The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Saturday titbits

Posted on: July 21, 2007

I may post periodically throughout the day. It is orientation day on campus, more shops and such are open on campus than is normal, and so I am here filling in for a friend, hopped up on coffee and Quaker cookies. (I cannot ingest anything resembling proper food before noon.) I first thought of doing this since…9:30 am? It’s taken me almost two hours for the idea to leave one part of the brain to the other that works my fingers.

Dan Green has taken to making end-of-week pronouncements. Of his weekly links at least one is guaranteed to make me give a bark of laughter. This week it’s Shteyngart’s intention to write a novel on the USA’s debt to China? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Um, what? I do hope another author picks an equally worthy subject…what about something on the International Whaling Commission. That’s pretty “sexy” right? Doha trade talks?

Last week it was the bald pronouncement that the NYT blog was still “very stupid”. I winced at the harsh assessment the week before but this time I could do nothing but cackle. I’m not saying the NYT can’t be light and silly sometimes but…’Find out your Imaginary Band Name’? Really? I’m the last person to trump the merits of the Guardian book blog but good heaven’s it seems to be able to find something marginally more substantial posts even if it’s empty controversy. I look forward to the day “Paper Cuts” has a “Which Peanuts Character Are You?” quiz. (I was Rerun. Heh.)

The funniest cartoon about Harry Potter.

I saw an ad for Dirt for Art’s Sake in an issue of the NYRB ages ago and finally got around to it because Elisabeth Ladenson covers, among the more expected novels like Madame Bovary, The Well of Loneliness. It promises to be an interesting read because, in her introduction, Ladenson asserts that she’ll avoid the typical triumphant narrative of certain Western countries becoming more liberal and tolerant. Instead she focuses on how repetitive censorship has been, how countries have simply looked at age old obscenities in different contexts rather than no longer deeming them obscene.

She only focuses on the USA, Britain and France because she could not find comparable cases in other countries. (Another apparently different from the usual sort of censorship books is that she looks at the countries cases in relation to each other rather than taking one and studying it in isolation.) Lots of illuminating information but my favourite so far is the deep anxiety the French and American governments had over how novels could affect women and the working class. They might get uppity ideas about themselves not being able to distinguish between fiction and reality! Ernest Pinard, the government prosecutor in the case against the dastardly Monsieur Flaubert’s dangerous novel *opined:

Who are the readers of M. Flaubert’s novel? Are they men interested in political and social economy? No! The light pages of Madame Bovary fall into even lighter hands, into the hands of girls, and sometimes married women. And so! When the imagination has been seduced, when that seduction has descended to the heart, when the heart has spoken to the senses, do you think cold reasoning will prevail against this seduction of the senses and the emotions?

He does his best to make Madame Bovary seem like *the* book one should get one’s hand on, doesn’t he? It reminded me of a scene in Book V of Paradise Lost in which Eve tells Adam of her disturbing dream (caused by Satan who squatted by her ear in the form of a toad) and Adam tries to comfort her.

This uncouth dream, of evil sprung I fear;
Yet evil whence? In thee can harbour none,
Created pure. But know that in the soul
Are many lesser faculties that serve
Reason as chief; among these Fancy next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful sense represent,
She forms imaginations, airy shapes,
Which Reason joining or disjoining, frames
All what we affirm or what deny, and call
Our knowledge of opinion; then retires
Into her private cell when nature rests.
Oft in her absence mimic Fancy wakes
To imitate her; but misjoining shapes,
Wild work produces oft, and most in dreams,
Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.

Eve being a lesser being does not, of course, have a larger reserve of Reason (if any) as Adam does, poor thing. Sigh.

* Translations done by Elisbeth Ladenson


3 Responses to "Saturday titbits"

It was orientation day at UofT??? I didn’t know that!

You probably didn’t know because it wasn’t at U of T. 😛

LOL DUH!! You know this whole time I thought you were in Toronto!! (It is the centre of the universe you know.)

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