Saturday, July 31, 2010

B & B

Our bed and breakfast in Manitou Springs - the Blue Skies Inn - was (like very many such establishments) a curious mixture of the over and the under-stated - seriously over stated rooms, decorated by Sally, one of the owners, with much energy and enthusiasm (ours was full of stars and moons and astronomical bits and pieces, many adorning the deep blue walls, which in their turn were covered with fine shooting stars). This is part of the bed hangings, which looked as though it ought to be a kitsch honeymoon bed - indeed, Weddings now seem to be the mainstay of the whole business (we stayed there five years ago, and there was breakfast in the back yard, rather than a gazebo and soggy yellow rose petals). On the other hand, microwaved cheese souffles and - I suspect - packet-mix muffins each morning wear a little thin - we skulked off to a Starbucks up the road to get some drinkable coffee, too. B&Bs are such a gamble ... but this one did have wonderful quiet (until the earthmover, behind, started up at 7 a.m. on the weekdays) and great views up the Pikes Peak foothills. And a bear, last night, in the garden, eating chokecherries.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Horse


This large tin horse stands in the weeds at the side of Colorado Avenue, just north of Old Colorado City. He's mounted on some kind of mechanism as though he was once a bucking bronco in a bar, or a kids' ride at a fair. And he was here five years ago (curiously, I'd remembered him as a much smaller tin horse, despite having taken photographs of him then, too), just down the road from where Alice's great uncle once used to live, in a house which is now covered with rusty Mexican tchotchkes and talavera plates and earthenware suns and large pots and a suit of armor and metalwork cacti and rusting tin armadillos. Everything - including the house itself - is for sale.

Only now the horse looks even more sad and desolate, and someone has stuck these Blind Side stickers on his nose. I would love to be able to buy him and cart him off in a U-haul truck, but this really would be a decidedly impractical adoption scheme, even if I think he'd look rather good under the orange tree in LA.

I'm very much looking forward to going to the exhibition of photographs of sculpture at MOMA - reviewed in today's NYT - it seems to be absolutely my kind of thing - lots and lots of slightly quirky images of the inanimate looking almost alive - like the horse, galloping through blue flowers.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

more street art


This seems to be a very large goose, flying down a business building in Downtown Colorado Springs. I'm not sure why. I also can't imagine what it's like having a corner office there - not the usual prestigious location, when one's view is half obscured by a painted wing and a talon. I think it belongs to the firm, rather than being a further contribution to municipal street art (which at this point of Tejon Street largely consists of brightly painted butterflies on stalks, or as one might anticipate, a large statue of Spencer Penrose, who might as well have had the city named after him, for all the influence that he's exercised here.

Penrose, and the Tutt family. The morning was spent in the Tutt library of Colorado College, the afternoon in the basement of the Pikes Peak Public Library (with wonderful archivists), reading microfilms made from faded print - the library situated across from Cascade and Kiowa, where the offices of the ill-fated City Building and Loan Company were located.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

spore

I'm not quite sure why the lawn outside the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs should be littered with these large purple spiky balls - we wondered what they were, naturally, and the title seems to be Spores. I should have written down, of course, the artist responsible, but I can only remember that the local arts council person responsible was rather appositely called Christopher Weed. It is possible that we ourselves are covered with spores of various kinds, having spent the day in the archives of the PM, reading newspapers from 1931/2 which crumbled under our hands, and then repairing to the Evergreen Cemetery to check out the presence and absence of certain gravestones. This is my kind of research ...

net



I wish we could have seen this lit up at night ... Janet Echelman's sculpture is high above the street outside Denver art museum. Since we got in late last night, and, not having a password, I couldn't post, and we have only just got the internet code (ah, the intricacies of B&Bs - but this one is spectacularly good, so look for pictures, later...) I copy shamelessly from the Denver Art Gallery site. Go visit, if you're at all within reach ...

