The sea lost nothing of the swallowing identity of its great outer mass of waters in the emphatic, individual character of each particular wave. Each wave, as it rolled in upon the high-pebbled beach, was an epitome of the whole body of the sea, and carried with it all the vast mysterious quality of the earth’s ancient antagonist. – page 1 (When I collected these words to include in this reflection, I started to read the book all over again!)
The realm of John Cowper Powys is dangerous. The reader may wander for years in this parallel universe, entrapped and bewitched, and never reach its end. There is always another book to discover, another work to reread. Like Tolkien, Powys has invented another country, densely peopled, thickly forested, mountainous, erudite, strangely self-sufficient. This country is less visited than Tolkien's, but it is as compelling, and it has more air.—Margaret Drabble The Guardian, The English Degenerate, August 11, 2006
John Cowper Powys is adored by a loyal type of reader who once they’ve found him will be forever grateful, yet he is often scorned by other readers with the trite accusation “Nothing happens!” Indeed, reading Powys is like taking a long rambling walk through a landscape—if you enjoy lingering over mosses and funguses, meadows and forests, absorbing birdsong, the wind through the trees, the rattle of pebbles on the beach, and becoming immersed in mysticism, psychology, and the legends from long ago, you will love Weymouth Sands.
It is enchanting—haunting—provocative; the complexities of the human puzzle, made up of eccentric misfits and lonely monsters. There is a beautiful sense of place, the wonders of nature, the transcendence of the ordinary; the passionate love of home, the reassuring familiarity with landmarks; obsessive-compulsive behaviors, emotionally overwrought to the point of being tenderly maudlin. The epic longing for a cup of tea at most times equals the yearning for the attentions of a woman, or the overwhelming desire to cave in the head of the miserly richest man in town with a pebble stone—all this in the day-to-day lives of the population of Weymouth. There is more going on in the lives being lived—much of the antics of the residents could be considered madness—and apparently, it’s chronic enough that a place dubbed “Hell’s Museum” exists. It is a place where unsettling rumors about a laboratory in which vivisection is secretly performed on dogs is a worrisome outrage that lingers in the back of most of their minds. There are moments of bawdy comedy, perverted and hilarious, that mesh with the intimate dramas disseminated throughout this human document. No one’s perfect, on the surface they put on a proper façade in order to exist in society (such as Perdita Wane, Magnus Muir, and Mr. Gaul and the assorted elder ladies of the town), while some are clearly of the “fuck it, I am what I am” sort (such as Jobber Skald, the brothers Jerry and Sylvanus Cobbold, and Gipsy May) who have embraced their nature and go about with a ‘come what may’ attitude.
Only he could write such a formidable tale with such intense characters—he is a writer’s writer. The words flow from his pen, coming into existence—Powys followed his bliss. Can you imagine, the constant vision, the outpouring of thoughts, the compassion, the persistence, the intensity of his mind (the exhaustion) to create everything he wrote? (I can.) Turning on the creative spigots and leaving them on is a deluge with an understanding that human nature is complicated and not everything is going to be resolved from beginning to end—tho’ it is certain that Weymouth Sands is a story in which a pebble stone starts out riding in the Jobber’s pocket as a bludgeon with intent, to becoming a paper weight with a final resting place—everything else that happens in between is incidental.
A few moments from the dog-eared pages.
How well he knew this spot! It was one of those geographical points on the surface of the planet that would surely rush into his mind when he came to die, as a concentrated essence of all that life meant! –Page 10 (Magnus Muir)
…as if by the mere hugging of her knees between her arms she could return to that unconscious state in which twenty-six years ago she lay, an embryo-mite, before she was born into a world like this; a world in which for a woman not to be beautiful, not to be seductive and appealing, means after all a series of futile desperations, of shifts and make-shifts, of pitiful and sorrowful turnings to the wall. (Perdita Wane) Page 49
Sue Gadget suddenly felt as if all the waves of the sea did not contain water enough to wash out the pity and trouble and pain and weariness of being alive in this world.—page 578
For further indulgence you may enjoy this lovely website “tour” of Powy’s Weymouth—I didn’t come upon it until after I finished reading the book, upon finding it this morning, it confirmed my vision: