Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deserted Hubands

To read Edmund White's essay on his novel The Married Man in relation to Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky click on download now. (Thanks to Tom for content.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

those darned typos...

I hereby retract my post on Glassco’s Villanelle.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Giovanni's Room

I decided to revisit Giovanni's Room after reading the essay in 50 Gay and Lesbian Books […etc] and it's excerpts like this one that remind me why I like Baldwin so much:

Behind the counter sat one of those absolutely inimitable and indomitable ladies, produced only in the city of Paris, but produced there in great numbers, who would be as outrageous and unsettling in any other city as a mermaid on a mountaintop. All over Paris they sit behind their counters like a mother bird in a nest and brood over the cash register as though it were an egg. Nothing occurring under the circle of heaven where they sit escapes their eye, if they have ever been surprised by anything, it was only in a dream—a dream they long ago ceased having. They are neither ill- nor good-natured, though they have their days and styles, and they know, in the way, apparently, that other people know when they have to go to the bathroom, everything about everyone who enters their domain. Though some are white-haired and some not, some fat, some thin, some grandmothers and some but lately virgins, they all have exactly the same, shrewd, vacant, all-registering eye; it is difficult to believe that they ever cried for milk or looked at the sun; it seems they must have come into the world hungry for banknotes, and squinting helplessly, unable to focus their eyes until they came to rest on a cash register.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Habit of Art

Near the end of The Habit of Art Bennett has Auden recite "faultlessly" some of his most famous lines, from the elegy for W.B. Yeats. Seeing the play and even more reading it, I was struck by the fact that Bennett includes three stanzas that Auden omitted in later editions of the poem ("Time that is intolerant ... Pardons him for writing well.") The stanzas, especially the third linking Yeats to Kipling and Claudel as writers whom time will pardon (for their right-wing views) because they wrote well, are pretty arrogant and probably Auden was right to drop them. I wondered why Bennett wanted them back in. But then it struck me they are what the play is about--writers/artists who are imperfect humans but great creators.
       Taking that as Bennett's judgement of Auden and Britten, it's rather arrogant of him—always arrogant to sit in judgement on others, at least publicly. Though I think the most Bennett really faults Auden and Britten for are types of normal human unkindness and the seediness which can go with old age (I speak as one about to go on Medicare).
       In his intro Bennett relates his play to Auden's long poem/prose work The Sea and the Mirror, even though Bennett says the latter is "(to me) impenetrable." Perhaps he would have been better off leaving it alone. The Sea and the Mirror is an "epilogue" to The Tempest which, I think, eventually suggests that the only way a work of art can really reflect reality is by being imperfect, thus mirroring the imperfection of our world and sending our thoughts towards God. There doesn't seem to be anything religious about The Habit of Art, I think Bennett's last words for his Caliban ("you want to be knowing") are untrue to the character, and the last lines about "always somebody left out" seem to want to have to do with The Sea and the Mirror but don't (Caliban escapes from dramatic resolution in The Sea and the Mirror, he isn't left out of it). (Excuse for holding forth: I'm listed as co-author, with my ex-wife Lucy, of "Artifice and Self-Consciousness in The Sea and the Mirror " [first published 1975, rpt. in Caliban, ed. Harold Bloom, 1992]—she wrote most of it.)