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“Blurtso and the books” (III)


“Welcome to tonight’s roundtable discussion sponsored by ‘The Campus Institute of Political Seriousness for Enhanced Living in an Unenhanced World.’ I’m your host, Jonathan Wellborn Truington III, and joining us this evening is Mr. Blurtso Lundif, a former diversity fellow at Harvard College who has come to speak about his new novel.
“As I recall, Mr. Lundif, the last time we visited you were making a name for yourself by standing in the snow.”
“Yes,” said Blurtso.
“Perhaps you could describe your novel. What’s it about?”
“It’s about an eighteenth-century pirate donkey,” said Blurtso, “who sails the Mediterranean in search of fortune and fame.”
“I see,” said Mr. Truington, “and why does he stand in the snow?”
“He doesn’t,” said Blurtso.
“He doesn’t?” said Mr. Truington.
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Then what is so special about him?”
“He’s an eighteenth-century pirate donkey,” said Blurtso, “who sails the Mediterranean in search of fortune and fame.”
“Does he give the booty he steals to the poor?”
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Does he help overthrow the tyrannical king, Louis XVI of France?”
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Does he choose a female donkey as his first mate, and promote feminist reform in the equine world?”
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Does he give his life to a cause greater than himself, discover a cure for cancer or found a new religion?
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Then why,” said Mr. Truington, “should anyone buy your book?”
“They shouldn’t,” said Blurtso.
“They shouldn’t?” said Mr. Truington.
“No,” said Blurtso.
“Why not?” said Mr. Truington.
“Because,” said Blurtso, “people shouldn’t buy things they don’t really need.”
“I see,” said Mr. Truington. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Thank you, Mr. Lundif, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us about your extraordinarily uneventful novel. I’m sure the audience will join me in wishing you well in your future endeavors, and in hoping that your second novel will be more interesting than your first.”

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“Blurtso and the books” (II)


Wow, thought Blurtso, counting the twenty Patrick O’Brian novels I have, and my copy of Leaves of Grass, I now have a library of 5,021 volumes… five thousand of which I wrote myself.

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“Blurtso and the books” (I)


What are all these? said Harlan. They’re books, said Blurtso. Books? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, I used the money I had left over from my school grant to publish my novel. Your novel? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, Blurtseau Lundif – Corsaire Extraordinaire. How many copies did you print? said Harlan. Only five thousand, said Blurtso.

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“Blurtseau Lundif – Corsaire Exraordinaire” (VIII)


Blurtseau told Echo about his life before the island—his voyages, the battles he had fought, the perils he had overcome—but though she listened with enthusiasm, she could scarcely imagine the things he described, for they were all things she had never seen. Bloodshed, of which there was much in his stories, was unknown on the island, and though she had witnessed aging in other animals—the goats in particular—the only deaths she had seen were the result of natural cause, and it seemed to her no more troubling than a deep and dreamless sleep. As for the humans, who commanded so much attention in his stories, she had never seen one, and could only picture them as hyper-contentious goats walking upright. The towns and cities were unreservedly fantastic. She could not believe there were such things as streets and houses and palaces constructed from predetermined plans; a physical world built on the airy blueprints of imagination. She concluded that these magical creatures needed to do little more than imagine an object to make it appear, but she wondered why they chose to live in an artificial world rather than the real one that was already around them.


Blurtseau, for his part, found Echo’s innocence to be as unimaginable as his lack of it, and he began to understand that what he saw, even the simplest object on the island, bore little resemblance to what she saw. And the meanings that he understood when he used the words he used were not the meanings she understood when she heard them. But he was enchanted by her innocence, and longed to know what it was like to live in her world, and she was content to play Desdemona to his Othello, losing herself in his tales, imbibing adventure as if slaking her thirst at a secret and mysterious spring.

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“Blurtseau Lundif – Corsaire Extraordinaire” (VII)


At this point in the novel, said Blurtso, Blurtseau Lundif and his friends have intercepted the British sugar ship and are fleeing for their lives…

Claude did as directed, with the British sloop behind, until pursuer and pursued were lost from sight beneath the watery peaks. Blurtseau, who could no longer see the enemy ship, turned to descend the rigging, but before he could, a wall of water struck the schooner, causing the hull to rock and roll, and throwing our hero—as if he had been pitched from a catapult—into the frothing jaw of the sea. His companions watched in horror as he soared, head over hooves, describing a perfect parabola across the moonlit sky.


