It was with a slightly apprehensive feeling that Andrew accepted an invitation from Pauline, following their return from the local pub later that evening, to take a peek at her book collection and listen to a private recital of some of her poems. Having spent the greater part of the evening in heated conversation with Philip and Edwin, he was not in the best of moods to respond to such an invitation, since somewhat tired of intellectual matters and desirous of some privacy. Besides, he half-feared that she would revert to her conversation on writing and exasperate him with a fresh barrage of ingenuous opinions and/or questions. But more because it was impossible to refuse than from any heartfelt desire to witness her culture, he found himself accompanying Mr Grace's daughter up the well-carpeted stairs, having abandoned the two tipsy students in the lounge to their dialectical and even post-dialectical ruminations. What, if anything, they would think he was up to with her, he didn't know. But it was not improbable that he was simply going to bed, and that Pauline had merely elected to escort him to his room.... Which, to all appearances, was exactly what she was doing, save for the fact that her room happened to be conveniently situated en route, and contained a quantity of books which she felt sure would be of some interest to the writer - books she had begun collecting at the tender age of ten and had continued to amass, at regular intervals, right up to the present.
Extending two-thirds of the way along the length of one wall and upwards to a height of approximately six feet, her books rested on several shelves of brightly varnished pine and presented their variously coloured spines to Andrew's wary eye. Of the total number housed in this way, which must have been somewhere in the region of two thousand, a goodly number were Penguin paperbacks, their orange or grey spines betraying varying degrees of wear, some of them very creased, the spines curved inwards and looking as though they might collapse or disintegrate at the slightest provocation, others scarcely creased at all, either because they were less old or hadn't been re-read. It was evident, from a cursory inspection of the collection, that Pauline was no stranger to books but must have spent the greater part of her free time thumbing through one paperback after another, with the occasional hardback thrown-in for good measure - presumably when favourable financial circumstances had enabled her to obtain one, or as a Christmas and/or birthday gift.
However, much as he was a confirmed bookworm himself, the spectacle of so many worn, dilapidated paperbacks packed together on the shelves, like canned sardines, had a distinctly depressing effect on Andrew, who had sometime previously disposed of a large number of worn paperbacks, stemming from the days of his own youthful and therefore more economical collecting, and replaced such of them as he especially admired with hardbacks, so that his current library, comprising merely some five-hundred books, was largely composed of the latter. Pauline, to his mind, had evidently not yet reached that revolution in one's sense of values which made the acquisition of hardbacks a must for any discriminating collector but was still a victim of financial constraint and, in all probability, the accompanying ignorance with regard to the body/head distinction which the softback/hardback dichotomy signified to Andrew and thus, by implication, stood as a matter of incontrovertible fact. No doubt, she would come to realize, in due time, that the great literary masters were better served on fine paper with larger and clearer print between stronger covers ... than ever they were by the coarse paper and tiny, not to say faint, print so often resorted to by the manufacturers of cheap paperbacks. Admittedly, paperbacks were of immense social value, inasmuch as they enabled people who couldn't afford hardbacks to read the classics (if, indeed, classic literature was what appealed to them) at a relatively economic cost. But for anyone with any discrimination in such matters and, needless to say, the means to sustain it, there was quite a difference between reading a novel like, say, Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point in paperback and reading it in hardback. Only the latter, with its finer paper and stronger print, could really do justice to the intellectual dignity of the work, making one conscious that one had a precious literary treasure in one's hands which it was worth keeping and, when the fancy took one, re-reading. After all, did one collect books for the mere sake of collecting?
Well, on deeper reflection, Andrew had to admit to himself that some people did. There were undoubtedly bibliomaniacs and bibliophiles of one persuasion or another to be found in the world - people whose principal reason for buying books was the sheer pleasure of collecting, or witnessing the materialistic expansion of their library. Understandably, such people would not take too kindly to the phrase 'mere sake of collecting'. But for Andrew Doyle - who, incidentally, wasn't entirely immune to such pleasures himself - the thought of keeping a book one wasn't likely to re-read found little support with him, primarily because he regarded books from a cultural rather than a material angle, and this in spite of his penchant for hardbacks. If a book didn't particularly appeal to him, he made little or no effort to include it in his library. For, comparatively small though his current library was, it represented books for which he had a special fondness or weakness - not books he had simply collected.
