Went to Cheltenham this weekend to visit a friend after he finished his prelims. We met A at the bus-stop, red carnation still in his breast pocket for the coach to Gloucestershire. After a night well-spent with the best Shiraz I've ever had, admiring the almighty Aga in A's kitchen, we put on wellies, plaid scarves and November colours, grabbed the dog and headed off for a ramble in the Cotswolds. If it sounds idyllic, it's because it was - the only thing disturbing the picture was my dripping nose. A showed us where he used to live: a stone house undefended by border or fence from the woods, exposed to the late winter hills. We walked through the hawthorns and brambles to an abandoned farm where there was no sign of the promised owl, only scattered bones. A showed us his childhood swing, a leathery strap overgrown with moss, and the pheasant keep. The woods were entirely still, broken only now and then by a screaming kestrel or a startled pheasant. We walked in silence a…
I've had Newsom's 'In California' (from Have One on Me) in my head for the last week, and eventually I gave up and looked at lyrics (which are just as supple as the music). It's a kind of poetry that seems both embodied and fluid. Even if the words didn't string together - which they do - the pleasure of saying them would be enough. The words simultaneously portray and create longing.
My heart became a drunken runt On the day I sunk in this shunt To tap me clean Of all the wonder And the sorrow I have seen Since I left my home
My home, on the old Milk Lake Where the darkness does fall so fast It feels like some kind of mistake Just like they told you it would Just like the Tulgeywood
When I came into my land I did not understand Neither dry rot, nor the burn pile Nor the bark-beetle, nor the dry well Nor the black bear
But there is another Who is a little older When I broke my bone He carried me up from the riverside
To spend my life In spitting-distance Of the love that I have kno…
It’s Lent at last. I’m going to St. Mary Mags at 12.15 for the imposition of the ashes. There’s something so fantastically solemn about the rite. I’ve always loved it, even when I was in my first few years of primary school with very little experience of liturgical ritual. I went to a Catholic school and all the Catholic boys and girls would be led to the chapel – the oldest RC in South Africa, I think; it was pretty in a purple, gaudy Italianate way – and the non-Catholics would be taken to the stone Anglican church around the corner. After we returned, we’d line up in the bathroom and compare our foreheads, who had the biggest cross and whose grandparents having died that year had been subsequently recycled to make the ashes.
I think the comfort of the rite is partly the reminder of mortality, partly the beauty of penitential language (how often do we welcome imposition?), and partly the feeling of being touched lightly, officially, publicly on the forehead.
March; the end of seventh week; Kristin and Pat have gone home; the crocuses are out; Lent approaches.
In my last literary theory tutorial we discussed character and subjectivity. As with all lit theory, conversation begins with what seems like common sense and quickly deteriorates. Common sense and ‘what is obvious’ only becomes more of a target; the less evaluated an idea is, the more suspect it becomes. At any rate, the question of subjectivity – of what makes a person a person, or I an I, and if such a thing exists at all – is one I’ve been interested in for a while. It’s easy to think of yourself as a bag of characteristics, things you like, your behavioral traits and emotional tendencies. Patricia Waugh in her Metafiction writes that this is a construction created by the base (in the Marxist sense), and projected through the superstructure. It is convenient for capitalism to have subjects that can be reduced to unified tendencies, because once that subject can construct a set of…