Sunday, October 23, 2011

" The Dark "

Very well-written book about the author's own sensible experience. Deep self-questioning and struggle in his soul, the book had him banned from his traditional Ireland for years

" The night was the night of the Jib's dance in the Aula, a new poster was up in the archway, you'd to meet John O'Donnel inside at nine.
The preparations took over an hour, shaving and washing, clean white shirt and collar out of the case, shining of the shoes, brushing of every speck from the suit, the hair flattened with Brylcream, the teeth brushed, the painful knotting and unknotting of the wine tie before the mirror, diarrhoea of tension.

What would it be like, the band, the music, the dances, the women? Would you be scorned by these women?
Because you couldn't dance.
Were you good-looking enough, would they look at you with revulsion?
Would you by watching pick up the steps and rhythms of the dance?
Would you have courage to ask a girl to dance?
Would you find yourself on the floor trampling on her feet, not able to dance, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm not able to dance, I'm learning," and would she leave you in the middle, "You'd better pick someone else to learn on," or would she endure you in stony silence?
What would you talk to a girl about?
Would you be able to endure the white softness of her bare arm, the rustle of taffeta or the scent of lacquer when she leaned her hair close, without losing control and trying to crush her body to yours?

Would you be the one leper in the hall at Ladies Choice,  flinching as every woman in the place casually inspected and rejected you, their favour falling on who was beside you, the other men melting like snow about you until you stood a rejecting laughing stock out on the floor in the way of the dancers, no woman would be seen with you? It would be as if your life was torn out of your breast by every couple dancing together and you could slink towards the shadow of the pillars, fit to weep, watch your own mangled life go dancing past.

"Off to the dance," they said downstairs as you went.
"Off to the dance," you repeated and pressed your features into an embarrassed smile.
"All the girls will be falling for him tonight, but don't do anything we wouldn't do." 
"No. Good night."
Laughter wreathed about their "Good night", and was it mockery.

You crossed the other side of the road, glad of any excuse of delay, the blood pounding at the temples. "Control yourself. Control yourself. It's not the end of the world. It'll be forgotten by tomorrow morning," but it was no use. (...)

A vision of the dance floor came to plague you, naked shoulders of the women, glitter of jewellery on their throats, scent and mascara and the blood on their lips, the hiss of silk or taffeta stretching across their thrusting thighs, and always their unattainable crowned heads floated past. 
 This was the dream you'd left the stern and certain road of the priesthood to follow after, the road so attractive now since you hadn't to face walking it any more, and this world of sensuality from which you were ready to lose your soul not so easy to drag to your mouth either for that one destructive kiss, as hard to lose your soul as save it. Only in the mind was it clear. 

You turned away, back towards the town, not able to return to the room because of the shame if you were seen slink through the hallway, you'd have to wait till they were sleeping or the dance was over.
In the café, over cups of coffee, in Shop Street, you spent the last part of the night; here you'd sat with John O'Donnell after the Savoy; and tonight he was dancing.
You envied the old waitress, she seemed asleep in everything she did, there were worse lives. All day she served nondescript customers that came through the swing doors, tired on her feet at the end, the one desire to get back to her bed and room, but perhaps it wasn't as simple as that either.
Perhaps nothing was."
John McGahern, "The Dark"


  1. Obviously a little late to be commenting on this but I thought the art was well done. Would have commented sooner but I guess there were parts of that story that hit a bit too close to home...Nonetheless, well done Alex

  2. Better late than never! Thank you Marrk : )
    The art was nothing special, just two pictures put together which fit well with the purpose I think. Glad this story touched you, brillant book about things difficult to put into words