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Old 06-16-2008   #1
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Puppet Passage of the Day...

Being an Online Anthology of Passages Concerning Puppets, Marionettes, Mannikins, Dolls and Other Slavish Freaks Devoid of Autonomy, Assembled by Ligottians, for the General Instruction, Benefit, and Amusement of Our Members.

"The puppet fascinated Rilke. The marionette--stuffed, stringed, hand-worked, mute--is nothing but external appearance, nothing but toddle and mime, a thing among things. The puppet is neither easy nor anxious about being a puppet. The puppet is the hinge between two worlds: that of the puppet master, in whose hands the puppet literally is, and that of the audience it faces; for if the puppet "comes to life" only in performance, it never sees the strings, the moving fingers, or its master's omnipresent eyes. The puppet's success depends upon the illusion of life it generates in its audience. The puppet, with materials dead as any bolt of cloth or cleverly shaped papier-mache, and usually shrunken as well, down to dollsize, must mimic the manners (however grotesquely burlesqued) of the audience that watches. They also dance and sing and swing their swords, but they do so because they are alive. The thespian, the hypocrite, the liar, is a feigner, too, but no clever-fingered master makes him act the way he does, or pretend that what is not... is, or deny or alter the truth; no, his "acting" is sincere, even if what he pretends to show is not; his desire to deceive comes from the inside, it is as meant as cement. One self, removed and hidden, has created another, the self which the world is allowed to see..."

-- William H. Gass, Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-16-2008   #2
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

"Puppet Theater" by Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. William H. Gass)

Behind bars, like beasts,
they pile up their behavior;
their voice is not theirs,
though they swing
their arms and swords
with great variety
as if catching an outcry
to copy while on the wing.

Their limbs have no joints,
and hang awkwardly
in their rig of wires,
which doesn't prevent them
from killing or dancing,
or bowing and scraping
like a courtier to a king.

With them, memory has no point;
they wring their awareness dry;
and all they retain inside them
they generally employ
to beat upon their breast
till it's unable to resist.
They know all breasts
are beaten so.

Their large and formal faces
are there for all to see,
simpler than ours, more
forceful and ideal;
open as eyes seem
when awakening from a dream.
A sight which makes laughter
rise from the pit like steam;
for those on the benches see
how the puppets pound,
wound, and frighten one another,
and collapse in loose heaps,
dead of their exertions.
If anyone were to understand it differently,
and fail to laugh at their consternations,
the puppets would replace their play
to reenact a Last Judgment Day.
They would yank on their wires
to pull before the painted porch
the hands that, hidden high above,
had danced them into their desires--
hands hideously red, gloved no longer--
and they would pour from every door,
and climb those wires and cardboard walls
to set their former land afire,
and assassinate those hands.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-16-2008   #3
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

As the light went out behind him, Stone felt a weight fall beside him on the seat.

He cried out. Or tried to, for as he gulped in air it seemed to draw darkness into his lungs, darkness that swelled and poured into his heart and brain. There was a moment in which he knew nothing, as if he’d become darkness and silence and the memory of suffering. Then the car was rattling on, the darkness was sweeping over him and by, and the nose of the car banged open the doors and plunged out into the night.

As the car swung onto the length of track outside the Ghost Train, Stone caught sight of the gap between the stalls where he thought he’d seen the stallholders. A welling moonlight showed him that between the stalls stood a pile of sacks, nodding and gesticulating in the wind. Then the seat beside him emerged from the shadow, and he looked down.

Next to him on the seat was a shrunken hooded figure. It wore a faded jacket and trousers striped and patched in various colours, indistinguishable in the receding moonlight. The head almost reached his shoulder. Its arms hung slack at its sides, and its feet drummed laxly on the metal beneath the seat. Shrinking away, Stone reached for the front of the car to pull himself to his feet, and the figure’s head fell back.

Stone closed his eyes. When he opened them he saw within the hood an oval of white cloth upon which — black crosses for eyes, a barred crescent for a mouth — a grinning face was stitched.

As he had suddenly realized that the car hadn’t halted nor even slowed down before plunging down the incline back into the Ghost Train, Stone did not immediately notice that the figure had taken his hand.


