The drawing of Sphinx as Grasshopper crying found here.
Week 7 finds me without a lot of time to write the post. My narration may not be very complete, but I have both read and listened, and listened more than once, so I hope to be familiar with the things you all want to discuss in the comments.
I’m going to a retreat this Thursday to Saturday, so you are going to see this post on Wednesday. I don’t know if I’ll be able to read your comments or comment those three days. But I warn you, at one point or another, I’m going to stop by and unload all the thoughts and questions and theories I have about this week’s readings. And those are many!, lol.
The section for this week was this,
Week 7 (pp. 446-521)
Sphinx: The Longest Night
BOOK 3: The Abandoned Nests
Sphinx The Longest Night
This is just 3 pages. Back at the dorm, Tabaqui is recounting the LN, what’s happened so far. Smoker too is relating when he was a cat. Black is mad at Smoker for disobeying Blind, for leaving the room, and for going to Vulture’s tent to guzzle who knows what. Now we know, or Black says, that Vulture has been eating anything but dope for the last hundred years.
Ginger goes to their dorm. Sphinx consoles her. She wants to know what’s happened to Red.
Book 3. The Abandoned Nests.
We have new designations:
- Went over completely (Noble, Blind, Shuffle -The Magician, or Crookshank, Corpse, and Sleepy)
- Moved to the other side (sleepers), (Humpback, Tubby, Angel, Butterfly, Beauty, Elephant, Ficus, Shrub, Zebra, Dawdler, Owl, Triton, Flipper, Crybaby, Piddler)
- Went into the outsides (Sphinx, Smoker, Lizard, Dodo, Dearest, Viking, Microbe, Sumac, Porcupine, Carrion, Ringer, Whitebelly, Tiny, Greenery, Crook, Rabbit, Splutter, Hastewaste, Gin, Professor, Straw, Sticks, Bricks, Biter, Gyps, Hamster, Kit)
- Left with the bus (Lary, Horse, Bubble, Red, Hybrid, Monkey, Termite, Black, Gnome, Woolly, Zit, Genepool, Rickshaw, Bagman
- Left before fairy tale night, (Squib, Laurus, Dealwithit, Headlight, Ears, Nutter, Booger, Cupcake, Sniffle
- Moved to another loop, (Tabaqui, Vulture)
- Unknown, (Alexander)
I have some ideas about the different groups, what the designations may mean. We can discuss it at the comments.
Sphinx 1 gives us the ‘second’ half, or the rest of the LN’s events, but it opens with Sphinx outside, looking at some writings on the trunk of a tree:
Remember L.N. and never lose hope.
I am a tree. When I am cut down, make a fire with my branches.
Ralph has a revealing conversation with Sphinx, or Sphinx with Ralph. They are talking about the 3 that attacked Red. Ralph says their parents have called, they want to leave the House. Ralph asks what Sphinx thinks, what is it they fear?, What are they trying to run from?, but Sphinx doesn’t know. He says something interesting,
“I don’t think it’s a question of fear. They’re being squeezed out. The First is good at that. And not only the First…”Sphinx also gives Ralph the name of one more, Smoker. Ralph is prompting Sphinx for information. Sphinx doesn’t want to answer, but he does. Ralph asks if he is a Jumper. Sphinx says he is, but a bad jumper, -that’s why he doesn’t jump. However, in the chapter after this, we see him getting better at this jump thing. He tells Ralph he too is a jumper.
Sphinx tells Ralph about the first time he jumped. This is why I cannot say jumping is simply overdosing. Sphinx tells Ralph he jumped when he was six, at the graduation he was at. He relates that jump as going into a different time. It happened when he was facing a puddle of blood, the mob jostling him from behind, forcing him to step further in that puddle. He remembers his socks soaked in blood. He passed out, went to another time or place, and when he woke up, quote, “after six years by my time and a month for everyone else, I saw a strange creature in the mirror. (This is my interpretation. I think this is when he was at the Sepulcher.)
