I wrote one of the entries; it remains the only thing I have had published to date. Though it might as well not be me, as it feels written by a compleI wrote one of the entries; it remains the only thing I have had published to date. Though it might as well not be me, as it feels written by a completely different person, one I hardly recognize now......more
Definitely plays to my split personality when it comes to the concept of "The Literary Canon" and wanting to both embrace and absolve myself from it,Definitely plays to my split personality when it comes to the concept of "The Literary Canon" and wanting to both embrace and absolve myself from it, often simultaneously. Probably about as eloquent a defense as possible in the postmodern era.
I bought this soon after making the decision of being a Lit major, and it become the introduction to a good number of the "canonical" writers I'd lateI bought this soon after making the decision of being a Lit major, and it become the introduction to a good number of the "canonical" writers I'd later come to know more much intimately through study and exposure. Still turn to it occasionally as a reference guide for a brief but eloquent overview of an author's body of work. ...more
I nearly gave up at the 2/3's mark, once again--as I told Rebecca, it was getting almost oppressive and I could hardly bear it anymore. It was like waI nearly gave up at the 2/3's mark, once again--as I told Rebecca, it was getting almost oppressive and I could hardly bear it anymore. It was like watching a car accident in slow motion that is impossible to prevent, and so you stand by helplessly, slack-jawed, and hope against hope that somehow it all turns out okay...
Not helping matters was that I haven't exactly been in the mood for the "fate is a bitch so deal with it" type of story.
And yet. Virginia Woolf was so right when she wrote that Emily Brontë could "make the wind blow and the thunder roar" through her writing--that's a great source of the overwhelming oppression, I reckon--and one is swept away despite oneself into a world where emotions are not something felt but are life-and-death, generations-altering realities, and personal history seems doomed to repeat itself endlessly in countless variations and incarnations...
*still prefers the Kate Bush song, but just slightly*
"If all else perished and he remain, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger and I should not seem part of it." ...more
In case one was ever curious what the literary equivalent to one of Aubrey Beardsley's iconic Art Nouveau illustrations would be, Beardsley himself prIn case one was ever curious what the literary equivalent to one of Aubrey Beardsley's iconic Art Nouveau illustrations would be, Beardsley himself provided the answer with the manuscript fragment The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, first published in heavily censored form as Under the Hill. Left unfinished when Beardsley succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 25, this naughty erotic romp contains most of the elements that made his work in the visual arts so celebrated and controversial in the first place: an unparalleled elegance, a bizarre sense of humor, and an obvious fascination with the forbidden and grotesque. That said, even in its uncompleted state it's obviously not a lost masterpiece, which I don't mean as a slight in the least. In overheated rococo prose that sometimes feels like a impenetrable labyrinth of sensory details, Beardsley attempts to visualize the hedonistic Eden presided over by the Roman goddess of Love that the fey knight Tannhäuser stumbles into, where he takes full advantage of the many pleasures if offers, ranging from the purely aesthetic to unashamedly sexual. One of the most enjoyable parts of reading this novella is deciphering which exactly is which--often a paragraph will pass by before what is being described actually comes into focus, which leads to countless instances of belated "wait, wait, wait... s/he did WHAT?!?"
In the particular edition that I read, Beardsley's original manuscript breaks off unceremoniously on page 80, continued for another forty pages by John Glassco. Glassco's contribution can charitably described as an honorable effort: quite frankly, it feels like mere imitation, and not always the finest imitation at that. It more or less follows the Tannhäuser legend (from what I know of it), and more than anything, it just emphasizes the "what might have been" element of what proceeds it. A trivial little bauble, but a wildly pleasurable one for sure.
"Venus allowed most of the dishes to pass untasted, she was so engaged with the beauty of Tannhäuser. She laid her head many times on his robe, kissing him passionately; and his skin at once firm and yielding, seemed to those exquisite little teeth of her, the most incomparable pasture. Her upper lip curled and trembled with excitement, showing the gums. Tannhäuser, on his side, was no less devoted. He adored her all over and all the things she had on, and buried his face in the folds and flounces of her linen, and ravished away a score of frills in his excess."
