I wrote down everything I read and began writing my own first novel...

This blog aimed to contrast what I was reading in in 1975-79 with the same month, week and day, 30 years later in 2005-2009. I'm leaving the blog up in archive mode, blogging in real time on Live Journal--and still writing novels.

Lynne Murray's Live Journal and Bride of the Dead Blog

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jane Austen, hell, heaven, and perfume

I won’t go into exhaustive detail about why, but I’ve had enough of a disruptive month that I’ve been communing with Jane Austen (and a little with Virginia Woolf) these past few weeks. I don’t do images much—but I’ll share with you an image that paradoxically helped me stay sane.

Money and the lack thereof are an issue Virginia Woolf dissects so brilliantly in A Room of One’s Own.

Jane Austen also considers women’s issues around money in all her works, as she said in an 1816 letter: “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony.”

While coping with my own employment drama the past few weeks, I found it useful to think of some of the things Virginia Woolf did to support herself before she received the famous liberating inheritance that she wrote about in the aforementioned book.

"I earned a few pounds by addressing envelopes, reading to old ladies, making artificial flowers.” A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I must report that for the old and broken among us, the employment opportunities are somewhat, although not vastly, improved since she wrote those words in 1928. I seem to have found a momentary harbor, so I am now calm enough to write this blog.

But to get back some of my strategies for staying sane while losing sleep over survival issues. I read (and re-read) only three books. (Contrasting with 14 books I picked up in 1977 in the same space of time, with an even shakier personal life, but coasting on youthful vitality!) I also visited ther DVDs of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, um, more than once.

Why were these so uniquely comforting? Of course, there is sex—or should we say the heartfelt portrayal of youthful passion.

The Republic of Pemberley website provides the graphic I referred to in the first paragraph. It's the last item of their FAQ:

What is "The Look"?

Get ready.

I was surprised to find that it was the same image that caught my attention. Why should I be surprised? It’s the Bluestocking version of the money shot. But it’s a bit more than that.

The actor and filmmaker’s recreation of the intoxication of young love is like a distillation of the scent of flowers. Spring has gone, but an artfully created perfume stirs a chord that resurrects spring flowers in the heart and mind.

Jane Austen’s books go one better. She re-creates on the page, not only the pleasure of intimacy achieved, but also the satisfaction of integrity rewarded.

That’s the paradox of art. Jane Austen didn’t have that ideal partnership in her life. She never married and died at age 38. I can only speak for myself in saying that at 58 I would contemplate with dismay the vast drain of time and energy that a fulfilling partnership would entail. Of course, a happy ending is just a snapshot in a long story.

Young love pierces our souls (as Frederick says of Anne's words in Persuasion) because it depends on the exquisite sensitivity of innocence, inexperience, ignorance, call it what you will. That naiveté has a season and it does not come again, Botox notwithstanding.

Robert Frost put it well:

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of- was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

. . . .

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

To Earthward by Robert Frost From “New Hampshire” 1923.

Well, Frost did seem to have a little S&M thing going there that’s only marginally relevant to what I’m mainly talking about, but never mind. He’s right about how complex things become, and how it catches our breath to remember how simple they once seemed—and perhaps were.

From February 8 to March 11, 1977 I read:

Thirty years ago I had just moved twice in the space of a few months (down to Los Angeles from San Francisco. Then out of the Culver City garage apartment I first landed in, to a more serene studio apartment in West LA where the cockroaches came as single scouts--not in battalions), and was sailing on a questionable sea of temp work. Yet I managed to read or attempt 14 books.

Midnight Baby, Dory Previn

The Psycho Sqaud, William W. Crain

The Romeo Error: A matter of Life and Death, Lyall Watson
Note: couldn’t finish in time – had to return to library. Will try again. (note—so far haven’t, but then it HAS only been 30 years)

The 9th Annual Best SF: 75, Harry Harrison & Brian W. Aldiss, Ed.

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Donal Spoto
Note: AH is a Leo- Aug 13! Very fascinating book. I also guessed correctly by the author’s use of the adjective “tenebrous” that he was French.

Tricks and Treats: an anthology of Mystery Stories by the Mystery Writers of America,
Joe Gores and Bill Pronzini, Ed.

Something’s There, Dan Greenberg

The Voices of the Guns, Vin McLellen and Paul Avery

The Aliens, Ed. R. Silverberg

Tetrosomy Two, Oscar Rossiter

The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh

The Documents in the Case, Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace

Journey, Robert and Suzanne Massie
Very painful to read, medical students’ disease-I vaguely remember that this book was about a couple coping with spinal cord injury, but I could be wrong.

The Blue Knight, Joseph Wambaugh

From February 8 to March 11, 2007 I read:

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
With some attention to the excellent introduction Penguin Classics edition by Tony Tanner that among other things, speaks to the idea of “the dream of Pemberley” that so many women have mentally inhabited since Austen built the place.

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf

Persuasion, Jane Austen