I Gather the Limbs of Osiris

without hesitation, his next words were, “You’re sick!”
– Gary Larson, The Prehistory of the Far Side.

You start with a simple numerical sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4 keyed (approximately, not precisely – given the prevalence of taping-over) to accession date. The details are then transcribed into a little brown notebook for reference. But there grow, inevitably, to be more and more of them: films, mini-series, documentaries – some on the ends of tapes, others in the middle – so the need for a more case-sensitive index becomes apparent.

A computer data-base is the next attempt, the fields being:

Title: Gallowglass
Author: Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
Producer / Director: Tim Fywell / Phillippa Giles
Cast: Michael Shean, Paul Rhys, Arkie Whiteley
Description: Drama Serial
Date: UK, 1992
Taped: 23/10-6/11/94
Timing: 3 50-minute episodes
Classification: 209

With this, an alphabetical list can be generated, keyed to one (or all) of these headings. Tapes become worn, however. As you watch Groundhog Day for the fiftieth time, strange blips of light begin to appear in the sky – repetition-compulsion spreading beyond the screen. Certain phrases stand out: “Flashes of lightning showed hogs feeding on the ungathered dead,” in episode two of The Civil War; or the scene in Edge of Darkness where Craven stops his car on the rainy motorway and weeps for his (irradiated) dead daughter: “Emma sleeps on top – Mummy sleeps on the bottom,” counterpointed perfectly, poignantly by the heavy traffic coursing by.

‘O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!’ ‘What a treasure had he, my lord?’ ‘Why – one fair daughter, and no more, The which he loved passing well …’


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