two unrelated quotes. no. three?

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sarajevo, 1914. Shortly before he is assassinated, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand finds the reception hall he is standing in crammed with the half-million beasts he has killed in his career as a hunter:

“One can conceive the space of this room stuffed all the way up to the crimson and gold vaults and stalactites with the furred and feathered ghosts, set close, because there were so many of them: stags with the air between their antlers stuffed with woodcock, quail, pheasant, partridge, capercaillie, and the like; boars standing bristling flank to flank, the breadth under their broad bellies packed with layer upon layer of hares and rabbits. Their animal eyes, clear and dark as water, would brightly watch the approach of their slayer to an end that exactly resembled their own.”

Extract from Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (with an assist from Geoff Dyer’s Guardian UK review of the same).

*

“… One can see that, far from enacting an easy ironic resignation, Dyer is really a late Romantic, a flâneur out of Rilke (but with a vinegary English dash of Kingsley Amis), eager to experience as much as possible, to travel and fall in love and meet new people, and wary of writing and reading, because, although they preserve such experience, they do so at a mimetic remove. The problem for the Romantic is that, in order to have anything to write about, he has to live—i.e., not be writing. Not for nothing is D. H. Lawrence, the savage pilgrim, Dyer’s great model.

So Dyer has spent much of his life on the move—London, Paris, Rome, Oxford, New Orleans, New York—and much of his best writing has been prompted by travel. He approaches this humorously in “Out of Sheer Rage,” but the English larkiness cannot obscure the intensity of the feeling. Once, he writes there, he found himself walking on a North London street, the road where Julian Barnes lived: “I didn’t see him but I knew that in one of these large, comfortable houses Julian Barnes was sitting at his desk, working, as he did every day. It seemed an intolerable waste of a life, of a writer’s life especially, to sit at a desk in this nice, dull street in north London. It seemed, curiously, a betrayal of the idea of the writer.” To spend one’s life writing is a betrayal of the writer’s life: Dyer knows this is a lunatic paradox, that even Romantics have to sit at boring desks and write, but he would rather have his battered paradox than Barnes’s clean coherence.

… This religious self-emptying might seem an unexpected turn in Dyer’s usually hilarious and worldly work. But in fact the metaphysics of boredom lead naturally to the metaphysics of shanti. In the earlier books, Dyer’s characters failed to write not because they were indifferent to writing but because they wanted too much to write. Negative liberty expresses a fear of completion; if you never start a work, then at least there is no chance of your having finished it. To complete something is in some ways to make it disappear; not starting it is a preëmptive strike against loss, a way of elegizing what has not yet disappeared. … Time is what completes us, and time is what forces us into the endless repetition that is boredom and the tyranny of habit. Travel, sex, and drugs—Dyer’s recurrent interests—are ways to cheat time, are moments out of time.”

The NYker ponders Geoff Dyer.

*

Wait! There’s more!

“I am always on the edge of what I am doing. I do everything badly, sloppily, to get it over with so that I can get on to the next thing that I will do badly and sloppily so that I can then do nothing — which I do anxiously, distractedly, wondering all the time if there isn’t something else I should be getting on with. … When I’m working, I’m wishing I was doing nothing and when I’m doing nothing I’m wondering if I should be working. I hurry through what I’ve got to do and then, when I’ve got nothing to do, I keep glancing at the clock, wishing it was time to go out. Then, when I’m out, I’m wondering how long it will be before I’m back home.”

Geoff Dyer, in Out of Sheer Rage.

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