The Mexican Journey That Made One of the 20th Century's Finest Writers

Sybille Bedford's account of her remarkable year in Mexico is the perfect introduction to one of the 20th century's most remarkable writers.

A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey

Publisher: New York Review of Books
Length: 392 pages
Author: Sybille Bedford
Price: $18.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2016-06

In her 2005 memoir Quicksands, a 94-year old Sybille Bedford reflects on what it was that changed her from a failed writer to an international success.

She was not a failure for lack of trying: three novels under her belt by the age of 29, and all of them rejected.

Hedonism makes for great reading.
Now there she was, in the summer of 1949, on the sunny Italian island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples. She was penniless; or would have been, but for a faithful friend who, despite her own struggling finances, shared her salary with Bedford and told her to write.

The notion for her latest book, her fourth effort, had come to her the year prior. Now that the war was over she was sick of being cooped up in the US to which she -- born German, and married British solely for the purpose of obtaining a passport to avoid deportation to Germany before the war -- had fled, along with many other European scholars and writers. Restless and sick of America, yet cognizant that Europe was still in ruins, she cast about for somewhere to go.

“I had a great longing to move, to hear another language, eat new food; to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible. I longed in short to travel.” But where to go? “Canada? One did not think of Canada.”

She turned her gaze south, and opted for Peru. When she discovered she couldn’t afford to get there, nor to any of her backup choices, she took what she could afford: train tickets to Mexico. “I was not tempted by Mexico then, if anything vaguely put off by the artiness of the travel literature,” she reflected. One visit to the New York Public Library later, she was immersed in Mexican diaries and literature and never looked back.

Fourth One’s the Charm

It was in Mexico that the idea for her fourth book came to her.

“There, one warm night, on the terrace of an hacienda, lying on a deckchair under the sub-tropical sky, emptier, so much vaster than that of our hemisphere, alien and mysterious to my Western mind, on that night looking at that sky, seized by a sense of transience and infinity, the concept of a book had come to me. Abstract, ecstatic, eloquent though speechless: an apparition clear and complex moving unseen within myself,” she recalled more than five decades later in Quicksands.

“From then on the book I wanted to write -- all guns ablaze -- was about Mexico: the oldest country of the New World, the Mexico of the frightful history and the paradoxical present… of my experiences, my traveller’s tales, of the strangeness, the remoteness, the unending luminous landscapes, the violence, the absurdity: allegro and panic.”

But there was still the problem of her writing. Three books, three failures. Could this one be different? Never mind that it was grounded in remarkable first-hand experience -- Bedford and a female companion adventuring on their own in 1946 through a country which was just emerging from a century of civil wars and revolutions. Never mind that she’d been robbed by bandits; gotten lost in the jungle; met anachronistic aristocrats living on vast haciendas that seemed to belong to bygone eras. Never mind all that; there was still the burning question: could she write?

As she struggled to set pen to paper, she later said, it came clear to her what had been wrong with her first three books. “I had read too much and knew too little,” she recalled (in that last book she was ever to write).

As a teen she’d struck up an intense friendship with the famous writer Aldous Huxley. They wound up neighbours, by one of those happy accidents that shapes one’s life, and although he had a profound influence on her and encouraged her own literary lifestyle, she realized she’d simply been parroting his writing style in her own work. “I followed the master, but I followed him very poorly: watered-down Aldous Huxley, was Huxley with flat water indeed.”

After her three failures she’d given up writing for almost a decade; did a bit of journalism; spent time socializing in literary circles and avoiding the war. Now, with both geographic and temporal distance from Huxley’s influence, she set at it again, and began to discover her own voice.

“That beginning was as hard as any before, and after,” she recalled. She drew on the advice of Ernest Hemingway, reflections on writing articulated in A Moveable Feast. Hemingway’s dictums provided literary advice, but it was Hemingway’s former wife, writer and journalist Martha Gellhorn, who proved even more invaluable. She and Bedford had met in Italy and became fast friends. Not only did Gellhorn firmly castigate Bedford not to turn into one of those “nonwriting writers”, but Gellhorn’s “racy, unrelentingly demotic verbal American in that lovely gravelly voice” proved inspiring as well.

