Monday, July 23, 2012

But on the Other Hand

I mean, when I write sonnets about writing sonnets, they do not actually make use of water imagery!

I Only Ever Feel Tempted to Write Sonnets about Writing Sonnets. . .

The pleasure of the chains lies in the sense
Of pride one feels when doing something well.
For even when surrounded by a fence,
One can slip through the links and go to hell.
But transgression does offer its own thrill –
A nice escape’s a pleasurable thing.
It feels like an exertion of the will –
Like one’s caprice is now the reigning king.
One therefore must always balance the scales,
Leave room for pride and yet room for caprice.
A lack of caution may well end one’s tales
Or too much structure cause the soul to cease.
I feel a tightrope tension in this quest;
That’s why avoidance usually seems best.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

_The Sacred Fount_

From the Wikipedia article on The Sacred Fount - "This strange, often baffling book concerns an unnamed narrator who attempts to discover the truth about the love lives of his fellow-guests at a weekend party in the English countryside. . . . many have expressed simple bewilderment over what, if anything, James was trying to accomplish in the novel. James himself said that the book was "calculated to minister to curiosity," but many have maintained that the novel does little or nothing to reward that curiosity. . . .  . Indeed in a letter dated March 15th 1901 to Mrs Humphry Ward James declared 'I say it in all sincerity – the book isn't worth discussing [...] I hatingly finished it; trying to make it – the one thing it could be – a consistent joke.'"

Honestly, it's a pretty amazing book - not that I would recommend it to you if you are not already a James fan.  But coming from my perspective it sort of corroborates everything I've ever believed about James.

Here's a quotation: "If I was free, that was what I had been only so short a time before, what I had been as I drove, in London, to the station. Was this now a foreknowledge that, on the morrow, in driving away, I should feel myself restored to that blankness? The state lost was the state of exemption from intense obsessions, and the state recovered would therefore logically match it. If the foreknowledge had thus, as by the stir of the air from my friend's whisk of her train, descended upon me, my liberation was in a manner what I was already tasting. Yet how I also felt, with it, something of the threat of a chill to my curiosity! The taste of its being all over, that really sublime success of the strained vision in which I had been living for crowded hours—was this a taste that I was sure I should particularly enjoy? Marked enough it was, doubtless, that even in the stress of perceiving myself broken with I ruefully reflected on all the more, on the ever so much, I still wanted to know!"  It's alarming the degree to which I can really empathize with the narrator as James describes him, even if one freely admits that my interests are rather different from his.  But frankly this book is the most accurate, persuasive description of what obsession/inspiration feels like for me that I have ever read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Kalifriki of the Thread"

Roger Zelazny's short story in the Hidden Turnings collection, edited by Diana Wynne Jones. I took this out from the library once or twice as a preteen. Then for years it was still listed on the library catalogue as being owned by the library, but the anthology itself had entirely disappeared from the shelves.

I think it says something about the story that I must have last read it well over fifteen years ago, and I have no memory whatsoever of the plot, but I totally still remember the name. I even correctly remembered how to spell "Kalifriki." I should really try to read that story again someday. . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oh. My. God.

When I sign in to my blog these days, it automatically takes me to a page with a link to Google Analytics, which, naturally, I check. When I signed in this morning to post about Rachel and Napoleon, I checked my blog and found that someone had found it with a search on the topic "percy bysshe shelley jervis [sic] cocker quote." Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that this happened. Well, thank you for your help, random Slovakian! Sorry I did not know this before you did, though!

Nature V. Nurture

While everyone has heard of Sarah Bernhardt, and I understand her to be the major influence on the portrayal of Miriam Rooth in The Tragic Muse, Rachel Felix also gets mentioned several times throughout that novel.  I don't think Rachel is as well-known today (at least in the Anglosphere) as Sarah, but I at least had certainly heard to her thanks to Henry James.  Therefore, I am kind of flabbergasted to discover that there are a large number of living people who are descendent of both her and Napoleon.  Huh.  They at least have a fascinating genetic heritage, even if they aren't fascinating people themselves!