In chapter 9 Grendel ends a reflection on the disappearance of religious conviction with this line: "The will to power resides among the stalactites of the heart. (Her-kapf.)" (128)

In a message to the John Gardner Discussion List (now defunct) on 9.11.00, Joan Gardner (mother of Joel and Lucy to whom the novel is dedicated) writes:

"The huffling noise is a JG private allusion to someone in his life who made that noise whenever JG went beyond hyperbole to actual lying.  It was a signal, a simulated sneeze that told him he was going over the line.  He got so he used it himself in odd moments, sometimes to indicate that he was aware he was lying--though usually he believed that poetic license allowed him to say or write anything, just as his driver's license allowed him to go as fast as the vehicle would go with or without benefit of the steering wheel."  

In this light it would appear that Gardner is either intruding upon his novel (disrupting the narrative dream) in order to comment on his own words, or he is using this personal allusion to show Grendel observing (and critiquing) his own thought. The latter seems to be the more likely case.

view complete index A - L

view complete index M - Z