Monday, June 19, 2006

A Monday Mish Mash

I picked up Clarissa again over t he weekend to have Lovelace compare what he is doing to Clarissa to the "sportive cruelty" of catching and taming a wild bird:

Hast thou not observed the charming gradations by which the ensnared volatile has been brought to bear with its new conditions? How at first, refusing all sustenance, it beats and bruises itself against its wires, till it makes its gay plumage fly about, and overspread its well-secured cage.[...]Till at last, finding its efforts ineffectual, quite tired and breathless, it lays itself down and pants at the bottom of the cage, seeming to bemoan its cruel fate and forfeited liberty. And after a few days, it struggles to escape still diminishing, as it finds it to no purpose to attempt it, its new habitation becomes familiar; and it hops about from perch to perch, resumes its wonted cheerfulness, and every day sings a song to amuse itself, and reward its keeper.
The breaking of a spirit is charming? The one captured only seems to bemoan its fate since eventually it sings again? I really got my dander up over this passage. Before I just thought Lovelace a charming rake, now I think he is no gentleman, without his money he'd be nothing. I have also been reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and am finding it not as bad as I had imagined it. I am following the story--currently young Stephen is ill after being pushed into a ditch full of what sounds like sewage--and even finding some of the phrasing poetic:
--Sick in your breadbasket, Fleming said, because your face looks white. It will go away. --O yes, Stephen said. But he was not sick there. He thought that he was sick in his heart if you could be sick in that place.
Stephen then goes on to play with his ears, plugging them up for quiet and then unplugging them and noticing how the sound roars like a train going in and out of a tunnel. Freud would have a hay day with that. I can see how, if a person has not read stream-of-consciousness writing the book could be hard; how inexperience as a reader and in life could make the book incomprehensible; how worrying about the meaning of the train and the tunnel diminishes the enjoyment of the story and the reader's ability to relate to what Stephen is doing (after all, what kid hasn't played with her ears and sound before?). I am not that far into the book, but my fear of it is gone, I am beginning to relax and let the story happen. I feel successful already. I would be remiss if I just let the announcement of Donald Hall as Poet Laureate go by unremarked. I have an affection for him and his work because of his poet wife, Jane Kenyon who died of leukemia in 1995. Their relationship and obvious love for each other is moving and Hall has honored that in his poetry. I look forward to following what he does during his tenure.