The best thing all those years was sleeping with him
side-by-side. Falling into peace, warmth.
I started in April ’68. I’d go
into his room, unheated but for that
smelly black box one fed shillings into.
There he’d be, fell asleep so easily.
I’d lie next to him, and fall asleep too.
Except for rare times, a few days, weeks,
that’s what I did each night for forty
six years. I occupy half a bed now.
(Prompted by Mandel’s “Sleeping in Half a Bed,” for which see below)
… it’s the loneliness … the lack of a person, a partner … Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark, from Graham’s Warleggan
Dear friends and readers,
Monday early morning at the Dance Fusion class: for the last three weeks we ended on this song and music, with a difference, we do not dance to it as performed by these exquisite musicians, The Piano Guys:
And so time passes.
Mid-morning back from Dance Fusion: Listening to Timothy West read aloud Framley Parsonage as I drive about. This is the 4th Barsetshire novel I’ve listened to in a row. I have to admit West is just inimitable. I haven’t been able to listen to Case in such a long while it may be I’m forgetting his exquisite control of tone (especially the sardonic and the gentle) but West seems beautifully suited for this book. It was David Shaw-Parker I was listening to for The Warden and while he was good, he was not quite as good Simon Vance in conveying nuances and depths of emotions (for Dr Thorne), and at moments S-P lost lines of ironic comedy (became too bland). West manages to imitate tones of real life in this novel. It seems to me ordered to write another Barsetshire book, knowing his career could be made or lost on this text, Trollope moved to do strongly and thoroughly what he does best — how it feels to be alive in everyday life. He slowly builds a picture of each character lovingly in this minute context as well as the map of the place. I find myself thinking were there a film adaptation that had this kind of conversation with voice-over remarks for a narrator, it would indeed never go off the air. The illustration below is by J.W. North, idyllic 1860s style, good for the outward ambiance of Gaskell’s novels too …
I got “my” letter from the Folio Society offering to sell me one of a limited printing of DC (1980 copies) for $295. I would bring it up on the Trollope face-book page but I’m often all at sea there. I don’t know what is socially acceptable to say or not. In fact no one replied when I mentioned it, cowards all, shamed?: how money is the great measure of people and they dread admitting some costs comes hard. When a publisher prints a limited run, does that mean there will be no more printed just now? surely not for quite a while. That’s part of such an extortionist scheme.
The price gives me pause even though it’s a beautiful book, has a side book about it, took the individual doing it so many years, and so on. I know that it was hard to find a publisher (I would not have thought it would be but it was) for this new text by Trollope. I can buy it on the installment plan. At least make them wait for their money.
A friend replies:
I’m damned if I’ll pay GPB 175.00 plus GPB 27.50 delivery for what should be a $40-$50 book, no matter how elegant. The GPB 200 total is about as much as I paid for my total collection of 47 Trollopes.
I once spent $300 for a set of 6 volumes, an autobiography of an 18th century actress, the actual 18th century rare book. I put the first two volumes on the Net — scanned them in and annotated. I stopped because ECCO at that point put onto institutional databases a huge number of 18th century books printed in the UK including that one. Of course you have to belong to an institution to reach it, but the work was too much and I left the first two volumes there for public readers at any rate.
Except for that one I’ve never spent anything like this for a book buy.
I know that Prof Armanick did all he could to interest Broadview and other academic-style presses in this project but each time got nowhere. The truth is there is no good edition of Jane Austen’s letters – the one sold is bad, just take it from me — so these supposedly super-respected authors are not valued when it comes to anything in the money world it seems. My friend was suggested the Oxford paperbacks might pick this up eventually or quicker, say two years, The Trollope Society. And I saw it. John Letts told me (long ago) how the two publishing ventures are closely tied. I have some Folio Society editions of Trollope that I bought used — modern illustrations in them and have read the Trollope Society has a vested interest in this new text.
Next morning, the 17th, around 9am:
I look out at the world from my eyes and wonder at their power. Here are my hands, there my body, and the pussycat snuggled into my shoulder.
It’s been about 8 inches of snow here in Alexandria, but since no one has plowed even a little I’ll never get the car out today. The weather not to go above 20. No sign of any movement either. JCC and Fed gov’t closed — the two places Izzy and I go to. The consensus in this area now is if we have snow and ice, do nothing, close everything, it costs less and we all get to stay home with our cats (or dogs or books … at our computers).
I write because just now man who lives in a super-architecturally built house (it looks like some glass place meant for a cliff only it’s surrounded by bushes and a brick wall) is walking through our blocks with his super-expensive snow plow plowing the sidewalks. what has come over him?
But Aaron, the friendly young black man from the low-cost housing on the side of the hill, is here again, come to the door, and offering to shovel the snow from my sidewalk, from stoop to all around the car, and then sweeping feathery remnants off the car. I have the usual $20 for him. I may agree to let him do some useful jobs this spring as a handyman. I used to have two Irish guys who would show up regularly a few years ago. Went back to Ireland before its economy collapsed again. A parable somewhere here of US life.