The City of Denver asked the artist to create a monumental yet temporary work exploring the theme of the interconnectedness of the 35 nations that make up the Western Hemisphere. She drew inspiration from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's announcement that the February 2010 Chile earthquake shortened the length of the earth's day by 1.26 microseconds by slightly redistributing the earth's mass. Exploring further, Echelman drew on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) simulation of the earthquake's ensuing tsunami, using the 3-dimensional form of the tsunami's amplitude rippling across the Pacific as the basis for her sculptural form.

The temporary nature of the Biennial and its accelerated timeline precluded the artist's use of a permanent steel armature, as employed in the artist's previous monumental permanent commissions. Instead, "1.26" pioneers a tensile support matrix of Spectra® fiber, a material 15 times stronger than steel by weight. This low-impact, super-lightweight design made it possible to temporarily attach the sculpture directly to the fa├žade of the Denver Art Museum, and this structural system opens up a new trajectory for the artist's work in urban airspace.

Monday, July 26, 2010

piano man

I'd heard about the pianos that have been left around Manhattan waiting for people to play: I hadn't realized that they are a more common urban phenomenon than that, this summer, and that I would encounter a number around Denver's 16th St. Mall. Most of the music being played made for good listening - that is, this guy was playing something classical; a more decrepit looking character, later, on another piano, was producing some pretty funky jazz.

16th Street, and the park at the end of it, before one gets to the State Archives and the Public Library, is full of quite a number of decrepit and derelict people, and it was sobering to move between them and the folder that I was reading this morning full of appeals to the Governor at the time of the Great Depression, wanting him, in particular, to do something about pensions for the elderly. Or "Penchons" - my graduate training was helpful when it came to the basic palaeography, but it hadn't prepared me for US phonetic spelling - the "git"s and the "bin"s. This was, really, Alice's Colorado Springs research, and my vacation - I so very much love burrowing in archives in true archive-rat fashion ...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ludlow


Back in 1913-14, Ludlow, in Southern Colorado, was the site not just of a major miners' strike The strikes throughout Southern Colorado centered on unionising efforts, which in their turn had to do with the way in which the coal companies were handling the influx of miners from Europe and Asia. The companies refused to recognize the United Mine Workers' union as a negotiating body; the miners went on strike, leaving the mining camps, and living in tent cities - the largest of which was very near Ludlow. Militia units were set up, watching over the striking miners (far from peaceably, on both sides). On April 20th, 1914, colonists and militiamen started to fire at each other; women and children colonists took shelter in the cellars below the tents; a deserted tent caught fire - or was set on fire; the tent city caught alight - and two women and eleven children suffocated to death in a cellar. Five strikers, two other young people, and at least four militia men were also killed that day.

That, at least, is the brief version. A monument was erected in their memory in 1918, designed by Hugh Sullivan (about whom I know nothing, but the style is very reminiscent to me of designs commemorating labor disasters - like the people who were killed making the St Gothard tunnel - in Europe: a style of heroic worker (there is a standing miner to the left of the woman on the monument), plus, here, suffering woman. The figures were (inexplicably) decapitated and de-handed in 2005, so these heads and hands are in fact substitutes, but they are nonetheless very powerful, standing on the edge of bleak mining country (looking much like South Wales), with dark storm clouds overhead.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

fruit bowl


I am extremely fond of this bowl, which cheers me up even when it just contains a brown spotted banana and two slightly tired limes. It originally came with me from England (thank you, Dinah ...), lived for a few years in NJ, and now is totally happy in Santa Fe. This was about the only spot of sunshine today - I'd thought of going into town to Spanish Market, at which, over the years, I've taken some of my favorite photographs - but the day turned very dark and stormy and wet.