Thus if - as was indeed the case - he had all eleven of Aldous Huxley's published novels there, it wasn't simply because he had, at one time or another, bought them all but, more significantly, because he had a distinct predilection for Huxley's novels, any one of which he would have been capable of re-reading from time to time. Indeed, he would have been capable of re-reading virtually anything by Huxley, the early poems notwithstanding, but that's essentially beside-the-point. Suffice it to say that there was nothing in his library which was there just because he had happened to buy it. If he didn't like a particular book he would dispose of it, no matter how much it had cost him. But he was such a careful, thoughtful, reserved, and discriminating collector ... that he very rarely found himself being obliged to resort to such a drastic tactic. Then, too, he made judicious use of the local library, experimenting with authors he would probably have avoided had circumstances obliged him to buy their works, and thereby extending his literary horizons comparatively free-of-charge. Only when he had borrowed a book he particularly liked would he consider the possibility of expanding his small private collection by actually buying the work from a city book-seller, in order to be able to re-read it at leisure in years to come. In this fashion, by first 'sounding out' a work through the public library and then - assuming it had made an especially favourable impression on him - buying it for private reference, he had acquired such profound works as Thomas Mann's Dr Faustus, Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, Raymond Roussel's Locus Solus, and J.K. Huysmans' Against the Grain. Such novels, he believed, were worthy of the shelves of any discriminating collector!
But novels like that were not, alas, to be found on young Pauline's shelves, as the writer, having supposed as much anyway, now had his suppositions confirmed by the depressing spectacle arrayed in front of him. Only average classics reposed there, though this was really more a credit to her than a disgrace, in that she conformed, by and large, to the dictates of her sex, age, education, class, financial circumstances, and cheerful temperament. One could hardly expect to have found Les Chants de Maldoror, Tropic of Cancer, or Steppenwolf on such an innocent young Englishwoman's shelves, even if the presence there of Notes from Underground and Women in Love was somewhat surprising.... Though the spine of the Dostoyevsky was somewhat less creased than that of the D.H. Lawrence, suggesting the likelihood that its contents had received only the most cursory attention.
But whatever the actual case - and Andrew had no desire to inquire too deeply into her literary predilections - it was evident that the greater part of Pauline's collection wasn't such as would appeal to a mature taste, since decidedly juvenile in character. Comprised, in the main, of romances, with a sprinkling of adventure, crime, thriller, and sci-fi novels thrown-in for good measure, her library suggested an easy-going and rather haphazard approach to collecting which radically conflicted with the writer's own overly fastidious and discriminating one. Had she not been so young, he would have dismissed her collection with a contemptuous indifference. But the fact of her youthful inexperience, coupled to an eclecticism he had encountered not once but a number of times in the past with females, prevented him from taking a condescending line and induced him, instead, to proffer a few friendly remarks concerning the breadth and extent of her reading. In short, by not taking her too seriously, he was able to avoid treating her condescendingly, and thus replace any criticisms he might otherwise have levelled at her tastes by a half-humorous curiosity.
It was interesting for him to note, too, that she prided herself more on the size of her collection - which she evidently considered large - than on its quality, and that the acquisition of additional books was to her what the achievement of additional honours would be to a conventional writer - an indication of growing prestige. Evidently the more books one had on show, the better-read and the more highly-educated one would appear to other people, even if, unbeknown to oneself, the individual quality or literary value of a majority of those books wasn't guaranteed to confirm or in any degree substantiate it!
Such, at any rate, was the impression Andrew was now receiving from Pauline, as he casually scanned the tightly packed contents of her shelves and continued to comment favourably where he saw fit, noting, all the while, the ineffable pleasure it evidently gave her to have a writer witnessing her dedication to books! No doubt, she would have felt less proud had a musician or an artist been scanning them instead, even if closely. The thought of inviting Harding into her bedroom-cum-library probably wouldn't even have crossed her mind. Like it or not, the prerogative for estimating her culture devolved upon Andrew, and it was up to him to justify it to the extent he could, that's to say, to the extent his tact would permit him. Otherwise poor young Pauline would risk becoming severely disillusioned with him and unable to regard him as quite the literary hero he had formerly seemed, when his presence in their house, as one of her father's guests, had suddenly confronted her with a degree of pleasure she had not in the least anticipated. He had, in short, no option but to live-up to the reputation she had inflicted upon him, if only on her account.... Which was precisely what he was endeavouring to do, as he stood in front of the shelves and surveyed their dilapidated contents with the air of a literary connoisseur, albeit a rather partial one. He had an act to pull off and, as far as Pauline's gratified responses now indicated, he was pulling it off convincingly enough, justifying the special confidence she had placed in him when, from a pressing desire to be recognized as a kindred spirit, she had invited him to step 'on stage', a short while previously, to flatter her intellectual vanity.
