“As long as we are victims of habit we are slaves to Vice. I advise you to begin by giving up cauliflower. I notice you have an inordinated appetite for this vegetable, your reigning passion, in fact, Greed.”
Mrs. Gambit must have seen me steal a small branch of boiled cauliflower during the morning tasks in the kitchen. I must be more careful, I thought, nodding my head.
The Hearing Trumpet’s fantastical qualities are perhaps fêted in a way that overshadows the use of mundanity. A vegetable such as cauliflower is transformed into something with new significance. So too is the setting. How many novels are set in retirement homes with strong-willed and slightly paranoid women as lead characters? Carrington fused the real with its other to arrive at horizons that shift the moment you settle on them. Even the buildings are described apparently unreliably, and all the more enchanted for it, so that you can’t be sure if they really amount to a castle, as though the possibility and its uncertainty are somehow better.
What I find particularly unexpected about the above extract is that it may have contributed to Éric Chevillard’s The Author and Me, a book entirely based on a (one-way) conversation about a loathing for cauliflower gratin. In another apparent Carringtonism, a 40-page footnote is a bestiary comprised of an ant and an anteater. The manoeuvre that both Carrington and Chevillard pull off is that while you know you’re actually sitting and reading something patently absurd, you know that they knew exactly what they were doing when writing it, which is to say, acknowledging your presence and attention in reading theirs. There’s something in this of a wink.