Dear friends and readers,
Some people write New Year’s Resolutions and on January 1st. I write of something more fluid and chose a day personally meaningful to me.
Thirty-five years ago this day I gave birth to my first child, and the presence of another human being dependent on me transformed my life. It was a bitterly cold day like today; there had been (as my daughter now teases me I never cease to remember) an wild ice and snow storm the day before, and once again the Admiral went downstairs and dug out our car so we could get to the hospital quickly. I was more than a week over due — and while I had not put on a lot of weight (only 12 pounds altogether), I felt and was enormous. I was scared we wouldn’t get to Beth Israel Hospital (13th on the East Side) from where we lived on 200 Street (just below the Cloisters in upper Manhattan) on the West side. In the event that night was bright, sparkly stars, frosty and at 2 in the morning as we sped down the East Side highway, we seemed to be the only people on the road. Less than three hours and one emergency Cesarean later, I had a little girl. The Admiral returned to his car which he’d left stranded in the middle of a street as he couldn’t find parking amid the mounds of snow, and when he woke the next morning, another ice and snow storm had descended on the city.
Years have gone by since then when my time was hardly ever my own. I could snatch interstices of liberty: that’s why I chose to translate poems and picked beloved oeuvres of two women poets whose work I was deeply drawn to and was available to me here through the Library of Congress, Folger Shakespeare library and when I began to teach again Interlibrary Loan. I also find I love detailed kind of work, close study and gradually working out what was the full oeuvre of Anne Finch (also beloved) fit my talent, need, as her manuscripts were in the nearby Folger Shakespeare Library too.
Tonight I sit here, age 66, the anniversary of that transition day, with a lot of liberty, the world of the Net at my fingertips, trying to work out some set of priorities for myself, things I would like to do in the next year or so as a writer and reader. I had been doing this on my old Sylvia blog regularly because I felt I needed to do this, to have some plan or plans, to get some hold on my daily routs. I admire, even envy people who seem to be able to get along without some over-arching goal, and just read what comes along next spontaneously & write what comes out of my mind from out the welter of a day or night’s experiences, what as it were comes to mind from what I see or listen to others say. I know I do to a certain extent. But I need a sense of achievement, something out there to look at as done: the website is a great help this way and now these blogs, for opportunities for conventional publications don’t come along that often and are dependent on others. I make a list of what I mean to read and then check each off as I go. It’s easier to know what to do next if it’s part of a project for then one does next what’s needed.
Part of this way of being (so to speak) is my need for routine, so as to remain at peace quietly. By routs I mean routines in the sense that Daphne DuMaurier did: habits I hold to so as to keep troubling, wild, melancholy thoughts, deep dissatisfactions that come out of insatiable yearnings for what cannot be or is not or I cannot have
But I found that what I wrote was a series of wishes, too many, too grand, and what ended up was I did some of them. By writing them all out I could at least see them in front of me and chose. My last one was written December 6th. I’ve found since then that maybe it’s more efficient and genuinely shaping if I just write heads of routs (name of book, name of project) daily so that I can be realistic and I’ve been doing that on my timeline on face-book. Each day a set of doable routs, each night delete what I had and set up a new one. If I didn’t manage all I intended the day before, what I didn’t do I began the next day with; if I put too much down one day, the next day I was more realistic.
But they were determined by a set of longer-term goals and one large one was a project to study translations of Radcliffe into French. My proposal has been turned down, and I more than expect another proposal I wrote to write a paper on mapping Trollope will be turned down too. Since this is intended as a personal and political blog, I’ll say I think some spite was behind this as at the same time the rejection letter clearly suggested to me I should not come to the conference. (She’s see me someday, real soon now.) I’ve done myself the justice to put proposal on line: “To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do: Translation as Matching Creative Act”.. As to Mapping Trollope, it’s for a Sharp conference and I know most of the speakers are star types teaching at prestigious universities with long lists of publications. I was just an adjunct lecturer for many years.
So now I need (I feel) to lay out a new set of goals at least, one I can refer back to for these daily routs.
I was including the reading I was doing with others on line — as part of tomorrow I mean to read Annie Ernaux’s Les Annees, which I’m reading with 2 (perhaps 3) people on WomenWriters and Galsworthy’s Country House which I’m reading with the same number of people on Trollope19thCStudies. I have TBR piles of poetry, novels, good non-fiction I want to learn from. What I probably need to do as a matter of control is post less and more briefly to the 3 list-servs daily. I’ve been getting a handle on this but not enough. I’m a compulsive writer and continually reaching out to imagined people not there.
