Thunder on the Left
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Left for a moment alone at a birthday party, the children make a pact never to grow old; in the very next scene we encounter a married couple, two of the partying children, married, a bit dissatisfied with life and hungry for the excitement of love and youth. Into this world and the lives of their own children steps a strangely naive and innocent man, Mr. Martin, who transforms their ordinary lives, returning them to a world of love, adventure, and magic. But all threatens to come crashing down upon them as they gradually perceive who Mr. Martin actually is: the child from the party who demanded their promises of eternal youth. Suddenly the past, demanding its priorities, endangers the lives of their own children, and they must outwit their own innocent commitments in order to allow the next generation to exist. Beautifully written, with a lush use of language and interior monologue that reminds one of Virginia Woolf, this book, a best-seller upon its original (1925) publication, evidences Morley's exceptional talent as a fiction and mystery writer. Perhaps best known for his novels Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop, Morley was a true American wit and author of over seven novels, several books of essays, poetry, and plays. Born in 1890, Morley died in 1957.
girls were too much for her. They gaped over the palings. They knew (she felt sure) that something queer was happening. They always know, as calmly detached as nurses in a hospital who smile faintly at what the patients say under ether. She hesitated, looking down at her ankles. How trim and orderly they were; when she put on those white silk stockings this morning she had had no idea of all this happening. She heard the gate clash to, but still paused, her face averted. She wanted her eyes to
used to like the name, but had put it out of her mind when she found it too true. Everything about him was rather, except only his eyes. They were quite. In them, sometimes, you saw a far-off defiance. Something that had always retreated, slipped behind corners, stood warily at half-open doors, but by caution and prudence, not by timidity. Something that went while the going was good. "Ben," she said. "Did you see that girl sitting at the next table in the diner? The one in the black hat. She
roofs, how precious houses are. And how wary they have to be, fortresses against fierce powers, sunshine, darkness, gale. Life has flowed through them: clocks have chimed, logs crumbled, stairs creaked under happy feet. These whispers are all they have to treasure: if you leave them alone too long they get morbid, full of sullen fancies. She remembered herself, visiting that house as a child, once seated at this same window, watching others play croquet . . . was it memory, or only the trick of
living, stare down the cautious masks of habit. The trustiest senses could play traitor inside this bubble of pearly lustre; the hottest bonfires of mirth would be only a flicker in this dim stainless peace. Better to go indoors, join the polite vaudeville of evasion, escape the unbearable reality of this enchanted . . . "Here you are!" said a voice. "Thank goodness. I want to ask you things. You're different." It was Martin. "What's the matter with all these people?" he exclaimed. "Why can't
could . . ." Joy and clean gusto, the blessed hilarity of living! Why, it was so divinely simple, if Phyl would care to understand. . . . "Dearest, if you . . . if you only . . ." The half-tamed leopard stirred and showed a yellow spark. George's mind, uneasily changing itself, made swift cusping arcs like the tracks of a turning car. Ruth came rustling from the bathroom. She was amazed to see them doing a fox-trot together. "Good-morning!" he said. "Perhaps you didn't know, this is our