Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reading and dreaming by Glimmerglass

The Feckless Marketer
I become one of Mary
Boxley Bullington's

exuberant people... 
Shakespeare and Sendak

Here's a clip from Stephen Greenblatt's lovely New York Times article on Shakespeare and Sendak:

But it is not in the early comedies nor in the great middle tragedies that I feel the most intimate connection between Shakespeare’s work and Sendak’s sensibility: it is in those strange late plays known as the romances. Here Shakespeare turned to stories of children stolen from their parents and then miraculously found again; stories of wicked stepmothers who take advantage of fathers in the grip of sloth or depression; stories of sudden, violent outbursts of mad jealousy; stories of terrifying loss and the sweet, autumnal experience of reunion.

During his lifetime, Shakespeare was ridiculed for this unexpected turn in his work. “If there be never a servant-monster in the fair,” Shakespeare’s rival Ben Jonson snorted contemptuously in the preface to a new play he was mounting, “who can help it?” Jonson was loath, he declared, “to make Nature afraid in his plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like drolleries.” Drolleries: it was for Jonson as if Shakespeare, near the end of his career, had started to write children’s books. But the author of “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest” did not care. He understood that to reach down to the deepest wellspring of creative power, he needed to explore the child that was still miraculously alive and intact within him. The courageous ability to plunge into that strange innermost being, as into a dark, fathomless pool, was Maurice Sendak’s special gift, and it is the indelible sign — like a birthmark — of his Shakespearean inheritance. That inheritance, so rare and so precious, commands our gratitude and our wonder, for we know that it means that Sendak’s work, like Shakespeare’s, will continue to give intense delight, long after we have all vanished, like breath in the wind.

Marly in the tower

Am I the sort of poet and novelist one pictures hunkered by the fireplace in a little tower? I'd like to live in our Kingfisher Tower, which I can see standing in the edge of frozen Otsego Lake (a.k.a. Cooper's Glimmerglass) from my writing window. At least I'd like to live there if it could be made warm and snug. I could live in Kingfisher and dream my dreams and occasionally emerge blinking in the sunlight, only to be bewildered by the mad, busy ways of the marketplace.

Why might I be that sort? Fecklessness, it seems--

I declared myself a marketing maroon yesterday. After 11 books, I finally grasp that the Amazon algorithm for sharing and promoting work depends on Amazon reviews! And that's despite having had several agents and lots of book friends and so on. That's what comes of dreaming up stories and poems in an ice hut, a snow hill, a positive igloo in Utter Boondocks. So this is a thank you to those who have posted reviews on Amazon--I was pleased, but all this time did not realize how much they mattered. I hope some of you who wrote me lovely letters or notes on facebook and twitter about my three 2012 books may wander over as well.

Capote

Did you see Kevin Helliker's Wall Street Journal article about Truman Capote's evasions and fabulations on the little matter of facts and In Cold Blood? While I find things to admire about Capote, In Cold Blood has never been one of them. For me, it is one of those books that feels like cold iron burning the soul. I read the book long ago, and would never reread.

Paula Byrne on NPR: Jane Austen

I expect Janeites will be interested in Paula Byrne's entertaining interview about her biography of Austen, traced through emblematic possessions. The biographer says that she was inspired by character Fanny Price looking over the objects--her small, special treasures--in her modest room.

Interview clip:

The topaz cross was a real-life present, it's her own cross I used, that Charles Austen, who was in the Navy, gave to [his sister] Jane Austen. ... And she repays the compliment in Mansfield Park when Fanny Price is also given a topaz cross as a present from her brother. And there's this amazing moment in Mansfield Park, when she wants to wear it to go to the ball, but she doesn't have a chain for it. And she's given a chain by Henry Crawford, and the chain won't go through. And she's secretly delighted because she doesn't like Henry Crawford and she doesn't want to marry him. And then Edward gives her a chain, and the chain goes through the cross. It's a wonderful symbolic moment. But you know, it's also a reflection of the fact she was a Christian. He didn't buy her a locket, he bought her a cross. So these objects lead us into all sorts of different alleyways...

5 comments:

  1. Lovely comments about Shakespeare, and I hope you excuse my indolence in not writing a review or two instantly up on Amazon. I am busily writing away, both at my own poems and at the stuff I may get paid for at some point (doubtful though that be). It certainly is time consuming, but makes interesting occupation for my mind.

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  2. Good luck to you, Robinka!

    Yes, I liked that way of looking at the late romances...

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  3. Sendak and Shakespeare. I'd never made that link, but yes, I can see it. How that would make the old man smile. I keep on meaning to get a copy of his last book, published posthumously, but I think I've erected a psychological barrier to doing so because it would mean I'd really got to the end, and there would be no Sendak books thereafter. It's called 'My Brother's Book'.

    One of the things that illuminated Sendak for me, was reading in The Art of Maurice Sendak by Selma Lanes (1980) that he always listened to Mozart when working. Always! I recalled that fact when I began painting myself. (Though I'm a little wider in my listening habits, I am careful about what I play.) In Mozart, Sendak ensured that the clarity and flow and balance he aspired to was all in place in the music that accompanied his daily labours. Maybe he believed Mozart's genius would rub off on him. Well, he was certainly a genius, and so maybe it did.

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  4. Ouch. Just left a long comment and had it wiped out by Google, damn it. Can't start again right now. Later.

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  5. I prefer to believe that we'll never get to the end of Sendak because rereading is the best reading...

    While I know lots of painters who paint to music, I'm not so sure about writers. I guess some do. I don't. I tend to seal out whatever sounds are going on around me so that they're distant--off in another room somewhere.Though I have written poems after listening to music.

    Your post was fine--I'm just experimenting with comment moderation as a way of avoiding spam and the struggle for middle-aged eyes to do word verification. I've had people tell me they won't comment because of verification.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.