“I don’t tell you so,” said Winsey. “You policemen are all alike – only one idea in your skills. Blest if I can make out why you’re ever appointed. He was shaved after he was dead. Pretty, ain’t it? Uncommonly jolly little job for the barber, what? Here, sit down, man, and don’t be an ass, stumpin’ about the room like that. Worse things happen in war. This is only a blinkin’ old shillin’ shocker. But I’ll tell you what, Parker, we’re up against a criminal – the criminal – the real artist and blighter with imagination – real, artistic, finished stuff. I’m enjoyin’ this, Parker.”
Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.
This particular passage calls for a thrilling, adrenalizing response from the reader which differs from that of Stein’s “Melanctha”. To begin with, the varied language of Sayers’s novel allows for more things to happen and allows Sayer to fill up the reader’s imagination with vibrant images that had not been done in “Melanctha”. In “Melanctha”, the language was simple with repetitive words that did not call for the kind of exciting response Sayers’s novel is calling for. Also, in Sayers’s novel, there is a plot that is following the murder of a body which adds to thrill a reader gets when the clues unravel and the reader is given more information. In “Melanctha”, I felt as if the same ideas were being stated over and over again, causing one to get tiresome and maybe even bored of reading about the same thing.
“Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny. One might say that his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow, which gave him a faintly dissipated air incongruous with the rest of his appearance. Almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark. He was touched almost to tears by Lord Peter’s thoughtfulness and condescension in calling.” (Sayers 4)
Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.
This was featured within the first chapter of the novel and they described the character in much detail. As the story progresses there are chapters when Sayer writes a description of other characters in full detail. The way she describes Mr. Alfred Thipps as a “small, nervous man…his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow,” helps the reader imagine how the character would look if he was real. Through this story, the reader can enjoy the plot by imagining the scenario in his or her mind through the vivid descriptions of the characters. In James Joyce’s novel it was hard to picture or imagine any of the character’s because they were not described in full detail. We were given that they were either “old or young, mean or nice, boring or fun,” but we were never given details of how they looked or how they act. The quote, “almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark,” describes his actions in full detail as well. Instead of just stating, “he was murmuring,” the author is very outlined. The descriptions make the novel more interesting as it does not make the reader wonder what kind of character one is and the descriptions help the reader follow the scenario without feeling lost. It becomes hard to forget who the character’s are because we are provided with thorough and specific details that it makes it easier to distinguish each and every character.
“The only effectual way to lay it to rest is to emphasize the analogy to which I just alluded–to insist on the fact that as the picture is reality, so the novel is history. That is the only general description (which does is justice) that we may give the novel. But history is allowed to represent life; it is not, any more than painting, expected to apologize.”
James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction” in Partial Portraits. London; New York: MacMillan & Co. pg. 379
James’ analogy between pictorial art and fiction is a fascinating theme that has added so much to modern fiction. The mere process of using one’s art to comment on his own medium seems to be a common feature of modernism. James’ thoughts on writing the novel take me back to Picasso and Warhol, painters who, through their own work, asked, “What constitutes as art?” changing the purpose of painting thereafter. Since then, art has become much more self-indulgent, and the beauty of art is in the variety of impressions that different painters are able to display through their respective lenses of creativity. In the past, when painting had many more utilitarian purposes, art was meant to appease those who paid for it. For example, painters like Rembrandt who portrayed nobility still altered the reality of the portraits, but they did so in order to portray what the noblemen wished to look like. Likewise, when historians have portrayed reality in the past, they have also done so in order to appease those in power. James wishes to highlight that the novel, like modern painting, has the feature of freedom, and that is beautiful. The freedom to create a work that is solely from one’s imagination, one’s impression of reality, is the Art of Fiction.
“Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particles in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative-much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius- it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations.”
Henry James, The Art of Fiction in Majors stories and essays. Literary classics of the United States, New-York, 1999, p580.
“The moment Art surrenders it’s imaginative medium, it surrenders everything. As a method Realism is a complete failure, and the two things that every artist should avoid are modern it of form and modernity of subjectmatter. To us, who live in the nineteenth century, any century is a suitable subject for art except our own. The only beautiful things are the things that do not concern us.”
Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” archive.org/stream/intentionsdecayo00wild. April 2008. September 2014.
This passage stuck out because, throughout much of this passage, I found Vivian annoying until the connection is made that imagination and lying are synonymous. Art is a product of human imagination and it takes some truth bending to accomplish that.
“People tell us that Art makes us love Nature more than we loved her before; that it reveals her secrets to us; and that after a careful study of Corot and Constable we see things in her that had escaped our observation. My own experience is that the more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition… It is fortunate for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we should have had no art at all. Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place… It resides in the imagination, or fancy, or cultivated blindness of the man who looks at her”
Oscar Wilde The Decay of Lying in Intentions. , London, Methuen & Co. (1913) page 3-4.
Vivian reveals an interesting view of Art vs. Nature. People normally argue that Nature reveals its beauty to inspire art; however, Vivian argues that Art covers Nature’s imperfection and creates beauty through imagination. Nature is perfected through the inspiration of vivid imagination creating Art.
“In literature we require distinction, charm, beauty, and imaginative power. We don’t want to be harrowed and disgusted with an account of the doings of the lower orders…The only real people are the people who never existed, and if a novelist is base enough to go to life for his personages he should at least pretend that they are creations, and not boast of them as copies. The justification of a character in a novel is not that other persons are what they are, but that the author is what he is. Otherwise the novel is not a work of art.”
Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying. http://literature.proquest.com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000731336&divLevel=0&area=prose&DurUrl=Yes&forward=textsFT&queryType=findWork
Here, the character Vivian explains how the “real people” (or characters) in novels are simply based on imagination. However, if the novelist decides to involve a person whom he or she knows within their text, they must “pretend” they are not real, or pretend they are “creations,” since if they include a real person, the novel would not be considered fiction — which, in this case, would not be considered “a work of art.”