This satiric literary novel is a fast-paced coming-of-age tale in a picaresque vein, set for the most part in the England of 1645, during the height of the English Civil War. The discovery of a sex crime—and a case of sexual “deviance”—brings two green youths into a collision course with the law, culminating in outlawry. Their attempt to extricate themselves backfires, setting in motion a series of comic yet dark adventures through a topsy-turvy world of legal corruption, organized crime, religious fanaticism, and war. See them shed their innocence—painfully. 2017 Bokos, Toronto, ISBN 978-0-9952965-0-3, 6″ x 9” ppbk., 282 pp., available from Amazon (click here to buy).
This work is written in a somewhat unusual style, one notably employing as few words of non-Germanic origin as possible (unlike this blurb) as well as a significant number of coinages, and following alternative orthographic conventions in compounds—the book is, after all, partly about the sheer arbitrariness of conventions. (And so why not dancingmaster rather than dancing master for ‘teacher of dance,’ and not a ‘master that dances’?) The void left by excised French and Graeco-Latin loanwords is filled variously: words or phrasal constructions of Germanic origin already existent (e.g. likely rather than probably; openhanded rather than generous; to bear in upon rather than to realize); little-used or obsolete words that would still work well in the modern language (e.g. to misfare for to fail, to overlive for to survive, havings for possessions); and—my favourite—coinages (e.g. kenkeen for curious, to afterword for to repeat (something spoken), unlivedness for inexperience, guesstrading for (economic) speculation, growthling for plant, to enhold for to contain). This stylistic choice is an outgrowth of my interest in early Germanic languages and also partly a reflection of my admiration for the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, who likewise attempted to create a style harking back to Old English.
(From Round Five, p. 84)
Lastly they came to a great black cupboard, the outside of which showed here and there ladies of the East lost in a kind of lofty idleness, with their bowlined bodies swathed in lengths of silk, and their heads looking backwards over a shoulder, to see if seen. This cupboard, enholding her most prized havings, was now unlocked, and in a worshipful hushedness, she laid bare the hoard within.
“Are they cloves?” he asked, hoping not to have misspoken himself.
“No, tulipbulbs! Owning tulipbulbs is the height of fashion now,” she said proudly in the know. Indeed, the craze for such bulbs had reached the height of folly only eight years earlier, in 1637, when it seemed that none was spared the wish to see bulbs wonderfully turned into gold. When the wild guesstrading ended in the crash of 1637, Flora and Fortuna had by then led an unfew from rags to riches and back again. This notwithstanding, the will-to-clink from “cloves” had not truly withered since, even if savings had.
“Do you mean to grow them?” he asked.
“Why no, if you let them grow, they become worthless!”
“This is a Semper Augustus, the prince of tulips. The bulb is worth more than three thousand guilders!” she said with pride of ownership, as she cradled it in the lap of her cupped hands. The growthling was indeed princely when in full bloom, its crownleaves handsomely sporting reddish streaks on white, like drops of sluggish blood artfully brushed into fresh snow. Such outward dapperness was the outgrowth of careful breeding and weeding, setting the Semper Augustus head and shoulders above the lesser ranks of other tulips. Yet upon this earthless slumberling, neither of the two gawkers was allowed too long a gaze, lest they should somehow unsettle its cosy but costly sleep, for in no time she had the bulb tightly locked away again in her great black cupboard.