1 The constraints: 1) No more than
one hour. 2) No more than 20 lines.
The result ? Genius or Not.

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18 February 2011

By Anthony Banks | 2011 February 18

"She came to a stop: he pushed against a door showing a dimmed sign: OPEN. Inside, light came up stone stairs which he took her down; at the foot he held open another door and she walked ahead of him into a bar or grill which had no air of having existed before tonight. She stared first at a row of backviews of eaters perched, packed elbow-to-elbow, along a counter. A zip fastener all the way down one back made one woman seem to have a tin spine. A dye-green lettuce leaf had fallen on to the mottled rubber floor; a man in a pin-stripe suit was enough in profile to show a smudge of face powder on one shoulder. A dog sitting scratching itself under one bar stool slowly, with each methodical convulsion, worked its collar round so that the brass studs which had been under its ear vanished one by one, being replaced in view by a brass nameplate she could just not read. Wherever she turned her eyes detail took on an uncanny salience – she marked the taut grimace with which a man carrying two full glasses to a table kept a cigarette down to its last inch between his lips. Not a person did not betray by one or another glaring peculiarity the fact of being human: her intimidating sensation of being crowded must have been to this, for there were not so very many people here. The phenomenon was the lighting, more powerful than could be accounted for by the bald white globes screwed aching to the low white ceiling – there survived in here not one shadow: every one had been ferreted out and killed." (Heat of the Day, 224-5)                

I find this paragraph very odd. We are given to understand that Stella notes all of the details described, casting her eyes around the bar as she enters it. Details take on 'uncanny salience' – and indeed uncanniness is the sense that this paragraph evokes. An uncanny rupture of synchrony – the taken to glance around the room is strikingly disproportionate to the time it would take to recount what is taken in. And there is an uncanny super-humanisation of Stella's senses (it is augmented by the narrator's photo-psycho-analytic functions). These uncanny elements are omnipresent in fiction, at least as potentialities; in Bowen's style they are amplified at certain moments in the text until they saturate it.

Copying, Elizabeth Bowen, The Uncanny, Writing

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