wordweaverlynn: (reader)
Walking past a used-book store today, I spotted _The Element of Lavishness_ on the sale shelves. It's the 40-year correspondence between Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, who was her editor at the New Yorker for much of that time.

Yes, I'm trying to downsize my library. Yes, it's a hardback. Yes, it was absolutely the book I needed.

STW is a writer of wit, grace, and secret power, like a figure skater making Olympic leaps look effortless. She's sharply observant and profoundly humane. It's been years since I read her books, but I'm planning to read them all again.

Along with the sheer delight of her style, I'm finding another value in these letters. They cover the decades from her 40s until her death well into her 80s, and I'm starting to look for lanterns to light my path through middle age and beyond. Not that I need advice on how to age; time is taking good care of that. But dealing with aging is something else, and Warner discusses it frankly, along with her writing, her travels, and her cats.

I'll be re-reading May Sarton's novels and journals and poetry, too. She writes explicitly about aging as well.

Is there something about lesbian or bisexual writers that makes them more willing to talk about these things? Or do they speak about the changes in words that make sense to me, rather than straight women lamenting that men don't look at them any more? Or have I just not read the right books?

Anybody else who is writing with honesty and vigor about aging?

A few quotes from Sylvia Townsend Warner:

“One doesn’t become a witch to run around being helpful either…. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others, charitable refuse of their thoughts, so many ounces of stale bread of life a day.”

“Young people are careless of their virginity; one day they may have it and the next not.”

“There is a moral, of course, and like all morals it is better not pursued.”

“She was heavier than he expected - women always are.”

“The fatal law of gravity; when you are down, everything falls down on you.”

“It is best as one grows older to strip oneself of possessions, to shed oneself downward like a tree, to be almost wholly earth before one dies.”
wordweaverlynn: (Gabriel)
“Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.”

wordweaverlynn: (Byron)
Just finished Victoria Glendinning's biography of the extraordinary Dame Rebecca West, novelist, reporter, political thinker, and feminist. She started off as an enfant terrible in the London literary scene, lived and wrote and bore a child and kept writing, and grew into a difficult, brilliant, highly successful old woman. Born in 1892, she lived until 1983, and she was vigorous until a few months before the end.

"Vigorous" is a good word for Dame Rebecca. So is "snarky." She defended DH Lawrence's nude paintings against charges of obscenity, but also said, "Mr. Lawrence has very pink friends." My kind of writer!

I was very impressed with her magnum opus, the vast and richly detailed Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which recounted her journeys in Yugoslavia, the ethnic tensions there, and so much more. I read it a few years ago and want to reread it. I'm looking forward to reading her letters, her novels, and her reviews. Any recommendations as to where I should start first?

Some of her great quotations:

Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction than it is.

Did St. Francis preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to the cats.

If it be ungentlemanly to kiss and tell, it is still further from gentlemanliness to pray and tell.

Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves.

I wonder if we are all wrong about each other, if we are just composing unwritten novels about the people we meet?

There is one common condition for the lot of women in Western civilization and all other civilizations that we know about for certain, and that is, woman as a sex is disliked and persecuted, while as an individual she is liked, loved, and even, with reasonable luck, sometimes worshipped.

The general tendency to be censorious of the vices to which one has not been tempted.

The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple.

It is always one's virtues and not one's vices that precipitate one into disaster.

A strong hatred is the best lamp to bear in our hands as we go over the dark places of life, cutting away the dead things men tell us to revere.

There is, of course, no reason for the existence of the male sex except that sometimes one needs help with moving the piano.

There is no logical reason why the camel of great art should pass through the needle of mob intelligence.

It is sometimes very hard to tell the difference between history and the smell of skunk.

It is the soul's duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.

Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.

Motherhood is the strangest thing, it can be like being one's own Trojan horse.

Nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds, even if it is the salt of the earth.

The main difference between men and women is that men are lunatics and women are idiots.

That certain women were ready to sell themselves caused no excessive disgust in Isabelle. It was inevitable that a number of both men and women should compromise the institution of marriage by marrying for money, and once that happened there could be no question of impressing on the toughly logical female mind the unique vileness of prostitution. She had sometimes wondered, too, whether the contempt men felt for women who market their favors did not in part proceed from from the sense of grievance eternally felt by buyers against vendors.

I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.

I do not myself find it agreeable to be 90, and I cannot imagine why it should seem so to other people. It is not that you have any fears about your own death, it is that your upholstery is already dead around you.
wordweaverlynn: (grace)
"Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness.... Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words." -- Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
wordweaverlynn: (russ)
According to SFsite,
Samuel R. Delany via Ron Drummond reports that Joanna Russ, the author of The Female Man and What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism, among many other works of science fiction and scholarship, has been admitted to hospice after suffering a series of strokes. According to Drummond, Delany says that Russ is “slipping away” and has long had a “Do Not Resuscitate” on file.

May she go in peace to the Goddess -- or Whileaway -- or wherever she wants.

I love Joanna Russ. She spoke to my condition when nobody else would or could.

I've posted this elsewhere:
Can you wonder that I spent my childhood scrounging books wherever I could find them? My home town (Jackson, PA, pop. 35) is midway between Scranton, PA, and Binghamton, NY. Visits to my orthodontist in Scranton were my big chance to stop in at a junk shop where sometimes there were paperbacks. And once, memorably, Again, Dangerous Visions in hardback. It cost me a quarter. I read "When It Changed" right there in the store, kneeling by the back shelves, tears pouring down my face -- a 14-year-old dyke who wasn't alone in the universe any more.

If I'd realized that at the time she was actually teaching at SUNY Binghamton, I'd have crawled there on my knees. Decades later I was able to send her a fan letter through the offices of a good friend, and I have a scrawled postcard in reply.

Recent interview about slash.

Joanna Russ Interview with Samuel Delany (WisCon 30 event)
Joanna Russ quotes )

ETA More quotes

Love is a radiation disease.

In love as in pain, in misery, in trouble.

If you expect me to observe your taboos, I think you will have to be more precise as to exactly what they are.

Anyone who lives in two worlds ... is bound to have a complicated life.

There is some barrier between Jeannine and real life that can be removed only by a man or by marriage.

O of all diseases self-hate is the worst and I don't mean for the one who suffers it!

Men's suits are designed to inspire confidence even if the men can't.

This book is written in blood.
Is it written entirely in blood?
No, some of it is written in tears.
Are the blood and tears all mine?
Yes, they have been in the past. But the future is a different matter.

Praise God, Whose image we put in the plaza to make the eleven-year-olds laugh. She has brought me home.

Oh, Joanna. Verweile doch, du bist so schoen.
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
Spotted this quotation in a review of Kay Redfield Jamison's new book, Nothing Was the Same:

"It has been said that grief is a kind of madness. I disagree. There is a sanity to grief, in its just proportion of emotion to cause, that madness does not have." -- Kay Redfield Jamison

The book, a memoir of her life with her husband, and his death, looks excellent.

Oh: I am reading very little, mostly because I am working on getting the apartment ready for a new resident. Eight years ago, in the week of 9/11, I was packing some of these same possessions. A few have never been out of boxes since. Time to let them go.
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
~ M. Scott Peck


wordweaverlynn: (Default)

September 2014



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