Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Stony places

At the LRB, Michael Wood on T. S. Eliot (with whose poems I was utterly obsessed from ages 11-13 or so - I have just been thinking about it as I spend the evening in a mesmerized trance of reading Jo Walton's excellent forthcoming novel Among Others, which is appearing too long a time from now even to have an Amazon link but is basically what you would get if you tailored Graham Joyce's The Tooth Fairy to be exactly the book that would most speak to me in the world, or at least to the grown-up version of my childhood self, complete with allusions among many others to Mary Renault, Josephine Tey, Anne McCaffrey, Plato and Tiberius/Sejanus courtesy of what I assume is Robert Graves):
[Eliot] tells his brother about ‘the kink in my brain which makes life at all an unremitting strain for me, and which is at the bottom of a good many of the things about me that you object to’. ‘Life at all’ is pretty amazing, and makes me think Eliot would have liked Hardy’s work better if he had paid attention to a poem like the one that begins: ‘For Life I had never cared greatly,/ As worth a man’s while.’ Of course kink and caring are different, but the sheer dissident simplicity of thinking that life is either all a strain or an acquired taste is certainly striking. Eliot’s description of himself as ‘within measurable distance of the end of my tether’ combines distress with elegance.

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