"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Who's Afraid? Fear Not!

A WRITER, ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONOUS
"Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully
in what is commonly thought big than
in what is commonly thought small. . . .
Down, down into the midst of ordinary things."


1902 & 1927
George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902 - RestorationVirginia Woolf 1927

Rest in Peace Virginia Woolf:
25 January 1882 ~ 28 March 1941
"I am now galloping over Mrs. Dalloway. . . . The reviewers will say that it is disjointed because of the mad scenes not connecting with the Dalloway scenes. And I suppose there is some superficial glittery writing. But is it 'unreal'? Is it mere accomplishment? I think not. . . . it seems to leave me plunged deep in the richest strata of my mind. I can write and write and write now: the happiest feeling in the world." ~ Virginia Woolf, December 13, 1924

**********************

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,

Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renown├Ęd be thy grave!


Shakespeare
from Cymbeline (Act IV, Scene 2, 2656 - 2689)

The opening lines of this Shakespearean song are quoted
several times by Clarissa Dalloway in Woolf's novel:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages.
(13)

"Fear no more," said Clarissa.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun.
(44)
. . . the world seems to be saying "that is all" more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.” (59)
. . . she repeated and the words came to her,
Fear no more the heat of the sun.
She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night.
(283)

Google Doodle on Woolf's 136th Birthday

**********************

Sometimes the connections are all about connections.

Armin van Buuren:
"Everyone’s connected but no one is connecting."
from the song: "Alone"

Joan Didion:
"In this light, all narrative was sentimental. In this light
all connections were equally meaningful and equally senseless.
"
from the essay: The White Album

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
"If there's the slightest connection,
it's worth thinking about.
"
from the novel Player Piano

Donna Tartt:
"What held me fast . . . was the element of chance:
random disasters . . . converging on the same unseen point . . .
You could study the connections for years and never work it out
-- it was all about things coming together, things falling apart,
time warp . . . a way of seeing things twice, or more than twice.
. . . a field awareness of unseen patterns. . .
" (305)
from the novel The Goldfinch

Annie Barrows
"In books . . . things were connected; people did something
and then something else happened because of that.
I could understand them. But outside, here in the real world,
things seemed to happen for no reason that I could see.
Maybe there was no reason.
" (374)

"Did most girls my age feel the way I did, as if the people
I thought I knew had turned out to have a thousand little tunnels*
leading away from the face they showed the world? . . .
The buried parts, now, they were fascinating but ominous, too.
" (128)
from the novel The Truth According to Us

Virginia Woolf:
"I should say a good deal about The Hours [later entitled Mrs. Dalloway]
and my discovery: how I dig out beautiful caves* behind my characters:
I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humor, depth.
The idea is that the caves shall connect
and each come to daylight at the present moment.
"
from A Writer's Diary
~ Thursday, August 30, 1923 ~

*I'm also seeing a connection here between Woolf's "beautiful caves"
and Barrows' "thousand little tunnels . . . fascinating but ominous"!

**********************

The previous year, Woolf had written:

"Mrs. Dalloway has branched into a book;
and I adumbrate here a study of insanity and suicide;
the world seen by the sane and the insane side by side
-- something like that. Septimus Smith? is that a good name?"

~ Saturday, October 14, 1922 ~

And in 1998, film critic Jack Kroll wrote:
Mrs.Dalloway's day is climaxed by her party, Smith's by his suicide. But these contrasting events are two parts of a symbolic whole, Virginia Woolf herself. Mrs. Dalloway is a Woolf without the genius, while Smith's fate prefulres the troubled Woolf's own suicide in 1941 [on March 28th]. In her notebook Woolf wrote, 'Mrs. D seeing the truth. SS seeing the insane truth.'"

from "Down in the Upper Crust:
Virginia Woolf's Landmark Novel Dazzles on Screen"
in Newsweek, March 2, 1998

**********************
In conclusion, only last month I was dismayed to find this trivializing assessment (an opinion I suppose shared by many) of Clarissa Dalloway's immersion into the details of one perhaps ordinary yet fateful day. In a book about teaching that I otherwise liked very much, Heather Kirn Lanier writes:
"In college, I'd spent my years studying the narrative stances of Virginia Woolf, appreciating the relative plotlessness of Mrs. Dalloway a book in which, let's face it, not much happens."
Au contraire! For Woolf's characters, it is a day filled with grief, intropsection, tension; and enlarged understanding. Oh dear. One does not throw a party -- nor encounter death in the midst of that party -- everyday. Still, though, I was touched to read that Kirn Lanier's students mistook her black and white postcard of Virginia Woolf to be "some great - grandmother of mine" (47, 77).

