Archives mensuelles : novembre 2012

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Complicated relationships are inevitable; they are involved. This book tells the story of entanglements. Hemingway has written this book with a complexity of relative friendship which disregards contented cooperation in deference to living a spontaneous lifestyle. We don’t discuss indiscretion, it festers and scars. Moral dilemma is non-participating, but it is a thematic undercurrent for Hemingway.

War, involved participation in positions of authority or class, destination, language, linguistics, a characterization of service through personification, all of these are his utilities for the capture of rapt attentive involvement with this author. This story involves all of it, it is a snarl of wounds without remedy of solution.

War is avoidable, (p. 24/25), « … the war… was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would’ve been better avoided. » He infers soldiering is an heroic effort that is best, and perhaps only, aptly endured (withstood, recovered from) with lucidity and foresight. He hands over his injuries with no reluctant antagonism. War is hell, and while it is a soldier’s hell-ish involvement and is avoidable, it is also unforeseen and best shed.

Chapter 5 – everything that happens in Paris, happens at night. It is good to at least know of your partner when you dance with the devil. Hemingway knows social graces and is a writer’s absolution.

He uses real-life names, celebrities of his day, as a way to keep his story grounded with all artistic temperament of this literary era, (p. 49), « Mencken hates Paris, I believe. So many young men get their likes and dislikes from Mencken. » His writing never veers from his direction and he always knows where he needs to go. He moves forward, disallowing descriptive imaginings to romanticize the effort, (p. 28), « Georgette was dancing with the tall blond youth, who danced big-hippily, carrying his head on one side, his eyes lifted as he danced. » This is Paris, it’s romantic already; this is Hemingway it’s romantic when you’re involved. He teases emotional preoccupation, (p. 71), she said « Good night, darling. I won’t see you again. We kissed standing at the door. She pushed me away. »

Hemingway speaks above the words, he is the literary purpose within these pages. His narrator is the primary subject in this story, Jake Barnes. He is American, a professional and a writer, living in Paris. He is not part of the social circle, the literary center of these times. He is the indignant mouthpiece as one who reads and is inspired by reading, then finds journalistic livelihood as a monetary leg-up into society. He discusses society as a consideration, it evolves. The Count, Lady Ashley’s flirtation with nobility, is the appearance of an economic evolution, where reigning noble entitlement meets a history destroyed by hostility, (p. 66), « I have been in seven wars and four revolutions, » the Count invites the shock of humilitude. For Hemingway there is always someone with perspective for stability, they never seem to grasp Jake’s direction.

His characterizations are a list of pitfalls:

  • Bill is a debt, the personification of baggage
  • Brett is the invitation into society
  • Mike is the unrestrained, the loose cannon without the screen of conversational inhibition
  • Lastly, the forgotten, Robert Cohn, is a regret. Robert Cohn (he requires both names to suggest familiarity) is the nagging alternative, the alter-perspective. This guy is the idea you can’t shake off or be rid of. He’s the advocate for distraction, and is typically dismissed, and only occassionally is he recognized, (p. 155), « We all felt good and we felt healthy, and I felt quite friendly to Cohn. You could not be upset about anything on a day like (this). »

This is a generation built to experience difference; to sight-see and to be there in the moment. To Jake, money is no object, (p. 96/97, and many others). He understands the power and authority of finance. His is the guideline for prosperous well-being while others of his circle are comparatively negligent. Jake is the big spender, not realizing that spending isn’t the easiest route. He gets where he’s going, though he is always disenchanted or disappointed, (p. 152), « I thought I had paid for everything… No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. You gave up something and got something else. » Since this life is fleeting, they will have no cares, (p. 235), « Don’t worry about money, » Mike said, « You can pay for the car… I’ll send my share, » and we here, all of us, are good for our debts is his conviction.

Hemingway writes from experience, where he writes is where he’s been. He compares in order to suggest. To define ‘clean’ one needs a disadvantage of filth, (p.97), « I saw a cockroach on the parquet floor that must have been about 3 inches long… (it) must have come in from the garden. It really was an awfully clean hotel. » He has generous depth of understanding, what he sees is made anew through his wealth of exposure, (p. 96), « Bayonne is a nice town. It is like a very clean Spanish town… ».

His writing is a class unto itself, (p. 71), « She kissed the Count and put her hand on his shoulder to keep him from standing up. » Rather than ‘declarative’ as his literary constituents have suggested, this is not a sentence, this is class. He may have said, « She kissed the Count, leaving her hand on his shoulder… » and further, « suggesting (or to suggest) he needn’t stand. » Excluding the obvious familiarly feminine style my alternative evokes, the more important aspect is in his word distinction which is invested with his class or station in life. He dismisses necessary imagery as uninventive.

