Saturday, May 28, 2005

Suzanne Zelazo, Atwood and Virginia Woolf's childhood home

You too can spend a weekend at Woolf's childhood home and pine not to go the lighthouse, but "for" the lighthouse. It seems that soon enough the lighthouse will be put out of commission. (See post below).

I have been reading Suzanne Zelazo's Parlance again, and I think it's great. Particularly the first series of prose poems. The language is just so surprising. She has a response in here to Woolf's To The Lighthouse, and it's interesting, but for me not as sparkling as other parts of the book. It's a fragmentation of the narrative, and in a way satisfying in terms of its reconfiguring--certainly it's successful, it just doesn't please me as much as the rest of the book does. For instance, the beginning of "Missplit":
"Wetted ashes the body pretends. The flag a
dismal delirium. Aiming towards empty.
She falls. How grand after death. Lunation
toiling monumental impermanence..."
Or "Coehill":
"A pyramid in reverse. My echo sees itself
coming. Hesitation. This is his own hap-
pening. Make a move and get out of here.
The delta opened its soft mouth and took
you in..."
Wonderful prose line--so firm. I'm not sure why I hesitate with the "Through the Lighthouse" section. I wonder about the choice to make the fragments so ordered, I suppose. And I wonder too about the coiffed feel of the fragments. More like beach glass than shards, but again, it's a success I would say, a wonderful response to Woolf.

**Update note. I see that I will have to reread Selazo's "Through the Lighthouse" in light of Jackson Mac Low. More on this in the coming weeks.

Here Margaret Atwood wonders how she could have been so wrong about To The Lighthouse:
Why go to the lighthouse at all, and why make such a fuss about going or not going? What was the book about? Why was everyone so stuck on Mrs Ramsay, who went around in floppy old hats and fooled around in her garden, and indulged her husband with spoonfuls of tactful acquiescence, just like my surely boring mother? Why would anyone put up with Mr Ramsay, that Tennyson-quoting tyrant, eccentric disappointed genius though he might be? Someone had blundered, he shouts, but this did not cut any ice with me. And what about Lily Briscoe, who wanted to be an artist and made much of this desire, but who didn't seem to be able to paint very well, or not to her own satisfaction? In Woolfland, things were so tenuous. They were so elusive. They were so inconclusive. They were so deeply unfathomable.
I had often wondered whether Atwood had ever read Woolf.

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