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Monday, August 08, 2011

Railroad days: A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage

Photo by Nate Miller
 Love you will find only where you may show yourself weak without provoking strength.

--Theodor Adorno

Normality is death.
--Theodor Adorno

Clare Dudman reminded me of Adorno in a comment, and how now and then it flits through my head that I really must read him. I'm always seeing quotes from him and thinking that I should. But not today. Today and tomorrow and maybe Wednesday I shall be hoboing with A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, streaking over that familiar landscape one more time. (I know that I said one last time once recently, but this time really is the last ride--turning the final copy in this week.) I plan to have my eyes wide open and not to be "riding the blinds." Having a little age on it, the manuscript now feels like something written by someone else, and so I don't have much trouble being ruthless...
Photo by Jim Kevlin

So for now I have picked two Adorno quotes that have relevance to the book, the first to the events of the book and the second to the protagonist, who flees from an image of what he believes normality to be.  Once strength has been thoroughly "provoked," is it ever possible to find a place where one can be "weak"? Of course, a little quote like the second one is a kind of rabbit-hole because "normality" is such a slippery item.

After that, I shall be making some more plans for The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, 2011), writing new poems I trust), and working on other forthcoming manuscripts.


  1. Oh, hello!
    (being my first reaction when your blog post opened up in my browser).

    my experience with normal is that it ain't what it used to be.

    'til then, penguin...

  2. Went to "more plans" but found nothing about your book or books. RE: "normal," what's that?

  3. Good luck with the week's' work, Marly! (I like the haircut - it's shorter than when I was there, yes?) And haven't read Adorno either but he Keeps. Coming. Up.

  4. zephyr,

    My, we are wafting in a silly mood today!


    Hmm, maybe that was a little misguided. Just throwing in an indie bookstore link...

    Yes, what is that?

    Thank you, Beth--
    Since yours is some of the work I want to get to, highly appropriate of you to encourage me!

    Yes, shorter (and wetter in this picture.) I was looking at fall 2009 Cambodia and Thailand pictures where my hair is below the shoulders: don't know what has gotten into me. Been inching up. No pixie for me, though.

    He does keep. Coming. Up. Doesn't he?

  5. Love the pictures! Good luck with it all. I love that moment when something you've written has been sitting long enough for you to be brutal. I've found that moment leads to clarity and then a better piece. Or either a more complicated problem to fix. Overwhelming and rewarding. Here's some more luck, in case you need it.

  6. Robin,

    Yes, that's exactly right! I find lots of little things, but I am pondering one bigger issue and whether it is all right or not all right. I'm leaning toward all right, but it may be sheer laziness putting a bag over my head...

  7. Who could blame you for putting a bag over your head when there are so many manuscripts to deal with? But there is a certain satisfaction in being brutal and cutting away to see the beauty below.

  8. Robbi,

    I have done something slightly peculiar in the area of point of view--that is, the handling of it changes. Purposefully, of course. But one's question is always whether the thing works,not whether one did it on purpose or not.

  9. That first quote is stunning and comforting, too. I'm lucky enough to have experienced it.
    I'm eager to learn more about the Work in Progress. Your last comment made me smile.
    I think you're the most industrious, bursting-with-talent person who never looks like herself in photos I know. In fact, I don't think it. I know it.

  10. Laura,

    I shall appoint you my photographer! You're right; I take odd pictures and often think them nothing like me... Some people love the camera and some don't! I put that one up because people asked to see my chopped-off hair (that's the still-wet version.)

    Yes, I think that first quote is brilliant, so true. In a way, it governs the manuscript I'm polishing--it has the drama of losing that place and then groping without quite knowing what one is doing toward finding it again.

  11. Normal? Shnormal. Overrated. :P :)

    On another note, I love your snazzy short 'do.

  12. Thanks! Although Laura says the rest of the picture looks like somebody else...

    I agree, although I am afraid certain recent encounters have reminded me that there is a good kind of not-normal and a less attractive kind.

  13. The first quote has me thinking. I am going to think about that for a long time.
    The second one... less so.
    Normality is ordinary, it is not death - unless the 'ordinary' is deadly, which it is not. Ordinary is what makes the world go around. We ride on that.

    Haricut - Very chic, Marly!
    Manuscript - Isn't it lovely when one can go back into the forest and see the landscape anew? Pruning is sometimes healthy. And planting, too!

  14. Paul,

    Yes, I really love that one. The other it is hard to think about out of any context, I suppose. We tend to thing of Babbitry or suburbs or giant screen t.v.'s, but I don't really know what was intended,not know context.

    You're right, ordinary time and ordinary routine are what help me get work done. If life is too extraordinary, then one can't try to make anything that is...


    This is light pruning, so far. I am doing a certain amount of taking out and putting back in, which means one is about done.


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.