Mermaid appears. She and Sphinx are a couple. There’s so much to discuss in this part, and in this whole chapter. We learn that Noble and Ginger are also a couple, albeit a troubled one. Thanks to Mermaid’s love for stories, Sphinx will tell her all the rest of things that happened during that L.N. It was maybe two, as Blind called it. That night started with Butterfly hiding at that stool, and the attack on Red.
Blind had quite a trip. He was found near Red, interrogated and punched in the stomach by Ralph, and he almost say bye to this world in his row with Black. And all this while having had a dinner consisting of , at least rats! Whether he is on drugs or not, the Blind of the LN, is a Senseless One. Sphinx had to tell him that his feet were bleeding at the end of week 6’s readings.
Blind and Black’s fight was mortal. It was supposed to end with one of them dying. Blind has been infallible in one to one encounters, but this time, Black had the upper hand for quite a while. Blind dodged what would have been a fatal punch, and after Sphinx harangues him, he bounces back, and hits Black like a maniac. Both are pretty hurt, but Blind seems happy and sleeps calmly, which is very eerie to witness. Black is happy to have the marks of involvement, and to have survived this attack. Later on we are told that both were sent to the cage. I’d say it’s safe to assume the cage is where they discipline those who have been into fights. It’s isolation time. After those two wreck the place in search for cigarettes that someone in the pack claimed to have hid there, they also come up with an unusual arrangement. Blind proposes Black to become the sixth’s leader, replacing Pompey. He accepts.
The chapters in which Ralph shows up, I felt that I was given more straightforward information, I started to understand why Black and Sphinx don’t get along, and also some of the dynamics of the House.
I think there was an important paragraph on page 474:
She gently pushes away, and I again see that she “remembers everything” in the gaps of her vest.
“I’m thinking how the same story comes completely differently depending on who’s telling it. And for all that, none of you is really lying.”
“Because whoever’s telling the story creates the story. No single story can describe reality exactly the way it was. I told you that I personally prefer Tabaqui’s version.”
There’s quite more on this too, a mention to Mermaid’s Gray Mouse Complex. Mermaid thinks she is uninteresting, all because she doesn’t have Ginger’s flamboyant personality. Mermaid also briefs Sphinx in the fact that Black, specially since he became the leader of the sixth, is copying Sphinx’s style. Sphinx had not noticed, but it makes sense to him nonetheless.
When they go back inside, Jackal (Tabaqui) is busy with his new ‘radio’ system, or whatever all those colorful cables hanging are. He is talking and connecting people at the House, with others outside?
Sphinx and Mermaid also meet with another couple, a very disturbing one, Blind and Rat. Blind is full of scratches in his chest, Rat’s nails are bloody. Sphinx is not happy about this relationship.
Needle found here.
They head downstairs where they are late for Shark’s address to the House denizens. This part has a lot of information to help us, and many things will make us speculate even more. He is revealing the results of their mandatory testing. Apparently is a disaster, so much that the teachers won’t even bother staying for a second examination. The counselors will. They always do. Only a few of them barely pass the minimum to be able to pursue the next studies (college.) Shark calls them imbeciles. The names of the few passing ones are these: a few in the first (less than Sphinx expected), only one in the second, Squib, nobody from the third, and Zimmerman (Smoker) from the fourth. Sphinx whispers, “one way or another, somehow we do rid ourselves of them.”
Blind is nearby Sphinx, Sphinx notices something hanging from his neck, and Blind tells him that it is an engagement ring. He and Rat are engaged. When he puts that ring inside his shirt, he takes it out again. Sphinx remarks it may have been scratching his wounds. This is new, since before we got information about Blind being the Senseless one.
There’s so much to say about what’s left of this chapter and next, but I have to finish this now, and schedule the post. This scene reminded me so much of Madame Bovary’s scene where the Prefect is talking to the town’s crowd that has gathered for the event, (like Shark addressing all the people in the House), and Rodolphe proclaiming Emma his love, (some of our characters having conversations in the crowd, or Mariam describing what’s going on with those hearing Shark, or not, (almost all the Rats are plugged to their walk-mans.)
