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Drabblecast 055 - Circes

Posted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 8:47 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Circes by Damien Walter

It is an expensive restaurant. The bar is made of hard wood, burnished like beaten bronze. High mirrors reflect deep shadows. Hundreds of upturned wine glasses, huge, line every table, polished into sparkling invisibility. Feliks catches the scent of smoke. The tip of a burning cigar glows among the shadows, gripped in thick fingers...

Drabblenews: Benchwarmers

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:30 am
by strawman
Okay I need help, please. I think the story is great, but the end is very confused. Why did the chef, hip deep in angry pigs, yell at the blond?
It almost seems that the events are a study in the deconstruction of reality back through subconscious layers of cartoonish ideologies (e.g. capitalist pigs). [Ugh. That sentence so reminds me of the Eng. Lit. papers I wrote in college....]

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:30 am
by Mr. Tweedy
That was some great writing, but what the heck was it about? It seemed almost like a stream-of-consciousness thing, like a dream where one thing leads into another for no apparent reason.

I feel like I did after I watched "Appleseed." Gorgeous graphics, but what was the point?


Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:05 am
by normsherman
I'm going to try to goad Damien into commenting in here about it at some point.

Kendall's in China and can't access the forums because they are communist and don't like to have fun. He thinks the story was based on George Harrison's "Piggies" from the White Album.

I think there was some commentary on America and the Western/American culture globalizing - a culture of power and gluttony "expanding onward to infinity". Feliks can never go home because Circe's island (or restaurant) is no longer an island - its all around us.

"She looks at me"- that's the point where naive, bumbling Feliks loses his innocence and the terrible truth is revealed- by seeing Circe, seeing the people around him for what they are- realizing there is no where to run.

I'm not sure what the Chef's role is- Akin to some god who is aware of everything - even has a role in it- but is wrapped up in it and unable to change things. He was trying to preserve Felik's innocence by keeping him ignorant of the illusion.

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:35 am
by cammoblammo
(/me tries hard not to look at spoilers)

Quick question Norm --- I've just checked my podcast app and this story hasn't come up yet, but everyone else (i.e. strawman and Mr Tweedy) seems to have it.

Last week it didn't arrive until Saturday. Any idea what might be happening?

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:12 pm
by normsherman
last week I actually didn't get it up till Friday. Most people I know locally who listen could get it right away though. My only guess is that you have you have your app where it updates infrequently?

Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:43 pm
by cammoblammo
Don't worry, it's arrived now. I don't think it was my software --- I ran it manually to make sure.

Maybe it got held up for a random search on the way out of the country. Back to the regularly scheduled programme...

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:11 am
by cammoblammo
Well, strange stories by strange authors by strange listeners seems to sum this story up pretty well, although I'm beginning to feel a little unstrange after that.

It feels strange.

Quite simply, I really liked the story, but I just didn't get it. I guess if I understood the significance of the term 'Circes' I might have had a chance. At first I thought it was a misspelled 'Circus,' until I heard the intro.

But I liked the characters, I liked the production, I liked Norm's Bulgarian accent. They were all a credit to what is presumably a great story.

BTW, the Drabble news was great. I'm glad to see Americans tell 'only in America' stories. It's pretty popular as a genre down here.

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 3:36 pm
by normsherman
I guess a story is truly great if nobody knows what it's about but everyone still seems to like it.


Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:10 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
A good part of my confusion was that I wasn't (am not) sure if the people really turned into pigs or why. The whole restaurant seemed darkly magical from the first descriptions of it and the Chef obviously knew what was going on. Did the the Chef turn the people into pigs? Did they actually become pigs or was Feliks hallucinating? Were they really pigs all along and their human forms were the hallucination? What is the significance of the auburn-haired woman? Is she a source of magic or just the most conspicuous of the many diners?

Is it significant that Feliks is out-of work musician? That he is a foreigner?

My perception was the diners really were pigs all along. I thought that symbolized decadence and corruption among the "beautiful" and the "powerful" in society. All the pigs got pissed and tried to attack Feliks because he saw through their pretense. He looks the beautiful woman in the eye and that connection enables him to see her and the others for what they really are, swine.

To me, the end was about pretense versus truth. Pigs pretend to be people and are very unhappy to have their deception revealed.

But it was all vague enough that I'm not sure that's what it was supposed to mean. Norm's interpretation doesn't resonate with me, but I can't say it's wrong. In either case, the beginning about Feliks looking for work doesn't seem at all related to the end.

The more I think about the story, the more I like it, because there is a lot of stuff there to think about and roll around in your head, and the writing really was great. It's similar to "Crimson" in that it provides a wealth of impressions but almost no context. Again, like a dream. A potent, memorable dream, but like a dream it seems impossible to tell whether or not it actually meant anything.

And I can't decide whether I like that or not.

I now feel compelled to make the following comment: I really like the variety on the Drabblecast. There are lots of variety shows, but this has got to be the most various of them all. We've got stuff like this that's more deep and literary and makes you scratch your head and stuff that's pure gross-out gags and stuff that's really witty humor. You never know what you're gonna get, but it's a safe bet it's going to be something good. I dig it.

Posted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:36 pm
by normsherman
Well I don't know that our interpretations differ that much Tweedy- I pretty much agree with what you said. I think the title, Circe, unlocks a new element to it though- bringing in themes from Homer's The Odyssey.

