Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"The Psychical Mallards"

"The Psychical Mallards"
by E.F. Benson

The son of a respectable and exquisitely typical English couple causes deep disappointment when he displays his undesirably supernatural abilities.

My Reaction:
What a very strange story!

The touches of humor lull you into a sense of complacency, but one episode in the tale was rather shocking.  (You'll know it when you read it...)

I wouldn't care to read a whole book in this exact tone, but as a short story, satire makes a change from the usual fare.

Tidbits (with SPOILERS):
--  "Together with clairvoyance he developed a power of clair-audience, and by day and night heard voices which were quite inaudible to his elders and betters."  That doesn't sound pleasant.  A bit schizophrenic, in fact. 

--  "Hysterico-ideo-exteriorizative".  Woah.  "Ideo-plasticity".  Sounds gross.  "Cryptomnesia (or recalling what he had once known but completely forgotten)". 

--  "knee-hole table".  Now that I look it up, of course I recognize it at once.  Strange-sounding name, though.

--  "'Teleo-kinesis,' muttered Mr. Mallard.  'My knee-hole table has been behaving like a three-year-old.'  Mrs. Mallard had the same wholesale dislike of occult phenomena as her husband.  "Oh, how tiresome!" she said.  "But, thank goodness, the table has gone back.  So upsetting for the housemaid to find all the furniture moved about.  Dr. Farmer told me that we mustn't be surprised if something of the sort happened.  He is a very naughty boy.'"

--  Tim has gone unconscious and floated up a few feet into the air... "Then some opposing current took possession of him, and after he had bumped once or twice against the panes of the second window, Mr. Mallard had the good sense to open it, and Tim floated in again.  He circled 'round the room as if in a slow eddy, and then came to rest on the top of the knee-hole table.  'Levitation, drat it!' moaned Mr. Mallard.  'Dr. Farmer---'  Tim shook himself, upset an ink-bottle, and rubbed his eyes.  'Oh, bother!' he said to his father.  'What have I been doing now?  Hallo, I'm sitting in a pool of ink!  Why on earth didn't you stop me, one of you?'"

--  "I hold all psychical phenomena in contempt and abhorrence as being wholly un-English."

--  "Dinner on Christmas Day, for instance, was a very sorry banquet, for Tim had hardly begun on his turkey before he went into a profound trance, and plum pudding could not be served till nearly ten o'clock."

--   Miriam Starlight.  With a name like that, you're destined for something strange-- unlike a guy named "Tim Mallard".

--  I enjoyed a knowing nod when it was mentioned (in passing) that Tim and Miriam spent their honeymoon in Rye-- which is the sea- and riverside village where Benson himself lived for many years. 

--  "Being a classical scholar he had no great grasp of mathematics..."