Drawing of Blind with Sphinx’s shadow found here
At one point the crowd shouts, “The only good cripple is a dead cripple!” There’s a mysterious exchange between Black and Sphinx about what’s going to happen to Smoker. Sphinx says his parents will take him. Black insinuates that he feels as if he has betrayed him, Sphinx thinks he has, Black says, ‘how?’, and Sphinx says that by failing to change him.
I’m just going to mention the next two events that close this chapter. One is the conversation between Black and Sphinx, with Humpback present, when they talk about the time when they were young, and Sphinx was Elk’s favorite. For Sphinx, he was being bullied, for Black, it was a time of jealousy, he wanted to be Sphinx, to have Elk’s attention.
The other event was the dorm, with Ginger, Sphinx, Smoker, Humpback and Tabaqui, and then with Tubby. First, we see the mix of hatred and attraction Smoker feels for Ginger, who he sees as a wild and unfeminine girl who has moved to their quarters and walks half naked, etc. What bothers Smoker, Sphinx thinks, it’s that Ginger doesn’t care about him, he is invisible to her. Smoker is an outsider. Ginger carries Tubby outside the dorm, Sphinx follows her, they three go to a mysterious place where there’s a real fire! There they two talk while Tubby plays, about their roles, their childhood, the fire nights with the Seniors and they, as young ones, trying to sneak and be there.
Sphinx 2, is a different chapter. Here we go back to the question, is this happening in a surreal or alternate reality, or in Sphinx’s head? And like someone said (I think it was Katie), does it really matter? Yuri has told us that Mariam always leaves this open to both possibilities, the realistic, or the otherwordly (that’s my favorite word for GH). If you have read or ever read García Márquez, his is a blend or an invasion of the magic into reality as we know it, or a expansion of reality to reach to the supernatural. He works more with the religion/miracle idea. Mariam’s ambiguity is, in my opinion, placed in the medical/drugs field, and her other worldly elements, the Faun inhabited Forest, the ghosts, the Great Hairy, the haunting and hunters presence, the river, etc, could be an enchanted extension of the House, and alternative reality Narnia style, or a reality in people’s heads. Those people could very well be in back to life experiences of having been in comma, or brought back to life, and those can be their experiences, as those recalled by people who had a heart failure.
Catwoman found here
This chapter has two main events. Sphinx and Noble race to the attic room to see what wins, arms or legs, and Tabaqui is the referee. When they climb, (Sphinx first), he finds that a girl they call Chimera is already there. Noble climbs and between both of them, they interrogate her. Sphinx is adamant to know what she was doing there. Chimera followed a dream she had that told her to go there and wait for a senior she has been meeting in other occasions ever since she saw him wanting to jump and commit suicide. Chimera doesn’t want to tell Sphinx his name. She is afraid. Sphinx gets down (with Humpback’s help to him and Noble), and they both go to see Blind. Blind doesn’t want to talk. That silence helps Sphinx figure out that it must have been Alexander. He faces Alexander, who says that he was going to kill himself because his fear killed Wolf. But he tells Sphinx that Wolf was really bad. And then he says that Sphinx can do whatever he wants with him now, like ask him to leave. Sphinx forgives him.
The second event is more difficult for me to explain. Somehow, Noble, Sphinx, and Black are in a room when Sphinx is offered some of the sixth beverages, after which he starts to feel he is the room, Noble’s crutches, everyone, everything, and he is in a place not in the House, not outside either, he is in a ‘jump’, and the rest are with him, but they tell him it’s his jump. They take to an asphalt road, and to a psychedelic canteen, where strange beings mingle, some of ghostly appearance, and some of our known characters are there too, Blind, and Alexander crying, asking Sphinx to forgive him. Tabaqui is there too. Noble is outside, looking like someone who is been sentenced to death. The last paragraph, I’m going to quote:
There we go, the need for expression has driven them to the ceiling, it’s only a matter of time before ceilings start looking like walls with all the writings and drawings, and whoever would want to read them would need a stepladder, so we’re going to have an infestation of stepladders in the House.
I sit in silence and think about all of this.
Sphinx, I do that too, I think about all of this a lot!
Drawing of Vulture found here.