But such vanity wasn't to be flattered solely by his knowledgeable presence in front of her library. For now that he had pompously contemplated the battered spines for several minutes and proffered a few discerning, not to say flattering, remarks concerning her taste, it was time for her to switch to the poems and read aloud from a number of her most recent compositions, in the hope that he would find them no less meritorious - a thing which, under the circumstances of his charitable desire to please, seemed not unlikely. Thus, after the title of the last paperback on the top shelf had been assimilated in due connoisseurial fashion, Andrew, who was now invited to sit on the edge of her bed, found himself listening to the graceful flow of her voice as she read, not without a hint of self-consciousness, certain examples of her lyric poetry, some of which, at other times, would have been enough to set his teeth on edge. Take, for example, the following, entitled 'The Lovers' Scheme':-
Let us leave for peaceful places,
Far away from city smoke.
Let us seek the distant races,
Lands, and climes which grant us scope.
Discontent contracts our minds
As the days slip out-of-sight.
Where will we be if our finds
Change the darkness into light?
What constraint is good advice
If boredom be the means?
What true man would sacrifice
His spirit for some beans?
If, in time, we leave together,
Traipsing through the hay;
If, in truth, we live each other,
Love will have its day.
Or, again, the following, entitled 'Unrequited Lover':-
If I were to flee to some faraway place,
Escape the town where love was sad,
An image of you would stay in my head,
Regret would pollute my grace.
If I were to sob until, full of shame,
I slash my wrist and let it bleed,
Or throw to the dogs all the things of greed,
You'd still be as free of blame.
If I, on a quest, were to search for gold,
Recapture joy in wine and rhyme,
Then sell for a future my wisdom and time,
Your love would stay warm while mine grows cold.
What was Andrew Doyle, who hadn't written a poem in over a decade and scarcely read one during the past five years, to make of all that? How could he be expected to relate to the sentiments, romantic or otherwise, of this young poetess, who obviously wanted him to acknowledge the fact that she possessed a certain poetic gift, not to say licence, as well? Naturally, being something of a devotee of culture, he made a brave effort to enter into the spirit of her poems, to identify with their heroine's viewpoint. Yet his brave effort was scarcely sufficient to guarantee him any success in the matter! Quite the contrary, the words seemed to pass over his head as though they had wings, or were in a foreign language which he couldn't understand, or had been written by a creature not of this world. The gulf between her poetic idiom and his prosaic understanding was too wide to be bridged by brave efforts or, indeed, by anything else. The twelve years which separated them seemed more like an eternity, so different were their respective attitudes and approaches to literature.
To be sure, it was as much as Andrew could do, during the course of Pauline's somewhat self-conscious recitation, to prevent himself from giggling at the silliness of various of the sentiments expressed in her poems, the unabashed naiveté of which conflicted so violently with what experience in love and life had taught him ... that they appeared not to have any bearing on diurnal reality whatsoever! It was so long since he had attempted any flights of poetic fancy himself that he couldn't quite reconcile himself to them, though he could remember well enough why he had abandoned poetry and concentrated on prose instead: simply to earn a living. To do something, moreover, that necessitated more work and kept the pen and/or typewriter in fairly constant motion. The thought of calling a short lyric poem 'a work' struck his fundamentally hard-working imagination as being too ridiculous for words. A poem seemed to him too trivial a thing to take any pride in as a work of art. It had only served his purposes when a youth and, like most literary-minded youths, he had lacked the courage or patience, not to mention know-how, to tackle anything better. As an introduction to writing, poetry was not without its merits. But as a vehicle for expressing one's thoughts throughout adulthood, as a form to which one remained faithful for the rest of one's life, that was quite another matter, and few indeed were those who did so, even among the aesthetes! In a sense, mature poets were the Peter Pans of literature, the adult children who had never grown out of their youthful infatuation with verse. There seemed to Andrew something intrinsically childish, not to say foolish, about a grown man continuing to produce little verses, like a sixteen-year-old, and actually taking a pride in it. 'Ah,' one was tempted to sneer, 'how touching, how pretty his little poesies are!'
