Monday, March 23, 2015

A rewatchable whodunit?

Today's provocatively predictable perorations by yet another pretender to the Presidency have brought to mind the wholesome rôle of suspense in our lives, such as on the question of whether the human mind could ever be enlarged in the same organic space. Impregnability to fact, much less to empathy, reminds us, further, of modern decay, more than its amusement, in the English murder mystery. How rare it would be, if suspense were its sine qua non, for one ever to listen to Ted Cruz twice. We know the victim, we know the perpetrator. Yet, if wit were to play a leading part, restoring rhetoric to its obligatory delectability, our rapport with murder could be rekindled. And this might not be unbeneficial.

Stimulating this speculation, much more than the routine travesty to be mounted today at Jerry Falwell's faux university, was a review posted over the weekend at Orlando and The Fountain, of a new stage adaptation of du Maurier's Rebecca. Whereas the revered Hitchcock impression of that story cast the house as one of the myriad oppressors of the innocent heroine - a university, if you will, in Falwellian terms - the play seems to center the drama in the sea, and this must be counted not just as a coup de théâtre, but a promising enlargement of rhetoric.

Unhappily, it is the hermetic socia-bility of the ontological fringes that dilapidates their mysteries. Theirs is not only always the same murder, it's always the same unexamined motive. How much do you want to serve George Bush, our favourite alumna of another cage aux folles used to demand, in hiring applicants for work at the United States Department of Justice. The font of moral discipline in du Maurier's Manderley was never so pathetically prescribed, as to spoil the suspense it so richly bestowed. Orwell only had it right, the decline of the English murder flowed from a lack of terrible wrestles with the conscience - the very seat, of consequential action.

George Orwell
Decline of the English Murder
  and Other Essays
Estate of Eric Blair, 1946©
Secker & Warburg
Penguin Books, 1965©

Luke Edward Hall
Two Views of Chiswick, London
  Photograph, Orlando and the Fountain
  Charcoal sketch, private commission

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