…an offshore wind…

I’m taken by this description of a wedding reception (or is it a tempest-tossed barque?) in M. John Harrison’s The Course of the Heart.

The Marquee was warm enough, but its floor tilted sharply to the left, so that everyone sitting at that side felt as if they were sliding out of it. The supporting poles, dressed with yellow and white ribbon, creaked uneasily in an offshore wind which that evening had bulged and slackened rhythmically; the electric chandeliers swayed. Halfway through the meal, the tennis court had begun to squeeze itself up through the coconut matting. Apart from Lucas and Pam, I didn’t know anyone there. I sat on my own with my back against the tent, drank some champagne, and stared up into the roof where, far above the central tables on which the ruins of the buffet lay scattered among yellow bows and springs of artificial flowers, a bright red helium balloon was trapped. Four or five children were staring up at it too, heads tilted back at an identical angle. Events seemed to have piled up against all of us.

Is the title a pun on coeur? The Hearts of the Heart? And it’s so perilously close to The Curse of the Heart that you keep looking and re-looking to make sure that isn’t it after all.

I’m starting my fiction class today and I’m suddenly sorry I didn’t include one of Harrison’s stories on the syllabus. He’s the kind of writer who’s books pass urgently from hand to hand (Course of the Heart was, in fact, handed to me) and he’s a tight and tricky blogger too: http://ambientehotel.wordpress.com/.

Never switch on the Mac in the night to make a note: by the time it’s woken up you’ve gone back to sleep again. You’ve forgotten who you were, let alone what he was thinking.

His Light changed the way I think about science fiction and has to be one of the major books of the last decade. Go read him.

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