Indeed, it was an ironic commentary on poets and poems in general that the poet whom Andrew had most admired as a youth, viz. Yeats, should be among the writers whom he most despised as an adult, and largely on account of the fact that W.B. had continued to write poems right up until his death in 1939. Not so Rimbaud, who outgrew or, at any rate, abandoned his youthful poetry at the tender age of nineteen. And not so with a host of other youthful poets either who, if they didn't abandon poetry altogether, at least modified it towards something more manly as the decades passed - as in the cases of Ezra Pound and, to a lesser extent, James Joyce, whose Gas from a Burner was remembered by Andrew as one of the best poems he had ever read. But for an eighteen-year-old like Pauline, the recitation of pretty little verses was still in order and therefore quite acceptable to Andrew, if a shade insipid. After all, it wasn't really all that long ago that he had been in a similar position, having wanted to read examples of his verse - representative of a cross, he liked to flatter himself, between Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde - to whatever sympathetic ear he could find. It was a phase through which most of the more creatively gifted literary youths of each generation passed before they attained to a deeper, more realistic outlook on life and, in a majority of cases, abandoned poetry altogether. Again, it was a credit to Pauline that she was also of this elect-of-spirit who thrived on poetic creation. Whether she would continue to thrive on it at university, however, remained to be seen; though the odds were definitely stacked against her continuing to do so after she left it, with or without a graduation certificate. If literature was to be her calling, her vocation, then the novel would certainly prove more to her advantage, even if the vast number of people writing them these days tended to reduce one's prospects of earning a living from it. Better, in Andrew's view, to be a fool with prose than a fool with poetry, and so be someone who gave the world more truth or, at any rate, knowledge than illusion! Yes, better by far, insofar as human evolution was gradually tending away from illusion into truth, away from the subconscious mind into the superconscious one, and thus towards Ultimate Truth.
However, fictional literature in an age of incipient transcendentalism hardly struck Andrew as the most progressive of pursuits, either! On the contrary, it was essentially outmoded, passé, aligned with the ego and all that the ego represented. With the gradual decline of the ego throughout the nineteenth century, following the expansion of urbanization and the consequent shift in egocentric balance between the subconscious and superconscious minds in favour of superconscious extremism, it stood to reason that literature, which like other branches of the arts depended on the subconscious for its essential illusion or fictitiousness, would also be in decline as traditionally conceived. The rise, on the other hand, of philosophical literature in the twentieth century was but a reflection of our ongoing evolution towards greater degrees of truth, as germane to the superconscious, and a disinclination, in consequence, to abide by the canons of traditional literature, which required a good deal more illusion than the most evolved writers were now prepared to provide. And even philosophical literature was destined, in Andrew's estimation, to be completely transcended, as we progressed so far into the superconscious that the element of fictitiousness in it became unacceptable to us and therefore no longer practicable. In the meantime, however, a degree of fiction was still possible, those best qualified to produce it generally being among the less sophisticated writers of the age.
Thus, as far as Pauline's literary ambitions were concerned, there was certainly a chance that circumstances would favour her and enable her to write something approximating to traditional literature, in which illusion still got the better of truth, and the fictional element was accordingly uppermost. But great literature it would never be, and not only because, as a rule, young women like Pauline weren't qualified, neither temperamentally nor intellectually, to produce such a thing but, more particularly, because great literature could hardly be produced in an age essentially inimical to it, only in one which encouraged it - an age in which the illusory was not regarded with suspicion and disdain.
Nowadays, however, no-one with any relationship to the leading intellectual/spiritual developments of the age could possibly allow themselves to champion dualism, and thereby produce traditional literature, in which conflict and differentiation prevailed over the passivity of transcendental unity. At worst, they would compromise to the extent of producing philosophical literature, where passivity, in the form of discussion and/or reflection, got the better of activity, and truth accordingly prevailed over illusion. That was what, following in Aldous Huxley's estimable footsteps, Andrew was doing anyway, and it was what he intended to continue doing as long as necessary, extending the domain of the philosophical over the fictional with each successive work - a policy which probably wouldn't endear him to the general public, but one which nonetheless reflected the degree of his allegiance to the superconscious and, hence, to a hankering after spiritual leadership, to his budding status as one of the more evolved writers of his time.
