Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh how true are numbers one and two

Alice Munro's subject matter is ordinariness--disappointment, the passage of time--but she doesn't bring to her stories what, say, John Updike or Tillie Olsen do: extraordinary language, a mind in love with the everyday but able to exalt it so that we feel the magic in what is usual.
Which is exactly what I appreciate about her prose. The straightforwardness, the non-exaltation of the ordinary.
Dear Hugh and Margaret,

I have been by myself a good deal these past weeks and have been able to think about us all and have reached several interesting though not perhaps original conclusions:

1) Monogamy is not a natural condition for men and women.

2) The reason that we feel jealous is that we feel abandoned. This is absurd, because I am a grown-up person capable of looking after myself. I cannot, literally, be abandoned. Also we feel jealous—I feel jealous—because I reason that if Hugh loves Margaret he is taking something away from me and giving it to her. Not so. Either he is giving her extra love—in addition to the love he feels for me—or he does not feel love for me but does for her. Even if the latter is true it does not mean that I am unlovable. If I can feel strong and happy in myself then Hugh's love is not necessary for myself-esteem. And if Hugh loves Margaret I should be glad, shouldn't I, that he has this happiness in his life? Nor can I make any demands on him—

—Alice Munro, The Spanish Lady (from 'Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You')

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Funny how hard it is

It's dangerous to liken lyric poetry to an extended aphorism, but that's how I would describe most of the lyric verse I've read and loved. They speak the truth—generally and specifically, and intellectually.

To try putting it in another way— It's rare that I find poetry wherein I could say, 'I can relate to that,' 'That is what's happening to me right now,' 'It touches me.'

That rarity is Philip Larkin.

While other poems have but an absolute voice, Larkin's have a face and a world that I, too, inhabit.
Vers de Société
Philip Larkin

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps
To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps
You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.
Day comes to an end.
The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.
And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid—

Funny how hard it is to be alone.
I could spend half my evenings, if I wanted,
Holding a glass of washing sherry, canted
Over to catch the drivel of some bitch
Who’s read nothing but Which;
Just think of all the spare time that has flown

Straight into nothingness by being filled
With forks and faces, rather than repaid
Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind,
And looking out to see the moon thinned
To an air-sharpened blade.
A life, and yet how sternly it’s instilled

All solitude is selfish. No one now
Believes the hermit with his gown and dish
Talking to God (who’s gone too); the big wish
Is to have people nice to you, which means
Doing it back somehow.
Virtue is social. Are, then, these routines

Playing at goodness, like going to church?
Something that bores us, something we don’t do well
(Asking that ass about his fool research)
But try to feel, because, however crudely,
It shows us what should be?
Too subtle, that. Too decent, too. Oh hell,

Only the young can be alone freely.
The time is shorter now for company,
And sitting by a lamp more often brings
Not peace, but other things.
Beyond the light stand failure and remorse
Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—
So maybe a confession. The year's calendar is filled with projects, meetings, and parties—things to do and things to do with other people, because the alternative is loneliness. I revel in being alone freely, yet I also desire good company, which is getting more and more difficult to come by.

Monday, October 29, 2012

9 years later

I started this blog in August 2003 with so much urgency. I was less conscious of the idea that things don't last, hence every design detail, every post, I crafted with regard to eternity. That a wandering man will someday find his way to this digital island, therefore it must be found clean and dainty; that decades from now I will have a lot to enjoy re-reading (and instantly delete).

Years later technology (however lovely and useful) and life (however riveting) prove that nothing lasts. Gadgets, software, the internet are faulty. Relationships, desires, beauty fade. But then all the more do I do things deliberately and with caution; all the more do I believe that one act, one word, is subject to perpetual responsibility.

Talking about going for a totally different look,
which eventually happened.
9 years ago I dreamed of becoming a writer. 2 years ago I became a professional one: I write; I get paid. Since then I have loved this blog more than I ever did. Because (cheesy as it sounds) this is me.

Here I don't follow another's guidelines and say something nice when I don't intend to. Here there are no strings of words that are not mine.

Selfish, self-important, yes, but that's fine. I blog not because I want the world to know what's on my mind; I blog because I want to tell an imagined audience what's on my mind.

Before, I was aching to get published and I knew that getting published would feel amazing. It does. It did. It does when it matters. Now, having your work and your thoughts printed and disseminated seems to be the easiest occupation. So my dream has changed, or it has at least reverted to my principal dream, and that is to write well.