So what are the few things I would like to do and what have I committed to do where I have to show up and give a paper (something as an experience I more than half-dread but do to be part of the group somehow) or produce a piece of writing (review) by a certain date or time.
I’ve committed to a review of a Fanny Burney edition, and a paper on the Indian film adaptation of I Have Found It. New Year’s Resolution. I will volunteer no more for reviews, and all the papers I commit to will be part of the goals below or work on things I’ve done and love and now what to share. So next year a brief paper on Anne Finch and retirement poetry.
I want to finish re-doing my Jane Austen calendars online so as to discover if there are important Tuesdays in all the novels and when I’ve done write a paper on this topic say to ELH or some such periodical. Crazy, obsessive, and just plain senseless as others may think this (I get a whiff of mockery about which implies that one can find patterns for all the days of the week wherever) I do believe I’m right and would like to persuade others and make someone take it seriously beyond myself.
I have wanted to do something, achieve something, read more in Charlotte Smith and that is being fulfilled by my edition of Ethelinde. There it’s a matter of typing the text, then writing an introduction and notes and submitting the whole to Valancourt who have promised to publish the thing as a book. I find satisfaction in this daily task and when I’ve done if the old texts I bought permit this I could do it for the 6 volume George Anne Bellamy. Chatto & Windus published the 2 volume abridgement so the original 6 volumes I believe she wrote are now only available as attachments in ECCO.
Film. I have four chapters towards a book to be called A Place of Refuge: the Sense and Sensibility films. Starting Monday I’m to return to one of these chapters, the one on the Indian 2000 film I Have Found It, to turn the chapter into a paper to deliver and by so doing maybe see my way towards this book again. The blogs on Downton Abbey are part of this love of watching, study and writing about film (also postings on other mini-series & movies).
This is part of my love of visual art, pictures and of course I wanted to do more on Trollope’s illustrations in this direction and I am waiting to hear if my proposal is accepted. If not, I need to put it away again, perhaps for good.
Translation studies. I’d like to return to translating: Elsa Morante’s Italian poems through French as in intervening or vehicular language. I have to chose a book and study it against its translation into French. My plan had been Radcliffe’s Udolpho and Chastenay’s translation. I’m not sure now. I’m not even sure how much fun it would be to read Chastenay’s three volume memoir. But both would get me active in French which I love to be.
But I’m attracted equally by the translations of Austen into French. I’ve made a list of them and have to chose one or a subgroup and go about it systematically. Books like McMurran’s Spread of the Novel are part of this but the core is the study of the translations themselves.
Elizabeth’s Story. I’d like to write a fiction out of the Poldark world with Elizabeth Chynoweth as my heroine subjectivity. Someone has suggested to me I could do a paper for a collection she may be able to get a publisher for. I wouldn’t mind as a way of getting myself to study the Poldark novels more deeply again. It is dismaying in the extreme to realize the level of readership for these books in the popular realm. While we had some unthinking or imperceptive Trollopians on the list-servs over the years, I’ve never really interacted with a group like the readers of Graham. They are crassly ignorant even of what literary criticism is, its purpose, its methods — as let’s say are found in a better non-academic periodical (the New Yorker?). And you must not disturb them at all. No wonder there’s no handbook.
On the backburner is the little life of Henrietta St John Knight and her 5 poems and letters.
From time to time put more of what I’ve written on the Net as the spirit takes me the way I do my blogs and the way I read with others on the Net or myself alone. Right now my book for myself is V.S. Naipaul’s Enigma of Arrival, a moving masterpiece. He seems to speak my own thoughts as he tells of his coming to England to find and then create a past for himself, the way landscape means a lot to him, the past coming right out of the present, all around him, the way he delves into himself to find what to write and to read, his wandering in the senselessness of the world and creating some nest for himself, some refuge. But this is not part of the larger goal.
So there it is, what I would like to achieve over the next couple of years. I hope it’s not too much. My idea is to return to look at these goals from time to time to help me see where I am. Daily the little routs on the timeline is the enactment. I also want to see if I can devote three days a week to one project and two days to another or to free reading, website work, or projects having to do wit this house (like gardening, clean every six weeks, stuff like that).