-- Ramsey Campbell, "The Companion," from Dark Feasts (Robinson Publishing)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-16-2008   #4
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

Ligotti's phenomenological nemocentrism draws out this collapse of any securely demarcated ontological and epistemological foundations in a weird-fictional landscape filled with the ruins and ghosts of puppets. Throughout Ligotti's work, the puppet figures as the insensate and sub-personal reality hidden beneath the 'mindless mirrors' of our naive reality. Puppets function as 'conduits to the unreal', through whose agency hallucinatory phenomenality bleeds into a simultaneous concretisation of the oneiric. Life is played out as an inescapable puppet show, an endless dream in which puppets are generally unaware that they are trapped within a mesmeric dance of whose mechanisms they know nothing, and over which they have no control. As Dziemianowicz notes in relation to Ligotti's 'Dreams of a Mannikin', the puppet's overriding affect is a suspicion that 'he and his entire world are merely a fictional diversion'. The puppet is not merely an mocking parody of man, it is the unmasking of the animate face of insensate reality, the unveiling of the inexorable mechanics of the personal; 'There are no means for escaping this world. It penetrates even into your sleep and is its substance. You are caught in your own dreaming where there is no space. And are held forever where there is no time. You can do nothing you are not told to do. There is no hope for escape from this dream that was never yours. The very words you speak are only its very words.'

-- James Trafford, "The Shadow of a Puppet Dance: Metzinger, Ligotti and the Illusion of Selfhood," Collapse, vol. IV.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-16-2008   #5
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy View Post
James Trafford, "The Shadow of a Puppet Dance: Metzinger, Ligotti and the Illusion of Selfhood," Collapse, vol. IV.
That's a wonderful article, B&I. A very apt choice for this thread.

I shall keep my eye open for puppet passages. Meanwhile, humbly, here is a puppet story of mine (published 'Waste' (Not One of Us) 1998): http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2004/07/dorothy-alone.html

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Old 06-16-2008   #6
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
Meanwhile, humbly, here is a puppet story of mine (published 'Waste' (Not One of Us) 1998):
Wonderful puppet story! I hope you don't mind, but I can't resist quoting the following lines from 'Waste':


“Not another dream? I wish I could patrol your sleep, Arabella, to keep anything untoward from your mind.”

She formed a false smile at his overt jest, knowing, in her heart, however, that he was being deadly serious.

“Yes, her damned dolls came to life,” she continued, “and they complained they had not been made properly.”

Don nodded. He had heard recurrent tales about such a dream. A doll in particular - the one sitting upon the ornamental altar - often proceeded to bad-mouth Dorothy about how its joints were too stiff. Only stick-puppets should suffer this way, it maintained. As if to demonstrate, the doll in question showed how sitting stock still belied its own fantastical nature of being able to move.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-16-2008   #7
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

On the chap's left (and straight ahead of where I sat at the edge of things and in the back row) a girl lay sprawled out facing us in an upright canvas chair, as faded and battered as everything else in the outfit. She was dressed up like a French chorus, in a tight and shiny black thing, cut low, and black fishnet stockings, and those shiny black shoes with super high heels that many men go for in such a big way. But the total effect was not particularly sexy, all the same. The different bits of costume had all seen better days, like everything else, and the girl herself looked more sick than spicy. Under other conditions, I thought to begin with, she might have been pretty enough, but she had made herself up with green powder, actually choosing it apparently, or having it chosen for her, and her hair, done in a tight bun, like a ballet dancer's, was not so much mousy as plain colourless. On top of all this, she was lying over the chair, rather than sitting in it, just as if she was feeling faint or about to be ill. Certainly she was doing nothing at all to lead the chaps on. Not that I myself should have wanted to be led. Or so I thought at the start.

And in front of her, at the angle of the platform, was this pile of swords.
[...]
"Go on," shouted the seaman, almost in the tone of a drill instructor. "Stick it in."

And then it happened, this extraordinary thing.

The volunteer seemed to me to tremble for a moment, and then plunged the sword right into the girl on the chair. As he was standing between me and her, I could not see where the sword entered, but I could see that the man seemed to press it right in, because almost the whole length of it seemed to disappear. What I could have no doubt about at all was the noise the sword made. A curious thing was that we are so used to at least the idea of people being stuck through with swords, that, even though, naturally, I had never before seen anything of the kind, I had no doubt at all of what the man had done. The noise of the sword tearing through the flesh was only what I should have expected. But it was quite distinct even above the hissing of the Tilley. And quite long drawn out too. And horrible.

I could sense the other men in the audience gathering themselves together on the instant and suddenly coming to life. I could still see little of what precisely had happened.

"Pull it out, said the seaman, quite casually, but as if speaking to a moron. He was still only half-turned towards the volunteer, and still looking straight in front of him. He was not looking at anything; just holding himself in control while getting through a similar routine.

The volunteer pulled out the sword. I could again hear that unmistakeable sound.

The volunteer still stood facing the girl, but with the tip of the sword resting on the platform. I could see no blood. Of course I thought I had made some complete misinterpretation, been fooled like a kid. Obviously it was some kind of conjuring.

"Kiss her if you want to," said the seaman. "It's included in what you've paid."

And the man did, even though I could only see his back. With the sword drooping from his hand, he leaned forwards and downwards. I think it was a slow and loving kiss, not a smacking and public kiss, because this time I could hear nothing.

