The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, February 17, 2014

House of Cards Addendum: The Growing Darkness

One thing I had meant to include in my prior post regarding the American House of Cards was that its sensibility is different from the more stylized, play-like original, but that the montage accompanying its opening credits, with a growing darkness overspreading various portions of D.C., from monuments to polluted riverbanks, was a splendid metaphor.

It reminds me of the end Simon Raven's "Alms for Oblivion" series. In the last novel, The Survivors, at the memorial service for one of the few steadfastly moral characters in Raven's opus, Daniel Mond, all of the compromised, blackguardly, roguish, and even occasionally good characters are gathered together in Venice. As all of the characters stand about, exchanging witty banter, seeking to advance their own interests, or find a partner, Raven writes, "a curious thing happened." He provides capsule descriptions of the various conversations, involving all present, except for Piero, a young Italian prostitute, and adds:
while all this was going on:

A dark stain crept up the creek towards the landing stage, at first just a trickle of black, then spreading until it covered the entire width of the creek, coming fast and strong with the tide as more and more poured in behind it, lapping against the banks where the birds nested, lapping round the shining boats, finally coming right up to the steps of the landing stage and settling there, barely an inch below the bottom rung, silent, filthy and opaque.

And yet nobody noticed except Piero, who was staring down from infirmary window and saw that the black stain was all over the lagoon, whichever way he turned his eyes.
(Alms for Oblivion, vol. III, at pp. 510-511).

I'm not suggesting any direct influence; rather, its that the sensibility of the US version of House of Cards reminds me of that of Raven's series--the sort of deep cynicism, coupled with a sad recognition of the damage done by the show, irreversible tide of corruption caused by the characters we are following. In both Alms and House, that sensibility pervades the story, but is, in powerful imagery, made manifest in the physical setting.

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