No doubt, this status would be more clearly defined with the assistance of essays and/or aphorisms, which he also liked to write as a complementary mode of intellectual creativity to his philosophical literature, thereby adding his name to the ranks of such compromise writers as Huxley, Hesse, Henry Miller, Koestler, Sartre, Norman Mailer, and Camus, who stood half-way, it seemed to him, between the sage and the artist. Better, of course, to be a pure philosopher than a hybrid, and thus pursue truth to a much greater extent. But if, for various reasons, that wasn't possible, well then, better to be a hybrid, an artist/writer in Barthe's paradoxical phrase, than simply an artist, and thus side more with truth. For fiction was ever illusory, no matter how naturalistic or realistic its author endeavoured to make it, and therefore contrary to the domain of truth.
A society which no longer produces or reads fiction would be unquestionably superior, in Andrew's view, to one which does, being closer to the post-human millennium - that coming time in which literature ceases to have even the slightest influence or applicability. Yet a society which no longer produces or reads philosophy but, with the aid of Transcendental Meditation, simply experiences truth, would be superior again - the closest of all to the post-human millennium in terms of godly bliss.
Alas, Western society hadn't yet outgrown its fictions, being the producer and consumer of the greatest amount of commercial literature the world had ever known! But (if this was any consolation) it was certainly doing so, and would doubtless continue to do so, as we progressed further and further into the superconscious and thereby gradually freed ourselves from the illusory shackles of the past. The assault on traditional literature from the vantage-point of anti-literature and/or philosophical literature would have to exhaust itself in due course, as we increasingly confined ourselves to the production and assimilation of truth. In the meantime, however, they were the only modes of creativity acceptable to anyone with the faintest glimmer of spiritual leadership. Those who weren't for the literary avant-garde, in its various manifestations, were simply mediocrities and simpletons for whom the egocentric tradition had more substance, and to whom traditional criteria of art were accordingly of more relevance. One couldn't very well congratulate them on their conservatism, born of ignorance and stupidity, as though it signified the most honourable and perspicacious stance possible! If they persisted in reading or writing something approximating to egocentric literature, too fucking bad! For it wouldn't win them the approbation of those who had gone beyond such habits and accordingly made it their business to forge a higher one. In the time-honoured battle between 'the quick' and 'the slow', 'the slow' were in for a roasting! Illusion might be at home in Hell, but it could have no bearing whatsoever on Heaven. It was only by writing post-egocentric literature that one could hope to justify, if only temporarily, the procedure of writing literature at all. In due course, even that would prove unnecessary. But, until then, one had to persist or, as some would say, persevere with the degree of literary evolution compatible with modern society. One had to be an avant-gardist.
Yes, a post-egocentric avant-gardist was precisely what Andrew considered himself to be, he whose first two novels had broken with traditional conventions of plot, characterization, description, action, fiction, grammar, etc., in the interests of a greater degree of philosophical integrity. If Huxley to some extent progressively dispensed with the traditional conventions of literature, endowing his finest novels with a preponderance of discussion over action, passivity over conflict, truth over illusion, goodness over evil, transcendentalism over dualism, then Andrew Doyle intended to go one stage better and tip the imbalance in favour of philosophy, truth, light, etc., even further than Huxley had done, thereby building on that master's example and extending the progress of truth in literature a stage further along the road to our future spiritual salvation, creating, in the process, an abstract idealism.
For a disciple who didn't build on his master's example was unworthy of ever becoming a master himself, since a traitor to evolution. If he didn't build on it he could only stand still or turn against it, and the latter, leading back to more illusion, conflict, dualism and action ... in deference, most probably, to cinematic barbarism ... was hardly guaranteed to assist in the cause of human progress or help bring about the long-awaited post-human millennium! Reaction, clearly, was unthinkable, unworthy of any true discipleship. If one didn't take literature further off the 'gold standard' of illusion, one might as well give-up writing altogether. For one wouldn't be assisting the cause of enlightenment or moral progress, but simply be holding the reader back, dragging him down to a level wholly incompatible with transcendental strivings. If we have to be weaned away from a dependence on the arts, it won't be done via the production of works corresponding to traditional art but, rather, via works which, in turning against such art, whether implicitly or explicitly, weaken our taste for it, thereby making it easier for us to climb onto the higher level, in which illusion has no place whatsoever. For if traditional art isn't, in a manner of speaking, rendered contemptible, we shall find it that much harder to abandon illusion.