Friday, July 23, 2010

storm near Stanley

I came back from UNM library this evening (yes, it is probably crazed to go to a library that requires a 150 mile round trip, but it coughed up some useful books, and as a bearer of a NM drivers' license I can have borrowing rights) by a slightly longer route than usual since the rainclouds looked so dark over I-25 - so I went down I-40 and then up NM41. This passes through a near ghost town, Stanley - once a little ranching center. And on the outskirts is an abandoned pale turquoise gas station that I've always been meaning to take a picture of - and the storm light was so good tonight that I stopped to do so ... this isn't even the best shot, quite, but that one had a large raindrop blurring the lens.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

granola

Here is a large pan of golden granola, cooling on top of the stove, ready to be put in containers for our research trip to Denver / Colorado Springs next week, just in case they don't gave food in Colorado. It's quite delicious - the only thing that worries me is that I now seem to be getting my recipes, as well as my fix of academic news, from Inside Higher Education. This particular one came from Mama PhD: - I followed it pretty much to the letter, though added some pecan nut bits as well. I totally recommend ...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

fish pot


This is a turquoise-ish pot that we bought at Indian Market a couple of years ago - I can't now remember, to my chagrin, from what tribe its maker came - not a local one, for sure, but one from somewhere up in Nebraska or maybe Oregon. I think. But maybe I can check, this summer - I've just found that the 2010 Market, happily, is the weekend before we leave town. I've lodged a dried Chinese Gooseberry pod in it - if I stretch the analogy like stringy putty, I could make this fit the piece that I've been struggling with writing all day, on Pauline Johnson's Legends of Vancouver, Edward Curtis's In The Land of the Head Hunters (his 1915 movie), and Indian encounters and compromises with modernity. This is, indeed, already in existence as a conference paper. Or I thought it was - it seems very situation-specific, and also to be only about 1,500 words long, whereas the article should reach quite a bit further than that. It's strange revisiting my Transatlantic Indian (or in this case, just white - Indian transcultural) arguments, when I've of late been so immersed in the world of flash photography, and of other flashes - some of which are, at long last, flickering around the horizon outside in the form of lightning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

saving water


Out here in Eldorado, there isn't a lot of spare water. Granted, we aren't yet under water restrictions, as we have been for quite a few summers, because it was such a wet winter. But the habit of saving water is still very much with us (though not yet, this year, to the point of putting a bucket under the shower until it starts to get warm). We have four large rain barrels under the canales - the wooden gutter spouts that jut out from the roof, and which pour with water after thunderstorms - and this rather ugly plastic tub under the tap from which the hose runs, so as to capture all the drips. It also, obviously enough, captures dead beetles.

Water is a big problem. It comes from community wells (unless one has one's own well). There's a proposal coming up at the county development review committee on Thursday for a 73-lot mobile home park just south of here - apparently this is a local landowner's attempt to get round the planning regulations that stopped him (ostensibly because of water issues) building cheap homes on this land a year or so back - land that's just outside Eldorado's own carefully regulated boundaries. Does one want a huge mobile home park a mile or so down the road? No. Does one feel like a NIMBY elitist saying so, when so many people can't afford decent housing of any kind in NM? Of course. Is there any way of reconciling these two positions? Doubtful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

broken


Another broken piece of jewelry. Not badly broken - this necklace by Edward (who in another dimension is also our wonderful hairdresser) is easily salvaged with the aid of a steady hand and the plier thingy on my Swiss Army Knife. But why is it that I seem to leave a trail of broken necklace clasps and semi-detached bracelets behind me? And that's before I get to the earrings that somehow get stuck in scarves and detach themselves on flights never to be seen again, or those that are scavenged off and taken under the bed to be used as cat toys, or that I put in a Safe Place in a toilet bag when traveling, and that, with luck, I rediscover six months later. And that, in turn, doesn't account for the occasional piece of pilfering - like the favorite pendant that disappeared from the Carolina Inn last week - together with - or rather, on a different day from - my iPod and, more mysteriously, half a packet of (allegedly) revivifying bath salts. There is a limit, I feel, to the number of items that one can carry around with one all day (and no, the room didn't have a safe). Harrumph.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

fading flowers


This is truly the summer of fading flowers - though these ones (daisies, bought yesterday in the market, and already emitting an odd smell that had me wondering if something had died in an undisclosed place) owe less to Jude than to the temperature. I think it only went up to around 106 today.