“I owe her a good deal in one way and another; and it may well have been that it was her dazzlingly robust verbal style which provided the final kick that set my writing free,” recalled Bedford.

A Mexican Journey

The book that Bedford finally produced, after three years of working on it, was A Visit to Don Otavio: A Mexican Journey (originally titled The Sudden View: A Mexican Journey when it was first published in 1953). It was a hit. And from that point on, her subsequent writing -- four more novels, a multi-volume biography of Huxley, several pieces of journalism that ranged from travel writing to crime coverage, and her final masterpiece of a memoir -- was justly praised as some of the best material to emerge from the English language.

It’s difficult to precisely categorize A Visit to Don Otavio. Ostensibly a travel memoir, it’s just as often associated with Bedford’s other novels. Bruce Chatwin, in his introduction to the New York Review Books new edition of the classic, recalls discussing the matter with Bedford herself. “‘Of course it’s a novel,’ Mrs Bedford once said to me. ‘I wanted to make something light and poetic… I didn’t take a single note when I was in Mexico… If you clutter yourself with notes it all goes away. I did, of course, send postcards to friends, and when I started writing, I called them in.’ “

Chatwin, who rightly calls Bedford one of the “most dazzling practitioners” of the English language, was only partially right in his categorizing. A Visit to Don Otavio is more than simply an autobiographical novel. Nor is it simply travel literature.

An eclectic combination of history, philosophizing, and reportage, it comes at times closer to the sort of magical journalism practised by Ryszard Kapuscinski or Garcia Marquez, tempered with a strong dose of the Bohemian dilettante. The magical quality of the reportage comes through particularly during the travel sequences, and during the historical segments as well. Part three of the book (which is divided into four parts), for example, contains a brilliant and dazzling psychological portrait of the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. The younger brother of the Austrian emperor, he was enjoying a quiet life in Italy and France when the French offered to make him emperor of Mexico (which they had just occupied in response to the reform initiatives of Mexican president Benito Juarez, who had nationalized land, kicked out the Church, and turned his back on the country’s European-financed debt). Max seems to have been an amiable sort, and fairly progressive himself, yet turned out to be the hapless victim of schemers far less scrupulous.

In the end the French bolted from Mexico, Maximilian’s wife the Empress Carlota sped off to Europe to seek money and support for her husband, and Juarez raised a people’s army, which eventually retook the country. Incredibly, Maximilian refused to flee despite the hopeless situation, made a doomed final stand and was captured and, finally, executed. Bedford tells the story in a gripping yet thoroughly detailed narrative. Yet her real interest lies in getting inside the heads of the key characters. Just what was Maximilian thinking during this whole drama? What compelled him to stay despite the odds -- even after the French armies had fled -- and face inevitable defeat? What in turn drove Juarez? Why did Juarez refuse clemency for Maximilian, despite the protests and pleas and threats from virtually every world power to spare his life after his capture? What does the entire drama, and the psychology of its protagonists, say about the broader Mexican psyche?

The story is a mere snapshot in the broader book, but it conveys the essence of Bedford’s historical style: speculative, reflexive, and experimental; articulated with the pace and power of a fictional narrative yet in pursuit of a deeper, more universal human truth.

Another Time, Another Place

Of course, the book is fun, too.

The bulk of it revolves around the extended sojourns Bedford and her companions made at the Hacienda San Pedro, on the shores of Lake Chapala, domain of the inimitable Don Otavio. A “ruined” man with 17 servants, Don Otavio’s family struggled to hold on to their land and wealth during the various wars and revolutions of the previous decades, and emerged better off than many. Don Otavio’s ambitious, predatory and mafia-like extended family still harbour get-rich quick schemes for developing their land into a modern hotel resort and scheme and plot against each other toward that end.

Contributing to the drama are the eclectic residents of the area: arrogant, know-it-all British colonial ex-pats; iconoclastic German settlers; descendants of American Confederates who moved down south during the US Civil War. Local servants carry on adulterous affairs which, not infrequently, end in blood feuds and attempted murder, while poor old Don Otavio, a gentle and generous host who delights in indulging his guests, would simply prefer leafing through American fashion magazines with his sister-in-law.

This segment does indeed read like a novel; the characters are richly developed, the plot-lines richly embellished with humour and drama. Bedford and her companions alternate between bemused observation of local drama, and mischievous participation in the antics. In many ways, Bedford’s account hearkens to a different era -- both of travel and of travel-writing.

