Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Twa Trillings


Of the twa Trillings I think I prefer Diana. She gave me a good laugh this morning when I read an extract from her The Beginning of the Journey. She was in her bed sick watching Lionel pushing the carpet sweeper one handed in a desultory fashion.


I would lie in bed, torn between guilt and impatience. It was unfair for him to have to do the housekeeping, it was not what he was supposed to do, but if he had to sweep the carpet, could it not put both hands on the carpet sweeper instead of gliding it about this loosely and aimlessly? I corrected him; he got angry. My criticism embittered him: Was he not already doing more than anyone had a right to expect of him?

Her claim that she taught him how to write is credible; just go from reading The Liberal Imagination to Matthew Arnold as I did. The former has sentences which have a flatness that could be used like a machinists surface plate in the testing of academic prose. Of the latter I thought, this is good, open, clear, non-recursive. She rewrote it for him it seems.

Lionel taught me to think; I taught him to write ... In a society such as ours, where despite the efforts of feminism, women continue to be treated with less generosity than men, I realise of course that whereas my statement that Lionel taught me to think will be received without a murmur, I put myself at risk by saying that I played a role in his literary accomplishment. In fact, I recently tested the response which I might expect to this bald assertion: I tried it on an old friend, the editor of a magazine to which Lionel and I had contributed. He made no attempt to conceal his displeasure. ‘How could you teach Lionel to write?’ he asked irritably. ‘He was a better writer than you are.’


There is a low peevishness to his criticism in The Liberal Imagination. In his mean essay on Sherwood Anderson he admits that he liked him when he first read him as a lad. Good, fine, splendid but a few pages later he remarks that when he lately re-read Winesburg, Ohio him he found he liked him even less. It’s the ‘even’ which suggests a correcting of an immature response. The source of this daft Orwellian critique appears to be Sherwood’s denouncing Henry James as a writer for those who hate. But I love James therefore ...... Even Boyd who wrote a harmless introduction to the Modern Library Edition must be disparaged. And why: Reading my own copy of that edition I see:

The rise of a serious periodical literature, whose virtue is neither the eternal negation of conservatism nor the mere success of immense circulation, is part of seems to be a genuine literary renascence in America.
(Boyd)

An impugning of the New York Intellectual's mission is not to be borne. The worst sort of provincials are those who never leave the city. I will move on to Mrs. Harris by Diana and the Diet of Love that didn’t take.








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