Friday, October 15, 2010

I know I said yesterday that I was going to talk about Milly Jourdain, and I still might, but first I can't help but exult over the acceptance letter I found in my inbox after I returned from a whirlwind afternoon of parent-teacher conferences and grocery shopping. The Southern Review, which has rejected my submissions for years, wants to publish my essay about Millbank in its upcoming special issue about Americana! Perhaps you recall my previous chatter about Millbank? It's a trashy 19th-century dime novel by Mary J. Holmes that I have reread annually since I first found it in my grandfather's farmhouse more than 30 years ago, and the essay is one of the chapters in the memoir that I'm hoping some book publisher will someday take. I'm very, very happy that the Southern Review has decided to print this piece--both because I'm excited to appear in a journal that once published a number of stories by a young unknown writer named Eudora Welty and because Millbank fills a peculiar place in my literary heart.

And now I will stop exulting and return to our regularly scheduled programming. Comments about Moby-Dick and Great Expectations are continuing to appear after my October 12 post, and Ruth's thoughts about food strike me as particularly interesting. I, too, have noticed the ways in which both novelists describe meals, and I'd love to hear what you have to say about those food references.

I also want to mention Thomas's comment on Wordsworth, which appears after my October 14 post. I think he's really on to something there, and it's a point I touched on in my Milton memoir but that is far more evident in The Prelude than in Paradise Lost. Thomas writes: "The diffuse narrative drag interrupted by the magic of certain moments of beauty perhaps echoes the lived experience of our lives--lots of slog punctuated by events that our memories can't quite shake. But maybe we don't want to re-experience that dynamic in poetry itself--we want just those luminous moments without the prose." I think this sentence is a beautiful rendering of a question that continues to haunt my reading and writing life, and I wonder what you think about this conundrum.

And yes, I have managed to come around to Milly Jourdain--whom you might call my private symbol for slog punctuated by luminosity. I haven't copied out a poem from her collection since July, and here's what she's given me to work with today. Slog or luminosity: what label would you paste onto it? (P.S. I have no idea what those dots in the poem indicate, but they do appear in her book as I've typed them here.)

A Wish

Milly Jourdain

The fog had soaked the field all day
And drops of wet hung on the trees;
Then from the west a sounding breeze
Blew all the quiet fog away.

. . . . . . .

To stand once more upon the crest
And see the earth below me lie
All dim with mist, and watch the sky
Red, as the sun drops in the west.

And in the gleam of dying light
To stretch my hands out to the rain,
And never more be touched with pain
By footsteps in the road at night.

And when I've felt again the best,
And seen the earth grow dark and chill,
To turn my footsteps down the hill
And leave it all in cold and rest.


Maureen said...

Congratulations on the Southern Review acceptance.

Ruth said...

Yes, congratulations! Regarding A Wish. I am much taken with the beginning; however, I lose patience in the middle and then regain admiration at the end.

Now a little more about the meals in MD and GE. Notice how often Pip is aware that meals with the fancy wealthy lack the enjoyment and sympathetic hospitality that he enjoyed with the convict. The exception is Wemmick's "castle" where he discovers people are often more interesting than they first seem. In MD, Flask eats, but is never sated. The whole ship is on edge at meal times. I hope some of this makes sense!

Teresa C. said...

I don't want to talk about the meals. I want to talk about Joe and his visit to London and how I wanted to whack Pip upside the head for the way he treated Joe and Joe's incredible dignity and humanity and presence. I'm up to chapter 30 in GE and I don't know where in MD because I can't put down GE at the moment.

Ruth said...

Oh I do agree, Pip's behavior bad. He has emulated the worst of the "upper class" behavior. Joe's dignity reminds me of the "savages" in MD who are far more civilized than the civilized!