At first I was annoyed with Wise's habit of writing everything as if meant to be underlined by undergraduate sociology students, as well as his tendenAt first I was annoyed with Wise's habit of writing everything as if meant to be underlined by undergraduate sociology students, as well as his tendency to reiterate points as if it's assumed that it wouldn't be grasped the first time around. But I stuck with it, for not only was it pointed out that maybe I'm just lucky that some of these things aren't completely new for me (and yes, Jane, you can take most of the credit there), but because Wise has a formidable talent for using personal anecdotes to illustrate his points in a compelling manner.
And it all leads up to a profound and moving crescendo. The high point, for me, was the penultimate chapter titled "Loss," in which Wise articulates and attempts to answer the question "why... would the privileged ever give up that thing that sets them apart from, and above, everyone else?" In many ways it's the central question of the book, and to be honest, I was completely expecting some creative (and ultimately unconvincing) intellectual and theoretical gymnastics. Instead, I was floored by Wise's lamentation of what exactly is lost in the great homogenizing concept of "whiteness," and why it's such a devastating forfeit on both a personal and collective level. It was worth reading the entire book, just for that illuminating chapter alone.
"What does it mean to be white? Especially in a nation created by people like you, for people like you? We don't often ask this question, mostly because we don't have to. Being a member of the majority, the dominant group, allows one to ignore how race shapes one's life. For us, whiteness simply is; it becomes the unspoken, uninterrogated norm, taken for granted..."...more
In the introduction of this collection of Ford's poems, an Edward B. Germain makes a grand pronouncement: "when he began publishing in 1929, Ford wasIn the introduction of this collection of Ford's poems, an Edward B. Germain makes a grand pronouncement: "when he began publishing in 1929, Ford was unique: America's surrealist poet. In retrospect, he is seminal." And yet he doesn't seem to have much a reputation these days (though, really, none of the American surrealists--with the possible exception of Joseph Cornell--managed to establish legacies on the level of their European counterparts), which is a shame, because he can be striking poet. Beginning as a self-made and self-conscious prodigy of sorts--he founded an important literary magazine after dropping out of high school--and a member of the European ex-pat community in the 30's and 40's, this collection spans Ford's entire body of poetry up to the early 1970's. It's a bit uneven (several late long poems dedicated to Edith Sitwell in particular are ponderous bores), and Ford works with rhyming much more than most of his contemporaries, but each poem holds at least a dazzling turn of phrase or two. At the very least. It's a shame more of his work isn't more widely available.
"What kind of poem would I like to write? One in which the images are new and yet fill one with pleasure, like a face that's strange but which we recognize with joy mixed with nostalgia."
What can one possibly hope to say, especially in a capsule review? Much more accessible than I was anticipating, and the way it flipped over and thenWhat can one possibly hope to say, especially in a capsule review? Much more accessible than I was anticipating, and the way it flipped over and then systematically deconstructed a general assumption of mine (and most people, I'd say)--namely, that the steadily increasing discourse regarding sex, sexuality and the human body over the last several centuries has NOT led to a more open and liberated understanding of such topics, but has actually led to more restriction and, inevitably, guilt.
I can't help but seeing implications of this manifested everywhere now...
"Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but it also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it."...more
Another glimpse into the glamorous, sun-dappled exploits of young and beautiful and talented American ex-pats in Europe between the Wars. Centering arAnother glimpse into the glamorous, sun-dappled exploits of young and beautiful and talented American ex-pats in Europe between the Wars. Centering around the decades-spanning but somewhat uneasy ménage à trois established by Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, and George Platt Lynes, the 100-page essay by Anatole Pohorilenko (which, unfortunately, isn't very well written--it gives the impression of being translated into English by someone who isn't very familiar with the rhythms of the language) captures the world these three men moved in, serving as the inspiration for their art and their intertwined emotional and sexual relationships. The centerpiece and raison d'être of the book, however, is the 150 or so pages of personal photos from the trio's travel albums, which feature exotic locales and many famous faces (Cocteau, Stein and Toklas, Paul Robeson, Bourgoint, Katherine Anne Porter, among many others). Not the most well-known figures of this well-known epoch, but almost more interesting because of it. ...more