Get Clucky!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Very literary

One of the ongoing petty arguments B. and I have is about whether there is a useful difference between the novel and the epic. I say there is, and I am right, more or less. I was discussing this last night with a professor, who didn't like _Lord of the Rings_ and I suggested the Hobbit as a more novel-ish antidote to the swashbuckling _LotR_ (not to belittle the swashbuckling: I love swashbuckling).

So here's the followup: this morning I rewarded myself for a very long day yesterday but letting myself stay in bed to finish reading _Eragon_, this trendy young-adult fantasy novel which is fine, but which I wouldn't reccommend. (It tries to be swashbuckling, but falls way short). It is about Very Epic things, like finding your destiny and fighting an evil king while you mind-meld, Spockishly, with a dragon. Anyway, I finished it, it was fine, and then I went to sit on the porch to reread some parts of _Jacob's Room_ which I needed to review for a paper I'm revising. I needed to trot off to the library, but couldn't resist: what better than reading Woolf on the porch, with newly-planted pansies, and a cup of tea?

I sat and read, abstractedly. The dog trotted out, sniffing the world and the porch and curled up contentedly with a stick. She gnarbled on the stick, and I read:

"Outside the rain poured down more directly and powerfully as the wind fell in the early hours of the morning. The aster was beaten to the earth. The child's bucket was half-full of rainwater; the opal-shelled crab slowly circled round the bottom, trying with its weakly legs to climb the steep side; tryng again and falling back, and trying again and again."

I looked up and saw that, in her gnawing enthusaism, the dog had pushed her stick half off the porch's edge, and it was precipitously near falling down three stories to the porch of our cranky neighbor who works at home and holds a grudge. So I went to fetch the stick, and found that what had so intrigued the dog as she sniff sniffed the world was the small carcass of a baby bird, pushed from its nest in the rafters above, and now dead and half-covered by the haunch of my soft-coated, enthusiastic, dog.

Woolf writes:

"It us thus that we live, they say, driven by an unseizable force. They say that the novelists never catch it; that it goes hurling through their nets and leaves them torn to ribbons. This, they say, is what we live by--this unseizable force."

but also this:

"...as we lift the cup, shake the hand, express the hope, something whispers, Is this all? Can I never know, share, be certain? Am I doomed all my days to write letters, send voices, which fall upon the tea-table, fade upon the passage, making appointments, while life dwindles, to come and dine? Yet letters are venerable; and the telephone valiant, for the journey is a lonely one, and if bound together by notes and telephones we went in company, perhaps--who knows?--we might talk by the way."

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