Modernism…-isms.

“Today, two things, seem to be modern: the analysis of life and the flight from life…One practises anatomy of the inner life of one’s mind, or one dreams. Reflection or fantasy, mirror image or image dream. Old furniture is modern, and so are recent neuroses… Paul Bourget is modern, and Buddha; splitting atoms and playing ball games with the cosmos. Modern is the dissection of a mood, a sigh, a scruple; and modern is the instinctive, almost somnambulistic surrender to every revelation of beauty, to a harmony of colours, to a glittering metaphor, to a wondrous allegory.” 

Hugo von Hofannsthal, 1893.

 

The elasticity of modernity, as a thing and as a concept. Even today it is highly pertinent.

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2018 Reads

What I intend to read tends not to change so much as I seem not to be able to decide what to read; I often spend time thinking of reading lists etc and then read a little and become disenchanted. I recently started to read Ali Smith’s How to be Both, and only a few pages in I found that I was forcing myself to read it; I was ridiculously listless, mentally, whilst reading it. I was browsing the words, not reading them. So I stopped reading it and gave one last thought on what to read before firmly committing to a fiction list for this year, concentrating on major reads, that is to say, books I want to read this year but not consecutively as the list will be punctuated by other books. Thus:

The White Peacock – D.H Lawrence

The Secret History – Donna Tart (A ‘friend’ ‘recommended’ this)

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf (re-read)

Odyssey – Homer (read parts but not cover to cover; strictly speaking, not fiction)

Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov

To The Lighthouse – Woolf

I, Claudius – Robert Graves (It is on my shelf and I will try but I suspect my interest will not hold)

The Italian – Ann Radcliffe

Sons and Lovers – D.H Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence

England, My England – D.H. Lawrence

Bel Ami – Guy De Maupassant

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

The Satyricon – Petronius (I have read bits but not the entirety of it; I am looking forward to this)

The Golden Ass – Apuleius (same as above)

The Trial – Franz Kafka

Black Snow – Mikhail Bulgakov

The White Guard – Mikhail Bulgakov

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (partially read a few years ago)

Southern Mail – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Night Flight – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Daphnis and Chloe – Longus

The Age of Reason – Jean-Paul Sartre

In Love – Alfred Hayes

 

My other intent this year, is to branch out and read some Shakespeare again as I have not read any since I sat my A-levels over a decade ago. I started reading D.H. Lawrence’s The White Peacock yesterday and I intend to read Donna Tart’s The Secret History directly after; subsequently, wherever I am lead by my whims, I will go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tastes

“We are told that the study of literature ‘cultivates the taste, educates the sympathies and enlarges the mind’. These are all excellent things, only we cannot examine tastes and sympathies. Examiners must have technical and positive information to examine.”  Professor Edward Freeman, 1887.

 

A revealing quote, less about the nature of literature, more about the aims of ‘history’. In time, history acquiesces to ‘literature’ for a brief moment.

Woolf and Friendship.

Whilst reading Mrs Dalloway, a particular paragraph was impressed in my mind:

The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man. It was completely disinterested , and besides, it had a quality which could only exist between women, between women just grown up. It was protective, on her side; sprang from a sense of being in league together, a presentiment of something that was bound to part them (they spoke of marriage always as a catastrophe), which led to this chivalry, this protective feeling which was much more on her side than Sally’s. For in those days she was completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was – very absurd. But the charm was overpowering, to her at least, so that she could remember standing in her bedroom at the top of the house holding the hot-water can in her hands and saying aloud, ‘She is beneath this roof…She is beneath this roof!’

Of this type of friendship, I have always lacked a way of describing it till I read the above paragraph in Mrs Dalloway. Woolf fleshes this out with some panache. I was taken aback reading it. Woolf reaches into the psyche and lays bare not even Clarissa’s motivations but her being at that very moment of time. Sally is more than just a reflection, but a point in the world for her to pour her soul into, and love unconditionally and have no expectation of any return. It is a love somewhere between what the Greeks would call philia and agape. This feeling is seemingly ephemeral and Woolf captures that so vividly in the above passage. This part of the novella is one I may return to later.