Saturday, 29 November 2008

Love has failed them

A passage from Neil Powell's "Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations", comparing a Kingsley Amis character to a Roy Fuller character:

The two days share similar rhythms and are punctuated by identical consolations. Both men, alone and dejected at the ends of their respective novels, nevertheless possess rich inner cultural and imaginative lives that are unavailable to apparently cleverer, more successful characters; love has failed them, but not the redemptive power of art. It's a state which Kingsley seems to endorse, almost with a touch of envy.

Pretentious soliloquy on a wet Brisbane summer

"oh, rain stops;
yet humidity returns,
like a thick seeping blanket
of moist asphyxiant."

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Kingsley Amis makes a discovery

I'm currently reading Neil Powell's "Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations" and was attracted to this passage, in which I sympathise with Kingsley's confused feelings:

Kingsley, at least, had a difficult lesson to learn that August, when he went on holiday to France with Hilly and their physicist friend Christopher Tosswill as decoy or mock-chaperon. Apart from worrying that they might be 'THROWN OUT of this hotel for IMMORALITY', he was 'starting to think that Miss Hilly and myself have been seeing quite enough of each other, and I want to get my life to myself again'. Things hadn't improved by 7 September: 'Miss Hilly and I have not been getting on quite so well of late: at the moment she wants me to pock her more than I want to pock her, and I am starting to think that Sir tea er tea has more or less the same effect on a young chap as fruss tray shun. There is the same wanting to be by oneself, and the same not wanting to take trouble to be nice, and the same feeling that one has let oneself down, and the same feeling that one has been caught in an unpleasant and ineluctable conspiracy.' Two interconnected discoveries - that he could have too much of the woman he loved and that she in turn might actually make demands on him - seem to have taken Kingsley by surprise. More broadly, they signalled the deep fault-line in his personality: as an only child and as a writer, he was predisposed to solitude and impatient with other people; yet he continually needed company and was terrified when alone, as well as being hopelessly incapable of looking after himself in practical terms.

Incidentally, I'm assuming "Sir tea er tea" is Satiety, as opposed to frustration. I sympathise because I have also felt this way in relationship and found the desire to be alone in conflict with the desire to be with somebody. I can't say I feel this "as an only child and as a writer", perhaps in my case it's "as a shy child with one sibling and as a reader". But the similarity remains, apart from that fact that I am far from terrified when alone.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

and another, from Mrs Dalloway

I've never read a passage that captures my own view of morality co-existing with atheism so well:

As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of these nautical methapors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners (Huxley again); decorate the dungeon with flowers and air-cushions; be as decent as we possibly can.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Current favourite quote

From Virginia Woolfe's Mrs Dalloway:

This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.