Sunday, September 2, 2007

Help! I Ate the Grand Canal.

I finished The Wings of the Dove. And by God, I think someone should hand me a cookie! If anything in this day in age deserves a cookie, isn't it traipsing all the way through Henry James? (Never mind winning the Nobel Prize or anything. Wait, do Nobelists get a cookie? If not this is a gross oversight.)

As should be clear from the incoherence above, the book is still working its way through my system. For the next few weeks, I'll probably be more than usually given to tangents, complications, and communicative uncommunicativeness.

Tangent #1: The brain as a digestive system. We all know what happens when you eat an apple: down the hatch, out the other end, with certain nutritional contributions made along the way. But what happens when you quaff Merton Densher? How long does it take the brain to process him, and what is extracted along the way? What are the indigestible byproducts of Susan Stringham, and which chapters will end up sticking to your ribs? What's the importance of a balanced intellectual diet, and what will happen if I read too much fiction? Is there a way I can lose intellectual "weight," perhaps by subsisting for a month on a Hollywood Diet of tabloids and US weekly?

Tangent #2: Confession: I've never read US weekly, never even seen a copy. But it's the magazine that writers always use to represent frivolity. So I'm really using a pre-digested symbol here, kind of like a penguin chick subsisting on its mother's regurgitated finds. In fact, if things continue as they are, "US weekly" will lose its physical anchor, its connection to the world of real objects, and begin to exist solely in the realm of language. Kind of like "tarred and feathered" or "back in the saddle."

Back in the saddle: so I finished The Wings of the Dove. Only I don't really feel like I have finished, because I'm still sifting through, sniffing the spoor, examining the tracks of one plot development or another. I'm still reading, only now I'm reading the aftermath. It's an interesting text: grosser, weirder, less complete. Like an inside-out fossil, the kind where a trilobite rested for years, wore the shape of itself into the rock.

Too much metaphor: always the sign it's time for a good dose of US.


Ellie said...

Hello, dearie.

I'm back to the land of the internetted, and have resumed reading your missives.

Blurbling about Sequoia later. For now, I wanted to drop in and encourage you to read US Weekly. Only, there isn't all that much reading to be done. Mostly, paging through a copy means looking at lots of colorful pictures. Often, there are pretty dresses.

A guy who moved out of Stone Soup shortly before I moved in left as his legacy a subscription to US Weekly, which would arrive and slowly make its way around the co-op dinner table. Sometimes living in a community of social justice activists requires an infusion of trashy pop culture. I imagine the same might be true of reading dense and heady early-twentieth-century novels.

Ellie said...

Additionally, there is a very good film of Wings of the Dove, which you should watch some time. It's got Helena Bonham-Carter in it. I watched it because Lily told me the dresses were marvelous, and she was right, but that's not all.

Here's a review.