epershand: Text: "not that we object to mountains as mountains, but we decline to subscribe to the loathsome alpine blague" (loathsome alpine blague)
[personal profile] naraht is doing a series of reviews on e-books, and her most recent one is for Christopher Isherwood's Lions and Shadows, which I am almost certainly going to nominate for Yuletide.

Naraht goes into the beauty of the book; I'll mention here its absurdity. It's an example of that thing that is catnip to me, the self-aware elitist mocking hi own elitism by playing it out to an ironic degree. For example, from the stretch of time when Isherwood worked as a secretary to a well-known violinist:

And not merely was I now a humble member of the enormous musical community ; I had my colleagues, my equals. Over the telephone, at any rate, one secretary was as good as another. We knew each others' names; we said good morning and chatted politely for a few moments before stating our business.

True, I could hardly echo the words of Miss Gibson, of the B.B.C., whose invariable formula was: "I'll just call down to the porter's lodge and find out if Mr. So-and-So's still in the building." But I did try to convey the illusion that Cheuret had to be hunted for through a whole suite of rooms; and, even when he was sitting in the opposite chair, I liked to keep the enquirer waiting for at least a couple of minutes. My particular friend was Mr. Hardy, of the Gramophone Society. We had never me, but our politeness was excessive. Picturing a dynamic middle-aged man seated amidst a sub- servient staff of stenographers, I was, nevertheless, determined not to be outdone. " Very well, Mr. Hardy," I would rattle briskly into the mouthpiece, " I'll have that typed out and sent round to you to-night . . . oh, splendid, thanks . . . Rather busy, you know . . . Yes, certainly, Mr. Hardy; I'll take the matter up with Monsieur Cheuret at once . . . Good morning. ..." Nearly a year later, we met at a concert and were introduced. Mr. Hardy proved to be a mild, agreeable, literary young man of my own age. He told me that he had always supposed me to be forty, at least.
epershand: "biting: like kissing, but with a winner" (Biting = win)
Meanwhile, my head was full of new shadowy tremendous ideas for an immense novel: nothing less ambitious than a survey of the post-war generation. Its scene was to be Cambridge, bohemian London, the Alps and North Wales... I made elaborate plans—all of them, intentionally, a little vague: for the truth was, the subject seemed so exciting, so wonderful, that I hardly dared to begin. It was much easier to draw diagrams in coloured chalks, beautifully shaded, with arrows, numbers and wavy lines, and pseudo-technical terms invented for the occasion, such as "fifth static area" or "Tommy-roger Motif bridge-passage to Welsea." I would wake up in the middle of the night to scribble emotionally in my note-book: "The treatment must be nearly pure Objective. The Epic Myth. In a sense, there must be no actual 'development.' Like gossip. Very slow-moving maddeningly deliberate genre-packed scenes. People's attitudes to their own Coriolanus-myth."

Lions and Shadows, p. 162

Ok, maybe my soul.

It makes me deeply sad that I am never actually going to write the ridiculous Ryan-as-Isherwood/Spencer-as-Auden story in my heart, because drawing beautiful detailed chalk diagrams for it is *so fun.* Sigh.

VITAL ETA: A few minutes later, on gchat... )

Not a Camera

Sunday, 3 April 2011 15:37
epershand: Photo of AE Housman (Housman)
It's National Poetry Month! I am a big fan of National Poetry Month, but I know not everyone who follows me is. So, here's a general idea of the way I post during the period:

I tend to post 1-3 times a week over the course of the month. I usually have some commentary outside a cut and keep the poem under the cut. I post out-of-copyright poems publicly and more recent poetry behind an access lock on the grounds that poets who are still working should be able to control the online searchability of their own work. If I have not granted you access and you're interested in reading more poetry, let me know and I'll add you. (Honestly, the primary use of my access filter is things like this.)

Last year I posted only poems that were themselves transformative works; I've got one major instance of that that I'm planning on posting this year, but for the most part I think I'm going to be sticking to poetry by queer poets that reflects on the queer experience, because that's the headspace that I'm in right now. Also because last week [personal profile] feverbeats posted a request for more queer poetry and I have a mountain of it to share.

I have a few dedicated tags related to the subject: poetry is the obvious one. Because of last year, the bulk of my transformative works tag is poetry-related. I also have a few tags for entries related to some of my favorite poets: Anne Carson, Catullus, John M. Ford, W.H. Auden. Apparently I have NO OVID TAG. This is upsetting, and possibly needs to be rectified this month. I also have no AE Housman tag, which I choose to believe is a sign of increased emotional maturity since moving to Dreamwidth, but which will almost certainly be changed this month if I'm really going to stick with the queer poets. (I promise though, there will be NO "Diffugere Nives", because I don't need it as an emotional crutch any more! *uses Housman icon to spite self*)

Ok, all that taken care of: a few nights ago I chanced upon an incredibly delightful Auden poem which is, you know, pretty good out of context, but is deliciously catty given the appropriate context. Especially given the attention given to the Isherwood/Auden relationship in the recent Christopher and His Kind biopic, now seems like the perfect time to pimp this historical relationship to you, o flist.

So first, I'm including a ton of context from assorted Isherwood autobiographies below the cut )

I Am Not a Camera )
epershand: A rainbow of colored pencils. (rainbow)
WOW, what a weekend. Saw lots of people briefly, spent large stretches of the weekend prone with laughter. In summary:

Woke up at 3am on Friday, slept for most of flight to Boston. Discovered lack of food at Logan Airport, hopped over to South Station for foodstuffs. Got in touch with [personal profile] yarngeek, who met me at South Station after she left work for the week. Hung out until [livejournal.com profile] eccentric_hat arrived from her plane, 1.5 hours later. Was enthusiastic about Isherwood. Read lots of Yiddish Policeman's Union while I waited.

