The Books of My Numberless Dreams

It’s been a long time

Posted on: February 24, 2008

Hello, hello, hello! I have missed you, my blog and even the silly spammers trying to sell a hundred hot dvds. I’m more or less recovered: puked out what I’d barely eaten, lost a few pounds — lovely! After I tried so damn hard to gain a few — and have decided not to worry about any mysterious chest/shoulder/neck pains (until the test results return). I’ll try to catch up on your blogs but this will take some time, especially since I have a lot of school work to catch up on.

All my serious readings were shot to hell for the most part. I don’t count that Sarah Hall book because it was hysterical pap from start to finish, bless her. I finally received her latest in the mail so I plan to get to it ASAP…along with that short stories collection I got for the Librarything ARC last year. Another one from the February batch is on its way to me as we speak. It’s one by Reginald Shepherd Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry. I wanted the book but did not expect to get it, especially when I compared my library to other members who mentioned they’d gotten it too. They had hundreds and hundreds of contemporary American poetry books and I…did not.

Somehow, I shall also manage to start and finish the Slaves of Golconda read before March 1st. Ahem.

What did I read? Lots and lots of Nora Roberts: her mysteries and romances. Three to be exact and all audiobooks because I had a hard time dealing with print while I was ill. It was a mix of new ones like Angels Fall which was surprisingly fresh because her heroine didn’t feel as if she was taken out of the Roberts Heroine Assembly box. Different kind of voice, rhythm, character — took some time getting used to but I loved it. The mystery, Innocent in Death, was good too, primarily because I’d taken a long break from the series and so was able to enjoy the familiar characters, problems, and procedure without becoming irritated at its predictability. The main couple, Eve and Roarke, also experienced some marital trouble — a story line I always enjoy because that kind of conflict has a different energy and context than what you get in the typical romances where everything is new.

Finished Idylls of the King. It really wasn’t as simplistic or quaint as I had expected. I’ll have to read a bit more than about Tennyson and the political situation at the time he wrote it before I mess with my ideas but I picked up on a similarity to Milton’s Paradise Lost. (I’m itching to do more posts on that as well.) Tennyson appeared to be saying this on one level and that on another. Guinevere was supposedly a weak, wicked harlot who brought about Camelot’s ruin. Yet it was hard to see how it could have worked out any other way because Tennyson wrote Arthur as a symbol, not a man, one wholly taken with chivalry, chastity, chasing out heathens, but who seemed to have forgotten about other kingly, Christian duties like screwing the wife, at least until she has a son.

In “Guinevere“, the only poem in the cycle where Arthur became something of a character at last, given a voice, feelings, thoughts and so on…he lost his Christ-like veneer. Entirely. In his long rampage against Guinevere there was not one moment of humility, of self-reflection, self-doubt, thoughtfulness, not even of the pity, love or mercy he professed to feel for her. He cursed her at the beginning

Well is it that no child is born of thee.
The children born of thee are sword and fire,
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws,
The craft of kindred and the Godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o’er the Northern Sea

then magnanimously announced that he’d refrain from doing so stanzas later, though I suppose he meant he wouldn’t try to damn her future. (How kind!) He minutely set out how she managed to be responsible for everyone’s errors — no one except Arthur has a full-fledged adult consciousness — emphasized how his skin loathed her, then claimed that he still loved her. Basically, he acted like a right human bastard, and I simply couldn’t go back to my former benign opinion of him as a dummy Jesus substitute. As God made a path for Satan after he rebelled which provided him with no other choice but to become the Bad Guy, Arthur created a path for Guinevere that led to her betrayal with Lancelot. And, unlike in Paradise Lost where God was aware of this and so tried to justify the move Arthur exhibited no similar sign of higher brain function.

The whole Camelot set up was rigged for failure. I don’t mean that in a reasonable sense where men and women were asked to live as good, peaceable, God-fearing citizens but something inevitably went wrong. I mean the whole system was set up by a schizo loon. I assumed that I wasn’t to take the whole “worship the King” business quite so literally, that it just indicated proper royal reverence, but someone clearly forgot to tell the poor roundtable knights. And Arthur. When he reminisced about the good ol’ days in “Guinevere” he remembered asking the knights to swear

To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,

God complex anyone? Christ got mentioned ever so often but basically Arthur was supposed to be centre of their world except that, well, being partly human (there’s always lots of fairy talk about him) he would inevitably mess that up. No one had a bible or a priest to consult when Arthur’s marital problems became public knowledge — priests seemed only good for heading ceremonies — so the knights went tits up so easily it was laughable. (Sometimes sad, most times laughable.)

