Monday, October 10, 2011

"Unjoynt that bittern!" Etc.

A link-dump:

1. James Wood reviews the new Hollinghurst novel in the NY'er, with more irritation than liking (nevertheless it sounds very much worth reading); here is his takedown of the Henry James pastiche:
In Hollinghurst’s new novel, “The Stranger’s Child” (Knopf; $27.95), the Jamesian cadences come in peristaltic waves: “This large claim seemed rather to evaporate in its later clauses.” “This was exactly Dudley’s version too, though the cool nerve of ‘improving’ made Daphne laugh.” [...] Sex itself—specifically, gay sex—is feared by one character as “the unimagined and yet vaguely dreaded thing.” It does a writer as talented as Hollinghurst few favors to be fossicking in fustian in this way; I spent too much time, while reading this often beautiful novel, itching to write a parody of Hollinghurst’s Jamesianism. (“Ralph’s cock was small but sincere; in the afternoon’s fading light, thinned by winter’s quick transit, it seemed to Hugh almost shyly noble. The two men could hear Lady Soames’s little lacquered laugh, somewhere downstairs. . . .” And so on.)

2. Teju Cole reviews Andre Aciman's Essays on Elsewhere (Aciman is v. much a personality in my imagination thanks to Lydia Davis's story "The Walk"). Here is Aciman on the kinds of lavender:
There were light, ethereal lavenders; some were mild and timid; others lush and overbearing; some tart, as if picked from the field and left to parch in large vats of vinegar; others were overwhelmingly sweet. Some lavenders ended up smelling like an herb garden; others, with hints of so many spices, were blended beyond recognition.

3. Jeff Gordinier (who?) ends up in the Hebridean island of Luing thanks to a Don Paterson poem:
What I found tantalizing about “our unsung innermost isle,” as Mr. Paterson put it, was the very obscurity of the place. It was obscure not because it was theatrically desolate and raw, but because it was the opposite of that. It was an island that just sat there and gazed out at all the more famous islands.
I didn't know the poem -- I ought to know Paterson's work much better than I do -- and wasn't bowled over by it (the ending, I think, is off-key) but I thought this bit was rhythmically very nice:
Kilda's antithesis,
yet still with its own tiny stubborn anthem,
its yellow milkwort and its stunted kye.

4. A wonderful list of nonce words from the 17th cent. for carving specific kinds of meat. Birds, for some reason, have many of the best ones (virtually all of these have potential euphemistic uses btw):
Rear that Goose.
Lift that Swan.
Spoil that Hen.
Frust that Chicken.
Unbrace that Duck or Mallard.
Dismember that Hern.
Display that Crane.
Disfigure that Peacock.
Unjoynt that Bittern.
Allay that Pheasant.
Mince that Plover.

I also liked "tame that crab" and "splat that pike" though.

5. Two strange news stories, about sharks invading a golf course in Brisbane and about a supposed Saddam Hussein lookalike being pursued by a supposed porn gang.


In other news, work is in a heightened degree of disarray because our automatic spam filter has gone rogue, marking (e.g.) correspondence with journals as spam! I can't figure out how to turn the filtering off...

Calista reminded me yesterday of an intriguingly nasty Rochester poem that I had blogged a long time ago (scroll 2/3 of the way down) as a bridge between Herrick and Pope. (It is a post that is quite needlessly tl;dr and badly organized, I don't remember what I was thinking at the time.)


Elisa said...

I like Hollinghurst more than James Wood, at least I did last time I checked.

Zed said...

(I like the pigs-kill-more-people-than-sharks ambiguity of your response.)

Yes, but the evidence re out-of-control Henry James pastiche is kind of amazingly conclusive. "This large claim seemed rather to evaporate in its later clauses"! Of course I also like Henry James more than James Wood.

Elisa said...

I wonder if he did that in his other novels, too, though, because if so, it didn't bother me. I loved The Line of Beauty (which is obviously very intentionally Jamesian).

Much as I forgive James Merrill much for being dead, I forgive Hollinghurst much for being British, I suppose.

Zed said...

I don't remember feeling it in the Swimming Pool Library which was the first H. I read, though I might if I were to go back. I think he has always used abstractions in a way that could be called Jamesian -- but not the hesitancy or the proliferating scare quotes.

Zed said...

It is hard for me to forgive Merrill for being dead when he keeps blathering at me through the ouija board.