Archives mensuelles : octobre 2012

Poe’s, « The Tell-Tale Heart »

Short. The shortest story in time.

This few pages of reading, while dark, is less frightening than creepy, and not at all passionate. It isn’t so much scary as it is confession; a confession of mortality.

Poe writes this story, seemingly from the idea of murderous correction as opposed to contempt. As if asking the reader and God to agree with his contempt for life. Crazy, mad, is the accused angry? He claims there is no need for the analysis since murder is not a sin, if that which is dead is dark. Even darker than the idea of death.

He incapsulates his crime within the story. His conscience would never have felt the guilt of loss, but for the possibility of being discovered. The tell-tale heart is so judged to be a life sentence.

Halloween is not happy, and neither is this story. Boo!

What shall I be?

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A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man – James Joyce

There is a father. The son becomes the father. There is a game. The boys compete.

This book asks the reader, « Who are you watching? » While the son competes in his studies, others challenge, and God watches reassuringly, (p.6), « The little silk badge with the red rose on it looked very rich because he had a blue sailor top on. » This book is written as omnipresent. He is the boy, he is the artist, then he is the student, the writer, a poet… he is the omnipresent ‘one boy’. It is written as the boy speaks, as the boy thinks, as the One God watches, as the One God sees, « I don’t believe a son should be afraid of his father, » (p. 86).

He is deft.

God believes… beauty is beautiful as beauty is seen. The eye of the beholder beholds God’s warmth. It is that we perceive beauty at all that God discerns. He writes, and we are closer for his efforts.

The author writes regarding separation of church and state, (p. 26), in a dialog at the the boy’s dinner table. This is Ireland – the discussion is on God, not politics, on rights of the people, versus the people having rights, and doing right. I am reading as an American would read, I realize now that we are sometimes jaded in our conceptualization.

Chapter 1 is about order. The order of authority. It is also about emblems, signification, the idea of marks and attribution instead of symbols. You are part of a dedicated idea signified by a sign or emblem (a rose on a badge for instance), the idea is not, however, a symbol of yourself.

In Chapter 2, he sees the beauty the artist feels, (p. 61), « He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his soul so constantly beheld. » The boy’s father is the monologue, still (p. 61). He then writes, as father, understanding the son through the father’s cynical account of the boy’s life circumstances.

The author/narrator writes, (p. 66), « The verses told only of the night… Some undefined sorrow was hidden in the hearts of the protagonists as they stood in silence beneath the leafless trees… » If I am to understand the writing of Irish writers from this one author, the Irish are not disposed to the use of metaphors as « crutches, » (p. 70), « His unrest issued from him like a wave of sound… » The message is fact-based; it’s not a metaphor if it is as it was written. The description is exactly as it is seen. Do we see ‘eye-to-eye’? The Irish believe in reciting from memory, they use repetition… ‘twice should do it’. The men don’t cook, they taste every detail of their wholesome spread, (p. 95), « He hoped there would be stew for dinner, turnips and carrots and braised potatoes and fat mutton pieces to be ladled out in thick peppered, flour-fattened sauce. »

He breaks every rule of writing, perfectly. His verse, his converse (the dialogue of one, then the other), is less a devotion to laws of grammar, less a definitive string of descriptive overly meaningful sentences, subject to verb to predicate. His writing is without end, it is understood in his art; with this writer, there isn’t need of punctuation.

On Christianity, (p. 137), after confession of his doubts and scruples, « he was bidden by his confessor to name some sin of his past life before absolution was given…  » The ‘awful’ power of priesthood, of this church, he gives earthly attention to the question of religious commitment. That to invest a life into a priesthood has commitment to a specific guidance; and where to merely give your attention to this religion is rather a socially-connected observance. Here, the writer’s flourish, he articulates the son’s flair and poetic capacity for his faith, (p. 145), « The snares of the world were its ways of sin. He would fall. He had not yet fallen but he would fall silently, in an instant. Not to fall was too hard, too hard; and he felt the silent lapse of his soul, as it would be at some instant to come, falling, falling, but not yet fallen, still unfallen, but about to fall. »

He speaks of the web of deceit, (p. 118) here, « a spiritual pain is the pain of extension… Man, in this earthly life, though he be capable of many evils, is not capable of them all at once, inasmuch as one evil corrects and counteracts another just as one person frequently corrects another. »

