Some Island snapshots

— “I cannot imagine how a casual reference to Suetonius and Petronius Arbiter can be construed into evidence of a desire to impress by an assumption of superior knowledge. I should fancy that the most ordinary of scholars is perfectly well acquainted with the Lives of the Caesars and with The Satyricon. The Lives of the Caesars, at any rate, forms part of the curriculum at Oxford for those who take the Honour School of Literae Humaniores; and as for The Satyricon, it is popular even among passmen, though I suppose they have to read it in translations.” — Oscar Wilde, responding to a critic who balked at all of the literary references in Dorian Gray

— Standing on the jetty, watching the huge long breakers roll in, crashing repeatedly on the rocks. I heard the roar from my front porch this morning. I stood out there until I was drenched in spray, and then figured I’d better beat it before I was submerged.

— Christopher Walken on Gene Kelly for Turner Classic Movies: “People might think that dancers are always on the beat. A good dancer is always ahead of the beat. They make the music happen.”

— Speaking of Christopher Walken, he is out here right now. I keep my eyes peeled for him.

— “I love black and white cinema; I feel as if I discovered it.” — Andrei Tarkovsky

In a Lonely Place was on TV early this morning. It’s one of my favorite movies and certainly Bogart’s best performance. He is absolutely tortured.

— The name of the world’s first oil tanker (set up by the Nobel family) was Zoroaster.

— Dovetail between my reading of Rockefeller’s life and the book I read last year about “young Stalin”. Stalin had many years as a gangster in Baku, which was a primary rival of Rockefeller’s in the oil biz, and the Rothschilds, and all that. Baku has been one of my fascinations for eons, and it’s very cool to hear about what it was like in the 1800s.

— Frank Capra gets on my nerves sometimes.

— Yesterday there was frost on the grass. A sudden plunge in temperature after a couple days of mildness.

— CRAZY ocean yesterday. Drove out to the North Light at dusk and the scene – crashing thrashing ocean as far as the eye could see – with the little light on the small ladder near the point (I guess the lighthouse isn’t sufficient because it isn’t right on the tip of those treacherous rocks – they need a light closer to the actual point) flashing around in flares. Everything was deep blue and white, and the waves were relentless and enormous.

— Read a lot of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ stuff yesterday, which I believe contributed to my epic dreams last night, starring the person who introduced me to his stuff. Damn you, Hopkins! But Hopkins is one of the greatest there is, one of the poets of my heart – he makes up words, he puts them together – but never obscures the meaning. The individuality of his language is the emotional entryway into his work. His emotional punctuation and hyphenated words reminds me very much of Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, a strange connection I suppose – but her preface to her novel is all about language and how she had to basically train the copyeditors who worked on her manuscript NOT to correct her work, unless there was a spelling error. Everything had to go by her first. She felt that there is a huge difference between “blue-black” and “blueblack” – it calls up a different response in the reader – and Hopkins’ stuff to me seems equally as individual. “dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon”, “blue-bleak embers”, “fathers-forth” – Now that last one is interesting. Something in the poem “fathers forth” – but it certainly feels different with that hyphen there. The meaning is connected not only to the sound but to the LOOK of the words. “selfwrung, selfstrung, sheath- and shelterless.” Some of this experimentation with sound predicts the Beat poets in the 1950s. Hopkins was way ahead of his time.

— I love Robert Montgomery so much.

— The commercials on Lifetime are alllll about digestion and poop.

— I never ever want to hear the phrase “I can’t make any promises …” ever again. Come on, make a promise. Even if you end up not keeping it, see what it feels like to make a goddamn promise. A red flag.

— Watched the ridiculous The Fountainhead, and found myself thinking so much about Patricia Neal (it was her birthday this week), and all of the tragic elements of her life. Watching her and Cooper onscreen, I thought of her heartwrenching and beautiful autobiography and the story of their love affair, and how she never stopped loving him, until he died. There’s a cautionary tale there, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. In a way, that’s what my script is about, and what I have been working on. Can we choose the narrative of our lives? Not really – events are events – but the interpretation is up to us. Way easier said than done. Much of the marks left on us date from before the time we might have figured all of this out. The first cut is the deepest.

— Too funny: I have found over 30 pieces of beach glass in my time out here. That first one seemed so miraculous, now I’m so over it, and just casually toss new pieces on the pile when I come home.

Heaven Knows Mr. Allison was on again. I was flipping through the channels – and, literary conceit, landed upon it – RIGHT AT THE HOT MOMENT in the fake cave that I had missed when the electricity came out. What are the odds. I didn’t have to bide my time, watching the whole thing again – I came upon the scene, her lying shivering on the floor in her habit, and got to watch the whole thing. It’s very erotic.

— In the graveyard, there is a stone for a 16 year old girl named Annie, who died in the late 1800s, and at the bottom is engraved: “Darling, how we miss thee.” The simplicity of that statement, the feeling behind it, really got to me. To me, that’s all that needs to be said. Darling, how we miss thee.

