Old: Imitation (I)

Some of my own writing, styled in the manner of various texts by authors studied in a literature class.

In the style of Gogol’s “The Overcoat.” 

Akaky Akakievich was seated at the far end of the table, from where he could catch a glimpse of the kitchen as the door swung open and closed and the platters, piled with all the supping things, came floating through. At the sight of a particularly delightful torte, he jumped a little in his chair and bumped the arm of his dining companion, who, Akaky Akakievich saw as he turned to extend an apology, was hovering with his nose very near the surface of the table at Akaky Akakievich’s left. He seemed not to have noticed the disturbance. There was no one on the opposite side of the man – in fact, there were no other chairs this far from the host, who sat, reveling, at the head of the table – and Akaky Akakievich privately thought that this, very possibly, was a fortunate thing. The man was dressed in such finery befitting to the most senior of clerks; his jacket was blue with velvet lapels (and here Akaky Akakievich felt a sudden pang of longing for his own coat, which he pictured in his mind, luminous in the dark of the crowded cloak room), and at each wrist a gold button shone, engraved with some complex figure Akaky Akakievich could not make out. But beneath the fine jacket the man wore an unpressed shirt, half-unbuttoned and revealing a pneumonic chest, lined with blue veins and thin white hairs, curly, the same kind that made a ring on the crown of his head. His nose, so close to the table, was crooked and made no pretense of being otherwise; it might have been the nose of an old warhorse, the worse for the wear, or else the inherited nose of an unhappy line of people. Why it hung so perilously close to the table, Akaky Akakievich could hardly guess. The man was gazing directly in front of his nose, where there was nothing, as far as Akaky Akakievich could see, beside a small green-gray stain on the linen cloth. And all through supper, even after the pastries were served (Akaky Akakievich’s heart leapt at the torte, which was more extravagant than he could have imagined), the man kept his head bowed over the spot. He did not say a word, even when Akaky Akakievich made some good-natured remark on the weather to-night; but he kept up a low monotonous groan, which rumbled as a low tenor to the clinking of toasts and chirping of ladies in gowns. When he was red in the face after his second glass of champagne, Akaky Akakievich clapped the man on the back, saying Sir, what an evening!; and the man rumbled more loudly than ever, before suddenly dropping off to sleep in front of a bowl of prune-and-ice cream pudding.

In the style of Chekhov’s “The Darling.”

On those trips to the market, Olenka could scarcely contain herself for joy. Of course she related as much as she could of the schoolwork, the teachers, the pupils at lunch, all that Sashenka had told her; but the raptures she felt over the boy! “He is the handsomest child in all of Russia!” she would cry to the ladies. “When he sleeps it is like – like – ah well!” And she would drift off into some private reverie unknown to the other women, for whom she felt a small, sad pain of sympathy, for certainly they could not feel such joy as hers (His pale lashes as he dreamt so soundly – oh, he would grow to have such a lovely wife!). Then she would think of her younger years and the days after each husband’s death – of how quickly she would exchange one set of opinions for another. It was too much! Frightfully silly! And oh, how the neighbors always responded in such surprise! Now this formlessness had gone, and such meaning glowed at her from every dawn, converging in some untoppable bliss, full of light, which she could hardly describe. It was all she could do to keep from falling into a swoon as she looked out upon a table of plums; she thought of Sashenka and the great feeling of meaningfulness swelled in her chest and the light of the sun grew whiter, and –

Oh, if I could be such a mother…!, she thought, and the thought slid over her with heaviness in the heat of the day.

In the style of a story by Kafka. 

It is lately all the vogue to style one’s hair flat against the face, long and hanging straight like so many dying blades of grass. It used to be otherwise; fortunes were dispensed to build hair to the most towering glory; but today that is all quite distasteful. Therefore when Milena Procházková wandered into the salon one weekend afternoon her throat was tight with fear; she wore her brown blouse not even fully buttoned up, for the strain would have been too much, though her mother had wagged her finger upon her leaving at what she thought was provocativeness in a young woman’s heart; though in fact Milena Procházková was the whitest flower among all her girlish peers, and her thoughts were crowded with things that indeed could be said unto the open air but then, of course, no one but she herself would understand. She sat down in the whirling chair at the furthest wall, where the mirror was fogged by the boiler in the closet room next-door; and she asked the stylist, who wore a violet streak in the fringe across his forehead and a silver earring in his nose, to be blindfolded before the procedure went forward. Of course the stylist could not produce a blindfold, but wrapped Milena Procházková in a great black cape of crinkled cloth; and ducked her small head into a shining black tub, which was hard and full of hot water; the shampoo scrubbed into her scalp smelled too fat and too sweet, as if it had been overfed on all the ripest flowers; dreadfully, the bottom of Milena Procházková’s stomach turned. After some minutes with her head pressed to the tub, during which the girl kept her eyelids pressed tightly shut, and you could see her tiny eyelashes flutter, the stylist pulled a sopping head from the black bowl and produced a black spider comb from the pocket of his apron. In a whisk he dragged it through the dripping hair, intent to dispose of the knots that were collected at the nape of the neck; and in a sudden swallow of air the bundle of hair dropped to the floor, where it lay in a diminutive brown mound; and the eyelashes squirmed in unease as Milena Procházková’s pallid face glowed bare in the fogged-up mirror.

In the style of Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” 

Lisa, Praskovya Fëdorovna’s daughter, who very much resembled her mother, sat with her fiancé outside the door to Ivan Ilych’s room. Impatient and enamored, she pulled at the thread of her evening gown while casting a faint smile toward Fëdor Petrovich. It was evidently a meaningful gesture, and no words passed between them for some minutes. Lisa heaved one sigh then another from her bosom, where a fly soon after landed, a black speck on plump and uncolored flesh. The girl gave a shout and waggled her fingers in front of her chest, moving them in an uncoördinated waltz before the vulgar wings. Fëdor Petrovich made to slap the fly from her chest, but Lisa shrieked at the assault; in any case, Fëdor Petrovich had a weak hand and was loath to upset the curls in his hair, which indeed had just been set earlier in the day. On the whole it was an unpleasant circumstance: neither could resolve the question, quite vexing, of how to rid themselves of the fly and yet avoid its death. After a moment the insect flew away. “How terrible,” Lisa fairly sang, straightening her gown. “What a loathsome sight!” And she commenced to speak on the opera and what a lovely soprano voice Sarah Bernhardt undoubtedly had.

In the style of Gogol’s “The Overcoat” (pt. 2). 

All of this – the account of Akaky Akakievich and the stolen overcoat and the corpses – was transcribed in a neat, straight hand by a young and tidy clerk working in a certain government department, as we had agreed to call it. The clerk, being fond of precision, was known for his zealous and unbending work, and we can take it in good faith that not even a pronoun was altered. How fantastic reality can be! With something like tenderness, the clerk carried the quire of white government paper to the corner of the office and bent over, filing it away in a drawer. His superiors did not applaud him, but neither did they laugh; the clerk smiled inwardly at how fine the document had turned out. The ink bottle on the desk needed filled. All in all, one thought, it made for an interesting, nice little case.