For those of us, like myself, who might not remember our summer reading back in 8th grade, Circe was the beautiful goddess that Odysseus and his men encountered who turned all of Odysseus's men into pigs because they were taken in by the riches of the food and stuff at her palace.

In my mind at least, Feliks is Odysseus- traveling far from home- but he is different in that he doesn't really want to go home. He wants to stay here because this is the land of opportunity and things are so great. It means, to his family at least, that he is "moving up in the world" so to speak- he will get rich, become powerful. etc. The auburn haired woman is Circe, and the restaurant, or even the US, is under her pig-spell. The chef is a muse or a lesser god, Hermes or something. Feliks sees the truth about the decadence and corruption of power and wealth when he sees Circe and the pigs.
But by then, he has already tasted the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge- and he is changed. He can never go back.

It's fun reading too much into DC stories. We should go back and overanalyze some of the older ones- "I think the tapeworm is symbolic of cultural homogeneity, feeding upon and restricting inventive thought in man..."

Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:32 am
by laura
Just a side note: I don't think it was the author's intent, but I was reminded of two different George Orwell novels...Animal Farm, obviously, but also Down and Out in Paris and London.

Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 6:16 pm
by tbaker2500
I came away from the story feeling that if I was from the same background as the author, with the same education and upbringing, the story would be profound.

I suspect that I'm one of the pigs, and therefore, being the butt of the story, don't get it.

Posted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:34 pm
by jodymonster
normsherman wrote: Kendall's in China and can't access the forums because they are communist and don't like to have fun. He thinks the story was based on George Harrison's "Piggies" from the White Album.
I thought of that song while I was listening to the story. There are some definite similarities, and they leave me wondering if any of the pigs in the story were eating bacon.
Norm, I think it would be cool if you covered "Piggies".
Oh yeah, and my friend Annie's a communist and she likes to have fun.

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:15 am
by strawman
Sure, Annie can have fun; that is, until she catches the eye of the exquisitely beautiful, auburn-haired Dear Leader


Then she'll be busted.

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:04 pm
by damiengwalter

Thanks all for taking an interest in Circe's. I'm not sure I can solve any confusion about the story, or even if I should. I did write some notes for Norm to help his reading and production (which were really great), they are below for anyone interested, minus technical bits.

Strawman - no, its not a Billary satire. Although if you read it that way then maybe it is.

Kendall - sorry, I couldn't even whistle the tune of Piggies. Lots of people have thought that though.

Norm - I didn't write Feliks as Odysseus, but in retrospect he might just be.

tbaker - unless you are a multi-millionaire industrialist / political giant you probably aren't one of the pigs. If its any help I'm not from that background either. Far, far, far, far from it.

Laura - your right, I didn't intend either but any comparison to Orwell works for me!


There were a few motivations for the story. I spent quite a few years serving food to people in restaurants, and worked with many bad tempered chefs, as well as immigrant waiters. I also live in a city with twenty five different ethnic groups. I wanted to write a version of the Circe myth, and somehow it merged with these things from my own life.

In this version, I imagined that Circe (she is only glimpsed briefly in the story, the auburn haired woman near the end) had just kept moving around after her encounter with Odysseus. She left her Greek island and setup camp in different places all over the world, moving on when she got bored but always doing the same thing - serving and pleasing rich men and the powerful, then revealing their inner piggies (yes, a definite political commentary here!). The chef is her partner in crime, so to speak. Circe entertains the dinners, but the chef actually cooks the food. Maybe he is Odysseus even, or some other great hero now caught in Circe's spell. The two of them have ended up running a restaurant in a big city somewhere where they continue to help powerful men stuff their faces. The restaurant is called 'Circe's', hence the story title.

Into this come Feliks Duda (Duda means 'Bad Musician' and Feliks means 'lucky'). Feliks is an innocent. He just wants to play his music and live a quiet life, although he has occasional dreams of rock stardom but he wouldn't like it if they came true. (Most of the immigrants I've met have been like this, normal people living really tough lives a long way from home). But when he stumbles into this strange restaurant he finds himself in real trouble. Circe is a dangerous spirit and might kill him for interrupting her games. The worlds powerful people won't like being seen for the pigs they are and will try to eat him. But the chef, who was once a great hero, sees what an innocent Feliks is and saves him, even though he probably will be killed as a consequence. At the end Feliks is no longer innocent, he has seen the corruption of the world and can never go back to seeing things the way he had before, he can never go home.

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:41 pm
by normsherman
damiengwalter wrote:The restaurant is called 'Circe's', hence the story title.
Woops- I totally missed that. Will change.
Thanks for the comments Damien!

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:37 pm
by G. E. Lee
I enjoyed this story. It definatley had a weird, surreal vibe to it, and I was able to catch the metaphor. Good stuff.

Cliff Notes

Posted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:41 am
by Kevin Anderson
Well, I really enjoyed the story, but I'm glad it came with cliff notes.

Thanks Damien

Re: Drabblecast 055 - Circes

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:54 pm
by sandrilde
Hahaha - I agree with Kevin about the cliffnotes - helps the story out to read through this forum.

Good story though - I definitely enjoyed it.