“The Garden” by Joanna Parypinski

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I drew the two of hearts this week for My Deal Me In challenge. “Deuces are wild” this year so I went in search of a story… I just happened to have my iPad in hand when I drew my card, and it was providentially opened to my Kindle app, where I have several anthologies downloaded and “in the queue.” One of these is “Suffer the Little Children” from Cruentus Libri Press.

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In February, I learned from author Joanna Parypinski’s blog that this small indie press was closing down and that its ebook titles were available for free download. I’d previously read another one of their projects, Dead Sea, which I never blogged about but did briefly review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17565709-the-dead-sea I had enjoyed that one enough to “take a chance” (and risk a few kilobytes of memory space) on a free download, and having read some of Parypinski’s other work (e.g. Her novel, Pandora, back in 2012) I picked her short story, The Garden, for my week 25 entry…

This story is about Lily, a young and lonely girl, who learns of a spell that might help her end her loneliness. The story centers around two curious stone statues in her (recently deceased) aunt’s garden. The statues are of two “sisters” who – legend had it (“The story of the sisters was as wondrously strange as the garden where they spent their days in stone.” I really liked that opening sentence!) – were turned to stone by the witch whose garden it originally was. It seems the witch had became jealous of the girls’ gardening abilities. What the witch didn’t realize was that she was only ensuring “an eternity of togetherness” for the girls. While in the garden, Lily hears whispers. Are they from the stone sisters, or from something else – something more … malignant?

The other force at work in Lily’s life is loneliness. After visiting her deceased aunt’s house, she returns to her family’s home in the country: “There was a lot of emptiness here. Even at school with rowdy kids crowding the halls, Lily could still feel the emptiness creeping in on all sides. Her classmates didn’t seem to know it was there, but Lily did. It was all around them, encroaching in the desolate gloom of twilight.”

Lily’s isolation – and a spectral visitor – lead her to seek to “ensure some togetherness” of her own, just as she imagines the stone sisters in the garden enjoy. She gets more than she bargained for, however.

I’m not sure if this story is still available for purchase anywhere now that Cruentus Libri Press is shut down. I will do some checking and update later if I find it.

I admit that this story didn’t immediately effect me that much, but stories can leave their mark on me in different ways. The way this one did is that it led me to thinking all week about statues, and humankind’s long and sometimes curious relationship with them. In fact, I probably lost more than an hour of my life surfing the Internet reading about different statues, ancient and new. Some I was already familiar with and some were new to me. Of particular interest were stories of statues that began their lives as living beings, as did (allegedly) the stone sisters in this story. Take a moment and think about it – how many examples can you think of in literature and legend? Lot’s wife, anyone?

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Another interesting – though not surprising – fact is how people often begin to think of human-shaped statues as being “real” humans, perhaps with personalities of their own, perhaps treating them with undue reverence, considering they are actually only stone, marble, bronze, or whatever. “Anthropomorphizing” isn’t exactly the right word for it, since the statues are already of people.

One of Indy’s suburbs has a Main Street that is peopled with a lot of human statues in everyday poses (like the lady with the groceries pictured below) that coexist with the town’s actual animate population. I admit that, for my part, this creeps me out a little bit. The statues, even though you KNOW they’re statues, have a way of continually tricking one’s senses. When they’re in your peripheral vision, your certainty of what is real and what is not blurs somewhat, and in a way that makes me uncomfortable. 🙂

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For fun, here’s a list of the worlds “top ten statues”: http://10mosttoday.com/10-most-famous-statues-in-the-world/

Colossal statues also fascinate me. Below, the giant Toltec statues at Tula are said to walk around at night(!) Woe to anyone who steps in their path.

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Frodo and friends are braver than I, camping amongst the frozen statues of giant trolls.

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The tallest human statue in the world, in Volgograd, Russia. Colossal!

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The iconic Statue of Liberty sometimes takes a beating in film. “Cloverfield” and “Planet of the Apes” are two memorable examples.

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Some Additional, Final Thoughts on Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”

“It’s a madhouse! A maaaaadhouse!!” – Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) in the original Planet of the Apes…

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I finally finished Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, last Friday (yes, a day late for the readalong) In this book, almost every single character is either mad (in the “crazy” sense), or believed to be mad, or declares one or more of his fellow characters to be mad. I’ve never seen anything like it. It makes for disconcerting reading, and distracts one from thinking or realizing “what is this book ABOUT anyway?”

I’m not sure I know the answer to that question. I know what it’s about to ME, however. The titular character, Prince Myshkin, has returned to Russia after several years in a sanatorium in Switzerland, where he was treated for epilepsy and for being an “Idiot.” Though now well, he too easily takes people at their word, and is incredibly naive which, naturally, lands him in trouble frequently. The main source of his “troubles” is that he falls in love. Twice. Once with the strikingly beautiful “fallen woman,” Natasia Fillipovna, and then with the (also beautiful) young daughter of a general, Aglaya Ivanovna.

What I think the novel is saying, perhaps, is that civilization has reached the point that a transparently, unfailingly good and altruistic person “doesn’t stand a chance” in a world of greed and self serving motives. Myshkin will believe anything anyone tells him. He wants to like everyone, or at least find a reason to like them. Try to murder him? No worries. He will “understand” your motives and still be your friend. Mock him? He will fall in love with you for all your other qualities. Laugh at his proposal of marriage? No matter. All you need do is apologize with apparent earnestness and all will be forgiven.

So what is to become of a man like this? Well… ***SPOILER ALERT!*** one of the women he “loves” is murdered by his enemy/friend and the other marries a rich, expatriate, Polish nobleman, who turns out to be actually “none of the above” and turns her against family and friends. This sends a reeling Myshkin back to an asylum, perhaps suggesting that is the only place for someone of such a pure and noble nature in Dostoevsky’s 19th century world. Kind of a downer, huh? Thus, I was fairly disappointed with this book, even though shining through the translation was much of beauty and interest, including some deep thoughts on capital punishment. I’ll lea e you with the following beautiful passage so you hopefully won’t feel to negatively about this book:

“An old, forgotten memory awoke in his brain, and suddenly burst into clearness and light. It was a recollection of Switzerland, during the first year of his cure, the very first months. At that time he had been pretty nearly an idiot still; he could not speak properly, and had difficulty in understanding when others spoke to him. He climbed the mountainside, one sunny morning, and wandered long and aimlessly with a certain thought in his brain, which would not become clear. Above him was the blazing sky, below, the lake; all around was the horizon, clear and infinite. He looked out upon this, long and anxiously. He remembered how he had stretched out his arms towards the beautiful, boundless blue of the horizon, and wept, and wept. What had so tormented him was that he was a stranger to all this, that he was outside this glorious festival.”

This recollection occurs when he – as he frequently found himself – was at a loss to understand the actions and motives of other characters in the novel. Not a bad read, but I much preferred Crime and Punishment to this one.

Your thoughts…?

Sent from my iPad