creature; all its movements were full of those infantile favours or as of a young gazela, when vi, shy and the determined one, among the curtains."

"The most convincing bio-pic since Man Ray, Man Ray!"


Narratologist Juliet Clark points out that statements like "The mystery is solved" are a wonderful way to end an autobiography, or any other story, especially if the explanation is incomprehensible. I liked Jim Thompson's "This World, Then the Fireworks" better when I was mystified by its undeniably conclusive final sentence than when I understood it.

Other suggestions for further reading:

  • Zoe Beloff's introductory remarks about the alarming concentration of spiritualist power in feminine hands and the extent to which the Victorian séance served as a outlet for bad behavior put me in mind, of course, of our dear friend Pooter.

  • The querulous tone of Elizabeth d'Espérance's voices from the other side -- like mean-spirited senile relatives -- was replicated a century later by Hannah Weiner's transcriptions. We don't cling to our dead because they have much to offer in the way of wisdom or personality. We cling to them because they're blood.


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.