Father, son, then minister of devotion, he is the author of lives and lives lived-well toward God. He speaks of devoted guilt, (p. 133), « at times (the) sense of such immediate repercussion was so lively that he seemed to feel his soul in devotion pressing like fingers the keyboard of a cash register and to see the amount of his purchase start forth immediately in heaven, not as a number but as a frail column of incense or as a slender flower. »

He provides every heartstring from faith to be plucked; first God, he then provides the heart of a writer who writes, and one who speaks, thinks, adheres to God’s words, artfully. He gives a composition of phrasing, words as harmony, a wide and vast adoration for his language eloquently impressing his land’s variety of vivid sensations and this faith’s ‘monstrous’ appeal to the wicked and the weak, (p. 149), « Words. Was it their colours? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue after hue; sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure of waves, the grey-fringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing sensible world through the prism of language many-coloured and richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic prose? » He claims his devotion, « The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful, » (p. 165).

In the son’s vision of human compassion, he resonates with inspiration at his own awareness, (p. 148), he reveals his epiphany that « the commandment of love (bids) us not to love our neighbor as ourselves with the same amount and intensity of love but to love him as ourselves with the same kind of love. » He promotes the ability and the desire to distinguish our needs from the next of needs, and in observance of learning from this ministry, I hope and desire to distinguish various descriptions, Love being a ‘thing’ and something which endures with respect.

He distinguishes beauty according to the apprehension of beauty. There are three forms is his educated distinction, (p. 195), « the lyrical form, the form wherein the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself; the epical form, the form wherein he presents his image in mediate relation to himself and others; the dramatic form, the form wherein he presents his image in immediate relation to others. » He suggests that beauty (by definition I understand this to mean all language, all words within the language), beauty has a wider sense form or sense of understanding in the literary tradition. These three forms, then, he suggests are the space which understanding or judgment of beauty is influenced by a marketplace for the art.

My question: Is God’s perception of warmth immediate within a marketplace?

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

The first of her books to include the character of Hercule Poirot, this one is written according to a point of view removed from the investigator, and is reminiscent of ‘Dr. Watson’ from the beginning of the work. Poirot’s introduction is delayed slightly, and the first chapter is eerily constructed. She writes detached from this subject, (p. 43), with « … an emotional lack in the atmosphere. » This character, Hastings, is timid in his portrayal of the story. Hercule is no writer, apparently, ‘mon ami’ – his friend, the story’s author, writes an account of this tale at the request of all involved. Mrs. Christie invests these, her primary subjects, with everything they need to know.

Riddles, proverbial twists, macabre wordplay, this book invokes suspicious execution of words. I thus discovered my supposition: The game is a-foot; or, is the dis-membered in contest? Her will is the matter…

Mrs. Christie is the Queen of mental-lists. As such, I offer my kind acknowledgment to ‘bullets’ of insight. All of this mystery’s symbolic participants are present:

  • the embodiment of science (Dr. Bauerstein)
  • the reporter/journalist, keeping the paparazzi at bay (Hastings)
  • the appearance of mortal doom (Nibs), and the weapon of destruction (Cynthia, as dispensary steward)
  • due process, and affability in the face of crises (Poirot)
  • guilt in absentia (the absent widower)
  • accusation/accusal (Dr. Wilkins)
  • all of the herrings in various hues (Chapter 1, the laying out of involvement)
  • the kindred for want of livelihood (Dorcas, and to a lesser degree, Annie)
  • the prospect (Mrs. Cavendish)
  • the absence of family, the heirs apparent (John, and to a lesser extent, Lawrence)
  • the proceeding (Mr. Wells)
  • the love/friendship which has gone unnoticed, in short, the bereavement borne of neglect (Evie Howard)

Mrs. Christie is abundantly equipped to style her writing with grisly detail. In fact, at times she can be morbidly perverse, as on (p.35), in her depiction of the ‘body’s’ tumultuous ending, which leaves me too cold to re-visit this passage.

She teaches with each work. Each book containing elements of concern for life and lives lived. Always she provides a life lesson, she gives an offering of observance to time, she invests a point of view for dealing with some unfortunate incident, and always she gives answers which create the soul’s composure. Fear is not recognized, deference to the departed is an essential quality in her works.