Bedford and her companions are the prototypical colonial dilettantes, off to see the world in a post-war period where colonialism is about to start going out of fashion. They wax nostalgic about former lost eras of travel: “the good old times before the other war [World War One], of fabled hearsay, when one dined off omelette, claret and a roast bird at a French inn for a shilling, and paid one’s way across the Continent with sovereigns in the pocket and no passport.”

Then there were the inter-war years, “a time in Europe when one could still travel in comfort and have a part of good things without being rich or ruined… a time when hotels and restaurant meals and a second-class ticket to Florence were still within the means of everyone of moderate means; and a young man who’d got hold of a couple of hundred pounds might have his year in Paris.” By the time she’s writing, in the vulgar '50s, Europe has been ruined by war and capitalism and Bedford and her companion must travel to rural Mexico for such an experience.

Bedford, in her later years, blamed what she considered a poor literary output on sloth and hedonism, but the hedonism makes for great reading. Bedford’s habit of dwelling extensively on meals, for instance. The extensive passages detailing meals en route do more than just make the reader hungry; they express the profound jouissance Bedford derived from the minutiae of everyday experience.

Their first meal on the train to Mexico, when they are still able to rely on their own superior provisioning. “I had got us some tins of tunny fish, a jar of smoked roe, a hunk of salami and a hunk of provolone; some rye bread, and some black bread in cellophane that keeps. That first night we had fresh food. A chicken, roasted that afternoon at a friend’s house, still gently warm; a few slices of that American wonder, Virginia ham; marble-sized, dark red tomatoes from the market stands on Second Avenue; watercress, a flute of bread, a square of cream cheese, a bag of cherries and a bottle of pink wine…”

Then there's their first luncheon in Mexico City proper:

[T]wo small platefuls of rice symmetrically embellished with peas and pimento appear at our elbows. ‘Y aqui la sopa seca.’ The dry soup. We are still trying to enjoy the wet one, when the eggs are there: two flat, round, brown omelettes. Nothing is whisked away before it is finished, only more and more courses are put in front of us in two waxing semicircles of cooling dishes. Two spiny fishes covered in tomato sauce. Two platefuls of beef stew with spices. Two bowlfuls of vegetable marrow swimming in fresh cream. Two thin beefsteaks like the soles of children’s shoes. Two platters of lettuce and radishes in an artistic pattern. Two platefuls of bird bones, lean drumstick and pointed wing smeared with some brown substance. Two platefuls of mashed black beans; two saucers with fruit stewed in treacle. A basket of rolls, all slightly sweet; and a stack of tortillas, limp, cold, pallid pancakes made of maize and mortar. We eat heartily of everything...

There is also a chicken, beer to wash down the meal and a concluding course of drinking chocolate, coffee, and a basket of “frankly sugared rolls”.

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Spawning Ground

David Antrobus

In this ancient place of giant ferns and cedars, it seems the dead outnumber the living; the living fall away too quietly, too easily, taken away by stealth. There is tremendous natural beauty here, but its hold is tenuous, like moss clinging to rotting bark that will ultimately break and sink into the forest floor.

If I were to choose a visual symbol of my adopted home of Mission, an average-size town in the impossibly green western Canadian province of British Columbia, I would probably come up with a rotting carcass in a verdant pasture, a vision of death amid life. If this sounds harsh, hear me out and I'll tell my own truth about this place.

Clinging to the swift-scoured, salmon-haunted northern bank of the mighty Fraser River like an ailing lamprey to the deadly smooth flank of a Great White, this town, situated about 70 kilometers east of Vancouver, owes its entire existence to the water of its rivers and lakes, and to the wood harvested from the dense, surrounding forest. Settled in the mid-19th century, Mission has managed to survive despite two serious floods, a bridge collapse, the ominous early signs of malaise in the natural resource sector (did we really think the salmon and the great conifers were infinitely, magically renewable?), and a general reputation for unfocussed, redneck belligerence.

It all comes down to the Fraser River. The river has brought both food and trade; it provides a thoroughfare upon which the people of Mission (among others) float the great log booms that are the defeated renderings we humans fashion from the vast tracts of coastal rainforest (cedar, spruce, fir, hemlock) in our seemingly inexhaustible compulsion to exploit her resources and bring Mother Nature to her matronly knees — in part because (we believe) we can.