With Barbara and Marjorie, went to Cambridge, met [livejournal.com profile] militantgeek and Joyce-who-isn't-technically-an-FP-anymore-is-she for dinner. Bid a fond adieu to Barbara and Joyce and went to see Cabaret at ART.

mini review )

We had a long distance to travel before the next morning, so we took off immediately from Boston, spent longer than reasonable trying to escape the labyrinth that is the Boston street system, and finally made our way to Concord, NH, for the evening. The late-night hotel clerk was one of those very New England middle-aged man, complete with very strong New Hampshire accent and skeptical attitude. We woke up 5 hours later and set out for Burlington. The main thing that New Hampshire affords, in addition to its beautiful vistas full of peep-worthy leaves, is very many jokes about libertarianism and the tragic demise of the Old Man in the Mountain. For instance: "Little known fact, 'live free' is New Hampshire for 'own a sawed-off shotgun.' So the motto is really 'own a sawed-off shotgun or die.'" We amused ourselves thusly until we crossed the Connecticut River (HEARTS) into the Green Mountain State.

We got to the Burlington area around 9:30 and stopped for breakfast before the wedding. [livejournal.com profile] manifesto_tea is married, guys! Wedding-type details: she wore a home-made dress and her SPOUSE omg Jaska wore a tuxedo shirt and a kilt that Katie had made. The ceremony itself was short and sweet, and then we went to the reception, which was at a farmhouse that belonged to a family friend. The reception was really lovely. We sat at a table with some of Jaska's friends and learned that J is in fact a very good egg. The dancing was contra, the sun was shining, the new spouses were charming and lovely. We mostly hung out in the shade with some of J's friends and watched the dancers, rather than participating. At the very end, before they took off for their honeymoon, K and J signed their marriage certificate.

For the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday we hung out in Burlington. We saw the Lake Champlain waterfront, and very many excitingly decorated statues of cows. We did not see Champ. Dani's dad arrived Saturday night and hung out with us on Sunday--it was really good to see him. Finally, the [livejournal.com profile] militantgeek family left Marjorie and I at the airport while they went on with their planned Maine adventures. On the way home I started reading Wolf Hall, which is just as good as everyone says it is.

And now I am, sad to say, back in the real world. Not recommended. In all, I'm glad I was able to cram so much in to the weekend, but I'm left feeling like I really need to find another time for a dedicated visit with K and J.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010 07:31
epershand: Photo of AE Housman (Housman)
Greetings from the world of "Christopher Isherwood is really addictive. What, there are things other than reading his books that you can do with your free time?"

In the last few days, I've finished both Berlin Stories and Lions and Shadows, and I'm now well into Christopher and His Kind. I'm utterly captivated by the distinction between Isherwood-the-character, Isherwood-the-narrator, and Isherwood-the-author, and the way the balance between the three changes across the books.

I was really frustrated with Isherwood in Berlin Stories, before I started distinguishing between Isherwoods, and even now looking back with the distinction I'm still frustrated, and it's his remoteness, combined with the fact that he's closeted, that really bothers me. He's watching the rise of Hitler, and a huge percentage of the people around him are ::going to die:: because they are gay, or Jewish, or criminals, and he, the (seemingly straight) white male upper-class English observer gets to waltz in, pretend he's part of their world, and waltz out when it's convenient for him. Historical Isherwood was legitimately threatened by the Nazis, and had really valid concerns about his lovers' ability to get out of the country, and when he edits all of that out he just becomes a smug observer. It particularly got under my skin when he was observing the other characters' homosexuality. For instance, all of the scenes with Baron Pregnitz left a bad taste in my mouth. Norris is clearly attempting to pimp the narrator to Pregnitz, and the narrator keeps pretending to be totally innocent and just reports all of his conversations with Pregnitz about boy's adventure novels. There's a clearly sexual nature to their relationship which comes out in every scene with Pregnitz, and Isherwood-the-author worms out and makes it look like it's entirely on the Baron's side and not his. The most famous line from The Berlin Stories is “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” But I spent the whole book paying attention to the camera and trying to figure out what was going on inside it.

That being said, one of the things I liked the most about Lions and Shadows is how incredibly callow young Isherwood-the-character is. "Oh, THAT GUY wrote Berlin Stories. It all makes sense now!" Isherwood-the-narrator clearly has more distance from Isherwood-the-character, with the net result that wee Isherwood actually gets to be a character in his own book, and he is an awesome character. He gets a giant car because it's the least responsible thing to do with his money! He writes hilarious horror stories with Chalmers! (I found out last night that he has a published collection of Montmere stories, which makes me a little sad because I thought they were a metaphor.) He gets huffy about Weston writing poetry when he is supposed to be a Man of Science and not an Artist! He has secretary-offs with other secretaries! Bottom line, I want to draw lots of sparkly hearts around Silly Young Isherwood. He's still not out here, but it's not nearly as much of an issue because he isn't wandering around being a voyeur in any lives other than his.

Which brings us to Christopher and His Kind, where the distance between the "I" of the narrator and the "Christopher" of the book is so great that the narrator refers to his younger self in the third person. (My favorite example of this is when the narrator comments that the Spender poems that Christopher liked aren't the Spender poems he likes now--"I disagree with many of Christopher's choices.") Somehow this feels like the most voyeuristic of the three. Reading it is like peering behind the scenes of the other two, being let in on the secrets of the narrators of the other books by some guy who thinks he has the right just because he wrote them and they are about him. And given the context of the other two novels, it makes me want to know what the narrator isn't telling us about himself.

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