— Still obsessed by generosity and how it operates in my life. I have a tally sheet. I check things off – Me generous, Him generous, Me generous, Him generous. Tit for tat. Keeping track. So far, it has kept the madness at bay, although keeping a TALLY SHEET is mad in and of itself. Oh well. It all makes sense to me, and it feels right.

— Speaking of generosity, a quote from T.S. Eliot jumped out at me the other day:
Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving.

“The giving famishes the craving”. I don’t think 10 minutes have gone by since I read that that I have not thought about it.

— Getting ready to start Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. I am a huge Waugh fan, but I have never read that one.

— Hope is OBSESSED with a seagull feather I brought home. She is tormented by its very existence.

— I go out to sit on the porch with my book and my coffee, in the cold morning sunlight, and Hope sits on the windowsill staring out at me. I want to tell her to get a life, but then I remember, oh wait. This IS her life.

— “the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy” – e.e. cummings

— “Why must you write ‘intensive’ here? ‘Intense’ is the right word. You should read Fowler’s Modern English Usage in the use of the two words.” — Winston Churchill to his director of military intelligence while looking over plans for the invasion of Normandy. I love that even at such a tense time, incorrect grammar annoyed him. That’s my boy.

— This kills me. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for sodomy. His library and possessions were put up for sale. He suffered in prison, yes, from hard labor, but also because he had nothing to read. His friends (the ones who stuck with him) tried to buy his books back from the people who bought them at auction – and eventually there was a milder warden at the prison who asked if Mr. Wilde could write out a list of the books he would like, and he would see what he could do. Friends began to send books to the prison. The nice warden would bring them to Wilde’s cell, and Wilde would break down in tears at the sight. And, in his file, there is a letter from an “Irishwoman” – anonymous – no name – and here is the letter she wrote to the prison in 1895. It brings tears to my eyes, and makes me feel that yes, there is good, there is mercy on this planet. Listen:

Please give Mr. Wilde the book. I have never ever seen him but it must indeed be a hard heart utterly unacquainted with God’s love that does not bleed for such a shipwrecked life … I feel this book which I send, may be helpful. Faithfully yours, an Irishwoman.

Isn’t that something else. Sadly, there is no record of what book she sent to “Mr. Wilde”, but across the century, I salute this anonymous Irishwoman as someone who represents the best in all of us.

— I tried to sit down and read a bunch of Emily Dickinson poems, and found she freaked me out too much. I really can only deal with her one poem at a time. She’s just too huge, too brutal, too scary.

— Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979 interview:

In Andrei Rublev, there was a scene that might have been from Mizoguchi, the great departed Japanese director. I wasn’t aware of it until it was projected. It’s the one where the Russian prince gallops across the countryside on a white horse, and the Tatar is on a black horse. The quality of the image in black and white, the landscape, the opacity of the overcast sky, had a strange resemblance to an ink-drawn Chinese landscape.

It’s one of my favorite images in that film full of amazing images:

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10 Responses to Some Island snapshots

  1. Cara Ellison says:

    Such a life. Full of quotes and ocean and observation. Kudos.

  2. Carm says:

    Love your mad tally sheets. Thanks for these snapshots today. Wonderful treasures, all.

  3. reba says:

    I love these laundry-list posts. I also love Brideshead, Revisited; not Waugh’s best book, by my personal favorite and, I think, well-suited to a stormy island:)

  4. arkydee says:

    ‘– Too funny: I have found over 30 pieces of beach glass in my time out here. That first one seemed so miraculous, now I’m so over it, and just casually toss new pieces on the pile when I come home.’

    ‘What is your most treasured possession? > A teeny clear piece of beach glass given to me long ago by someone I once loved deeply.’

    I hope that treasure isn’t diminished

  5. Anne says:

    Weird. I have a Baku thing, too. Mine dates from watching Reilly Ace of Spies in 8th grade. Wait – did we talk about this?

  6. Mary L says:

    I was feeling a little blue and claustrophobic. But then I read this list and felt better. Tonic.

  7. Kristin says:

    Can’t wait to see what you think of Brideshead. I found it so unlike his other stuff that I’ve read (Handful of Dust, Scoop), but good in its own way. I agree that it would be well suited to a stormy island.

  8. tracey says:

    I’m loving all these snapshots, Sheila. Miss you.

  9. bookeywookey says:

    This makes me want some wine w/you! Your post is wild and desultory, in the best way. It’s how my brain is feeling right now too. I’m feeling the need to get really, really broad so that when I focus the beam will be well-informed and worth something – do you know what I mean? Can’t wait until you’re back.

  10. sheila says:

    arkydee – For some reason, your comment from months ago was lost in moderation hell, perhaps because of the link. My reply to your comment is two pronged:

    1. Wow, your memory is scary.

    2. That profile was done in 2003. 2003, for God’s sake. That was 7 years ago. Of course things have changed – it would be horrible if they hadn’t, of course certain things have diminished. It is not good to hold onto the past. Remember, yes, but move on. I have moved on.

    Your comment, throwing up a remark I don’t even remember making (while true at the time), gives me a small idea of what it must be like to be a famous person. “But you said this in 1974 …”

    “Right. And I was 20 then. I’m 40 now. I’m different. Thank Christ.”

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