Friday, July 2, 2010

Nerding Out Fridays

Yesterday I decided I would commit to reading all of T. S. Eliot's essays; it however occurred to me that my reference point for all of the Spanish tragedies and even Elizabethan tragedies is, how do you say, lacking. It could be that I am not yet of a status where esoteric knowledge comes as a easily as a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Nay, instead, I merely salivate at the D-I-Y magic kits made tantalizing by clever infomercials—or to snuff out this measly metaphor, there is something of a pomp sans circumstance to being limited as a reader. I try and follow, can't, but then find myself furiously underlining an idea regardless, an idea that stands glimmering in its abstract gooeyness. After a diatribe about Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry in the essay "Rhetoric" and Poetic Drama , Eliot says, "At the present time there is a manifest preference for the 'conversational' in poetry—the style of 'direct speech,' opposed to the 'oratorical' and the rhetorical; but if rhetoric is any convention of writing inappropriately applied, this conversational style can and does become a rhetoric—" These moments are head-wrappable, in the sense that this remains applicable to an audience interested in the evolutionary tract of literature, even if that interest comes with a certain lack of resources. One can see that designations of device and even tautologies are malleable, appropriated based on the current temperament of the scene.

For example, a big ass whale will eat a smaller whale, even if the smaller whale is also our idea of the bigger whale (illustration released after the discovery of Leviathan Melvilleis):

If that isn't objective correlative, I don't know what is.

And speaking of temperament, there is nothing quite like waking up and deciding to eschew yesterday's goals and then implanting a new, just as intimidating goal. The new goal is to read Emerson completely, which is a task that comes with a (much) larger archive. All of this, I must remind, has been inspired by Joanna Klink's Raptus which I will refer to ad nauseam until I've completed my research and write a post for already. So I woke up today after really bizarre dreams about stowed-away brothers and their evil pimps, and opened up Emerson's collected essays and poems to Experience, always a favorite anyway. Emerson refers to Labrador spar, a crystalline rock found in the Labrador region of Canada, "which has no luster as you turn it in your hand, until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep and beautiful colors." And this very important angle, this angle is the individual and cultural milieu, the thing of temperament. And it's also how I feel about Emerson—which isn't to say that he lacks luster until a certain angle, but this is to say that every time I pick him up, my attention is grabbed differently. I look to pencil lines from previous nights of furious scribblings and read a line like "Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it." Sure, that still interests me, but it doesn't have that same immense effect now that "Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in," has about it. I mean, they are saying very similar things there; an objective equivalence is at work (a borrowed phrase from Eliot), with our life as a ship, our sails as trivial.

And we can think about conversational as the rhetorical, and maybe there's a Steinian title-phrase shadowing this idea, Composition as Explanation. So should I feel shameful for not having read Kyd or Nashe or Lyly? Sure. But am I rendered paralyzed by my fissured backlog? I think everyone should keep in mind the symbolic gesture of this Labrador Spar, because I think this becomes the crux to our experience as readers, performers, artists, etc.

Oh, and while I'm at it, here is a brief list of phrases in the first few pages of Experience that stuck in my ribs like whoa:

"Sleep lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception."

"In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterward discovered that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us. All our days are so unprofitable while they pass that 'tis wonderful where or when we ever got anything of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue."

"Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in."

"So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much retrospect, that the pith of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours."

"There are moods in which we court suffering, in the hope that here at least we shall find reality, sharp peaks and edges of truth."

"I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature."

"Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion."

"From the mountain you see the mountain."

Oh, and I'm starting to expand my blog-knowledge. Check it out. I now have "Gadgets" alike to other cool blogs.

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