Whence it so happened that Descartes left tracks in
John Bunyan who impressed his mind on the way
to William Blake, decent soul that he was. Long ago
we were said to have souls, that mysterious interior
invisible, unknowable. And then things changed.
It was not God so much as that a new burden of knowing
came to be ours. This knowing no bloodless rule, no abstract thing.
Blake no Age of Reason pontificator: “To Generalize is to be an Idiot;
To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit,” Blake wrote.
And here in this, he particularizes, oh how he particularizes.
Christian physically bound in his reading.
Blake kindles hot the near insanity of the meeting,
As his very soul looks right into the physical.
Christian hunched over, hovering, wild eyed.
A look nearly of terror and unearthly joy woven into
the silent shouting shock of reading alone like this.
That bunch of heavy brown modern bears his back down.
Like a hunchback leering, Christian is peering,
Like a frozen loner where Christian has never gone before.
“It is so new,” he says “I am all alone.”
So alone he can’t sort himself out to see
how surrounded he is by dangerous sharp points behind.
Brown peaks assault him from afar, vulnerable as he all be.
This new man, making progress on this new journey of himself.
He is reading in his book. Reading like taking a deep plunge
into the visionary unknown Blake so admires:
“The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel’d to heaven is no artist.”
And the person who does not get hysterically lost doesn’t start to see.
Wounding, piercing brown ochre colors and open slopes
mark Christian in his place as new man trapped in himself.
Christian’s gasping face besieged by what Dr. Johnson,
early psychologist, once called “the invisible riot of the mind.”
Christian knows too much to voice any of it.
He is all lit up with himself and it. So hauntingly, quintessentially alive,
with a new thing, himself and words to see,
that we would offer him a smoke to ease the strain of his face, if we could,
alleviate his face and quiet his burden with a shared smile.
I am delighted to let you know that Linda Chown’s Narrative Authority and Homeostasis in the Novels of Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite(Routledge Library Editions: Modern Fiction) is now available through Amazon in hardcover and Kindle. Linda tells me a budget-wise paperback edition will be available in six-to-eight months.
This study, originally published in 1990, assesses a shift in the presentation of self-consciousness in two pairs of novels by Doris Lessing and Carmen Martín Gaite: 1) Lessing’s The Summer Before the Dark(1973) and Martín Gaite’s Retahílas (1974) and 2) Lessing’s The Memoirs of a Survivor (1974) and Martín Gaite’s The Back Room (1978). Three major structural divisions facilitate examining implications of the novels for 1) feminism 2) literary narrative and 3) the lives of people-at-large. / J.D.
LINDA E. CHOWN grew up in Berkeley, Ca. in the days of action. Civil Rights arrests at Sheraton Palace and Auto Row. BA UC Berkeley Intellectual History; MA Creative Writing SFSU; PHd Comparative Literature University of Washington. Four books of poetry. Many poems published on line at Numero Cinq, Empty Mirror, The Bezine, Dura, Poet Head and others. Many articles on Oliver Sachs, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Twenty years in Spain with friends who lived through the worst of Franco. I was in Spain (Granada, Conil and Cádiz) during Franco’s rule, there the day of his death when people took to the streets in celebration. Interviewed nine major Spanish Women Novelists, including Ana María Matute and Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martín Gaite.