So wild beasts in captivity may forget their forests, grow tame, lose their fierce habits, and learn to endure the control of man. But if a little blood touches their hot lips, their rage and ferocity return. Roused by the taste of blood, their jaws distend, and they hardly refrain from springing on their frightened master. Lucan, IV, 237
The only thing that worries me about this blogging lark is whether I will be able to stop, or even take adequate rest, once having started. For instance, I’ve got a heap of ironing to do today and I need to complete that form from the Council asking me whether I’m still the person I purported to be last August, for voting purposes; and it’s time for Mum’s weekly letter…
And then there are all those books – a lifetime supply of books to worm my way through which, as Mum once pointed out, I’m unlikely to be able to do since I’m running low on – actual – life. Picture me in six months’ time, red-eyed, round-shouldered, with hair like Struwwelpeter, hunched over my word-processor or scrunched up in a heap on the bed, clipboard in hand, scribbling, scribbling, scribbling… Wasn’t it Gollum who was got to by the Ring? Writing has ring-like aspects, for me. Thinking back over my life only shows me what a sad, possessed, bedevilled little creature I have always been. Trying not to write. Trying, trying, trying not to write, trying to hold it together so as to hold down a job; so as to pay the bills and feed the cats; so as to seem something akin to a proper person …
My Precious, My Precious…
I love the way Gollum speaks: Thief, Thief, Thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever! Language is like mercury – it’s hard and yet it’s soft; there are strict rights and wrongs to it and yet – it flows into all the corners, our personalities shape it, our minds mould it. Hearing strange speech is a kind of flight – it’s like prison walls melting.
What am I talking about?
This was supposed to be a simple update to my earlier four-post sequence PEN TO PAPER re my ‘imaginary writing friend’ Pamela Frankau. I just got the post: a second-hand book has arrived via Thrift Shops, America: Margaret Webster: A Life in the Theater by Milly S Barranger. Margaret Webster and Pamela Frankau were partners in later life. An ex-library copy, the book is still wearing its plastic jacket and inside is a Chapel Hill Public Library bookplate. I’ve just looked up Chapel Hill. It’s a town in North Carolina and is in some way connected with the University. I need to know stuff like that. I don’t know why. It’s a curse.
Writing is the enemy of forgetfulness, or thoughtlessness. For the writer there is no oblivion. Only endless memory. Anita Brookner: Look at Me (1983)
Well, obviously, I haven’t read the book yet – it only arrived an hour ago – but I did look at the pictures. Treasure trove! A picture of that house on Martha’s Vineyard, which doesn’t look too different from the way I envisaged it all those thousands of years ago when reading Pen to Paper. The photo was taken ca. 1940 and the caption says it overlooks Menemsha Harbor which, according to Google, is the highest point on the island. It also has a picture of PF taken ca. 1940. I have never seen one of her this young. The tortoiseshell specs are missing but you can just about recognise the nautical lady (ca 1950) pictured in Pen to Paper. She reminds me of Mum as a young woman, although she would have been born earlier.
The book seems to be part of a series, and there it is on the inside cover: Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theatre/Drama/Performance. Why does this make me uncomfortable? It’s not like you can catch lesbianism from a book, and it’s not as if it was something I didn’t already know about her. Am I actually afraid the local postman might have somehow, possibly employing his postman’s x-ray vision, been able decipher those words through the yellow plastic postal envelope, the book’s hefty cover and two thick A4 pages? Would I have been at all embarrassed if the book had been about a gay male actor? No, I guess probably not. How strange we all are, inside our ‘bone-bound islands’.
Through my small, bone-bound island I have learnt all I know, experienced all and sensed all. As much as possible, therefore, I employ the scenery of the island to describe the scenery of my thoughts, the earthquake of the body to describe the earthquakes of the heart.
Dylan Thomas: Letter to Pamela Hansford Johnson (November 1933)
Anyway, when I have got round to reading it, or at least used the index to extract the bits about PF – to be honest the rest of it looks like major heavy going – I will no doubt be able to add another post to my IMAGINARY FRIENDS sequence.