Monday, February 28, 2005

a sewer rat in love

Molls Who Have It Their Way With a Gang of New York by Janet Maslin, New York Times, 28 February 2005:
"Metropolis" follows an upward trajectory, literally rising from the sewers to the Brooklyn Bridge's towers. And it manages to be carnal and scatological at any height. "Generally, sewage runs thin and gray, not half as bad as you'd think," Ms. Gaffney explains, as the sewer system becomes central to a Whyo heist scheme. And as for Frank, an expert on these underground tunnels, after he is smitten by Beanie: "When he saw a rat in the sewer now, he thought of it as a happy rat, as a sewer rat in love."

V., p. 120, 124:
They were entering Fairing's Parish, named after a priest who'd lived topside years ago. During the Depression of the '30's, in an hour of apocalyptic well-being, he had decided that the rats were going, to take over after New York died. Lasting eighteen hours a day, his feat had covered the breadlines and missions, where he gave comfort, stitched up raggedy souls. He foresaw nothing but a city of starved corpses, covering the sidewalks and the grass of the parks, lying belly up in the fountains, hanging wrynecked from the streetlamps. The city - maybe America, his horizons didn't extend that far - would belong, to the rats before the year was out. This being the case, father Fairing thought it best for the rats to be given a head start - which meant conversion to the Roman Church. One night early in Roosevelt's first term, he climbed downstairs through the nearest manhole, bringing a Baltimore Catechism, his breviary and, for reasons nobody found out, a copy of Knight's Modern Seamanship. The first thing he did according to his journals (discovered months after he died was to put an eternal blessing and a few exorcisms on the water flowing through the sewers between Lexington and the East River and between 86th and 79th Streets. This as the area which became Fairing's Parish. These benisons made sure of an adequate supply of holy water; also eliminated the trouble of individual baptisms when he finally converted all the rats in the parish. Too, he expected other rats to hear what was going on under the upper East Side, and come likewise to be converted. Before long he would be spiritual leader of the inheritors of the earth. He considered it small enough sacrifice on their part to provide three of their own per day for physical sustenance, in return for the spiritual nourishment he was giving them. [....] one of the apocrypha dealt with an unnatural relationship between the priest and this female rat, who was described as a kind of voluptuous Magdalen. From everything Profane had heard, Veronica was the only member of his flock Father Fairing felt to have a soul worth saving. She would come to him at night not as a succubus but seeking instruction, perhaps to carry back to her nest - wherever in the Parish it was - something of his desire to bring her to Christ: a scapular medal, a memorized verse from the New Testament, a partial indulgence, a penance.