Fortunately, the most enlightened modern art was certainly doing its best to wean us from our dependence on the illusory! Although we may not entirely succeed in freeing ourselves from fictions in the foreseeable future, nonetheless it cannot be denied that we're gradually breaking away from them, maturing, as it were, into the fullness of a life lived solely for truth. The superconscious beckons us on, no matter how highly some of us may think of the greatest egocentric achievements of man in his prime as man. Life, however, doesn't stand still. It requires constant change, and anyone who doesn't change with it, who requires of painting or music or literature that it always remains the same is, if not a monster, then an enemy of life. Certainly an enemy of progress!
In his estimation Andrew was neither an enemy neither of life nor of progress but very much a participator in it, as his most recent writings - more pro-philosophical than anti-literary - adequately demonstrated. If he wasn't yet transcendental enough to be a sage, he was at least insufficiently dualistic to be an artist in the egocentric narrative tradition, and this was something on which he secretly prided himself. For in his assumption that the contemplative man was as inherently superior to the man balanced between action and contemplation as the latter to the man-of-action, he made no bones about giving pride of honour in his novels to contemplatives, whether mystical or scholarly, and directing matters so that conflict and action were reduced to a bare minimum. In such fashion, he hoped to discourage his readers from taking men-of-action too seriously, to remind them that evolution was increasingly tending towards the passive, and that it was the sacred destiny of mankind to progress towards a stage where the passive entirely came to supersede the active, and they entered the millennial Beyond in transcendent bliss. Needless to say, mankind still had a long way to go before that happened! But the fact that modern life, with its television culture, bore testimony to the predominance of the passive over the active ... gave one ample grounds for believing it would eventually come about.
Thus, in loyalty to his spiritual bent, Andrew did everything he could to stress the superiority of the contemplative life, fastidiously avoiding literary action as much as possible. If he hadn't yet succeeded in producing a work to match Huxley's Island for spiritual leadership, he was nevertheless determined to go beyond that master's most transcendental and predominantly passive achievement in due course, extending the boundaries of the philosophical over the fictional until the latter almost completely disappeared beneath the dictates of spiritual progress. Not for anything would he allow himself to be dissuaded from such a task by the amount of stupid, irrelevant, and reactionary criticism which had greeted Huxley's last and, from the avant-garde standpoint, greatest novel. If certain hidebound critics found such a radically idealistic work unacceptable or unintelligible, that was too bad! He wouldn't allow himself to be intimidated by people whose moribund evaluations of progressive developments in contemporary literature were largely conditioned by the philistine nature of their journalistic constraints! That a novel of such unprecedented philosophical bias should have been judged on conventional literary grounds ... was indeed a tragedy for its author. But perhaps, in time, such regrettable misunderstandings would cease to occur, as people grew to acclimatize themselves to increasingly transcendental criteria of literary creation, and thereupon attached far less importance to the production of illusions or to the establishment of an antithetical balance between, say, action and contemplation. What authors like Huxley and, for that matter, Arthur Koestler (for The Call-Girls certainly hadn't escaped our hero's attention) had pioneered at the risk of literary ostracism, others would increasingly take for granted, regarding with unmitigated disdain anything which smacked of traditional literature in the face of revolutionary precedent! Now that such examples had been set, there could be no excuse for a serious, self-respecting writer failing to take note of them. Evolution could not be reversed!
But where, exactly, did Pauline Grace figure where the death of illusion was concerned? Where, exactly, was she in relation to the novel? Indeed, was she anywhere at all? No, in a sense she wasn't, having still to tackle the creation of one. Yet it was clear, from what Andrew had already gleaned on the subject, that she had literary ambitions which, following her 'time' at university, she intended to fulfil, to the extent that circumstances would permit her. A novel, then, was what she planned to produce, though, in all probability, it would be a rather different kind of novel from those already produced by Andrew Doyle. Being young, naive, and worldly-minded moreover, she would doubtless do her best to approximate to egocentric literature. She would give illusion a much greater role to play than the more progressive novelists did, and so produce something they wouldn't particularly care to write, never mind read!