But the details about life in this town — the jeweler murdered in a robbery, the pretty high school graduate killed by a drunk driver, the 14-year-old suicide — in fact, all the jostling narratives crowding like paparazzi, each insisting on exclusive front page drama, bubble and coalesce and ultimately conspire to reveal the hidden Mission. There is a dark vortex lurking beneath the seemingly placid surface; the ominous shadow of something ancient beneath sun-dappled waters. Even the countless apparent banalities playing out on the town's rural borders disguise something deeper, more clandestine: the hobby farmer up in MacConnell Creek bemoaning his exhausted well; the entrepreneur hungry for an investment opportunity, eager to transform the hillsides of quiet, bucolic Silverdale into sudden, lockstep suburbia; the hiker mauled by a black bear in the mountains north of Steelhead. And always, the numerous lives derailed by marijuana grow-op busts. For all the gradual liberalisation of laws at the consumer end of this local economic rival to wood and water, those who supply the celebrated crop usually feel the full force of Canadian justice, anyway. There are times when nothing in Mission seems devoid of some kind of meaning.

A monastery sits above this town, a Benedictine haven of alternating silence and the evocative clatter of Sunday Matins bells. Its tower is phallic and disproportionately defiant, rising above the landscape like a giant darning needle, casting its intrusive shadow over the patchwork quilt of human settlement as if to stitch a final tableaux, symbolically and definitively, of the history of the original inhabitants and their mistreatment at the hands of the white settlers. Said inhabitants were (and are) the Stó:lo people (their language, Halq'eméylem, was an exclusively oral tradition, so the words are spelled phonetically nowadays). Stó:lo territory stretched along the river valley from present-day Vancouver to Yale in the Fraser Canyon, a 170 kilometer swath of virgin, fecund land, teeming with such totemic creatures as salmon, ancient sturgeon, deer, black bear, cougar, coyote, beaver, and wolf.

The Stó:lo, a Native American (or First Nations) people belonging to the larger group of Central Coast Salish, settled this area around 10,000 years ago. Europeans, attracted by rumours of gold, arrived in the 1850s. The resulting clash of cultures did not work out well for the indigenous people, and today they are still recovering from the trickle-down effects of at least one generation having been torn from its extended family. Residential schools, for which the monastery in Mission is a present-day symbol, were sites of a particularly virulent form of cultural genocide. First Nations children across Canada were taken from their homes, often exposed to physical and sexual abuse and occasionally murder, their mouths scoured with soap if they even dared to utter their own languages. St. Mary's in Mission, founded in 1861 and relinquished in 1984, was the last residential school in Canada to close.

There are 82 Indian Reserves in the Fraser Valley. There are eight correctional institutions, two in Mission alone (Aboriginal people represent around four percent of the Canadian population, yet account for 18 percent of the federally incarcerated population). Somebody — something? — really likes to control and segregate people, around here.

This fragmentation is reflected in the odd demographics of the town in general. Leaving their multicultural mark have been, at various times, Italians in Silverdale, Swedes in Silverhill, the French in Durieu, the Japanese in the early years of the fruit industry (as in the US, the Japanese were rewarded for their labours by being sent to internment camps in 1942), and immigrants from India in the early days of the shake and shingle mills. (The Western Red Cedar, with its straight grain, durability, and imperviousness to the incessant rain, while inspiring Native culture with the quixotic grandeur of totem poles, grabbed more prosaic European imaginations in the form of the shake and shingle industry, which provides reliable roofing and siding components for homes.)

In some ways, Mission is a vibrantly conflicted example of Canada's multicultural mosaic. With just over 30,000 residents (of which 3,000 are First Nations) mostly crammed into a relatively small area, bordered by the river to the south and the mountains to the north, mill workers and biker gangs, artists and Mennonites, muscle car boys and summer folkies, soccer moms and Sikh Temple-goers, merchants and pagans, Freemasons and caffeine addicts, street people and Renaissance Faire anachronisms all rub shoulders with varying degrees of friction, occasionally achieving harmony in spite of themselves. Perhaps the relative accord is due to the overall youth of the population (73 percent are under 35-years-old).