Seeing Winter's Bone - very much recommended - had me wondering what Hardy's Wessex would have looked like if meth had been available: would Jude have succumbed to it rather than heading for the bottle when things got bad? Or, to put it in a less fanciful way, can one compare rural poverty today with rural poverty a hundred plus years ago in any meaningful way (let alone transatlantically)? This had me hurling myself at Amazon to see what's been published about US rural poverty recently - which seems to focus (as one would expect) on the decline of agriculture as a productive enterprise, and on the intensification of class divisions, between those who have power within a community and those who have not - the latter then feeling as though they have no investment in "the community" itself. But Winter's Bone seemed to suggest the continuation of bonds that lie (for both good and bad) within the idea, though not necessarily the ideal, of family - not least with an older sibling driven by a far tougher sense of responsibility to look after her younger brother and sister (yes, I know they are all older, but one can hardly see Father Time growing up with such a sense of teaching the younger ones self-sufficiency). I guess, therefore, that despite the film's bleakness about the Ozarks, there is, still, a powerful and driving sense of a future within it.

And nothing bad happened to any cats, or dogs (so if you haven't yet seen it, do not worry about them: their vulnerable appearance, early on, was just one of the film's visual clues that was never followed up on). Squirrels, now - that's a different story ...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

pelican totem


The Santa Fe Railyard - just by the Farmers Market - has grown a perfect piece of protest art: a pelican, made in the form, more or less, of a totem pole; its wings and body made out of the detritus of the oil and auto industry; its beak upraised in pain and complaint to the blue sky. There was no immediately obvious indication of its sculptor, though there was a little hole in it - like a money bank - and some small scraps of paper, and one's invited to post a message, a prayer, a request, a complaint, a howl of despair at BP.

Friday, July 16, 2010

feline affection


The dialogue runs something like this:

LucyFur: Emmett - love me ...
Emmett: No.
LF: Emmett - please love me ...
E: No. Go away.
LF: When I was a kitten, you were given some kind of pill, and it turned you into Emmett, Mr Mom, and it made you nice to me.
E: Huh.
LF: Emmett - please love me ...
E: Forget it.

Punctuation? I think that Lucy's tail is a question mark, today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

jumping through hoops

... is one way of describing the experience of editing a long, long 33-chapter volume. I thought that I had sent it all off happily some months back, and the next time I'd see it would be for copy-editing. But no. Seemingly (and any contributor who is reading had better start groaning now) there is another stage first: a kind of post-editorial, pre copy-editing stage, where the whole manuscript gets returned to the editor who realises that yes, she was meant to ensure standard British punctuation throughout (and today was the first time ever that I learned that in the US - or should that be U.S.? - a comma goes inside quotation marks, which is where I comfortably place them, and in UK style, it goes outside. That holds true for quotations, for titles of articles in footnotes ... and there went some ellipses. Ellipses that have a gap before ... and after, rather than running straight on from the word that they follow. It goes without saying that UK quotation marks are single, and not double, as in this country. And so on. There's only a relatively small number of actual editorial queries, compared with all this punctuation, but the sheer matter of re-positioning commas is going to keep me busy for quite a while. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

poppy

Having decided that yesterday's weasel who turned up on the terrace had to be called Pop(py) for obvious reasons, there was, alas, no repeat appearance. So I had to turn the flash light onto a conveniently available Iceland Poppy instead. It's not entirely clear to me why this plant, native to North America and parts of Asia, should be called the Iceland Poppy - and the "origin of name" / "folklore" sections are boringly left empty on the Iceland Poppy wiki (who, in any case, would have thought there was such a thing?). I had fantasies of a William Morris expedition, bringing back the rare seeds on a little shaggy pale fawn pony, with a couple of attendant sagas, but no such luck. The most interesting thing that I can find out about it is that each flower head only splits open in one place - and that's not exactly enthralling information...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

suspended

somewhere in the near-dark, at the front of the house, is this little cheap wind chime, which came as a freebie with something, although I can't remember what ... it's hanging making the tinniest of small sounds, compared with the solemn, heavy, large chime next to it, and isn't something that we'd usually pay much attention to. But we were dining out front, so as not to disturb the nesting bluebird (or for that matter, the weasel), and so enjoying a different view ...