However, even then, there would still be a comparatively large number of people for whom long passages of illusion between the covers of a novel were quite acceptable, even desirable, and these less-evolved or, depending on one's viewpoint, more conservative minds would probably constitute the backbone of her reading public. Thus she would more than likely make some professional headway in the world, if only on a relatively modest footing. It was unlikely, anyway, that she would become another Andrew, much less another Henry Miller or Hermann Hesse, since young women weren't, as a rule, cut-out for spiritual or literary leadership, but remained confined to a more modest role in shaping literary values. Her talents might well extend to the romance, the adventure story, maybe even the thriller. But it seemed rather doubtful that they would also extend in the direction of philosophy, whether religious, political, aesthetic, moral, or whatever, and thereby make her something of an intellectual pace-setter, a future Simone de Beauvoir or Iris Murdoch, Germaine Greer or Agnes Heller. If her poems were anything to judge by, she would have to resign herself to a kind of fictional mediocrity.
But what of the young woman personally? Where, if one endeavoured to forget all the paradoxically laudable attempts women were making to liberate themselves these days, did she stand as a woman? Was she, for instance, a virgin? To be sure, this question had occurred to Andrew while they were out walking together, earlier on, and now that he sat beside her and, compliments of her poetic preoccupations, was able to regard her at leisure, the question returned to him, albeit in a slightly different light. Supposing she was - wouldn't it be justice, for all the tedium and humiliation he had suffered at her hands, to take her virginity from her, and thus recompense himself in some measure? After all, she was a very attractive young person, particularly when dressed, as tonight, in a low-cut nylon blouse, a gently flounced miniskirt, dark nylon stockings with a seam up the back, and black velvet high-heels. Even the scent of her perfume was not without its attractiveness or, at any rate, seductive allure. On the contrary, it highlighted the overall attractiveness of her body, endowing it with a focus and clarity it might otherwise have lacked. There was nothing repulsive about this sweet scent. It was specifically intended to attract, to seduce, to conquer. There could be no question of a woman using such a delightful perfume if she didn't want to make a favourable impression on one, or had an unduly feminist outlook on men which induced her to keep them at arm's length, come what may. Obviously, Pauline had gone to some pains, this evening, to make herself as attractive as possible, not least of all where the provocative spectacle of her low-cut blouse and intriguingly shaped breasts were concerned. Finally, to cap it all, she had thrown in a little culture to boot, which the author should find to his taste.
Well, that hadn't been quite the case, though he had at least found her appearance to his taste, which was something! Should he therefore make haste to reveal this fact, and so gratify in her a number of the romantic sentiments touchingly expressed in her rather juvenile poems? He had always wanted the privilege of taking someone's virginity - a privilege, curiously, which fate had denied him. Here, if anywhere, was the best chance of fulfilling a long-standing ambition and gaining fresh experience in life. It was an opportunity not to be missed!
But what of her parents? What of her brother and the others in the house? Wasn't it a shade risky, committing oneself to the pleasures of the sexual senses when other people were in such close proximity and might - heaven forbid! - overhear and burst-in upon one at any moment? Yes, definitely! But so what? Was he to be dictated to by them, particularly by Henry Grace, whom he personally disliked and professionally despised? No, not if he could help it! After all, making love to Pauline would be as good a way as any of getting his own back on Mr Grace for the pathetically negative response the critic had made to his religious theorizing prior to tea. Not only would he be avenging himself on Pauline but, more importantly, on her damn father as well, since the latter would hardly be in favour of Andrew Doyle, of all people, taking his daughter's virginity - assuming she really was a virgin. No, anyone but him!
Indeed, this thought seemed so amusing to Andrew that he was unable to prevent a tiny snigger escaping from between his lips, a snigger which slightly surprised and embarrassed Pauline, who hadn't been declaiming anything overtly humorous at the time. Yet, much to his relief, she didn't respond to it in an inquisitive manner, but continued with her poetic recitation as though nothing had happened. However, the fact of her poetry was no less wearisome for all that, and his desire to avenge himself on her no less compelling. If he was to do something he had better do it soon, and so get it over and done with before the opportunity was gone! Otherwise she might continue reciting her insipid and slightly ridiculous little poems for hours, aggravating his weariness until it was past tolerating and he felt obliged to take swift leave of her.
No, he didn't want that to happen! Better to take the poems from her hands, draw oneself closer to her, plant a preliminary kiss on her astonished lips, put one's arms around her slender waist, probe her lengthily in the mouth with an adventurous tongue, run a tender hand up and down her thighs a few times, unbutton her blouse, thumb her nipples, part her legs, cup her crotch, and take it from there. Yes, there could be no alternative to that, absolutely none!