Earlier, I mentioned the presence of death. Why? Because it is everywhere here, its proximity eerily palpable. It inhabits the sly rustle of the towering conifers. It taints the air with the swampy pungency of skunk cabbage in springtime. It hums incessantly in the sub-woofer buzz of the hydroelectric dams. It shuffles along in the downcast, scuff-shoed limp of a lone child returning to a chilly home. From a distance, even the monks in their dark cassocks, knit-browed and bound by their vows of silence, seem eerily close to the Reaper caricature. For actual evidence of its pervasiveness, though, one need not go far back in time.

The bodies of three women were dumped between here and neighbouring Agassiz back in '95. Suicides and the furtive aftermath of murder, barely registering in the town at all, have spattered Burma Road, a potholed strip of rocks and dirt skirting the shore of Stave Lake. In 1997, Doug Holtam of Silverdale (a small community west of Mission) bludgeoned his pregnant wife and six-year-old daughter to death with a hammer. Against all odds, his young son Cody survived the attack. In 1995, a drunk driver, leaving in his wake not only the proverbial outpouring of community grief but also a devastated twin sister, killed 18-year-old Cindy Verhulst during the week she and her peers were busy celebrating their high school graduation. There was the little boy who slipped away from his day care centre and drowned in the swollen Fraser River. The 12-year-old boy found hanging from a school washroom towel dispenser. The elderly pilot whose body was discovered in dense forest a full two years after he had gone missing. And there was Dawn-Marie Wesley, a 14-year-old Native girl who took her own life in the basement of her home after enduring relentless bullying at school; barely noticed in life, Oprah material in death.

As disturbing and tragic as these stories are, however, there was little precedent for the breaking news in the summer of 2003. This one will need a little background.

Since the mid-'80s, women have been disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest postal code. Partly due to the initial incompetence of the Vancouver Police Department and jurisdictional issues with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), partly due to the amorphous (read: investigative nightmare) nature of the disappearances, and partly because so few people cared about missing hookers and addicts, more and more women went missing, with nary a ripple in the public consciousness (or conscience). In fact, as of this writing, a horrifying total of 65 individuals are currently on the Missing Women list. For years, law enforcement didn't even refer to their disappearance as crimes, and it wasn't until 1998 that an official task force was even assigned to investigate.

Finally, in February 2002, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer from the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam (approximately half way between Vancouver and Mission), was charged with two counts of first-degree murder of two of the missing women. More charges followed in the months ahead. Pickton currently faces 15 counts of first-degree murder with seven more expected. DNA samples of 31 women have been linked to his 10-acre farm. In short, potentially the largest serial murder case in Canadian history is now underway just 35 kilometers from Mission.

Given the frequent intrusion of death into the area, I suppose it should have surprised no one when, on 20 July 2003, the missing women's joint task force announced they would be searching an area of wetlands near Mission. Just south of Highway 7 (aka the Lougheed Highway) and the man-made body of water known as Silvermere (itself the subject of a delightfully creepy urban legend or two), the area is basically marshland bisected by a meandering slough. Immediately following the announcement of the search, the site was fenced off with temporary chain link, and the highway's wide shoulders — traditionally home to roadside fruit and flower vendors hawking their locally grown products — were suddenly and unequivocally off-limits.

Driving this formerly innocuous stretch of blacktop, especially under the after-dusk arc lights, with their swirling bug armadas and liquid island oases in the dark, now touched off an indescribably eerie feeling. It was a relief when, on 8 August, the entire ensemble of law enforcement personnel (numerous forensic investigators plus 52 anthropologists) took up their tools again and vanished. They gave no word of what they had uncovered or even whether anything had been found at all, leaving our community to its familiar, fitful dreams once more. Mission's part in this unfolding story, as it relates to the wider world, remains amorphous and indistinct, with its usual chilly glints of barely suppressed horror flickering amid the overall grey.

Here, it seems, empirical proof takes a back seat to rumour and anecdote every time.