I seem to have started taking pictures of things that can be suddenly startled into existence by a flash in the dark. This could, I think, signal a long-overdue return to the supposed main topic of my research - a concept that hasn't seen too much light of day for a good few months.

Monday, July 12, 2010

rural North Carolina

... at least, my brush and pen holder will have to stand in for it, because I found myself hopelessly lost whilst driving through it in the dank drizzle this morning - missed a turning (understandable, since I hadn't realised that the road I was looking for had changed its number) and found myself in a strange hilly land, with helpful people speaking the thickest of rural dialects. Memory Lane gave way to Pet Memorial Road. I would have loved to have stopped to take photos of people's very rustic mail boxes - including a number in the shape of tractors - but I was so anxious to reunite with I-40 that I pressed on (eventually arriving in Winston-Salem - not quite my original plan, but it worked...). So I am back.

barn

Newish barn, even newer moon-and-sun hanging, and older lichen on a tree - all part of a most desirable and tranquil day, and not a hint of Jude the Obscure style crow scaring all morning: the afternoon, by contrast, was completely shattered time and again by gun shots from some local farm...

evening walk [June 10th - bonus!]

Few things are better than an evening walk at Manesty - Tim (my 2nd cousin) and Susan's farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains - with crickets and various frog or crow croaks round about, and stars coming out in a clear sky, and wild flowers looming up out of the dusk...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

perspective

A picture of the day? So early in the day? A shiny corridor at the Carolina Inn, receding into the pale yellow distance ... The Jude seminar being over, I am heading for the hills for two days, where I will be off the grid completely - so tomorrow's post will be retrospective. Meanwhile I'm just aiming for quiet, and contemplation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

piggies

I have absolutely loved my Jude the Obscure seminar - and I hope that they all had just as good a time. One can't discuss Jude without discussing the porcine ... and here, in a little bag of goodies that the seminar members gave me at dinner, were three perfect pink rose-smelling soap pigs. If any of them (the seminar members, that is - not the pigs) are reading - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

skyping

Of course, the better image ought to be the one after I turned the flash off - but in it, Alice had her eyes closed and looked as though she couldn't possibly be more bored with what I was saying... Ah: the late night rituals of hotels (tonight, after dinner out, and then with the seminar group in the bar): skyping and posting, and without a moment (seminar, film, etc) today to draw breath to think properly about when to take a photograph. Photographs, incidentally, play as good a role in the Winterbottom film of Jude as they do in the book: I particularly like the black and white opening of the movie, and the recording of the Marygreen school class by the itinerant photographer: it hints at the role that the memory of Jude's formative years plays - latently - later on. But it's such a strangely cropped movie in terms of cast and plot - no dead Jude (though he looks very consumptive by the end); no remarriage to Arabella; no Widow Edlin or Vilbert. Much more sex, a New Woman Sue who's rarely seen without a cigarette (though bereavement cures that nasty habit) - and so - why throw a pig's heart rather than a pizzle? Mystery.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

jude the happy

Well, maybe that would be too much to ask for. But there is something of the carefree laborer (maybe, though, given the helmet, a miner or a railroad worker, not a birdscarer or a stone mason) about this bust, sitting on a verge just outside Weaver Street Market, in Carrboro, and proximate to an old railway carriage made into a not very appealing looking bar/restaurant. Since the temperature was 103 at the time, I didn't stop to linger.