From my Net-friend, Camilla on facebook, a dreaming image of an idyllic moment: but the window, flower, snow outside, the woman a silent presence within, all characteristics of women’s paintings
2/18/15, around 5 pm
I have a great hate for the violent. The violent are the sick of the world — Watch on the Rhine, Dashiell Hammett & Lillian Hellman
So now the sick and corrupt movie-makers have added to American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey, or how lure a lonely child into accepting physical and emotional sexual abuse, reviewed here by Gail Dines. Is US society one where we can assume a worship of US male violence and is deeply suspicious of all social good?
Today I read 2 great screenplays:
Dashiell Hammet’s Watch on the Rhine (1943-44), out of Lillian Hellman’s stageplay of the same name. It’s sometimes said the screenplay is really by her too, and not much different; not so, the screenplay because it moves outward to depict the Nazis in the US not far from the Farrelly home has a sharper political context, and much dialogue that goes much further about what has led to the rise of fascism. The stageplay remains on the level of personal integrity; the screenplay turns a story of ambivalent integrity into a larger political parable about how the sickness of violence and (a side issue, small but there), sexual exploitation is a part of that.
The last time a movie like Watch on the Rhine could probably have been made is the 1980s; since then this kind of decent feeling and this kind of analysis (first intensely discouraged as speeches at the end of movie, once commonplace) would be laughed at, derided, dismissed. It was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Academy Awards, but was beat out by the success of the exotic romantic Casablanca.
The truth though is these are “doctored” scripts: Gassner and Dudley have themselves written out and supplied, elaborated upon what is seen and what the actors enacted, and offered further thoughts as part of description. Nonetheless, it is a screenplay: concentrated, freed of time and space, assuming visualization, moving in on captured shots, and close ups — intimate relationships with characters one can never have on the stage.
Frederick Raphael’s Darling, described as a depiction of a woman who rises in life, procures wealth and status by selling sex, and at the end finds the life she’s obtained hollow. It’s a kind of exposure of the myth of Dolce Vita, from the outlook of Room at the Top and Saturday night and Sunday morning, direct British realism about the working class. I chose it because it not only won the Best Screenplay Award at the Academy in 1965, but as I looked through my volumes of scripts, I remembered when I first met Jim he said he was enamoured of Julie Christie, thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and named Darling as his favorite movie.
I’ve discovered it’s about an amoral young woman who is promiscuous on her own terms, sees ugly things going on among the exploitative upper class and shrugs, and takes advantage of a young man, Robert, who she leaves her husband for; she aborts a pregnancy and keeps returning to him, keeping having affairs as she moves “higher” and “higher” in films until she marries an Italian count and has children by him. Meanwhile Robert, the male protagonist is deeply hurt and embittered but takes the punishment until near the end. Here the script is not doctored but what was probably the final shooting script before the cut and it must be said that one shot of Julie Christie’s hard face, her unacknowledged driving ambition makes the meaning of the film. I found myself revulsed by the character; Raphael has written a powerful screenplay.
I now wonder who Jim identified with. He was 20 years old. Did he then triumph in her supposed success? As I read I discover as a screenplay it has an unusual number of setting, camera angle, and editoral-actor directions, because what’s wanted is a film with a certain pizzazz of style, of mood and I suppose savage ironies.
I did discover something interesting — to me. There are more screenplays in my collection by women than I had expected; at the same time often a woman will write one screenplay and then no more, while individual men are called upon to write a screenplay again and again. Also it’s not uncommon to find that among the few screenplays by women they are of books by women — like for example, Buck’s The Good Earth. Both genders equally write screenplays out of their own books, one I mean to read today is Jan Struther’s Mrs Miniver — though she was cut out of the screenplay which was revised over and over again, by among others William Wyler. Finally in general American films come out of popular present books while English overall still turn to 19th century books and classics much much more …
My collection thus far; the fat books to get are by Gassner and Dudley, and by Garrett & co.
Late at night, Wednesday still:
Freezing cold, going down to single digits Fahrenheit, with high winds. I feel for the homeless and hope they are all in shelters — Alexandria I know has two and a sort of bus that goes round picking people up if they will permit it.
A poem by Charlotte Mandel from Life Work which seems to record her early widowhood.
Sleeping in Half a Bed
The one at home had sunk a central niche
after decades, and besides, we had room
for luxury of queen-size level-pitched
space to drift creating separate dreams.
A dozen brass-railed beds, tufted mattress
shown on each, sanitarily zipped plastic.
To bed ourselves in public embarrassed.
The smart saleswoman left us breathing-space.
Horizontal side by side, shoes pointed
to the ceiling, we tried them all in turn.
Too hard-too soft-until at last joindy
knew-just right, bought it even when we learned
the high price. We slept enfolded, or side
by side, our comfort true, until you died.