He sees distance; the horizon is forever, (p. 98), « You couldn’t see the sea. It was too far away. You could see only hills and more hills, and you knew where the sea was. » He depicts time as there and gone, « The next day Pedro Romero did not fight… The next day there was no bull-fight scheduled… all day and all night the fiesta kept on. » The next chapter begins the third day, (p. 174), « I walked out beyond the town to look at the weather… The flags on the square hung wet… and the streets wet and dark and deserted; yet the fiesta kept up without any pause. »

He describes the ‘clip’ of a conversation, « He asked me how many times I had seen him in the ring. I told him only three. It was really only two, but I did not want to explain after I had made the mistake. » He is a writer with the gift of social grace, he is a gentleman with relative objectivity.

His descriptions are simplicity. Beauty is subtle, (p. 234), « There was the green of the headlands, the white, red-roofed villas, patches of forest…, » he then creates a visual border for the senses, « … and the ocean… with… tide…and (the) water curling… along the beach. »

He writes that all language communicates necessarily, irrespective of a native authentic tongue. Hearing and speaking are separate skills. People are resourceful with language, and companionable people are expressive. He is genteel.

When he’s made it as far as he wished to go, « I can stay another week. I think I’ll go as far as San Sebastian, » (p. 232). His destination was intentional.

This is a book about complicated relationships, and this is just one story. All story’s conclude, and not all story’s are unexpected. The last page he acknowledges the frailty of species: Women need men in many more and different ways than men need women. He saves Lady Ashley as a courtesy; he is masculine and he keeps his position within society. Gentlemen are invested with rigor should formal chivalry be of necessity to a lady’s weaknesses, and « Isn’t it pretty to think so? »

A perfect title, he is the author, and this book has one. The only truth we have is that the sun will rise, and that each day beholds a fresh beginning.

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The Critical Tradition, Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends – Daniel H. Richter

I read excerpts. Two essays by Virginia Woolf and a third by Helene Cisoux, all were written to regard feminism in literature.

The two essays by Virginia Woolf involved female acceptance, as I see it. Though seclusion being a better characterization of her intent, since it seemed as if she felt female seclusion something which society hasn’t the will to inspire. The idea of seclusion as not simply a space (room), which offers a writer (in my case a reader) peace and quiet in order to achieve peace of mind (peace of thought for a writer, in this case, Virginia Woolf). These two essays from « A Room of One’s Own » were collaboratively, as collected in this work, a psychology of writers and writing with a very slim idea of feminity being different in that acceptance is moot, and that the reason points to masculinity as being impressed upon language within literature, and so what society accepts as influential, is masculine.

The first I read was on the romance of writing, on Austen-Bronte-Eliot, and she depreciates this style of writing and sometimes these their works, since, as she claims, it would have been and would still be better accepted by a larger community should they have been men and should the styles have been masculine. She points to sarcastic dismissal of some of this work. She suggests that where men write in tones which are naturally accepted, with « a natural prose, swift but slovenly, » and since these tones were « unsuited for a woman’s use » at that time, that the art must have suffered with the « inadequacy » of language acceptable for a woman’s use. She infers women’s values and interests are less-often conveyed with concern in literature and that doubtless women are suffering in life due to this fact of the era.

It seemed to me as though she sat down to write this with intention, and that the intention was to answer this problem of gender dissatisfaction in literature, for herself. She claims that this particular age discouraged worldliness, and that without vast experience, writers are stunted. « If Jane Austen suffered in any way from her circumstances it was in the narrowness of life that was imposed upon her, » (p. 603), and, « … women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties… they suffer from too rigid a restraint. »

One question she suggests is the question of poetic outlet, why do women write novels?

She is arrogant regarding prose, (p. 606), she regards poetry as a need, « For it is the poetry that is still denied outlet. » She proclaims poetry as suitable for the novel, the play, the written word in any length. Sentences are structural is her declaration, and any sentence, of itself, is unfinished. They (sentences) expound.

