Thursday, July 26, 2007

Conrad Questions

I commend to you Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison for explicit and implicit critiques of Heart of Darkness; I know the novel is not without its problems. It is not, however, without its truths; and neither the problems nor the truths mitigate each other.

I agree with Marlowe's reflection on work, "I don't like work--no man does, but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself." I also question:

What is so norming and saning about work? Is work a distraction from existential angst, or is such angst what rises when work stops, the way water rises when pumps fail?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Initial Responses

Unlike a house, the better one makes bread, the less it endures.

(Why DO people invent their own epigraphs?)

On a pink house in Payson, Utah was a white scroll-letter "R" cut out of wood. The house was pink because Grandma Richardson loved pink, and Grandpa must have loved her to let the outside of the house, the garage, and the workshop--not just her kitchen walls--be pink. Grandpa put his mark on the pink with "R" for "Richardson," and so there was the simple heraldry: "scroll-letter R on a field of pink"; Orion's identity and Beatrice's pure pleasure.

In a rock house in Centerville, Utah are rock-written initials: "H D" for Hyrum Drake, the first owner of the house. Mom called him "Uncle Hyrum," and he had a wife, Aunt Alice, for whom Grandma Worsley, my mother's mother, cared. The story, if I understand right: Grandma cared for Aunt Alice and in return received the house. This is not a house of squared-up rocks except at the foundation. Above a certain line, the rocks are set in cement like a smooth, knobby mosaic. The rock is not building material alone, but artistic medium. This was Hyrum's house, his initials hidden and not hidden among so many other rocks.

On a granite grey house in Madison, South Dakota, there are no initials--my modest husband would consider it tattooing his house to put a letter "M" on it. Inside the grey house this morning I made Cuban bread, slashing, as I ever do, the top of each loaf with an "M" for "Meyer." Like my forbearers, I continue alphabetic identity in a house of bread.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Rhetorical Shift and a Challenge: Compassion for Dmitri?

I continue to make payments on my 30 year mortgage with Brothers K; I am reading slowly on purpose or to good purpose, but I'm having problems satisfying these past few installments.

Here's the problem; we have shifted books; Book VII was "Alyosha"; now I am on Book VIII: "Mitya" [Dmitri].

With Alyosha there was suffering--Zossima's death and a crisis of faith; with Dmitri there is also suffering--contentiousness, internal conflict, his longing for an authentic male/female relationship, and his very ineffective way of trying to satisfy this last, very human need.

I must confess some level of impatience/annoyance with the reading right now. Is it that I am facing the banality of evil? Is it that I lack compassion? Dostoevsky seems to be creating a picture of despair and inviting the reader to feel compassion for Dmitiri, is he not? It is hard for me--and equally necessary--to accept this invitation.

I felt angst for Alyosha; I stayed up late to see him through his crisis because he was actively struggling and I wanted him to stay true--but with Dmitri, I don't see a promise of immediate enlightenment for him or me as I did with Alyosha; I tire of Dmitri's humanness.

Alyosha's struggle was compelling; Dmitri's, challenging. To appreciate and connect completely with both is, perhaps, an obligation of the readers of Brothers Karamazov.