Monday, April 6, 2009

Pulp Fiction

Friday March 7th 1902

Travelled to Ivry-sur-Seine at the invitation of old Guillemard my one-time "publisher." Business to discuss he said in his telegram which I had received a week previously. This was totally out of the blue as it was some years since I had had any dealings with him but not having any more pressing business to attend to at this time and having I must admit a sort of nostalgic regard for the old rogue I decided to go and sent off a telegram informing him of this. So today I met him at his office at Guillemard Educational Publishing, that run-down seedy-looking place (in keeping with his seedy enterprise) which I remembered all too well from times past. It is in an industrial zone with a sweat-shop tailoring concern on one side and a foul-smelling tannery on the other and a variety of noxious and dubious enterprises crowding upon them and rows of dilapidated houses, the warrens of the working class who labour here. Guillemard continues to turn out cheap school stationery, school primers and other educational requisites and this business serves as a cover for that more lucrative business of his, the publishing of erotic (i.e. pornographic) novels and magazines and series of postcards (from photographs taken by his son Emile) which are sold under such titles as "Aids to the Study of Anatomy and Physiology for Medical Students and Students of Art" and "Homage to the Beauty of the Female Form for the Discerning Connoisseur." I understand that Emile recruits many of his models from the poor young women who labour in the next door dress factory, Madame Ena's Chic Modes. These poor little midinettes will willingly take their clothes off for a little, probably very little, extra cash to try to improve their wretched lives. It was always rumoured that in addition to these enterprises the G's supplied capotes anglaises, pessaries and other prophylactic requisites. Guillemard must be well over seventy by now but he still, he informed me, keeps a close eye on everything as indeed I suppose he must not being able to trust anyone else with the running of the place. Guillemard greeted me affably ushered me into his dingy little sanctum and offered me a brandy. Having a long memory from days of yore I politely declined his rot-gut liquor. He poured himself a generous measure, "to a long, profitable and pleasurable life," he exclaimed with a smile as he quaffed the stuff in one swig. and after some conversation of a reminiscing nature he got down to business. Apparently quite recently he received a letter from an old gentleman in Austria who is a longtime customer of his, a "Discerning Connoisseur" no doubt, lamenting that the current crop of novels put out by old G are but dross compared to the sparkling gems of a few years ago particularly those by "Manolo Sanza." Ah yes Manolo Sanza my old nom de plume! ergo old G wants me to write three more novels for him, continuing the adventures or rather misadventures of Mademoiselle Suzie Cathcart-Smythe, my innocent English governess, orphaned and alone in France and her ordeals at the hands of the dastardly Count Raoul de Lanrezac and his even more evil Italian mistress the Contessa Antonietta Della Palma in the bedrooms and cellars of the Chateau Douloureux. I was less than enthusiastic. It is true that my financial situation has worsened recently due to the unwise speculations of my broker and my own prodigal attitude towards money but the miserable sums Guillemard is likely to offer would not make any appreciable difference to that. He is the one who will profit of course. Besides the novels I had written for him in the past I now viewed as part of my mis-spent youth, indeed the first one was written as the result of a sort of light-hearted competition with three other students to see who could write the most outrageous Sadeean pornographic extravaganza inspired by one of Guillemard's publications "Submission to the Lash; or the Pleasures of Pain" which had been passed around amongst us. We had all submitted our works to Guillemard and he had published mine and paid me for it. I was not that light-hearted young man any more with a life of promise ahead of him. I pointed out that it was a long time since I had last written that kind of stuff and that I was well out of practice adding jocularly that Mademoiselle Suzie would be quite long in the tooth by now if not a grandmother. He disregarded this and said that he wasn't expecting Les Miserables adding somewhat unnecessarily I thought that he hadn't heard that I had moved on to higher things in the literary world. In the end I agreed, at least it will help to pass the time if nothing else. So I will be exercising my literary talent once more or rather my alter ego Manolo Sanza will. He will get LL to do the illustrations. LL! I expressed surprise that this rake was still alive and that he hadn't yet succeeded in drinking himself to death with absinthe. Business concluded he invited me to lunch and took me to a working-men's bistro a short distance away. Old G was quite at home here and was effusively welcomed by both the proprietor and his wife who came from her kitchen to embrace him warmly, pressing him affectionately to her enormous bosom and he was soon exchanging rough banter and coarse quips with the rest of the clientele. I must admit that we were served an excellent rabbit stew and tarte aux pommes.

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