The seaman gave the volunteer all the time in the world for it, and, for some odd reason, there was no whistling or catcalling from the rest of us; but in the end, the volunteer slowly straightened up.

"Put back the sword," said the seaman, sarcastically polite.

The volunteer carefully returned it to the heap, going to some trouble to make it lie as before.

I could now see the girl. She was sitting up. Her hands were pressed together against her left side, where, presumably, the sword had gone in. But there was still no sign of blood, though it was hard to be certain in the bad light. And the strangest thing was that she now looked not only happy, with her eyes very wide open and a little smile on her lips, but, in spite of that green powder, beautiful too, which I was far from having thought in the first place.

-- from Robert Aickman's "The Swords"

So, what is she? Etymologically we know that the word puppet derives from the Old French poupette, which may have its origin in the Latin pupa, meaning girl, doll. The OED tells us that puppet is a later form of poppet, which has generally a more contemptuous connotation, usually applied to a woman, for example: "If she be faire, then a spectacle to gaze on; if foule, then a simpering puppet to wonder on (1586). Additionally the OED provides the following definitions of poppet: Contemptuously applied to an image used in worship [a woman's beauty, perhaps]; A person whose actions, while ostensibly his own, are really controlled by another [the seaman?]; and here is a delicious nautical link: "poppet-holes, the holes in the drumhead of the capstan in which the bars are inserted."

Simply some idle linguistic speculation, nothing more. B&I.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz

Last edited by BleakИ 06-17-2008 at 12:43 AM..
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Old 06-17-2008   #8
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

"The first thing we'll do," she grated on, "is start looking for a plot. It'll have to be the cheapest we can find, as Daddy doesn't believe in buying things when he can make so much with his own hands."

There was no reference to Munn making any contribution, nor did he, installed in the back seat beside her, say a word.

"It will only be a teeny house," Vi explained in her rasping voice, "but Mummy says you're often best off when you're living small."

It was necessary to enter into it. "Have you a builder in mind?" I enquired.

"Of course not, silly. Daddy's going to build it for us."

I had sensed that this was in the background. "The whole thing?" I asked. "The plumbing included? And the electricity?" The latter had only just entered out area, but was not yet truthfully in our immediate range.

"We shan't be having silly things like that. Only wood."

I was constrained to turn in my seat, difficult though it was to do, and look back at her.

"Daddy can make everything needed in this world out of wood."

There was something almost evangelical in her tone and choice of words. There was also something wild and fantastical: which seemed infectious.

"Even people?" I asked, smiling no doubt, but really asking under some compulsion that remained elusive.

"You're making a game of me," she replied on the instant. Her pink cheeks had darkened, and I noticed that she, for her part, was not smiling at all.

-- from Robert Aickman's unbelievably creepy short story "Wood"

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-17-2008   #9
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

The first thing I saw inside was a child seated on a shelf with both arms extended. It was presumably clutching something out of sight at each side; as its whole posture suggested strain and effort. At first, I thought, however absurdly, that it was a real child; but I realised that it was a figure in wood of remarkable liveliness. I even managed to extend my hand and touch it. It felt like wood too.

The little house was divided into two chambers by a wooden partition which, painted in the usual black, now confronted me, and against which the child's shelf was set on wooden brackets. This rear chamber was six or eight feet deep. The door I had opened was a large one and admitted a considerable amount of light, except into the further corners; but there was no window, and the carefully painted, elaborately life-like figure of the child had been sitting there, it was impossible to guess for how long, in complete darkness. All things considered, it was surprisingly well preserved and spruce.

I now saw that its two hands were involved with a system of wires and pulleys which went upwards into the dimness, but was rusty, broken, and drooping. Here were indeed the customary 'works'. I thought it might be an unusually complex scheme for manipulating the marionette that squatted before me; but it then seemed to me more as though it were a child, with its cogent posture, that was designed to do the manipulation. And the child was so shiny and glossy, where all else was so rotten. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I could not help asking myself.

--from Robert Aickman's "Wood"

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 06-17-2008   #10
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Re: Puppet Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy View Post
Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
Meanwhile, humbly, here is a puppet story of mine (published 'Waste' (Not One of Us) 1998):
Wonderful puppet story! I hope you don't mind, but I can't resist quoting the following lines from 'Waste':
Thanks, B&I, I don't mind at all. But the publication was called 'Waste' (edited by the inimitable John Benson), and the story's title itself was 'Dorothy Alone'.

Aickman! I should have thought! Yes, yes, yes. Puppet stories in essence. Genius quotes above from them, B&I. You are brilliant in calving the glaciers of literature - an expert reaper of wordage, otherwise it might indeed go to waste! Thanks.
des

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