grist

 

Sunday, July 21, 2002
...a new order, a new heaven and the world in anger trying to revoke it...
CORRECTION: This line is from the letters of DH Lawrence--also a magnificent book, for the exact expressions of his bitter fierceness--he is someone whose writing is often extraordinary, but sometimes a horrible parody of itself; his letters, however, are consistently fresh and inspiring (and usually full of spite and bile). Some other lovely images: "the mountain that faith must move--the mass of static men" "opening the hard little buds that seem like stone in the people".

Even though this line is not from Goyen's book, it is still worth attention: a great "lost" book: half a look of cain by William Goyen. Goyen made a splash in the 1950s with his debut, called The House of Breath, which is a lovely, stylistically ambitious book--an interrelated set of voices that together build the story. Half a look of cain (from a DH Lawrence poem--"they come with half a look of gathered love/and half a look of cain) was not published during Goyen's lifetime--but rescued and put out by Triquarterly Press. It is a magnificent book, intensely lyrical and profound. It is not as experimental as The House of Breath (or the later Arcadio)--it seems to more more focused than either of those efforts, and also tapping a vein that is in each of them, but clearer in cain of the force of love on a universal scale as it emerges from an individual situation--cain is full of loving pairs that through their joint experience confront and alter the world in its hungers and its ignorant and fearful destructiveness. Certainly worth a read for you and a thousand or so of your friends.

This quotation echoes for me some of the thinking of Thomas Merton, about the rebuke that a single person creates through persistent honest regard of their own life and the inevitable conflicts that can generate in their wake. It also called up (faintly) Paradise Lost, and my curiousity about how so charismatic a devil did not have more active legions, but retained the help of man largely as passive, or willfully ignorant, or self-deceiving....



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