But could Jude have been happy? This is what we'll be attacking as a question tomorrow - via the first chapter of Sara Ahmed's The Promise of Happiness (and mingled up with issues to do with the object of happiness, and the place and nature and affects of objects in the novel). We moved towards it today when thinking about temporality and the book - noting how, if it had stopped at certain moments, it could have looked like a "happy ending," but - well, Hardy always moves on. We ruminated on the connection between this, and him turning writing lyric poetry, rather than fiction - a form that lets the past and present coalesce into one moment, rather than demanding, awkwardly, that this process be carried on into an imagined and unfulfilling future. So I guess the answer is - no, he couldn't - not once caught up in Hardy's inexorable fictional momentum.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

close reading

When I was a Fellow here at the National Humanities Center, of course my bookshelves were greedily crammed with books that I'd ordered through their library loan system - books that I chewed my way through in order to find out that the five-page proposal that I'd arrived on, and with, was not exactly viable as a book. Indeed, not even remotely viable ... though out of that experience of contextual reading emerged, at last, the schema that is slowly turning into Flash! - albeit a new proposal that itself periodically undergoes a makeover.

It's very good for me, by contrast, spending all week on one text, close reading it, thinking about The Text on The Page (with a few historical and literary dives outside into other directions), adding in one or two general, theoretical pieces of reading (Andrew Miller on ethics, reading, and the cult of self-perfection, and Suzanne Keen on empathy and the novel are tomorrow's accompaniment). And then Luke Menand and I get to hold forth and answer questions about The State of the Profession, a topic about which he knows a great deal and I feel as though I just have some recycled bits of gloom from the Chronicle to offer - but I'm going to make a determined effort to read Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors tonight, in case it sparks off a less Jude-like frame of mind. I doubt it, from my early incursions into it. At least I can link the week's fictional text to today's overall climate of educational pessimism, somehow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

beds


Beds have a very selective appearance in Jude the Obscure. People - Jude's great-aunt Drusilla, Jude himself - take to them when they are sick or dying. The seventy young women in the Melchester teacher training establishment lie in their cubicles, their tender feminine faces upturned to the flaring gas-jets - but the narrator, although mildly, condescendingly voyeuristic here, only really stops to gaze, like the mistress in charge, at Sue's empty cot. People sleep in armchairs, put bedding on the floor. When Sue arrives dripping wet in Jude's Melchester lodgings, it seems like in even in - especially in? - a very confined space, the narrator, and characters, will look every which way but at the bed - except when Jude thrusts Sue's drying clothes underneath it, out of the sight of his landlady. Sue visits Phillotson, sick in his lonely bed, and uses the mirror to show him the glowing sun, and pats his pillow - the nearest she can come to intimacy at this point. Beds and sex? The narrative always stops on the stairs, or with a euphemism - Jude kissing Sue on one side, and then the other, and then rebolting the front door. This is all, I think, a little more than necessary Victorian self-censorship: it's Hardy flirting with his reader, and with her or his interest, or rather curiosity about sex - not unlike the can't-help-herself flirtatious Sue.

My hotel bed is not remotely flirting with me, except as an instrument for sleeping in - I am quite unbelievably tired, after our excellent first seminar session ...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

peripatetic

I guess Jude was always packing up his things - at least, it's the most physically restless of novels, yet not, now I think of it, remotely connected to the picaresque tradition, despite Hardy's insistence that the novel owed more to Fielding than to Zola. I'm not so sure... I managed to be peripatetic even within the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill: I simply could not see myself spending six nights in the first room that I was placed in, despite its luxurious bathroom. Now I have something bigger, longer, more garret-like, more conducive to thinking.

And I found (reading onwards) the perfect quotation to go with yesterday's expiring kale. When Jude and Sue talk in the market hall at Melchester, "they walked up and down over a floor littered with rotten cabbage-leaves, and amid all the usual squalors of decayed vegetable matter and unsaleable refuse." I'm deeply glad to be spending a week with an elusive text, but need some sleep, first. It's strange to start off the day at one end, more or less, of I-40, and then find oneself driving along it at the other,

