And so begins the period of aimless wondering. I have cleaned, ironed, been running, watched two seasons of The West Wing, and begun to diminish the book stacks. Still feeling somewhat directionless, I set myself the task of putting together another edition of Just for Fun Friday: Writers on Writers, working through the wonderful Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola, edited by Gary Dexter, to pull out some more favourites. Proving, once again, that no group throws insults like the literary-minded.
Voltaire on Shakespeare:
“Englishmen believe in ghosts no more than the Romans did, yet they take pleasure in the tragedy of Hamlet, in which the ghost of a king appears on the stage. Far be it from me to justify everything in that tragedy; it is a vulgar and barbarous drama, which would not be tolerated by the vilest populace of France, or Italy.”
D.H. Lawrence on Charlotte Bronte (this is a really weird one):
“And I’m sure poor Charlotte Bronte…did not have any deliberate intention to stimulate sex feelings in the reader. Yet I find Jane Eyre verging towards pornography and Boccaccio seems to me always fresh and wholesome […] Wagner and Charlotte Bronte were both in the state where the strongest instincts have collapsed, and sex has become something slightly obscene, to be wallowed in, but despised. Mr Rochester’s sex passion is not ‘respectable’ till Mr Rochester is burned, blinded, disfigured, and reduced to helpless dependence.”
D.H. Lawrence on Walt Whitman:
“This awful Whitman. This post-mortem poet. This poet with the private soul leaking out of him all the time. All his privacy leaking out in a sort of dribble, oozing into the universe.”
William Faulkner on Mark Twain:
“[A] hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven ‘sure fire’ literary skeletons with sufficient color to intrigue the superficial and lazy.”
Harold Bloom on J.K. Rowling:
“How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?’ Why, very quickly, to begin with, perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do. Is there any redeeming education use to Rowling? Is there any to Stephen King? Why read, if what you read will not enrich mind or spirit or personality? […] Can more than 35 million book buyers, and their offspring, be wrong? Yes, they have been, and will continue to be for as long as they persevere with Potter.”
Have a wonderful weekend!