She enlightens readership with context. Pay attention, in this story, everything you need to know is right here in these two characters. Poirot’s method, recognize what’s important; nothing else exists. There is nothing trivial; everything matters, but not everything is important. He is Belgian, he is cordial, he embellishes. Poirot speaks in proverbs, (p. 89), « Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely. » While Hastings, the writer, deals with questions through deduction, (p. 37), « … a flock of wild surmises in my mind. »

Her books captivate playful pretense. She has elements within each she writes. In all there is a lesson; in each there is a day, just one day to divine. And, she is the fair and precious purveyor of loss, that we should accept misfortune is her careful assumption. Style is her gift, it is the reader’s ability.

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Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

This is an undertaking. A book not for the weak-minded.

Vanity Fair touches on every virtue through the speculative eye of intention. Vanity being the question, and ‘proper’ being the answer, ‘wise’ is never suggested.

I picture the author a keen observer commentator writing feverishly, the words coming all too easily since reading what he’s written is like being pelted with accurately observed innuendo. To read his writing is like arguing your own position on cleverly dispensed vocabulary. He is utter sarcasm in absolute certainty, (p. 227), « upon my word, she’s playing her hand rather too openly, » [she] thought, but this observation is merely parenthetic, and was not heard through the crevice of the door at which the governess uttered it. » He hands out obvious answers, but questions the outcome, (p. 191) « Perhaps in Vanity Fair there are no better satires than letters, » making his case by involving legal expertise of words having been written in the hand of hypocrisy, « … vows, love, promises, confidences, gratitude, how queerly they read after a while. »

He doesn’t seem a writer, he delivers. His breadth overtakes the reader, imposing conflict. The reader is accountable, or the reader is lost. In this book, one is guided. This writer saves the intellectual disciple of his words with the benefit of recognition. He places literary tools, asking readers to choose a path – reading this book, as for myself, is simply comprehending more than you think yourself capable. Imposing is the word that best describes this book. Imposing and long.

One who writes is relieved of burden, a writer writes for relief. This novelist (as Thackeray is willing to admit throughout this work), may simply write because he can. Where a writer writes because he must, Thackeray writes because he should.

This work is a textbook of vagaries, accusing one to learn how to become a man, and convincing the impressionable female to take heed. It suggests that a man will rise to the occasion and aspire to prosper, and a lady shall become him. Thusly he teaches through interpersonal irony. You can be the hero/heroine, the absolved, if you notice the nuance and apply the inference. He infers genteel acquaintances would engender certain confidences which inspired social boundaries. Though we follow Miss Rebecca Sharp’s position with the family Crawley, Chapter XVII beseeches interested girl-hood to acknowledge the original Miss Amelia as interesting, or to ‘set aside’ this heroine. This chapter describes female condescension.

Themes which recur – gambling, war, aristocratic homage, money where money may or may not be (appearances being what they are). The satire is in tribute to aristocracy, or rather to those in compliance with it and those in position to displace it. The men gamble, the women position themselves freely, and sometimes poorly. Military regard is a theme, though war encompasses only three of the sixty-ish chapters in the book. Clearly, this is not a book about war, it’s a book including one. He writes that war is only another milestone, one that is concluded, then set aside and recounted, again and again.

The novelist doth project – he has more ‘serious’ episodes in which his writing is contemplative and a reader will worry as to why he is suddenly grave. Then, he has moments of absolute mirth, where the reader fears for his own sobriety. The writer is fairly giddy with indulgence and attitude.

The last chapters of the book include deadly sins – vanity being just one, surprisingly. Pride as opposed to privilege, indifference, these were noted. Family guidance, honor, disgrace, sanctity, gluttony, frailty (weaknesses of flesh and distress), are all left to question. This world never ventures to engender nobility or acts of profound Christian charity, if those acts are not warranted with expectation. This being the definition of vanity.

Vanity Fair is the stage which exists in guilt, « … where all the Vanity Fair booths were laid out with the most tempting liveliness and splendour… ».

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Balzac’s Omelette, a delicious tour of French food and culture with Honore de Balzac by Anka Muhlstein

I started this book, excitedly, from the idea that it would offer insight into styles of cooking. And, since the subtitle enticed literary purpose, I assumed I would find what I was looking for – an introduction to a culture by way of its food according to its most notable literary artists (at least one of them). Surprisingly, it was less about what we ingest throughout the course of a day in a life, in favor of what one requires of what we ingest. This book speaks to food. It speaks to an economy of virtue, but also to economic strengths of class participation… we consume what we divulge.

