Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just another Wednesday morning listening to the dog bark. Yet soon everything will change: within a mere couple of hours my parents will arrive, the Thanksgiving Marathon will be under way, and I am unlikely to have much time to chatter here.

Tonight's meal:  sorrel soup with sorrel from the garden, buckwheat baguettes and sourdough boules from the batches I've been baking all week, baby lettuce salad from the greenhouse. Dessert will probably be my mother's concord grape pie.

Just one writerly thought before I go: last week Charlotte Gordon was talking to me about the daily worry of feeling that her scatterbrained writer persona is self-invention and therefore fraudulent. But then, one day, she accidentally burnt out the bottom of her tea kettle because she was writing so furiously. The incident gave her a "hey, I really am a crazy writer" sense of pride, as if she had finally proven to herself that she was not a fake.

I had to laugh because this is so typical of how I feel most of the time: as if I am watching myself from the outside and the inside simultaneously. Like Charlotte, I had a weird sensation of pride--and relief--when I, too, could prove that I was a genuine flaky writer, not just a self-invented one: in my case, by accidentally driving past my exit (twice!) because I was too engrossed in thinking about Paradise Lost.

Isn't this stupid? And yet we do waste sleep on these worries. We cannot seem to help ourselves.

from Tracing Paradise, chapter 11: "Killing Ruthie"

The artistic imagination--in this case, the simultaneous ability to experience grief and aesthetically reconfigure it--is both a marvelous distraction and a guilty torment, and one of Milton's great triumphs in his delineation of Satan is the way in which he guides the reader through the Fiend's coiling artistic intellect. In the final moments before Satan, in serpent guise, accosts Eve and cajoles her into betraying God's word and eating from the Tree of Knowledge, he meditates on his mind's vivid powers, the way in which his intellect detaches itself from the event and examines it clinically, aesthetically, with a ruthless clarity.

         Thoughts, whither have ye led me, with what sweet
Compulsion thus transported to forget
What hither brought us. . . .

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I can relate as I feature myself to be a flakey, right-brained, creative teacher. Then I wonder if that is "the sin of pride", wishful thinking or reality.
Happy Thanksgiving