The second essay entitled « Shakespeare’s Sister » involved a tirade of expectation and non-equivalency. She impunes parental heir-oriented indulgence, as she embellishes with ingratitude the idea of Shakespearean genius as being gender-specific, unidentified, and common enough that the possibility exists for at least one female to have exhibited such quirks as should exist for genius to thrive. For, (p. 599), « if a woman in Shakespeare’s day had Shakespeare’s genius…, » she would have no chance for recognition, « … she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning … ». Then, she lists potential for such genius as possibly existing outside of a class of recognition and that surely some of these could have been women (p. 600), « Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. » She continues, « … any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed… For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered … that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. » It is satire, but tired. Clearly not much would have changed since the sixteenth century, except that feminism now flourishes. Meanwhile, if conditions existed or could have existed in Shakespeare’s time for another of Shakespeare’s exception to thrive, it was then unacceptable (possibly unhealthy) to exhibit a drive or ambition outside of position. True enough. She rambles. This is not that day, there is only one Shakespeare, and he had gender. Virginia Woolf can be cynical. Virginia Woolf can be destructive.

I found that I enjoy philosophy (not as much as I enjoy Shakespeare), and it is good to have an opinion.

The third essay by Helene Cisoux is called « The Laugh of the Medusa. » It is written with passion, a passion of responsiblity.

In this essay, she separates the idea of gender and sex; and she further rants since not all are faltering should they be reduced to sex (not gender). She believes the body is being ignored in writing, and in speaking, and that women are not cognizant of their ‘selves’ enough to enable the speech and the literacy of their individual ‘selves’. She prefers to require that sex be a trap, (p. 1647), « … this job of analysis and illumination, this emancipation of the marvelous text of her self that she must urgently learn to speak. »

My concern is not with the feminine, my fear is with the ‘ism’. Is femininity an ‘ism’? Is writing a classification, or is gender an order? Since we’re speaking in the philosophical, scientific, bio-analytical (the anatomy of ability), gender then is responsibility for ownership of self, and writing is activity.

This seems both alarming, and mundane. Alarming in that feminity is questionably non-existent in feminism, as feminism is abrasive. And then to think that writing is mere, merely an act, of no more impetus than brushing one’s hair shatters this reader’s equilibrium.

Cisoux writes feminism (literary civil liberties as denoted by gender) as gender narcissum, (p. 1650/1651), « Women must write through their bodies…, women are body. More body, hence more writing. » She believes women should be present for themselves, and be active in their delivery of the language (verbal or written) which they use to introduce what other’s should see in them. She believes women need a voice, and it needs to be their own.

This is psychology of writers and writing. I wonder what philosophy has been written regarding the psychology of literacy. What do people understand when they read? Why do people understand the way they do?

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The Waves – Virginia Woolf

« … and lie under this thin sheet afloat in the shallow light which is like a film of water drawn over my eyes by a wave. »

Virginia Woolf.

She writes The Waves, as with the last of her books I read, Mrs. Dalloway, similarly indistinct. Mrs. Dalloway written with words that flow, this written with disparate senses that speak her mind, each moving one to the next. She has no division of section, no separation of scene. As with Mrs. Dalloway, there are no chapters, only space.

The Waves has passages, verse written with a beginning. An introduction which tills the senses for a new day. She sets each beginning, each scene, through streams of words, both poetic and ethereal. Starting at the shore… with waves. It seems as if, since there is always some seashore beginning or ending a day, it’s a good place for her thoughts to rest. As if, overtaken by phrases and images, her mind seeks footing.

Her verse is written through individual soliloquy, seems to me to be mono-percepted; she sees only what she, herself, is seeing – her mind possesses her. She writes from ‘within’ her mind – as if to say, « I am not out of it, but completely within it. »

Her six characters are split by gender, male presents as strength, they are more celebrated within this society. Percival, not one of the six, instead is the source of all strength; an enigma, his is the attention they seek. Percival is loved by Neville. She regards the six ‘friends’ thoughtfully. She is both careful to allow herself acceptance of self-comfort and understanding of these platitudes according to perspective, yet harsh in her portrayal of each voice’s existence. These personalities together, she commands.

Neville, the observer, the connector, giving these three boys a place to secure themselves to the strength of Percival. As the boys approach their commencement from education to their adulthoods, Neville then regards Percival, (p. 60), « He will forget me… He will pass from my life. » Then, (p. 152), death is not discerning, since Percival is dead, yet « I watch people pass; holding tight to rails… determined to save their lives. » Neville seems God’s authority to which she watches, yet can’t brazenly dismiss.

The boys, Louis, Bernard, they are image. They seek imagery. Louis despises ‘dabblers’ in imagery. He resents the power of Percival, (p. 57), « yet it is Percival I need, for it is Percival who inspires poetry. » Bernard is the voice of imagery, the storyteller. He is authorship, the author of the body, not the writer of this book.