Camelot also came off very Roman Catholic like. King Arthur’s enemies called him an eunuch and, well, he was rather monkish and admonished his knights to adopt a similar monkish attitude. If they did marry, sure, be loyal to that one maiden, but the heavy emphasis on the monkish lifestyle would surely colour their intimate relationships. Arthur practically set himself up as Pope. Although it was Vivien and Tristram, harlot and partner-in-adulterous-affair–because-Guinny-is-unfaithful respectively, who pointed out that they were all flesh and some allowance must be made for that, well, the argument made sense. It was all pretty confusing. Tennyson wasn’t Catholic (right?) and England wasn’t particularly warm to the denomination at the time (right?) so if I wanted to be cute I could interpret the whole thing as a clever anti-Catholic piece. Except that Tennyson did his best to clothe the enterprise in noble robes, so I go back to the schizo-loon argument.

Finally, Tennyson appeared to have written the Idylls in part as a response to political events happening during his time. In his closing dedication to Queen Victoria he mentioned some disorderly problems that were plaguing the poor British empire and how the islanders just didn’t realise the greatness of their own country and stuff, but if men remained loyal and true, this too shall pass blah blah etc.

So loyal is too costly! friends–your love
Is but a burthen: loose the bond, and go.’
Is this the tone of empire? here the faith
That made us rulers? this, indeed, her voice
And meaning, whom the roar of Hougoumont
Left mightiest of all peoples under heaven?
What shock has fooled her since, that she should speak
So feebly? wealthier–wealthier–hour by hour!
The voice of Britain, or a sinking land,
Some third-rate isle half-lost among her seas?
There rang her voice, when the full city pealed
Thee and thy Prince! The loyal to their crown
Are loyal to their own far sons, who love
Our ocean-empire with her boundless homes
For ever-broadening England, and her throne
In our vast Orient, and one isle, one isle,
That knows not her own greatness

Not sure who ticked him off. The first two lines are part of a speech he attributes to those from “that true North”. Was Scotland telling England to fuck off or what? Not sure, shall check, but I’m a bit tired now after typing all of this out so I’ll take a nap and then look over various assignments that I have to take care of.

Pardon my jumbled thoughts. Thank you all for your well wishes while I was indisposed.

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11 Responses to "It’s been a long time"

Boy did *that* liven up my dreary Sunday! 🙂

Good to have you back, Imani.

Nice post! Glad you are feeling better Imani — great to have you back.

Glad you’re up and around again. Don’t push yourself too far too soon. It’s all too easy to do too much and knock yourself out again.

Oh lord. Nora Roberts? And Tennyson? Do they go well together?

I think I read about Orpheus in the Bronx recently. Why does that book sound so familiar?

Very glad you are feeling better and how fun to read about Nora Roberts and Tennyson in one post. Only you could make that so enjoyable.

Glad you’re feeling better! I just read a YA book yesterday that talked a lot about Idylls of the King, so it was fun to read your post about it! 🙂

Sorry to hear you were so sick. Take it easy!

Thanks everyone for the lovely welcomes. 🙂 It’s really good to be back!

Amcorrea ha, I’ve reread it and I was a bit fresh from time to time, wasn’t I? Good thing my Mother doesn’t read this site…

Thanks, Mark.

Ann Darnton I will try not but it is hard not to try to jump right back into things, especially when everything seems necessary…

Dark Orpheus hahahaha. It was actually reminiscent of my teenybopper days. In Jamaica there were two kinds of books one could get in stores at the time: popular American mass market authors like Roberts and Stephen King and Western classics.

The mixture…was ok, I guess. I don’t link the two in my mind at all and to be honest this isn’t the first time I’ve juggled very frothy and very serious fare. Sometimes my mind craves the juxtaposition.

Verbivore I’m pleased you found it so. I don’t blog about romances much because I usually have nothing to say but the Roberts were demanding commentary, especially since I hadn’t read any in some time.

Eva oh, which one was it? I remember that you mentioned those books in your posts. Was it any good?

Sylvia thank you and I shall try.

Sorry to hear you were ill. I hope you’re on the mend now, though. I loved the Laurence book by the way and hope you’re able to reread it by the end of the week! I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on it!

I am pretty much back to normal, thanks. I’m as eager to read what everyone else thought too, especially since not much commentary is seeping out on to blogs besides some (thankfully) positive “I liked it!”

It was The Other Book by Philip Womack (comes out in the States in March). The idea was good, but the narrative was really jumpy, and most of the characters were flat. I think it was aimed at younger kids, who wouldn’t notice stuff like that, rather than teens. Kinda blah for me, anyway.

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