“Blurtseau!” called Pableau.
“Blurtseau!” called Josette.
“Blurtseau!” called Claude. But their comrade could not hear, or if he could, he could not reply, and the rudderless ship, steered now by the storm, drew quickly away, leaving our hero bobbing like a cork on the writhing water.


“We must turn and find him!” cried Pableau.
“Turn whither?” said Claude.
“Blurtseau is an excellent swimmer,” said Pableau. “I’m sure he’s secured a plank, or piece of driftwood, and is paddling for calmer seas. If we circle, describing a broader and broader circumference, we’ll cross him with our bow.”
“Yes,” said Claude, “when the storm has settled.”

And so they waited, tossed and turned in the belly of the gale, until the sky cleared. By dawn the British frigate, carried east with the careening clouds, was no longer to be seen, and the Zurrabelle was free to begin her search.


They sailed for fourteen days and fourteen nights, each day broadening the scope of their search, and each day encountering only sea. On the morning of the fifteenth day Pableau, perched on the foremast, thought he had spied his lost friend, but he was soon dismayed when closer inspection revealed a dark-grey dolphin. Josette, who had been holding up bravely, burst into tears, and Claude drew slowly and solemnly upon his pipe.

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“Blurtseau Lundif – Corsaire Extraordinaire” (IV)


At this point in the story, said Blurtso, Blurtseau Lundif and his faithful First Mate, Pableau la Chanson, are hiding from French spies in Sagres, Portugal. Pableau, having recently fallen in love, has gone to Evora in search of a beautiful donkey he saw only one time in Sagres…

The day dawned damp and chilly, long after Pableau had risen from his water-logged straw to fire the bakery ovens. He had been toiling for hours when the first customers arrived, and by then the air in the shop was warm and dry, and even the cracks in the walls were thick with the scent of bread. Although it had been more than three months since his arrival, and though his excursion to the villa had been in vain, Pableau’s resolve remained firm, for despite his repeated failures he knew that the story of the boulanger in search of the hoof was making its way around town, and that notice of his existence would eventually fall upon the ears of the one he sought.

He was consoling himself with this hopeful, patient logic as he placed a fresh tray of chantillies in the pastry window, when a carriage suddenly appeared on the street, and before he could comprehend what was happening, he saw the most beautiful donkey in the world descend from the coach…


“Are you Pableau the baker?” she asked, when she had stepped inside.
“Yes,” said Pableau, “I am.”
“And you have been seeking me for over three months?”
“Yes,” said Pableau, “I have.”
“Having seen only my hoof? And having seen it on only three occasions?”
“Yes,” said Pableau.
“And you have been discovered in the garden of my quinta,” she said, “by my eyes and others’, skulking about the shrubberies?”
“That,” said Pableau, “I cannot say, for your eyes may well have seen me, but mine, sadly, did not see you. But yes, he continued, I was indeed on the grounds, for I bribed the gatekeeper to let me pass.”
“I see,” said Zurrabela, “and now, may I know what you expect of me?”
“I expect nothing,” said Pableau, “I only hope.”
“Hope?” said Zurrabela. “And what do you hope?”
“I hope,” said Pableau, “that yours is the heart I am seeking, and that mine is the heart you seek.”
“But,” said Zurrabela, “that hope is without reason, for you have sought only a hoof.”
“Yes,” said Pableau, “that is true, but I know my heart, and my heart knows reasons that reason knows not.”
“But how can you be sure,” said Zurrabela, “that I seek any heart at all?”
“I cannot be sure,” said Pableau, “I can only hope.”
“Yes,” said Zurrabela, “as you have said… may I know how long you will lodge in Évora?”
“Until my dreams are answered,” said Pableau, “or until they expire.”
To this last statement Zurrabela did not respond, but only gazed at the flour-covered donkey who had searched for her, tirelessly, having seen only a hoof. Pableau, too, remained silent, meeting her glance with one of his own, a glance that was open, unguarded, and fortified with conviction. Then Zurrabela made a motion to speak, but stopped, collected herself, and left the shop. Pableau remained inside, watching to see if she would make herself seen at the window of her coach, but she did not; instead he saw only what he already knew, an incomparable hoof, waving to the driver, in a gesture to depart.

Get the entire Blurtseau Lundif novel at Amazon Books