Sometimes, while hiking alone in the tree-bejeweled mountains west of Steelhead, east of the dams, I have suddenly felt the fetid breath of graves, a harsh raven-shadow lurking behind the abundant emerald and olive greens of this sodden paradise. Inexplicable noises in the deep tangled brush; distant rending, gnashing. Something skulking and hungry. With all the assured rationality of the white male immigrant, I've been known to smirk at the idea of ghosts, and yet stumbling along a jade-tunnel trail bristling with old man's beard and devil's club, I've occasionally recoiled from something, the skin of my arms prickling with gooseflesh. There are spirits here, all right, something not too far removed from the capricious tricksters who inhabit indigenous myth. Spectres of a kind, nursing some nameless, hollow ache of unrequited need rendered manifest, paradoxically, by a landscape dripping with life.

The closest we Europeans get to perceiving this (however inadvertently) can be heard in the low extended rumble of the nighttime freight trains as they call out in the dark, hunching parallel to Railway Avenue long after most residents are asleep, lonely as a buffalo herd that's somehow seen and almost comprehended its own approaching ruin.

Of course, my telling is by no means the complete, illustrated history of Mission, a town that can barely hold onto its own name (since 1884, take your pick: St. Mary's Mission, Mission Junction, Mission City, Village of Mission, Town of Mission, and currently the District of Mission). Not by a long shot; this lurid splash portrays but a small corner of the canvas. How can any one person paint the full picture of a community, after all? No, despite my perverse zeal to stir the viscous mud below the bright surface, great deeds and happy memories adorn the history of this place, too, adding the sparkle and lustre of life above and hopefully beyond the stillness and silence. And yet, no matter how much joie de vivre this community may exhibit on its special days, like a red-carpet celebrity when the cameras start rolling — whether it be the laughing children with their maple leaf flags and pancake stacks celebrating Canada Day up at Heritage Park, or the benevolently stoned crowd at the annual Folk Festival, or even the choked air and sharp adrenaline at the Raceway — surely one thing cannot go unremarked: nearly half of those missing-presumed-dead women were of Aboriginal descent. This adds one more layer of indifference to a jaded populace apparently caught somewhere between the small town rural cruelties of its past and the uneasy suburban shrugs of its gathering future.

I know this. I worked with the street kid population here for years, witnessed their hardscrabble resilience. Few people ever gave a genuine damn about the plight of these children, even though some of the throwaways had not yet reached puberty. Two-thirds of street-involved youth in Mission are Aboriginal. Many are sexually exploited by family members, neighbors, pimps and selected citizens, but few speak of it. Some of these kids head west to Vancouver for a date with misery, stretching already tenuous community ties to the breaking point. My job as a street worker was to speak for these lost children, to ensure some semblance of the child welfare system would kick in through advocacy with social workers or teachers or families or counselors or probation officers. In a world in which the so-called "bottom line" — money and the politics of money — has become drawn too garishly, these already marginalized youth were, and continue to be, largely abandoned by a system designed to protect them. Sometimes I stand beside the town's failing heart, its run down main drag (1st Avenue), taking in the pawnshops and thrift outlets and dollar stores, and I'm convinced I truly hate this place... but only because I've loved it so deeply. In life: death. In death: life. The great inscrutable cycle.

In this way, the perennially troubled summer Pow Wow, always skirting the edge of ruin (corrupt, inept politics and sporadic funding, take a bow), yet often prevailing regardless, seems to me a far more accurate symbol of the clutching, ragged breaths that secretly haunt the sleep of this community. The fleeting vibrant colours of traditional dancers whirling in bright regalia — poignant as the plumage of endangered birds, flying amongst the high wailing melismas of the Northern-style singing and the vital, aorta-punching drums of the circles — somehow speaks more of an unavenged wound in time and place, set amid the cruelty that underlies so much beauty, than anything else this conflicted human settlement seems capable of offering.

An absurd contrast, really — this vibrant gathering and the judgmental silence of all those surrounding stories of the dead — the whole place holding its breath waiting for these mortal sorrows to purge themselves before the pristine lawns and asphalt and vinyl sidings are allowed to spread and eventually suffocate every fucking thing that ever felt like something here.

For here, tenacious as the town itself alongside relentless churning waters, the living will no doubt cling to hope and the perpetual dream of life until the muscled river — unnoticed, stealthy, taken for granted — wrestles away everything (horror, joy, splintered wood and the final word) at long last, sending it all tumbling toward the planet's dark and pitiless seas for good.

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