Thursday, August 14, 2008

When we read..

What happens when you get online one evening, completely prepared to subject yourself to the assault of whatever irrelevant manure law school wishes to throw at you at the moment, but you end up reading Pablo Neruda and Emily Dickinson?

You cannonball into lots of Ogden Nash and Gustave Flaubert and Vladimir Nabokov, and go to sleep feeling like the aftertaste of a Christmas cake... you know, slightly annoyed and dissatisfied with the raisins and figs, excessively sweet, happy that it is well offset by just a leetle orange peel, citrusy and tart. Heady and sated by all those fumes rising persistently (and deeLISHiously) from that solemn, gigantic mass of deep, dark brown, and amused, of course, by the the discordance...the flippancy of the lone red cherry on top.

I always loved poetry, but then I choose to call very little of what I read poetry (hark all ye who write bad sad verse on their blogs) . Poets are great men, and as is the unfortunate tendency of all great men, their poetry is not consistent. Of course, this is the unfortunate tendency of all humankind itself, but the quirks of the everyman have never interested anyone, have they? ;-)

Neruda is all light and fire and touch and naked emotion, sometimes overtly wistful and sometimes not so much... I always thought his From 20 Poems of Love was very similar to Shakespeare's Sonnet 138, and I still maintain that I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You is as much a fine answer to a question as a title for a poem. :-)

You should read only a little Neruda at a time. Just when you think he is going to get cloying, he pulls back deftly, just a little bit. And after a time, you learn to watch for this... he was good, that man. Sometimes even I, postergirl of Why Bother? am tempted to go learn Spanish, if only for the pleasure of reading Pablo Neruda in the language he thought the thoughts I now read, their edges lost, no doubt, in translation.

And then you move from Neruda to Emily Dickinson, move from summer bonfire to antique crystal, music to mathematics. The contrast is very very entertainingly clear. Economical phrasing, tight meter, and quiet, delicious understatement.

Then, for old times' sake you move to Nabokov...Lolita. Someone once described to me Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red as a sort of scene within scene thing....the closest work I find to this description is Lolita. While Humbert is the essential snob, and his sharply contemptuous, unwillingly affectionate observations on everything, not least his "darling Dolores, my Lo, Lolita" are fun in a mean sort of way, they only serve to bring out the author's own contemptuous affection for Humbert himself, and somehow everything comes together to generate an almost sympathetic fascination for the trembling paedophile in the unusual reaction at best, but then the language is so effortlessly evocative that you feel almost obliged to agree with the aging sex offender's opinion. :-D

And Ogden Nash, himself, the cherry to my cake:

An Ode to a Baby

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.


The case rests. :-D


Hakuna Matata said...

Get a Tom & Jerry CD I say!

indiegurl said...

@hakuna: message got. :D