The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Goodnight Sunday Salon

Posted on: November 18, 2007

I’m too sleepy to provide anything more worthwhile. I had hoped to read one more chapter. In my notes on “Sleep”, chapter 20, I wrote that memory had led me to believe that it was a bit crazier with ideas. From a glance at chapter 22 it looks as though that was the crazy one.

I also wanted to inject a brief bit on the Symbolism movement in literature. For the ILL reading challenge I’ve been gearing up to attack Maurice Maeterlinck plays by reading Patrick McGuiness’s Maurice Maeterlinck and the Making of Modern Theatre. Westfield’s constant, at times overwhelming compulsion to think, think, think all the time, and his concerns about death, reminded me of one of the things Villiers de L’isle-Adam declared about the ideals of his drama, which later influence the Symbolist theatre movement.

La grande anxiété humaine devant l’énigme de la vie n’est-elle pas, à tout prendre, un sentiment…comme un autre? Pourquoi dès lors serait-il interdit de laisser transparaître ce constant, ce terrible et lointain souci sous la trama à la fois sombre et vivante d’une œuvre dramatique?

McGuiness translates this as

Is not humanity’s great anxiety in the face of the enigma of life, when all is said and done, a feeling…like any other? Why then should it be forbidden to let this constant, this terrifying and faraway fear emerge from the dark and active surface of a dramatic work?

The Symbolists had a rather extreme idea of how to go about this, Maeterlinck more radical than most (if not all). I find the movement so intriguing because it espoused a number of ideals with which I’m sympathetic — avoidance of psychologically realistic characters, disdain for reverence of plot ingenuity, exclusion of political/social themes — and takes them to the kind of extremes that made the work of its predecessors all but impossible to perform on stage. And some did not necessarily find this displeasing. But that’s all for another post.

Goldberg has less than 30 pages left, so next Sunday will be the last salon with Josipovici, and I’ll wrangle up either a new or old read, I’m still not sure yet. Patricia Storms of Booklust kindly let her readers know that a) Barbara Hodgson, fabulous Canadian writer and designer of illustrated fiction and non-fiction, had a new book out, entitled Trading in Memories and b) there were still review copies available. I emailed the lovely Monique Trottier and lo! in the mail, expedited, my beautiful, beautiful new copy came. (Thank you!) I admit that I am a bigger fan of Hodgson’s fiction, particularly the lengthier reads that allow her to stretch and take her story as far as it can go. But I enjoyed Dreaming of East well enough, so this new one may prove to be a good time, and easy enough to blog about.

My roommate saw the Beowulf movie and seemed to have had a good time. I find the language integral to my appreciation of the poem, so Angelina Jolie in 3-D stilettos doesn’t hold much interest. What’s startling is that in every newspaper article I’ve come across about the movie, journalists conveyed a widely held assumption that students want to run in the other direction at the merest mention of the poem’s name.

In my years of Jamaican schooling I never studied any Western Euro lit before Shakespeare. I knew there was a Greek/Roman mythology collection in the CXC (‘O’ level) syllabus but I just missed it, since the examining body/teachers tended to rotate books every few years. I only had a very vague idea of what works like Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl were about, and it was mostly due to things I read about Tolkien. So, basically, I had no idea that Beowulf was considered any more or less dire than, say, The Odyssey. When movies like Troy are being pushed you just here about how awesome the stars are, oooo epic etc. but not for Beowulf, oh no. (Are they all reading it in the original language, or something?) All that dumping on my poor little Old English work made me very sad, but at least it led to Michael D.C. Drout, who is the editor of my copy of Tolkien’s Beowulf and the Critics. He was interviewed along with two other professors about the movie and its potentially horrible consequences, like lecturers forced to teach it in class! I’m really sorry I can’t find it, but no matter, because a google led me to his blog, which turned out to be the same one that got me super excited about The Children of Húrin earlier this year.

Hmmm. I think my brain is officially starting to run out of space for Actively Pursued Interests. I tentatively mentioned my possible, no doubt transient, fragile intention of maybe, kinda, I dunno, teach myself Old English on snow days to another English major friend and was met with complete, perplexed silence. Sigh.


2 Responses to "Goodnight Sunday Salon"

Barbara Hodgson’s The Lives of Shadows was a fantastic novel. In some ways Trading in Memories is that same type of travel adventure–but this time the narrator is Barbara and the maps and images are all objects she’s collected.

I hope you like the book, and I’m glad it arrived so quickly.

Of all her shorter novels that one was my favourite, so you’ve made me more excited about it. I still nourish a fragile hope that she’ll publish more fiction one day. 😀 (Although Dreaming of East *was* pretty cool.)

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