Novel ideas

Novel ideas

I avoided novels for a long time. I have always been more of a poetry person. Not in the sense of wanting to compose poems— I’ve always favored prose. Most modern poetry just loses me in its forced obtuseness. But in terms of machines for thinking, poetry offers the greatest amount of reflective possibility compared to the actual time spent reading it. Perhaps it’s the realism of novels, though, that always makes me want to put them down.

Cold air has arrived. Draped in a towel, I sit and wonder at how to glance across a million ideas in prose, suggestively, in order to move on to the heart of what I really want to say. I pulled out an LP yesterday, for the first time in a while. I was thinking about how they always leant themselves to reflection, with pauses each twenty minutes and a required action before the music would continue. It was
Diamond Dogs, I felt compelled to listen to it after watching Hedwig a few days ago. For some reason, I’ve always been locked into the mondegreen of hearing “pride pride pride pride . . .” rather the “bro bro bro . . .” listed on the lyric sheet for
Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family. It’s been so hard to write lately. It seems like trying to work through these issues might be a matter of pride. Pride has never worked out well for me. Pride is far too seductive.

I was wandering through Moll Flanders; it’s not central to the argument I’m working on, but I’m just seduced by Defoe. He is so sloppy, so matter-of-fact, so real when compared with the artifice of most novels. I was thinking about the circumstances of Moll’s first marriage, which blazes by at blinding speed. For those unfamiliar with the novel, Moll is seduced into becoming the mistress of a man, and then later convinced to marry his younger brother when she “began to see a Danger that I was in, which I had not consider’d of before, and that was of being drop’d by both of them, and left alone in the world to shift for myself” (57). I never saw that danger myself. I stopped at that phrase for a long time. A later allusion took me back to Rochester, and back to poetry once again.

Phyllis, be gentler, I advise;
Make up for time misspent:
When Beauty on its deathbed lies,
’Tis high time to repent.

Such is the malice of your fate:
That makes you old too soon,
Your pleasure ever comes too late,
How early e’er begun.

Think what a wretched thing is she
Who stars contrive in, in spite,
The morning of her love should be
Her fading beauty’s night.

Then, if to make your ruin more,
You’ll peevishly be coy,
Die with the scandal of a whore
And never know the joy.

Friends remind me lately that perhaps I’m becoming peevishly coy. I don’t know how to escape that fate, and at the same time avoid the pride that leads to such great falls. I think its largely memories of that past life, where I felt confident before the fall. Though my circumstances have yet to become as low as that of a Moll Flanders, I can empathize with so many parts of her life. After her second marriage, Moll’s reflection seems so much like the company I used to keep:

It was indeed a Subject of strange Reflection to me, to see Men who were overwhelm’d in perplex’d Circumstances; who were reduc’d some Degrees below being Ruin’d; whose Families were Objects of their own Terror and other Peoples Charity; yet while a Penny lasted, nay, even beyond it, endeavoring to drown their Sorrow in their Wickedness; heaping up more Guilt upon themselves, labouring to forget former things which now it was the proper time to remember, making more Work for Repentance, and Sinning on, as a Remedy for Sin past.

I was thinking of the way it faded so quickly, how sorrow was pushing in. Like Moll, I had to remove. Left in the world alone to shift for myself isn’t so bad, I suppose. But it is a shame to die with the scandal of a whore, and never know the joy. I need to put down the novel, but it’s cold outside. The thoughts inside are dark, and memories rush full force. A thousand things can trigger me, and make me spill over the sides. I suspect it’s unbecoming, but I can’t seem to make it stop.