Friday, August 19, 2011

The Rough Account of The Group of Twelve: 2. Jane Chantal Ardri (excerpt from R. A. Lafferty's East of Laughter)

'JANE CHANTAL ARDRI was an artist of all the arts. But she denied that her art was completely computerized art. Her personal computer, in the family room of the Ardri home, was invisible, except to the eye of another artist. It was housed in a hunting-horn that hung on a rafter (a computer-hewn hickory rafter) in that pleasant room. But every artist who came there (and most of Jane’s friends outside the circle of Twelve were artists) would say at once, “Oh, how quaint, Jane Chantal, how cult! How could anybody not put her computer in her hunting-horn! How could anybody not have a hunting-horn! And does it still sound like a hunting-horn?”

‘And, in her programming voice, Jane Chantal would immediately order, “Sound, horn, sound, and mean it when you sound!” And lively and rousing (though computerized) hunting-horn tunes would immediately tumble out of the rafter-hung horn-computer. Jane was a huntress, of course, always and in everything, but she was a fuzzy and somewhat lazy huntress, one who was seldom in a hurry. She knew that her game would wait for her, that her prey would take only token (though colourful) flight. She was the huntress who was always in charge of the hunt.

‘But Jane Chantal always maintained, “I use the computer only for the tedious and difficult things in art, and in my hunting. Many of the things in art are hot and heavy, or they are cold and clammy, or they are back-breaking and finger-breaking. These things the computer does, but I do all the artistic parts, and all the really avid pursuits.”

‘Yes, certain aspects of bronze-casting are hot and heavy, as is the carrying-in of a full-grown elk on the shoulders and hanging and drawing it. Certain aspects of massive sculpture in travertine-marble-limestone are rockdust-breathing and arm-breaking and unpleasant. So also are aspects of stalking a prey by the belly-crawl through frozen grass on a winter pre-dawn. And the whole process of writing and regaling of Heavy Drama is nerve-jangling and emotion-wrenching. So let it be the computer whose nerves are jangled and whose emotions are wrenched. And it is the business of the computer to find rimes for unrimeable words and to devise new meters, just as it is the business of the computer to find new Canadian Geese to rise from the lake in the morning and to make their turn-back when a furlong in the air to receive the shot. And the computer can gaze directly into the sun (directly by remote-control) and then record the after-images that result form that encounter. Or the computer can go, not physically itself, but in its probing processes, down into the bottom of the deepest well or aquafer and there record the curious poetry of the blind brooks and the blind fish. And, whenever Jane Chantal returned from one of her frequent trips to other parts of the world, she would find that her artistic production had gone on unabated in her own absence. Her joyous computer (it was named Joyeuse Vice-Reine and it was a female computer) never failed her. Her newest productions were always in the newest style, whether Jane Chantal was physically present at their production or not.

‘Like the computer of her husband Hilary, that of Jane Chantal Ardri was also inhabited by a sprite that was kindred to a poltergeist, but less obtrusively adolescent. And the two sprites were excellent friends. The two people with their computers and with the two infestations of their computers all lived together in one happy household.

‘Hilary and Jane Chantal Ardri also had five children of their own flesh and blood, good, pleasant, smart children. They will be mentioned without hesitation if ever there is a reason to mention them again. The names of the children (they were named by the computers: neither Hilary nor Jane Chantal was good at naming children) were Hilary Henry, Jane Chanteclaire, Marie Rieuse, Anne Auclaire, and Urban Urchin. Urban Urchin, the squeaking wheel, got a certain amount of attention form them simply because he was the squeaking wheel. And the eldest of them, Hilary Henry, was their “man in New York” and so they maintained a sort of business relationship with him.

“If you ever meet a happy artist in any of the arts, fall back and regroup,” a brilliant critic in the late twentieth century has written. “Fall back and regroup, or back out of it any way you can, for you will have stumbled into an unreal world.”

‘But the fuzzily-beautiful and fuzzily-avid Jane Chantal Ardri was a happy artist in all the arts. This wasn’t the first or the second indication the Ardris had that they lived in an unreal world, without difficulty or complication. But it was another of those most telling indications.’

-R. A. Lafferty, East of Laughter (1988), pp. 6-8

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)