Virginia ~ Woolfpack

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, April 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading ~ "Makin' a list, checking' it twice . . ."
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Not to be Devoured

A WORLD WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
"An Indian artist gives final touches
to a painting on street walls
on International Women's Day in Hyderabad, India,
Friday, March 8, 2013."


Read More About
International Women's Day & Women's History Month

This fortnightly post is a belated tribute to last week's International Women’s Day, observed around the world every year on March 8th ("Beyond #MeToo, With Pride, Protests and Pressure").

A few months ago, my brother Bruce sent out the following query:
I am presently working on a Congressional campaign, doing some writing for news releases, social media, etc. I've been tasked with drafting a statement on the MeToo sexual harassment / assault phenomenon.

As a sixty-year old, white man, I have never been sexually accosted in any manner. I am the father of two 20-something daughters, and I'm sure they've both dealt with this. But I have no firsthand experience.

I am reaching out to women who I know, and whose opinions I respect, to ask this question: What would you want your member of Congress to know, and what would you want them to say, about this issue.
My answer:
Since you are looking for general concepts rather than personal narrative, and for a direct response to the MeToo sexual harassment/assault phenomenon, I think what I want my member of Congress to know / take seriously is that to some extent all women live in fear.

Although I don't recall the source, I've never forgotten something I read a few years ago on the topic of racism -- that, no matter how irrational it was, in the United States the face of fear is Black. I remember thinking at the time, "No, not true." For women, the face of fear is Male. Men can so easily hurt women physically and so often do. This knowledge modifies a woman's existence at all times. It governs her emotional outlook, her comfort level, her behavior -- when home alone, getting in a car, going for a walk, entering a parking garage or a stairwell in a public building.

Yes, a certain amount of caution for all humans is always a good idea, but too many times for women it becomes a self - limiting factor, closing off options ranging from simple enjoyments to serious employment choices.

You know me, I have to include a literary example, this time from the Brazilian author Clarice Lispector's short story "The Smallest Woman in the World," about the pygmy Little Flower. Lispector describes Little Flower's primal fear of being devoured, and her relief at so far being spared this fate: " . . . the ineffable sensation of not having been eaten yet . . . Not to be devoured is the secret goal of a whole life." The towering explorer who comes to take notes and write an article about Little Flower and her people does not exactly understand this; but, as a reader, I got it right away.

For a woman "the secret goal of a whole life" is to not be assaulted, attacked, or violated. If you can make it through without that happening, then lucky for you. Maybe someone stalks you but never actually touches you. Whew! Maybe someone touches your privates against your will but never actually rapes you. Whew! See what I mean? The fear is always there. And to merely set the bar at the level of women being able to congratulate themselves and say, "Well I guess that wasn't so bad" or "it could have been worse" is too low.

What would I want members of Congress to say, about this issue? I want them to say that threatening women just because you can is wrong. I want them to say that our goal in this country is a cultural and social environment in which we all feel safe, regardless of how we are built.
My MeToo
For me, it was stalking stalking by a nasty old creepy chemistry professor at the University of Arkansas? Standing outside my classroom watching me teach, giving my students the heebie - jeebies; following me around the grocery store; stopping me on the sidewalk and staring at my chest; ringing my doorbell at 10:30 pm. He knew where I lived, and he seemed to have figured out what I was doing every hour of the day. It was a scary semester. My gut told me, Be afraid; be very afraid. And I was. There, I feel better for having said all that.

PS. No, he never touched me.

PPS. Perhaps a little off topic, but not entirely: there was also the time in high school when a few friends and I all received some obscene phone calls at our houses. It happened shortly after a group picture of us had been in the local paper, so we thought maybe some weirdo had seen it and somehow looked up the phone numbers of the girls in the photograph. Strangely enough, the upshot at our house was that I got in trouble from my mother for somehow "causing" the obscene weirdo to call our number! What???? I was way more traumatized by my mom's reaction than I was by the phone call.
SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, March 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com