||[Jul. 24th, 2004|08:01 pm]
Well, I polished off the Hours in the course of an afternoon. When was the last time I did that I wonder? |
So, it must have been good? Yes, indeed. And part of the charm is that it's a literary parlour game and you're continually patting yourself on the back for recognizing a quotation, an allusion or a subtle variation. Whee, aren't I clever.
But even without that it would be a pretty good novel. It's moving, perceptive, clever.
Tricky too; tricky in the way a detective story is tricky, springing surprises by misdirection and sleight of hand (which is something Woolf doesn't even try to do.) As a piece of novelistic craft it's up their with the best.
So it's a marvellous book, but it's not a work of genius and Mrs Dalloway is. Mrs Dalloway resists Cunningham's act of homage. He critiques, he imitates, he celebrates but he hasn't taken the town. It's still there, still flying its own flag. By his assault he proves it to be a work, like Hamlet, that can survive its interpreters.
In ever respect, good as it is, the Hours is the lesser book; more explicit in its morality, more conventional in its psychology, altogether less weird and mysterious. And the writing, though beautiful, isn't as incandescently beautiful as Woolf's. Clarissa Vaughan's morning in New York chimes with Clarissa Dalloway's morning in London step by step, but the one is a brilliantly willed tour de force and the other is the greatest and most sustained stretch of ecstatic prose in the English language.
Oh go on. Let's invite Oscar in. Let's have a party!
Well; having so blatantly given away the source (which was, at any rate, rather obvious), I might as well quote it straight:
"I know what pleasure is," cried Dorian Gray. "It is to adore some one."
"That is certainly better than being adored," he answered,
toying with some fruits. "Being adored is a nuisance.
Women treat us just as humanity treats its gods.
They worship us, and are always bothering us to do something
Of course it is true; this too was written by a demi-god, allthough one that is very different from Ginny.
I was thinking this morning, apropos V Woolf and the modernity of her writing, that Oscar was perhaps the first thoroughly modern man.
Touroughly Modern Molly, so to speak... However the sense of the title "modern" is always open to discussion; modernism started, in many respects with the renaissance view of the world, and eras such as the early Victorian times might be seen as an analepsis in the suzjet of time... (God; how pretentious am I?)
Well yes, you can keep pushing modernity back and back and back. But Oscar, it seems to me, is just about the earliest historical figure I can think of who would be entirely at hime in our culture of sexual freedom and celebrity. He would, after all, be the ideal and most sort-after of chat show guests.
Well; is sexual freedom modern as such? Firstly it has existed long before the modern period, and secondly one could argue that the peak of sexual liberation in the 1960es and '70es was part of the transition to postmodernism. Somehow the sardonic, dionysian qualities of free sex seem to contrast the essentially apollonian qualities of modernism per se, but this might just be because I tend to mainly interpret modernism through it's architectural manifestations. (Spent two years at a school of architecture, and it has left its marks...)
Anyway I actually agree with you, so I am just splitting hairs for no appearent reason!
I'm using "modern" loosely. Meaning no more really than "what's happening now"- which includes post-modernism.
Every society contains its antithesis. So, yes, the chastity of modern design conflicts with the messiness of sexual freedom. In the same way the rigidity of Victorian morality was in conflict with the floweriness and excess of Victorian art and architecture.
Oh, but I would dare to say that the Victorian architecture was very much a sign of rigid thinking and contemporary architecture a sign of a more fluent and organic approach; Victorian architecture really did not, in its theoretical aspects differ from the older styles. The victorians might have been ornate, but there was a certain rigidness as to which styles could be used where, and even within the styles the ornaments would more or less be catalogue specimens, taken either from existing buildings or from books. In this respect there isn't too much of a leap back to Palladio in the 16th century and Vitruvius from the 1st century, who both wrote manuals on how to design buildings and both created something akin to an iron-mongers catalogue...
contemporary design and architecture has to a large extent rid itself of such "cataloges" (Well; let's not get into le Corbusier here...), and architecture now seems to be a much more "liberal" art, so to speak. It might appear more chaste than victorian architecture, but it is also indefinitely more free.
Interesting. I hadn't considered it that way. I was just thinking about the ornament. I'm off to bed now. But I'm going to take this up again in the morning.