Thursday, June 28, 2007
Watching the pig
I'd like to post here a quote I found today in Hermione Lee's 1997 book on Willa Cather:
"She describes the struggle in a very beautiful, perceptive and famous passage about Katherine Mansfield's family stories, 'Prelude' and 'At the Bay', a wonderful example of one woman writer recognizing her own experience in the work of another:
"I doubt whether any contemporary writer has made one feel more keenly the many kinds of personal relations which exist in an everyday 'happy family' who are merely going on living their daily lives, with no crises or shocks or bewildering complications to try them. Yet every individual in that household (even the children) is clinging passionately to his individual soul, is in terror of losing it in the general family flavour. As in most families, the mere struggle to have anything of one's own, to be one's self at all, creates an element of strain which keeps everybody almost at the breaking-point.
One realizes that even in harmonious families there is this double life: the group life, which is the one we can observe in our neighbour's household, and, underneath, another—secret and passionate and intense—which is the real life that stamps the faces and gives character to the voices of our friends. Always in his mind each member of these social units is escaping, running away, trying to break the net which circumstances and his own affections have woven about him. One realizes that human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life; that they can never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is half the time greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them. In those simple relationships of loving husband and wife, affectionate sisters, children and grandmother, there are innumerable shades of sweetness and anguish which make up the pattern of our lives day by day, though they are not down in the list of subjects from which the conventional novelist works." "
According to Lee, Cather made a great deal of use of actual people, things and events, all woven into the texture of her fictional worlds. I am reading this book now because a friend is reading Lee's current book on Edith Wharton. Ordering this book, I saw what good reviews Lee's biographies of Virginia Woolf and Cather had also received. I ended up ordering all three plus a second book on Cather. It will be a feast of literary biography; that should help keep me from doing any writing of my own for a couple of weeks.
I just read some advice to blog in the morning, when you are fresh, but don't plan to follow it.
at 8:35 PM