Susan is fear, she is judgment – she cries, (p. 40) « I do not pray. I revenge myself upon this day. I wreak my spite upon its image. » Of the three girls, she embodies tradition. She exemplifies this life according to female interpretation. As God wishes, this is what He would want.

Jinny is female as a girl would look. She is the essence of female. She is prettiest, popular, colorful … with « my dress billowing around me … » (p. 62, p. 34, p.46). Female is demure, watched. Then, (p. 101), she gets ‘achy’, « … silk is on my knee … my feet feel the pinch of shoes. » Female is hypersenstive, delicate. She is youth, (p.102), « Wine has a drastic, an astringent taste. I cannot help wincing as I drink. » Female is peevish, impulsive. Jinny, the source of all imagination, (p.220), « My imagination is the body. » She is the writer’s portrayal of all that is feminine.

The least of these is Rhoda. Rhoda is vague, she is « not here, » (p. 43), « … I have to look first and do what other people do when they have done it, » she needs to see before she can do. Name-less, face-less, she is watched « from behind bushes. » She feels impercepted, though she is seen since she is observed. She is withdrawn, goes unnoticed, (p. 106), « Hide me, I cry, protect me, for I am the youngest, the most naked of you all. » Rhoda is exposed, susceptible, vulnerable should those upon whom she relies be negligent or inattentive. Rhoda seems the writer’s anxiety.

These six are one body in Christ, one body within the host’s mind’s forever.

Mrs. Woolf seems to find life in this world to be monotonous. Her words repeat, her phrases re-surface, as if washed anew. It’s poetic. The book at times, though, is tiring. An exhaustion of symbolism, her writing has compassion for arrogant perspective. These words, and other of her works, have morbid credibility.

The final passage resounds with reluctance. The end of the book, the last passage, she speaks as all of the book, not as each or any one view. As, (p. 288), « I have been talking of Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda, and Louis. Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? » And, here, (p. 289), she proclaims to be Percival, too, with the feelings He may have felt, « Here on my brow is the blow I got when Percival fell… ». Then she continues with the senses each character by name, may feel or has felt, as she has written each one throughout the book. She doesn’t speak of God, but of church, chapel, priest, (p. 266), « Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends…, » and hers, her view, is to be washed, again, « And in me too the wave rises… « .

She closes with dramatic consequence. These words are final…

The End.

The next Virginia Woolf book I seek will be « Night and Day » …

I read.

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Agatha Christie ‘An Autobiography’

Memory is a mystery. Life seems to recollect in consistency. The high points of her life being stored with descriptions of places she’s loved, seasons, lessons learned and lessons valued. This isn’t a book, it is handiwork. Agatha Christie knows crewel. She has written a lifetime from a tapestry of relationship in this, her autobiography.

In this book, it’s not what she says, it’s what she doesn’t say. If you read her novels, you will know who she is, she writes-in her characters. In her familial cast, her brother Monty plays the villain, (p. 323/324), « I thought that Monty ill would be just as difficult as Monty well. People’s natures don’t change. » Other members of the cast: various nurses and nannies, a philosophy of doctors, the oftentimes overbearing stranger providing the occasional literary concept or phrase. She herself even provides the role of the dispensary nurse, protecting ill-advised patients from the arrogance of professional ineptitude.

She gives us glimpses of who she is in small doses. Her favorites:

mauve
archaeology (and a passion for understanding why people are drawn to visualize death)
cream
garden parties
books
stage plays

She is the product of an age. She is gentle, she is delicate, she is Victorian.

She teaches, and learns. She discovers a moral to discouragement, and reminisces upon her childhood. In acceptance of circumstances, (p. 172), she was brought up to discover a moral, « … you are never too old to learn… Be attentive, there may be a new point of view being shown you, unexpectedly. »

She discusses her feelings toward innocence (p. 440), liberally, as an ointment to society’s ignorance. She concludes that this genre of writing has a passion, that passion being to help save innocence, « because it is innocence that matters, not guilt. » She prays for the loss and the lost in hopes of societal repair.

This book spans 20 years of writing, the final chapter written in 1965 (after a twenty year intermission from the previous chapter). She writes beginning from her first memories as a precocious baby girl, through her Victorian-inspired education, two wars, more houses than she would describe, the unearthing of various discoveries and important historical artifacts on numerous archaeological sites, and global travel in an age of romantic expedition, (p. 221), flight is disillusionment, but « ships can still be romantic… and what can beat a train? To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches, and rivers – in fact, to see life. » She is expressive.

Her zest for life, her writer’s grace… she was the inspired ideal, the Lady Agatha, a queen of mystery.

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