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 )

(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.

(no subject)

Sunday, 6 June 2010 08:09
epershand: An ampersand (Default)
I keep being obsessed with Auden's Christmas Day poem to Chester Kallman.

Because it is in you... )

In the last six months I've fallen head over heels into Fandom: Mid-Twentieth Century Artistic Queers Who Hung Out With Christopher Isherwood. It started with Britten, spread to Auden, and I am dangerously close to dropping everything and running to pick up a copy of Berlin Stories so that I can be genuinely fannish about Isherwood, not just fannish about Isherwood via Cabaret. I'm still trying to figure out if Blitzstein, who I have adored since high school, gets to come and play in the fandom despite having been KILLED BY PIRATES in the 30s. (No really!)

Part of me wants to put of a Crack-Van style summary of them, but that seems just silly. I am pretty sure that Isherwood would be the little black dress of the fandom, because he brought everyone to Hollywood and got them all jobs working on motion pictures. Auden is the suave slightly older fellow, being much more out than everyone and pushing them onward into decadent gay lifestyles. Britten is the perpetually young, perpetually repressed golden boy, who everyone seems to have had a thing for. Sadly, Blitzstein is too busy getting killed by pirates to hang out with anyone but jerky Brecht.

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