Friday, April 30th, 2004
Lilith has suggested that everyone post a favorite poem today. Here is my contribution to the effort, an early poem by Rilke with my own translation.
Kalter Herbst vermag den Tag zu knebeln,
seine tausend Jubelstimmen schweigen;
hoch vom Domturm wimmern gar so eigen
Sterbeglocken in Novembernebeln.
Auf den nassen Daechern liegt verschlafen
weisses Dunstlicht; und mit kalten Haenden
greift der Sturm in des Kamines Waenden
eines Totenkarmens Schlussoktaven.
The November Day
Cold autumn can muzzle the day,
silence its thousand jubilating voices;
from the steeple whimper, so peculiar,
death bells in November's mist.
On the wet rooftops lies sleeping
a white fog; and with cold hands
the storm inside the chimney's walls strikes
a death-karma's closing octaves.
Tuesday, April 27th, 2004
On the web site of the University of Illinois at Chicago, I found an interesting paper, titled Flags in the Dust: A Continuum of Immorality Lost in a Lilac Dream. There does not seem to be any information about the author of the paper except that his first name is Juan. I will try to find out more and post it.
Flags in the Dust -- It occurs to me that I may have given the impression in my last post that I think Horace is a con man. Far from it -- he deceives himself probably better than anybody else. The narration around him is written in the same affected manner he uses when speaking; I did not understand what was going on before since the narration is in the third person, but I think now that he is actually narrating -- and maybe that each scene is narrated by the character who is central to it.
Monday, April 26th, 2004
We saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tonight and loved it. (Well I did anyway, I'm not sure if Ellen was quite as enthusiastic about it.)
Flags in the Dust -- This evening, as I was reading the scene where Horace is visiting Belle, it occurred to me that Horace is a poseur. And with that understanding, everything his character did started to make more sense. The other characters so far seem by and large to be either unreflective or else withdrawn and unsocial; but Horace is extroverted, and busy with self-consciously projecting a façade to the people around him. His fancy language is tiresome and unnecessary, and he knows this on some level; but he keeps it up in order to maintain a consistent false persona. This is his connection with Belle, who is a bit of a faker herself.
Flags in the Dust -- the Bayard's Wild Ride section seguéd nicely into a chapter dealing with the return of Narcissa's brother Horace. I am having a little trouble with this chapter. Horace doesn't really seem that concrete or believable a character, at least when he is present and speaking. When his time in Europe is presented as a story, it is interesting and fun, and the high-flown language seems playful; but when he is moving around Jefferson and talking to Narcissa, it is just dreary.
Friday, April 23rd, 2004
I just realized Sunday will be my blog-day! How am I holding up in the first year? Well, not too bad -- I am not posting super-frequently but it is holding my interest pretty well. I will keep it up for a while and see what develops.
Last night and this morning I read the longest (so far) block of narrative in Flags in the Dust -- Bayard's odyssey: beginning on page 119 he takes Simon for a drive, scares him with speed, leaves him to walk home; then goes on to town where he gets drunk with MacCallum, goes to look at the stallion MacCallum is buying, rides the stallion, is thrown, is bandaged by Doc Peabody; then Hub and Suratt drive him out to Hub's place, where they drink more whiskey, and drive back to town; then he drives back to Hub's place with Hub, Mitch, and some Negro musicians, they get the bottle and drive to a city or town (apparently not Jefferson) where the musicians play and Mitch sings; then drive back to Jefferson (with Bayard going very fast and scaring the musicians, and stopping frequently to drink whiskey). The next bit is told centering around Narcissa but belongs in the same narrative block -- she is having dinner with her aunt and telephones Jenny to see if Bayard got home alright, and Jenny tells her he did not come home; when she retires (after receiving a visit from Dr. Alford), Bayard brings the musicians to her yard to serenade her and then they leave. Meanwhile an unidentified stalker (whom I believe to be Snopes) is lying on the roof of her garage, looking through her window. Wow! 50 pages later and still going strong...
Wednesday, April 21st, 2004
Looking at the William Faulkner on the Web site at the University of Mississippi I found his address to the Nobel Prize committee in 1950 -- it is a speech I have read before but one well worth being reminded of.
It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
A difficult proposition for me to affirm but one which I hope and try to embrace.
Tuesday, April 20th, 2004
Flags in the Dust -- I am trying to pay attention to what reading mode I am in as I read each sentence -- this is an experiment with some potential to disrupt my reading experience and if I find it is doing so too much, I will abandon it. But if I am successful I think this extra level of consciousness about my role in the story will be very useful -- I am trying to achieve a meditative consciousness in reading. My hunch is that Faulkner is particularly well-suited to reading this way.
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