Saturday, July 3, 2010

dead vegetables

One of this summer's resolutions-fulfilled has been buying a composter - and also a sweet little metal miniature garbage can, with a filter-protected lid, to sit on the counter top by the sink. So we dutifully recycle every last flower stalk and rotten pear and, yes, leaf of wilting kale. Then we rotate the compost maker. Apparently we need to add lots of brown stuff (i.e. what? dismantled Amazon boxes? - coffee grounds, which look brown enough, are actually "green," since they emit nitrogen). To be honest, when I added and spun today, all that seemed to be happening was that we've bred a lot of fruit flies. We need, at some point, to buy some Red Worms, which are bred, precisely for the purpose of efficient composting, somewhere in Eldorado. Watch this space. I fed the last of the mealybug worms to the mockingbirds today - a treat - because the life cycle had progressed somewhat, and four or five of the little grubs had transubstantiated into, unsurprisingly, some rather angry mealybugs.

How to fit this in to Jude? I guess when Jude rented the lonely roadside cottage, so that he could have the profits of the vegetable garden, and Arabella could keep her pig, that the pig must have fattened up on something - probably elderly, unsalable, inedible kale.

Friday, July 2, 2010

dead flowers

One of the worst moments in Jude the Obscure is ... no, that is hardly a good beginning: there are so many worst moments. One of the moments that most haunts me is when Jude and Sue and the preternaturally ancient child, Father Time, go to the great Wessex Agricultural Show, and linger in the flower tent, which is like a palace to them. Sue - albeit with her usual wry grudgingness - owns up to being happy - not a word one trips over all that often in the book. Father Time refuses to yield. "'I am very, very sorry, father and mother,' he said. 'But please don't mind! - I can't help it. I should like the flowers very very much, if I didn't keep on thinking they'd be all withered in a few days.'"

By his side, Eeyore looks like a 24-hour party person [yes! deliberate Michael Winterbottom tie in - he both did the (depressing) 1996 film of Jude and the Manchester club scene movie of that name...]. What I didn't know till today was that this was pretty similar to Hardy's own reaction to going to the 1891 Royal Academy exhibition and looking at "the fair spring and summer landscapes ...'They were not pictures of this spring and summer, though they weem to be so. All this green grass and fresh leafage perished yesterday; after withering and falling, it is gone like a dream.'" This is from Florence Hardy's Life of TH - i.e., his autobiography - which for whatever strange reason I've never read before. I can remember thinking, many decades ago, that it looked very long. Which it is, but it's also compelling - a writer's notebook of every strange, quirky thing that he noticed - miniature stories, poems, vignettes - and I think it's going to have to come with me to North Carolina.

By the time I get back, this flower will doubtless have perished. Nonetheless, as the picture testifies (ah, Barthes, etc), it's here now, preserved briefly in a shot glass. And as Hardy wrote on 27 January 1897 - a great argument for alertness to the present, and not being like Father Time: "To-day has length, breadth, thickness, colour, smell, voice. As soon as it becomes yesterday it is a thin layer among many layers, without substance, colour, or articulate sound."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

pathetic fallacy

It's sometimes hard, in New Mexico, getting one's head around to the problem of teaching Jude the Obscure - and teaching it for a week! especially when I'm at the point with it when I just regard it as a contrarian text, and feel that its whole point lies in giving a shape - a neat map - to pointlessness. Maybe Nietzsche would make for some happy airplane reading (though I'm thinking that Sara Ahmed's The Promise of Happiness should offer some good counterpoint that I might want to employ during the week). My current puzzle is - why should one read Jude? And/or - what kind of pleasure might it give?

It's certainly good on weather. So is Hardy, in general. It started to pour in deadly earnest this evening (just after I'd watered the yard, to be sure), and only by a superhuman effort did I remember, just in time, that my muscle strain wouldn't thank me for pushing one of the rain barrels round the back into a more effective place. This one is positioned pretty much dead on target. I'd been feeling like a Hardy character all day (as in Ch 4 - "But nobody did come, because nobody does" ) - not that I was expecting anyone, not even FedEx delivering something from Amazon - more of a general dark brown gloom state of mind - and then suddenly, with the thunderstorm, it was as though ions - or whatever - had started to race through the air and I'm back to normal again. All the same, I challenge Jude to offer an upbeat week next week...