All posts by RF

Delayed Specification in Malgudi Days

“And one day, it was a bolt from the blue, the crash came.  A series of circumstances in the world of trade, commerce, banking and politics was responsible for it . . . The financier was driving downhill when his car flew off sideways and came to rest three hundred feet below the road.  It was thought that he had committed suicide because the previous night his wife eloped with his cashier.

Rama Rao suddenly found himself in the streets.”

Narayan, R.K. “Out of Business.” Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006. Print.

 

We see delayed specification in the first sentence of this passage, and in the passage as a whole.  The narrative leaves Rama Rao long enough that the start of the next paragraph is confusing, and the reader has to go back to make sense of the sentence.

The expatriate experience

There seems to be a sudden change in the expatriate’s experience of return in the stories we have read following World War I, aside from just psychological effects.  In “Soldier’s Home” in  In Our Time (1925), Krebs remarks that “nothing was changed in the town except that the young girls had grown up,” and observes changes in women’s fashion.  In Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Peter Walsh notices on his return from India that “Newspapers seemed different,” and mentions a man who writes about toilets openly in “one of the respectable weeklies.”  In the postwar period, it appears there is more of a focus on external societal changes than on internal ones upon the expatriate’s return. In The Jolly Corner (1908) however,  we see the opposite, as Spencer Brydon seems to care much more about the internal, evident in his proclamation that “It’s only a question of what fantastic, yet perfectly possible, development of my own nature I mayn’t have missed.”  On first glance this difference could perhaps be chalked up to the war experience, but Peter’s making an observation in the same vein as Krebs without actually having directly experienced the war suggests that perhaps a widespread change in societal thought took place following the war, and that the war stunted internal conflict at large.

Dialogue

“‘Is your pain very bad?’ asked Bakha ironically, to make his father conscious of his bad temper.  ‘I will rub your side with oil if you like.’

‘No, no’, said the old man irritably, turning his face to hide the shame which his son’s subtle protest aroused in him.  He had no pain at all in his side, or anywhere, and was merely foxing, being in his old age ineffectual, and excusing himself from work like a child.  ‘No, no,’ he said, ‘you go and attend to the work.  I’ll be all right.’  And he smiled gently.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print. 23.

 

Though not quite Woolf-ian in its representation of consciousness, this bit of dialogue seems similar in intent, giving us glimpses of the inner thoughts of both opponents in the power play it is observing.  Also, its placement right after a series of power struggles between castes and outcastes is likely a deliberate choice by Anand to ironize it, begging the question as to why family members should be fighting when each of them individually has to fight the entire weight of an oppressive class system.

Mobility

“He stands there beside a tree.  Too bad the Lord made the mistake of giving trees roots and giving the Anse Bundrens He makes feet and legs.  If He’d just swapped them, there wouldn’t ever be a worry about this country being deforested someday.  Or any other country.”

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. First Vintage International Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. p.42. Print.

 

Faulkner seems to have an interest here (and in other places as well) in mobility and fluidity (of resources, people, ideas, etc.).

Chapter V

“They shot the six cabinet ministers at half-past six in the morning against the wall of a hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard. There were wet dead leaves on the paving of the courtyard. It rained hard.”

Hemingway, Ernest. “Chapter V.” In Our Time. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2003. 51. Print.

 

The repetition of “courtyard” is jarring, which makes the reader  pause and draws them into the scene before the main event transpires.

 

 

 

Language

“Lord Peter, escaping from the thraldom of British good form, expressed himself in that language in which sympathy is not condemned to mutism.”

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

This is a good encapsulation of Sayers’ style. She refers to her tendency to convey emotion through actions in lieu of dialogue, and in doing so makes a meta statement, another device she has a tendency for.

Representational Necessity

“Always Jeff knew, sure, Melanctha was wrong in what she had said that night to him, but always Melanctha had had deep feeling with him, always he was poor and slow in the only way he know how to have any feeling.  Jeff knew Melanctha was wrong, and yet he always had a deep doubt in him.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives. Dover Publications, New York. 1994. p 102. Print.

