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God's Eyes A-Twinkle by T. F. Powys
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God's Eyes A-Twinkle (1947)

by T. F. Powys

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”... God Almighty is the greatest of antiquaries – He made the world for the tombstones.”
From “The Stone and Mr Thomas” – T.F. Powys

”I am without belief; - a belief is too easy a road to God.”
From Soliloquies of a Hermit - T.F. Powys

T.F. Powys is an odd writer. Let us be clear about that. In this eclectic collection of his short stories, he writes about the village life to which he became so accustomed in Dorset, but his is hardly a realistic depiction. God, Jesus, and the Devil often make appearances in his stories, yet Powys must be one of the most heterodox religious writers I have ever encountered. His allegories seem whimsical on the surface – sea-weed marrying a cuckoo-clock, a bucket and a rope holding a conversation – but they are anything but facetious: that bucket and rope are the instruments in a suicide, for example. Powys also has a style all of his own, a simplicity of diction and style that hides deep pools of roiling water. On the whole, this is an odd collection of stories, but this is an oddity of a deliciously eccentric kind.

Powys’s obscurity, as compared to his brother John Cowper, is not that surprising: I doubt whether most people today would enjoy Powys’s writing – it often makes for uncomfortable reading, and his deceptive simplicity encourages the kind of slow reading that seems to be unfashionable nowadays. I, however, loved his stories. They are not all of the same calibre, some being little more than sketches, but they are all interesting. They are different from most English fiction, and have an almost magic realist quality to them. That said, they also seem typically “English” in their depiction of the unvarnished countryside and its inhabitants.

I would discuss some of the individual stories, but this collection is such a cornucopia that to choose only a few for explication would do it an injustice. Let me just mention my favourite: “The Only Penitent”, in which the pastor, Mr Hayhoe, decides to introduce the Roman Catholic idea of penance to a confessor into his church. But, to his infinite dismay, nobody is willing to repent their sins to him. Except for, at the very end of the story, Tinker Jar. Now, Tinker Jar is not only an itinerant fixer of pots. In Powys’s world, he also happens to be God Almighty…

That should give you an idea of the type of stories Powys tells. Strange and wonderful they are, but also disquieting and somewhat sacrilegious. If that sounds enticing, I would advise you to find a copy of Powys’s work. It was worth my while. ( )
6 vote dmsteyn | Oct 14, 2012 |
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