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Schrodinger’s Pussy & Jake Arnott’s ‘The House of Rumour’

My good friend the novelist Jake Arnott has a new book out.

It’s always dicey when friends publish. Fortunately though, Jake is a prodigously talented writer and The House of Rumour is rather wonderful. Rather fantastical.

Mark Lawson wrote a good review of it here.

A conspiracy thriller filled with bewildering connections, dark conjecture and arcane information, The House of Rumour perhaps most resembles The Da Vinci Code, rewritten by an author with the gifts of characterisation, wit and literacy. It may be the ideal holiday read for those who like to take their brains with them on vacation.

Exploring the overlap between science fiction, utopianism, the occult, counter-intelligence ‘black ops’, space travel and that most deceptive of human delusions of all – romantic love – The House of Rumour is a kind of horoscope – or Tarot reading – of the Twentieth Century. Does it add up? Or is it all bunkum? Well, as ever with these kind of consultations, that’s largely up to you.

And for me it worked, magically.

The blend of reality and invention converges in a cast of colourful characters, many historical, such as Ian Fleming and Aleister Crowley (who featured in Arnott’s last book The Devil’s Paintbrush), and others fictional, or factional. My personal favourite is Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s favourite and deputy, who was in his way a kind of counter-factual factual character. His mad and mysterious night flight to Scotland in 1941 to negotiate a peace treaty with the UK on the eve of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR, and source of many a conspiracy theory, serves as a kind of central narrative arc – or at least, a poetically illustrative one.

In a way, his mad moon-shot (he flew under a full moon as ‘bright as a searchlight’) undertaken for love of his Fuhrer, was Hess trying to write his own counter-factual history of the Second World War. He failed, of course, but spectacularly.

Hess was very superstitious and chose the date for his mission after consulting astrologers (and there’s some suggestion here that Hess was lured to Scotland ‘black ops’ activities by Satanist Crowley, under the direction of Ian Fleming). In captivity, Prisoner Number 7 becomes obsessed with the Space Race and the 1969 Apollo moon landings, seeing in them the final victory of the Nazis. Hess of course launches himself into space successfully in Spandau Prison in 1987: hanging himself by the neck until dead.

And perhaps Hess wasn’t quite so mad. After all, the American space programme was led and staffed by Nazi rocket scientists, and as Arnott reminds us, Voyager 1, NASA’s envoy for humanity launched in 1977 and currently leaving our Solar System, carries a recorded greeting about peace and friendship from a former Nazi, Kurt Waldheim, the then Secretary of the United Nations.

Fans of Arnott’s work will know that he likes to populate it with perverse sexuality (not that there’s really any other kind, mind). In The House of Rumour Ian Fleming’s boss, on whom he based ‘M’ in his James Bond books, is a paranoid, manipulative closet-case. While a house guest of Fleming and his wife Ann at Goldeneye, Jamaica, walks on a highly spirited S&M scene between them involving hair-brushes.

And in a much-cherished passage the British intelligence officer charged with interrogating Hess in Spandau picks up a black bobbed high-heeled lady of the night whom he suspects/hopes may be in the same deceptive business as him.

‘But what do you think is in there?’ she asks, a gloved hand still holding him by the hair.

‘Mistress?’

He feels the pressure sores as his bony knees dig into the floor and a tremor of arthritis in his right hip. His old and withered flesh is cramped and weary, trembling. She places her other hand between her thighs, lets out a little burlesque purr.

‘People often wonder what I’ve got down here,’ she says. ‘There’s uncertainty. You like that, don’t you?’

‘Oh yes, Mistress.’

She was right. That was what he liked. Subterfuge.

‘Yes. Well, it doesn’t have to be one thing or the other, does it?’

‘No, no it doesn’t, Mistress.’

‘It could be both.’

‘Yes’

In fact it is both, isn’t it?’

‘What?’

‘Until you look at it, it’s both, isn’t it?’

‘I don’t, um. I don’t understand.’

She lets go of his hair and slaps him across the face, sending him sprawling onto the floor.

‘Concentrate!’

She pulls on the leash and he is up on his knees once more.

‘You have to concentrate. This is a thought experiment.’

‘Mistress?’

‘Until you look at it,’ she goes on, adjusting the straps on her satin cache-sex, ‘it really does exist in two different states at once. It’s Schrodinger’s pussy. Now close your eyes and see what’s real.’

Like Schrodinger’s pussy, The House of Rumour is well worth checking out.

3 thoughts on “Schrodinger’s Pussy & Jake Arnott’s ‘The House of Rumour’”

  1. Sorry, my bad. Jake doesn’t describe Crowley as a Satanist (though I understand some do). I just thought it sounded better than ‘occultist’.

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