 

By hearing Jeff (through the narrator) repeat that he knew “Melanctha was wrong,” we can better grasp his doubt.

Modernity

“Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due?  Hadn’t he said he wanted only justice?  But I couldn’t.  I could not tell her.  It would have been too dark – too dark altogether…”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 186. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

Conrad might be making a remark about literary modernity at the end of his story, and his frustration with deciding whether to tell people the truth through his writing, or tell them what they want to hear.

Atoms

“Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

 

Alluding to her description of life as “an incessant shower of innumerable atoms” earlier on the page, Woolf seems to be giving advice here not only for writing fiction, but also for reading it, while she conscripts the reader to her literary camp with her use of the word “us.”

 

The Decay of Lying

“Even Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, that delightful master of delicate and fanciful prose, is tainted with this modern vice, for we know positively no other name for it. There is such a thing as robbing a story of its reality by trying to make it too true, and The Black Arrow is so inartistic as not to contain a single anachronism to boast of, while the transformation of Dr. Jekyll reads dangerously like an experiment out of the Lancet”

“But his work is entirely wrong from beginning to end, and wrong not on the ground of morals, but on the ground of art. From any ethical standpoint it is just what it should be. The author is perfectly truthful, and describes things exactly as they happen. What more can any moralist desire?”

“It is a humiliating confession, but we are all of us made out of the same stuff. In Falstaff there is something of Hamlet, in Hamlet there is not a little of Falstaff. The fat knight has his moods of melancholy, and the young prince his moments of coarse humour. Where we differ from each other is purely in accidentals: in dress, manner, tone of voice, religious opinions, personal appearance, tricks of habit and the like. The more one analyses people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature”

“Believe me, my dear Cyril, modernity of form and modernity of subject-matter are entirely and absolutely wrong. We have mistaken the common livery of the age for the vesture of the Muses, and spend our days in the sordid streets and hideous suburbs of our vile cities when we should be out on the hillside with Apollo. Certainly we are a degraded race, and have sold our birthright for a mess of facts.”

“No doubt there will always be critics who, like a certain writer in the Saturday Review, will gravely censure the teller of fairy tales for his defective knowledge of natural history, who will measure imaginative work by their own lack of any imaginative faculty, and will hold up their ink-stained hands in horror if some honest gentleman, who has never been farther than the yew-trees of his own garden, pens a fascinating book of travels like Sir John Mandeville, or, like great Raleigh, writes a whole history of the world, without knowing anything whatsoever about the past.”

“I don’t think so. After all, what the imitative arts really give us are merely the various styles of particular artists, or of certain schools of artists. Surely you don’t imagine that the people of the Middle Ages bore any resemblance at all to the figures on medieval stained glass, or in medieval stone and wood carving, or on medieval metal-work, or tapestries, or illuminated MSS. They were probably very ordinary-looking people, with nothing grotesque, or remarkable, or fantastic in their appearance. The Middle Ages, as we know them in art, are simply a definite form of style, and there is no reason at all why an artist with this style should not be produced in the nineteenth century. No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. Take an example from our own day. I know that you are fond of Japanese things. Now, do you really imagine that the Japanese people, as they are presented to us in art, have any existence? If you do, you have never understood Japanese art.”

Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying” in Intentions (New York: Brentano’s, 1905), [10, 13, 15, 19, 29, 46].
This piece really resonated with me for a lot of reasons, particularly because of this thread (which I’ve sampled with a few quotations) that Wilde explored throughout the middle portion of the piece. It totally formalized the reason behind some of my current artistic interests – specifically, rap music (even more specifically, Kanye West, both for his music (even even more specifically, sorry, his most recent albums: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus) and for his larger-than-life persona) and Japanese repro clothing. I’m endlessly fascinated with invented realities and forged nostalgia.