Monday, January 30, 2012

Whatever it is I think I see, or, Some resemblances from the weekend

Let's start with the one that seems least likely to be intentional. From George R. R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons:
The cheesemnonger laughed so hard that Tyrion feared he was about to rupture. "All the gold in Casterly Rock, why not?"

"The gold I grant you," the dwarf said, relieved that he was not about to drown in a gout of half-digested eels and sweetmeats, "but the Rock is mine."
I'm surely not the only one who immediately thinks of Mr. Creosote, right?

Okay, fine: that's just a case of me seeing what I want to see, like when I mistake a windblown plastic bag in a vacant lot for a cute bunny hopping happily along. (Still, the Pythons did have a thing for cheesemongers and dwarves, no?) But what about this one, also from A Dance with Dragons:
His fellow drinkers were talking about dragons now. . . . "Wasn't there some princess, too?" asked a whore. She was the same one who'd said the meat was grey.

"Daena," said the riverman. "That was the sister. Daena of Dragonstone. Or was is Daera?"

"Daena was old King Baelor's wife," ssid the oarsman. "I rowed on a ship named for her once. The Princess Daena."

"If she was a king's wife, she'd be a queen."

"Baelor never had a queen. He was holy."

"Don't mean he never wed his sister," said the whore. "He just never bedded her, is all. When they made him king, he locked her up in a tower. His other sisters, too. There was three."

"Daenela," the proprietor said loudly. "That was her name. The Mad King's daughter, I mean, not Baelor's bloody wife."

Now, for all his overuse of the word "jape," Martin isn't much of a one for jokes--but that said, doesn't this exchange call to mind the perpetual, booze-clouded, fact-free discussions overheard at the O. J. in the Dortmunder novels? A deliberate allusion? Perhaps not, but I do find it comforting to think that drunken discourse never changes much, across centuries or imaginary continents.

Finally, an allusion that I do think is surely deliberate. Penelope Lively's new novel, How It All Began, a gently comic and unassuming look at the ramifications of one small change in the lives of a number of contemporary Londoners, features as its most fun character a self-regarding retired historian, Lord Peters. He is of course writing his memoirs; they are of course little more than the lightly fleshed-out contents of his Rolodex. After lost lecture notes lead to a debacle that leaves him feeling old and out of touch, he happens across a Simon Schama program and is inspired. "One has vastly underestimated television, I've come to realize," he tells his assistant. Then he turns to his niece, who is an interior decorator, and tells her of his plans for a series of half a dozen hour-long programs about the Augustan age:
"So where you come in, my dear, is to sort out some key person I should be getting in touch with. I'm not particularly au fait with that world, and you have so many contacts all over the place, don't you? You are always telling me about your prominent clients."

Marion stared across the table at him. Challenged, it would seem. Hoist with one's own petard, is that it? Trust Uncle Henry to put you on the spot when it suits him.

"Well . . . actually, I'm not at all sure that I . . . "

"Someone well established at the BBC, or the other outfit--whatever it's called." He waved a deprecating hand. "One of those in charge of program making. I wondered initially about going straight to the top chap at the BBC, the . . the . . ."

"Director-General, I think."

"Quite. Find out who he is and put the proposal to him--but, on second thought, it makes more sense to deal with the people who're going to actually do the program, don't you think? So--who do you suggest?"
It won't surprise you to learn that getting a TV show made involves a bit more than calling up the right man. In the process of being turned down, Henry makes the acquaintance of a recently minted PhD in history named Mark, who decides that Henry could be his meal ticket for a while. On seeing Henry's study, Mark says, wholly without irony, "Books do furnish a room, don't they?" Anthony Powell fans will of course recognize the reference, and if the name Mark hasn't already brought to mind Powell's character Mark Members, Mark's next step surely will: he insinuates himself as Lord Peters's archivist, a sinecure that will secretly leave him plenty of time to turn his dissertation into a book. "It's Henry now, no more Lord P.," notes Lord Peters's personal assistant, whom Members has elbowed aside a bit. "Got his feet properly under the table, he has."

Which, Powell fans will surely agree, is a very Mark Members thing to do. And that makes me, scoring generously, one for three in the allusion department for the weekend. Given all the nonsense floating around the brain at any given point, that doesn't seem like too bad a score.

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