Cassandra is mostly wisely honest with herself as well as being generous spirited and loving, and the combination makes for pleasant reading. There is a feast of interesting details, though the castle makes me feel cold, and some nicely sketched characters – the vicar got some good lines, and Thomas the younger brother delighted me at every appearance, reminding me of my own lil bro. I wish Leda Fox-Cotton weren’t so mistreated. It’s necessary to see right through Cassandra’s prejudice, which is hard because she’s very sympathetic. I found it funny that she loves animals so much and wishes owls were vegetarian, but eats meat herself without a shadow of a critical thought.
I liked her casual explanation of England being special to her:
‘oh not the flag and Kipling and outposts of Empire and so on, but the country[side] and London’
There is a neatly written section in which the vicar and Miss Marcy both casually encourage the stricken Cassandra to whom they are offering succour and comfort that is like water in a desert to her, to take up their own interests: religion! you might like it. helping others! you might like it. Cassandra is tempted, but then she decides that these characters are taking refuge from pain and thus from life itself in these absorbing pursuits. Cassandra even reflects that they are like children because they haven’t really lived. The conclusion – that she should not throw herself into religion or good works – feels refreshing, and appropriate to the form of a novel (a medium that draws or produces the subjectivity of the subject) but… really? The only real life is one devoted to pursuing the most fully felt personal joy and suffering? Is this the only way we can imagine self actualisation? I can’t accept that autonomy requires the rejection of the mortar of community. When Cassandra receives help and then pities her helpers for helping, it seems to me she affirms her class privilege even more thoroughly than her materialistic sister does when she counts her expensive new possessions.
I also started my journal when I was 17. Here’s a random chunk from 2005!
There is a kind of light rain which, when falling just at the very beginning of twilight, can make any landscape resemble paradise.
I was reading the focus bulletin and there was a page about pomegranate juice “the pomegranate originated in Persia” and there was a verse from Shakespeare:
Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day
It was the nightingale, not the lark
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree –
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale
Romeo and Juliet III 5
Made me feel wretched for not reading enough, when such riches are so easily come by that a miserable marketing department posts them out to us, their hired zombies
Today I saw a mermaid, her hair was in braids, fat murky green at the roots, thin and blue, clear Caribbean blue at the ends. Some had come loose and hung in heavy ringlets like trailing weeds. She had a ring in her nose and an American twang, and her eyes were black and fierce as a storm in the Atlantic.
This morning we saw the film “Crumb” Robert Crumb’s room full of old blues records had a heavy American desk, chair, strip of dark, patterned carpet and great dusty lampshade breathing dusty yellow light. The America of David Lynch. The American interior of the intellectual mind. Ginsberg wrote in a room like that. Dreary, grand, American room, stuffy with spoiled dreams.
The problem with the past is that we do not understand it. It seems worthless to us now, because the Gods of the present & the believers in the next world have pointed out to us that we only have today and Jesus will forgive us. Largely, the stories that make up history have lost their significance. A few stand out clear and speak down to us from the depths. But the better part is like a story told by a great grandparent – the facts are useless, foreign objects you can turn over like washed up shells, their contents long ago emptied out, because the story teller saw everything differently then.
When the first time traveller (I hope it is some dignified person, I am nostalgic for the gentleman amateur) goes into the future, everyone there will be waiting for them, whatever kind of world it is. You’ll step out of the capsule and see everyone, banners and cheering or ragged scientists or children with stones, waiting. Today there was a waterfall from the sky. Shoes soaked. Cellar flooded.
Yesterday the mermaid came back. Her blue hair was tied up, grown out sun-bleached brown, her eyes had turned pale from being so long ashore.
Today a fairy princess came in with a goblin. Her body trembled with the effort of being. I think she was kidnapped.
The suited ones walk to their offices
Their faces are shut
for the daytime, purged of hopes
Sweet yellow sun caresses steel & glass,
throws long human shadows like walking dead
The air, heavy and pure with the night’s silence
receives the sound of their shod feet on stones
Politicians wake in a cold sweat.
You should be alone
the night is lovely and in the cold of situations…
Reflected in the city light the beauty of your own soul
How can I write with your NOISE?
I looked out through the skylight with corrected vision.
Blue and dark, black red cloud like a landmass on a map, meeting the cloudy sea A PAINTING OF HEAVEN & the stars like hope, faint and unreachable, an immense vista, a desert. Must go up with glasses on. I miss my seven sisters. I have unburied my books. In so doing I unbury myself. The dampish old cardboard, almost become precious, by
association, sits out in the recycle bin.
The house is full of books
It is a joyful meeting
Sylvia, Heller, Marx. I missed you! I even missed Plato.
I can play Queen Adreena. Hands tremble.
The self should not be held so dear, it is dangerous. My history, fine sheets, written in
verse on linen, like scripture
Horas non numero nisi serenas
-motto on a sundial near Venice
(I count only the serene hours)