John Crowley (crowleycrow) wrote,
John Crowley
crowleycrow

There is a certain kind of modernist story that involves the sudden appearance of an inexplicable thing in an ordinary social situation -- something ususlly large and unavoidable -- that's not particualrly threatening but is inconvenient and eerie.  Gradually people come to either accept it or explain it to themselves.  Eventually it vanishes, or it never does.  The only example I can think of is Marques's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."  I know there are others.  ANy examples?
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"There's a unicorn in the garden, eating the lilies." I feel, without ground probably, that this is a staple of Thurber's absurdity.

Stephen Vincent Benet's "The King of the Cats" may be an example of the type.

(It's a fantasy trope, isn't it? The Dragon Griaule is an example of this, and Towing Jehovah, on the monstrous side.)
Perfect! You could even name this trope "unicorn in garden."
I didn't much like the novel, but the premise of Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton was that an immense dead sea monster washed ashore in a sleepy New England town.

Anonymous

October 26 2015, 01:41:40 UTC 5 years ago

Wells's In the Days of the Comet uses this device for much of the novel - but the comet does eventually arrive.
Also Wells's earlier The Wonderful Visit about an angel in an English village (he's shot down; later he dies).
The Enormous Radio by Cheever.
John Chu's "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" comes to mind.
Can't think of stories but lots of scenes from novels; the tractor in the early chapters of "The Grapes of Wrath", the rubber horse in the swimming pool in "The Day of the Locust", The Airborne Toxic Event in "White Noise"

crowleycrow

October 26 2015, 11:45:37 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  October 26 2015, 11:47:02 UTC

Those sound more like symbols or metonymyies (part standing for the whole) -- the ones in stories I'm thinking of are annoyingly inert, and in the end nothing is made of them.

SteveOptimist

5 years ago

For ones where it's an inexplicable character there's The Doubtful Guest, which must have been inspired by Sorrows of a Paterfamilias. A lot of other Kafka stories are close, like The Metamorphosis, Jackals and Arabs, Hunter Gracchus, and whichever story has the creature in the synagogue.

Calvino's three Our Ancestors narratives mostly fit that template: Baron in the Trees, Nonexistent Knoght, Cloven Viscount. Smog and The Argentine Ant are about people needing to make environmental adjustments, but both are plausible. Some Cosmicomics tales involve sudden encroachments of a disturbing rather than threatening nature, e.g. The Daughters of the Moon.

And that science-ish essayist popular in the '70s, something Lewis or Lewis something, had a story about mutant fish in a city that everyone quickly got used to.

I forget how the populace reacts to discovering Uqbar in Borges' stories, other than being gradually contaminated by its ideas and impossibilities. Which is a kind of acceptance, I guess.

The Woody Allen segment of New York Cities involves a giant woman in the sky that everyone comes to take for granted.

Deleted comment

proximoception

5 years ago

crowleycrow

5 years ago

crowleycrow

5 years ago

proximoception

5 years ago

crowleycrow

5 years ago

movingfinger

5 years ago

The inability to leave the church in Buñuel's El Angel Exterminador.
It is not material though.
I see that one just came in too.
Pardon one more unhelpful memory fragment, but I recall a story in which some gargantuan insect-thing lands on Earth, its legs mostly in the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes, tsunamis, the mayhem you'd expect then ensue. Later, it leaves. No idea where I read it.

Anonymous

October 26 2015, 23:44:56 UTC 5 years ago

Barthelme's "The Balloon"?

- matthew davis
A perfect instance -- the only way it seems to differ fromn the ideal form is that the first person plural narrator ("we") has brought about the big balloon, filling it with helium from pipes connected to an underground source. WHich makes it one degree less random.

Anonymous

October 30 2015, 11:56:40 UTC 5 years ago

"The Drowned Giant" by Ballard is a little bit like this. Additionally I think this characterizes a lot of Etgar Keret's stories, and a few of Ian Watson's as well (for instance, "My Soul Swims in a Goldfish Bowl").
"Drowned Giant" has been mentioned. The others I don't know.
This isn't a thing, but maybe it qualifies: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

Anonymous

November 5 2015, 19:27:53 UTC 4 years ago

This is Dawgzy. R. Crumb's "Meatball"
Ha!

Anonymous

November 7 2015, 08:05:55 UTC 4 years ago

James Thurber actually, for giant beings in the bedroom, living room and courtroom which in the cartoons may need explaining but never are - kangaroos, rhinoceri, giant puppies. And, to be fair, The Metamorphosis cockroach does at the end occupy the space you describe even though as a son and brother, his changing condition was recognized. For a time.

In stories about elephants in the room, there is no thought that we should be sorry for them. Large, unavoidable, disliked, fading into wallpaper or sky, they are never seen as beings because their scale is not fathomable. If the Triffids of post-war Britain had stood still longer, we would have seen them as communication pylons and they could found a better moment.

Anne

Anonymous

November 9 2015, 01:35:33 UTC 4 years ago

J.G. Ballard's "The Watch-Towers" is a variant on this theme--it begins well after the inexplicable thing has (things have) appeared. It's one of his most enigmatic stories.


John Boston

crowleycrow

November 9 2015, 02:14:14 UTC 4 years ago Edited:  November 9 2015, 02:17:04 UTC

Ballard's story "The Drowned Giant" was instanced above -- a drowned giant, with no explanation or cause, ends up cut up by the coastal dwellers and buried (as fertilizer? I don't remember) but with the why and wherefore left unsaid.
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