Monday, February 12, 2007

Blessings on you all!

Bless all of you for commenting on yesterday's post. I was so irritated by work today that to find a couple of comments on a single entry in my inbox just perked me right up. There is a reason for living!

The Victorian Publishing and Mrs. Gaskell's Work is drier than I had thought it might be. Why do university press monographs always seem to suffer from such deadly seriousness? But here's an interesting quote from the Introduction:

The elder Mrs. Jenkyns (Deborah), who champions the literary merits of Dr. Johnson over the talents of popular upstarts, opines, 'I consider it vulgar, and below the dignity of literature to publish in numbers'. Here Gaskell's wit is self-directed, since she herself like Hood and Dickens published in numbers. Serialization was often censured for being cheap (commercial rather than whole and artistic) and fragmented...The intervals between arts created enormous gaps, both spatial and temporal...destroying artistic integrity...But these spaces that from one point of view were thought unused ("virgin") were found by readers to be highly productive, granting them increased agency in forecasting, interpreting and discussing an ongoing literary work.

Puts me in mind of the reader discussions that are currently on-going as to how J.K.Rowling will finish up the Harry Potter series, come July.

And from the closing pages of Armstrong's Short History of Myth:

If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest.

And from the Introduction of Heart of Darkness for which JenClair evinces a great fondness, comes this quote from a letter written by Joseph Conrad himself,

"The only legitimate basis of creative work lies in the courageous recognition of all the irreconcilable antagonisms that make our life so enigmatic, so burdensome, so fascinating, so dangerous, so full of hope."

Which explains to me why novels and myths are so closely tied together.

Lest you worry that you are reading too much or immersing yourself in frivolous forms of fiction, think of it instead as working out bits and parts of your spiritual self -- and we don't care whether it was published in serial "numbers" form or in books.

And I thought I'd let Mary know that I'm making progress through Mullen's How Novels Work. It's quite good and worth the time she said she needed to find in order to sink into it.