Her writing is attractive. She writes, prettily, and seems as a palate cleanser within this work for the ambitious reader. Do you love Proust? She serves Balzac, instead, as the progressive in a world of expressive flamboyance. She stresses the importance of culinary imagery, (p. 3), « If you want to imagine savoring an oyster as it melts on your tongue, read Maupassant; if you dream of jugs filled with yellow cream, try Flaubert; and if the thought of beef in aspic tickles you, turn to Proust. » She then offers Balzac as the escapist, realist with a passion for practicality in a big way, « But, if you are interested not so much in the taste of the oyster as in the way a young man orders it, less the cool sweetness of the cream than how much it costs, and less the melting quality of the aspic than what it reveals about how the household is run, then read Balzac. » And, I am captivated.

A biography of writing, Ms. Muhlstein gives the reader a work which begs assimilation. What if all authors/writers made complete their work through characterizations of cultural familiarity by the humble acknowledgment of idiosyncracies of nutrition? Better yet, what does food offer the plot? What does intensity of one’s appetite or distaste for food offer to civilization? She writes in generalities, but her knowledge requests a feast for the famine of literary conformity.

Her chapters are the work. She writes her vast understanding on cultures of cuisine, Balzac’s Europe, history, from ideas of literary impact; one feels she could use these chapter definitions (titles) to clarify or expound on any topic with profound french consistency. Her style has manner. Her manner is properly and comprehensively compact, as all french should be… exhaustive. (This french word means complete, and nothing more. Whereas, the English, exhaustive, while not only being less interesting in pronunciation, will drown its subject with lavish definition « spent, over, done » and possibly even « thorough, » which hesitates to refine. The idea being, french gives all of something, there’s nothing more, but there may be something less.)

I wondered where the book’s title originated. There is a secret to the omelette, a perfect french method, perhaps, (p. 166), « … an omelette is more delicate when the whites and yolks of the eggs are not beaten together with the brutality that cooks usually put into that operation… the white should be beaten until it resembles foam and the yolk introduced a little at a time, … « . This is the only recipe found in Balzac’s repertoire, apparently. Her thought may be that Balzac’s Omelette inspires gentility. This is a writer’s influence on consumption.

And, it is a reader’s repast.

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Classé dans Biographies, Reading, Writing

« Rebecca » by Daphne du Maurier

This is not Rebecca. This book is Mrs. de Winter.

Written with dreary depressive disposition, Daphne du Maurier is the character’s spirit. She is non-existent in these pages, having no person. She is Mrs. de Winter by name. She is not herself, yet is contented in her role as matron of these grounds, (p. 7), « I am a mine of information on the English countryside. » She commits, « I breathe the air of England as I read, and can face this glittering sky with greater courage. » She writes with depth, density of words and rich, fertile qualities, as if the words are loam. The imagination chills…

She is strong in faith, she writes of Christian values being not of moral but familial. We commit, and as women we are there as family decides: marriage, faith, family, in that order. She is the strength of God’s commitment through bonds of sacrament, (p. 9), « I suppose it is his dependence upon me that has made me bold at last… « . She regards frailty of commitment with compassion, (p, 276), « I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. » Her writing is heartfelt, her attitudes refined.

With every reading of this novel, I feel that Mrs. du Maurier Browning would be one to sit with, she would be a friend. She has much to say, and elegance in her delivery. Not simply its ‘writer,’ she pours her life into her work. Her thoughts are written with philosophical sophistication, « Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind… « , (p. 6). She then continues storyline, plot, and thesis in artful suspense, flawless and faultless in expression. She writes with ease, it reads with fluency. She guides the gentle reader.

It’s no wonder Rebecca is highly acclaimed. This book is rich with earthy mystery, (p. 111), « … and a richer, older scent as well, the smell of deep moss and bitter earth, the stems of bracken, and the twisted roots of trees. » These words are a novel, a mystery, a story, a film, they are easily seen.

Symbolism, she writes in rooted assurance:

  • walls of red rhododendron proclaiming afterlife (they are larger than the lives around them, they die, they are renewed)
  • bowls of autumn roses seek wakeful cognizance (they are ‘as if’ this life was mine)

Her messages are spooky in their obvious conviction. Her writing is not a question of talent. She has that, and her writing is a fact of her life. What else can she do?

This one is not to be shelved. Read it again if it’s escaped you.

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